Spoken word

This young latina insists poetry can counter Donald Trump’s xenophobia

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Mercedez Holtry is a 22-year-old latina college student who rose to internet fame a few months ago for her performance of a spoken word poem bashing Donald Trump.

“Dear Donald Trump, so you call the Mexican people drug dealers, rapists and criminals and the media loses its shit,” Holtry said at the annual Women of the World Poetry Slam in Brooklyn. “What I want to know is, Who the fuck taught you history, Donald?”

Holtry, a Mexican-American student who double majors in Journalism and Chicano Studies at the University of New Mexico, says she’s extremely disappointed by Trump’s recent rise in the polls as the xenophobia and racism have crescendoed.

“I wish more people would educate themselves. Some of his supporters have no idea about history and how it repeats itself,” she told me in a phone interview.

Her criticism isn’t limited to Trump, however.

“I think Hillary Clinton is not suitable for people of color in America,” Holtry says. “She sugarcoats this, but in the end she’s all about the money and her agenda. And that’s not going to work in our favor.”

She says she respects Clinton’s bravery and “thinks it’s awesome she’s up there competing with men” for the presidency. But that’s not enough to win her vote.

“Just because I’m a feminist doesn’t mean I have to vote for a woman,” the poet says, adding that she’ll probably vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Poetry is political, but not all politics is electoral. The young Mexican-American student also uses her spoken word poems to address her Chicana identity, abortion, and other issues that affect women.

“I’ve written about Juárez, Mexico and the girls in the maquiladoras being murdered,” she said.

“I’ve always written poems my whole life. I wrote little songs and lyrics and stories about my family. I started when I was seven or eight. For me, writing is therapeutic. I’ve always used it as a way to distract myself from the bad things in life. It’s not that I’ve had a horrible childhood but it helped me cope with everyday stuff.”

She adds, “It’s hard to write when you’re happy because you’re so in the moment, and writing right there doesn’t seem as important. When you are sad you want it to end, and writing is a way to process that.”

Holtry says poetry is her voice, but believes everyone should use whatever particular talents and means they have to raise their voice and stand for what’s right. And right now the mission is critical.

“It’s important to use whatever medium you can, whether that’s music, poetry or journalism to resist Donald Trump as president,” she says. Every voice matters, she stressed.

“I believe poetry can even sway Trump supporters. At the Utah Arts Festival last June, I recited this poem and a very conservative white Republican walked up to me afterwards and said ‘thank you’.”

“My voice is one of many that make America what it is,” she said. “Spoken word as resistance gives a voice to the Mexican people and also helps us find ourselves in this election.”

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