Reading Yesika Salgado’s Corazon at Sinclair

by Vanessa Borjon

Yesika Salgado’s debut poetry collection, Corazon is a romantic yet heartbreaking journey through understanding love and yearning as a Latinx* mujer. When I borrowed this book from a close friend and read through poems that seem reflective of my own overly-dramatic Mexican heart, I knew immediately that I wanted to write a curriculum around Salgado’s poems. They’d be perfect talking pieces for my young women’s group. I excitedly marked up the pages with questions I had in mind: what is it like to be daughters of immigrants living in what feels like two different worlds (“Ni de aqui, ni de alla”); how does displacement affect our propensity to sustain relationships; what does love look like when we are trying to heal from trauma; what is good love and what is bad love?

The first poem we read, “A Salvadorian Heart” spoke about Salgado’s lineage—the women and places she comes from. Not just her hometown of LA, but her home country of El Salvador. She spoke of the kind of women she comes from, their strength and wonder. I asked my group, where do you come from? What places, memories, women, land, is a part of your lineage, your ancestry? There were responses like, “The women in my family come from strength and sadness.” “I come from Back of the Yards and mi rancho en Mexico.” They were able to articulate the intricacies and intersections of where their lineages originate in a language that validated them.

There were also moments in the group where things weren’t so uplifting, but were journeys through memories of heartbreak and loss. One quote sticks with me—after reading “Traditions” a poem where Salgado remembers a moment between her parents where her mother grapples with the reality of how she really feels about her relationship, a young woman shared, “Why do us women always put so much more effort into relationships? Why do we like to take care of people so much?” And this sparked a conversation on why and how women are taught to nurture others from such a young age, and how men are privileged to receive that nurturing. I then asked the group what kind of nurturing or care they want or desire from a relationship, and I encouraged them to remember and hold onto those standards as they continue to date and fall in love.

Through Corazon, my group found a mirror image of not only women in their family, but of themselves. We discussed comradery between women (and within the group).. I believe the three weeks my group spent reading this collection was healing and inspiring.

Thank you, Yesika, for your words. And thank you to my group for your open hearts and sensitivity.

*Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina. It is used by scholars, activists and an increasing number of journalists. We use this term as much as possible to be as inclusive as possible of all gender identities.