“Letter to Yanga, from Six-Year-Old Ariana”

A Poem by Ariana Brown

June 17, 2021  By Ariana Brown

Gaspar Yanga was an African person enslaved in Mexico in the late 1500s. After leading a slave revolt and escaping to a maroon community in Veracruz, Yanga and his people fought against Spanish attacks for thirty years. In 1609, the Spanish crown granted land and freedom to Yanga and his people, forming the first free African settlement in the Americas. The town is currently named Yanga. (Source)


Letter to Yanga, from Six-Year-Old Ariana

Yanga I wanna know what you look like. Can you send me a picture
please. We don’t have a porch but you can sit on the step by the front door
until I come home. You know one time my mom and I came home
and the cat had clawed out my mom’s plant and sat in the dirt
in a terra cotta pot. When she stood there was blood in the soil.
Have you ever seen someone being born? I would like to meet your family.
But maybe first just you and me okay. Do you have a garden?
What do you tend to besides me. You remind me of Popo.
He never said much but eventually I knew he was there.
One time Granny and I bought peaches at the market
and I stood in the kitchen and peeled peaches with my mouth
and let the juice go down to my elbows. I thought I was alone
‘til I turned around and Popo just shook his head and said
I ate all the peaches and didn’t leave not one for him.
He laughed but I felt bad. And sticky. I will be on my best behavior
if you ever come to visit. Do you have a favorite fruit?
Can you let me know when you get this. I really want those pictures.


Excerpted from We Are Owed by Ariana Brown. Excerpted with the permission of Grieveland Press. Copyright © 2021 by Ariana Brown.

Ariana Brown
Ariana Brown
Ariana Brown is a queer Black Mexican American poet from the Southside of San Antonio, TX. She is the author of the poetry chapbook Sana Sana (Game Over Books, 2020) and the debut full-length poetry collection We Are Owed. (Grieveland, 2021). Ariana’s work investigates queer Black personhood in Mexican American spaces, Black relationality and girlhood, loneliness, and care. She holds a B.A. in Mexican American Studies and African Diaspora Studies from UT Austin, an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh, and an M.L.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of North Texas (2022). Ariana is a 2014 national collegiate poetry slam champion and owes much of her practice to Black performance communities led by Black women poets from the South. She has been writing, performing, and teaching poetry for over ten years. Lesson plans, Spanish translations of her poems, and other resources are available on her website at arianabrown.com. https://www.grieveland.com/store/p14/weareowed.html

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