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Changing Women’s Lives with Slam Poetry

By Britni Delgado
Poet Azteca

Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) invited artistic expression during Women’s History Month. Students could attend short events to watch artists demonstrate what Women’s History is all about.

One event that stood out was the performance of slam poetry. Marc Smith created this form of poetry in a Chicago lounge during the early 1980s. Slam poetry as a deep expression of emotion spoken out loud. The concept of each poem depends on what the artist is trying to convey. Some try to inspire the audience, while others compete against their peers.

One performer to take the stage at EMCC was Azteca.  She has always expressed herself through art, but it was in the fifth grade that she wrote her first poem and fell in love with the art form. “I am focused on reaching somebody. If I reach at least one person, that is enough for me,” said Azteca. She loves language and wrote all of her poems about her life experiences.

“Female empowerment is huge. I love our women, the culture, being a Latina, and I love the Hispanic culture,” said Azteca. For years she has written poems about self-respect, empowerment of women, and the survival of many obstacles, including cancer.

One of her favorite poems is “Chile in My Spit.” She said that this poem is a perfect introduction to her. The poem contains a lot of Spanglish, but a listener can still understand her point, even if s/he does not speak Spanish.

As Azteca stepped on stage, she started to perform her slam poetry in front of many students at EMCC. There was a good vibe and the people listening to her were engaged. She performed “Chile In My Spit” and “August 9th, 2005,” a poem written exactly one year after she survived Hodgkin’s disease.

In between poems, she also motivated the crowd with a few words. In her short speech she targeted women. “From woman to woman: a lot of the time we find ourselves in competition with each other instead of uniting with each other, which we should be able to do. We should be able to give another woman a compliment without decreasing the value of ourselves,” said Azteca.

After her set on stage, EMCC student Karla Urquiz commented on Azteca’s performance. “I like how Azteca is not afraid to speak both English and Spanish because that is her culture and I really liked her cancer survival poem. I can relate to that,” said Urquiz. She also mentioned that she came out to this because she has never seen slam poetry before, but that she has always been interested in poetry.

Azteca’s friend Divine also performed and just like Azteca, Divine’s work focused on female empowerment. Both not only talk about it in their poetry, but also have taken practical steps to empower women. Divine has established a company called Encore as well as a workshop space where women can go and lounge while talking about their lives. Divine also hosts a focus group in which members discuss how domestic violence has touched their lives. In the same building, Azteca runs a hair salon. Both women are trying to make a difference in the lives of women.