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Fronteras: 'It's a lifestyle' — San Antonio's new poet laureate embraces Chicano culture in his works

San Antonio poets laureate serve three-year terms to promote poetry and literary arts, and develop public events and programs.

The city selected Chicano poet Nephtalí De León as its sixth and latest poet laureate in March.

He joins five local poets who have held the position since its inception in 2012, including city poets laureate who later became state poets laureate.

De León is author of Chican@s: Our Background & Our Pride, and Chicano Popcorn, and the children’s book El Tesoro de Pancho Villa, which has been translated into English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Russian.

De León — who calls himself a “Chicano gypsy poet”— said he takes inspiration from Chicano culture, which has always been a constant in his life.

“I will always be the activist I was born to be,” he said. “Everyone in my culture is a warrior … every one of us was born to be a warrior.”

De León is also an artist and sculptor, known for Aztec-inspired works like La Virgen de Guadaliberty and the Houston mural El molcajete cosmico.

He said while his poetry and art often make social justice statements, he also aims to capture the essence of Chicano culture.

“I like to create images that convey the joy, the humor … the cartoon character that we can all be,” he said. “ After all, we were voyagers, we are passengers, we are immigrants just passing through life for a short brief moment.”

Listen to the first part of the conversation with De León here.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1