Student kneels down to write with chalk on school sidewalk
An AWC student writes "gregueria" on campus sidewalk at the Student Art Exhibit Reception in May. Photo Courtesy of AWC Photo Services.

Crossing Barriers.. With Words

Arizona Western College has given its students the chance to reflect on their cultural identity and on their place in a border town. On May 3, an art exhibition was held where students and various clubs could showcase various forms of art such as paintings, dance and writing. One of the most intriguing aspects of this event included the sidewalk of poetry where students were able to chalk their own greguerias.

Greguerias are one-line poems that include humorous metaphors expressing the complexities of life and human nature. This unique form of poetic expression was invented by Spanish writer Ramón Gómez de la Serna y Puig (1888-1963). However, it wasn’t until the renowned Latino writer, Alberto Álvaro Ríos, brought greguerias back onto the mainstream literary scene that they became better known.

Ríos, born in Nogales, Arizona, in 1952, is known for writing poetry and short stories about his experiences as a Latino and the struggles of the Hispanic community. Ríos explains that greguerias are essential in the sense that they allow us to connect to our environment and have a better understanding of ourselves.

In order to share this profound poetic expression, Ríos assisted in the Words Over Water project in Tempe, Arizona. This project resulted in the creation of 400 granite tiles, each with its own gregueria expressing an idea about water and the desert environment. These tiles currently surround the Rio Salado. Essentially, Rios and others behind this project wanted Tempe residents to build a connection with their own environment and celebrate the idea that that life starts with water.

Here at Arizona Western College, we are trying to build the same connection between students and their language, culture, and identity. 

At the Student Art Exhibit, students in Professor Ellen Riek’s Multicultural Literature class chalked up their own greguerias and lines from Ríos’ poem “The Border.” Not only was this a relaxing way to forget about the upcoming finals week and final projects, it was a way to bring alive the Latino culture and encourage individuals to connect with their roots.

Jennifer Vera, along with other students in the class, is excited to share and explore her Hispanic culture. She describes the project as important “because it brought something different to the community and is very diverse.” Vera’s gregueria reads, “The broom dances the rhythm of la Cumbia.”

It was this enthusiasm and desire to connect with Hispanic culture that brought AWC facutly such as Brad Pease, Dr. Ellen Riek and Dr. Eric Lee to create a project that captures the soul of the community. Very soon, an Art Garden will be constructed where greguerias that are submitted will be permanently engraved into tiles.

“There was a need for the students of AWC to connect with their border town and culture,” said Professor Riek.

Ultimately, this is an opportunity for the community to embrace and appreciate their Hispanic roots. The chalking of the sidewalk at the Student Art Exhibit was only a stepping stone for a much bigger project.

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