Nephatali De Leon


We live in an extraordinary time in our country’s history. This is a time in space when uttering the wrong word can get you fired. Some call it cancel culture. Pero, at the same time, was a former president and, while still president, referenced a protest by White supremacists and anti-white supremacists as having good people on both sides. And by the way, the president of the United States is not a developing country. That same president labeled some African countries as SH** hole counties. It’s hard to believe that same person is the runaway frontrunner in the Republican party for president. The Republican Party’s support doesn’t waver despite Trump being indicated for the fourth time this year, not to mention two impeachments.

Pero, he is not the story here. This stage belongs to Nephtali De Leon, one of the most prolific poets and artists from the Chicano Civil Rights Movement and beyond. On April 10th of this year, Nephtali was named San Antonio’s official 6th Poet Laureate. Mr. De Leon has a lifetime of achievements that anyone would be hard-pressed to match. I recommend that you look him up, and you can start with his Wikipedia page for reference.

Unfortunately, this article is not about his accomplishments but primarily about one word that got him fired and started a firestorm of debate. It was a line in a poem that was a tribute to another hero of our community, Dr. Roberto Cintli Rodriguez. Below is the line in the poem, and the complete poem is at the end of this article. Here goes;

“He touched so many Raza gauchos y ; mayate he touched everyone between two cultures and two nations, always building su tercera casa nation building Aztlan.”

If you are still trying to figure out the word, it is Mayates, a term that was a little more common to hear years ago. Nowadays, not so much, but it was a word to describe Blacks/African Americans. For me, what was more common to hear and use in my youth was Negros, which means blacks. I would equate being called “Black” to being called a Mexican or a Mexicano. Some folks might say, ” Don’t call me a Mexican or Mexicano. I am Mexican American Chicano, Hispanic Latin X O No Se Ca Mas (Not sure what else). Like most folks, I prefer to be addressed by name. Now again, back in the day, and maybe still occasionally, you hear the word Messkin (like a mess). Well, that’s a whole different story.

So, the long and short, using the word Mayate in a poem is generally recognized as Poetic license. Would I have chosen a different ethnic label? Yes, Pero, I am not a poet. However, how often have you heard or seen the N-word in a song, a movie, or a book? This is not that; this is about paying respect to someone who was all about inclusion. People who think anything beyond that must examine their own character. So, San Antonio, please apologize to Nephtali and give him back his job. And if you don’t, you will live to regret wasting taxpayer money on nonsense.

This is what I think (my opinion), but I am interested in what you think. Contact us to share your thoughts. As for me, I Stand With Nephatali De Leon.

Dr. Roberto “Cintli” Rodriguez
(adiosito carnal)

© Nephtalí De León

I bet he’s being
an interlocutor,
no un vato locote
tirando barrio rollos,
but a savvy academic
making sense
between gavacho heaven
and mexica mictlán

the first nationally
syndicated writer
con Patrisia Gonzales,
we could all say, te sales,
but te sales del barrio
where everyone can read you

Dr. Cintli, el doctor elotes,
siempre cruising el mitote,
barrio Chicano en el cora,
brighter than a veladora,
he did not leave his heart
in San Francisco,
he left it in the middle of Aztlan

he touched so many Raza
gavachos y mayates,
he touched everyone
between two cultures
and two nations,
always building su tercera casa
nation building Aztlan

Dr. Cintli R & R,
will never be ausente,
he wil always be presente,
vato super decente
admirado por la gente
de su pueblo en Aztlan

— Nephatali De Leon

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