The Story Behind “Raro” by José Angel Araguz

JAraguz2_HeadshotToday’s post is written by José Angel Araguz. “Raro,” a piece of his short fiction, appears in our Fall 2015 issue. 

Raro” is part of a forthcoming collection, Everything We Think We Hear (Floricanto Press), whose pieces deal primarily with what it meant for me to grow up in and out of South Texas.

While growing up in Corpus Christi, I lived in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods. In high school, as much as my friends and I squirmed in Spanish classes, afraid to roll our R’s in public but talking only in Spanish with our abuelitas at home, ethnicity never felt like too much of an issue. When one of our white history teachers told us some solid Corpus truth about how our specific high school was built as an answer to desegregation, namely to “keep the Mexicans out of one side of town,” none of us knew what to do with it. This was also a high school that one city official deemed unfit for anything other than training auto mechanics and nurses. It wasn’t until college that I learned the terms of the world I grew up in, terms like “under the poverty line” and “disenfranchised.”

The first draft of “Raro” was written the summer of 2004 during my time as a Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets fellow at Bucknell University. I had just finished my undergraduate studies at the College of Santa Fe (now the Santa Fe University of Art and Design), the four years of which had me living away from South Texas for the first time in my life. One of the first things that struck me upon walking around the liberal arts campus was the absence of brown faces. During those four years at CSF, I wrote poems for creative writing workshops and also participated in open mics and poetry slams. In workshop, my work would be discussed in terms of “heat,” while at slams one particular person termed my work “Eurocentric.” Again, more terms, more learning from the world.

This tension brought on by labels and perceptions came to the fore when I landed at Bucknell. Now, part of leaving Texas was leaving family. Family became phone calls months apart, became pride and guilt, became stories I found myself whispering into poems. But family knows you. When I write of telling my mother that I was the “only Mexican writer in the workshop,” it is a pretense for feeling alone. To have my mother throw the word “raro” back at me as a joke is to have the distance and silence breached in a way that only family knows how to.

About the Author

José Angel Araguz is a CantoMundo fellow and winner of RHINO Poetry’s 2015 Editor’s Prize. He has had poems recently in Prairie Schooner, Borderlands, and The Laurel Review. He is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Cincinnati. Author of Reasons (not) to Dance, a chapbook of microcuento style short prose, he runs the poetry blog The Friday Influence.


  1. […] Compose Journal was also kind enough to let me contribute to their “The Story Behind (the Story)” feature. Find out about the origins of “Raro” – with specific insights into growing up in South Texas – here. […]

  2. […] are links to the mom-related “Raro” recently published in Compose Journal as well as to The Story Behind “Raro” feature on the […]

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