- Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pupusa
We eat war. That was the original idea for the poem “Thirteen ways of looking at a Pupusa.”
Pupusas are part of the U.S. culinary landscape as the result of the large numbers of Salvadorans who have come to the U.S. during the past thirty years first seeking refuge from a brutal Civil War (1980-1992), and later from its calamitous, and still violent, aftermath.
Everywhere Salvadorans go, pupusas follow. For Salvadorans, pupusas are more than food. They are identity. In a sense, pupusas are living historical artifacts of El Salvador’s history; they hold both ancient corn tales and more recent war stories.
Pupusas are also places of resistance. They are a way of saying Presente! In each pupusa we seek the memory of home. We seek to assert ourselves, our traditions and our families. They are a tribute to the resilience of being alive and thriving in a new and all too often inhospitable place, and to the memory of those who did not make it.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pupusa
Inspired by Wallace Stevens’
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
Among the photographs in the Sunday paper Of a week-end in Boston The one right below Paul Revere’s statue The one of a white plate with two Pupusas.
I am certain Birds fly, and Pupusas breed Pleasure.
Once in Coatepeque I saw a woman On a quiet street corner Setting up a Pupusa stall A car went by, Dust from the unpaved road Gained height, whirled It was December Along a white-washed adobe wall Tall poinsettias burst Scarlet and rich In the late evening sun.
My aunt makes Pupusas for a living She labors over a hot comal Gun shrapnel From the Civil War years Encrusted in the flesh of her strong legs.
Tarde o temprano Sooner or later Speak of Salvadorans Speak of Pupusas.
Can anyone deny The U.S. funding Of the Salvadoran military During the Civil War?
Thousands fled Toward peace, To places where the war Raged only in their heads.
Pupusas are. Pupusas have Within their curved boundary A resistance recipe. [End Page 121]
O thickheaded members of Congress Debating immigration reform Don’t you see the various conquerings At your feet? Pupusas among them Winning stomachs everywhere Even named “seductive Salvadorans” In a newspaper culinary review.
I know of divided allegiances To country, to language, to history Then I also know Stories need to be told.
The Red Star Spangled Banner unfurls And Pupusa signs sprouting everywhere.
Women birth Pupusas Between the palms of wet hands To maker’s lifelines Imprinting the masa Her story—a thousand times told.
We eat War. Each time A Pupusa is made War sloughs off Undetected and unmeasured Residues Unstable atoms, half-lives. [End Page 122]
Castro Luna, Claudia is Seattle’s Civic Poet. Born in El Salvador she came to the U.S. in 1981. She has an M.A. in Urban Planning, a teaching certificate and an M.F.A. in poetry from Mills College. Her poems have appeared in Riverbabble, the Taos Journal of Poetry and Art, The Seattle Review of Books and Poetry Northwest among others. Living in English and Spanish, Castro Luna writes and teaches in Seattle where she gardens and keeps chickens with her husband and their three children.