On Tuesday, Oct. 8th, Yosimar Reyes, a nationally acclaimed poet, spoke at the University of Northern Colorado campus. A collaboration between Student Senate, the Spectrum Center and the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center is how Reyes soon came to give the inspiring “We Never Needed Documents to Thrive” talk on campus. It was one of the last events that the campus put on to celebrate the Latinx Heritage Month and the LGBTQ History Month.
Yosimar Reyes identifies as part of the Latinx community, specifically as a DACA recipient and the LGBTQ community. His poetry is a mix of Spanish and English because as he says, that is how he speaks, and he wants to be true to his own identity.
Reyes was born in Guerrero, Mexico and came to the United States at the age of 3 with his grandparents. Reyes grew up in Eastside San Jose, California with his grandparents and lived in “the hood” as he would call it. He was named in The Advocate’s, “13 LGBT Latinos Changing the World” and is a LAMBDA Literary Fellow, where he received the Undocupoets Fellowship.
Reyes uses his poetry to show people in his own community and other citizens in the United States that there are human faces behind the often-demonized undocumented people. He shared three excerpts of his work that highlighted his message to help immigrant communities, as he is also undocumented, under DACA.
His presentation focused heavily on the current climate of the United States, which according to Reyes is under a “culture war” where “facts don’t matter.” He says that he has no message to people who would demonize people like him because they are not going to listen, and it is “some spiritual work that you [them] will have to do for yourself [themselves].”
Throughout the presentation, he always brought his childhood and status in conversation with some of the country’s beliefs and fears against “little brown kids” and “brown people.”
He argues for a more humanized view of undocumented people and the work they do and even argues against the common belief that undocumented people live serious or in fear where the people are only talked about their sufferings. Like he does in his work, he wishes to bring hope to communities through the stories of happiness and humorous lives of undocumented families and people. As his presentation hints at in the title, he wants to show how undocumented people thrive despite all the adversary they face in this country.
“We have cultural capital …and you need to own your story because if you don’t then someone else will and will profit off of it.” Reyes stated.
Reyes also discussed with the audience what motivated him to continue his work.
“My grandma keeps me grounded…her telling me that I’m doing something important,” Reyes said.
This resonated with many in the audience and afterward when asked what they thought about Reyes’ presentation, Olivia Sponsler-Sánchez felt that she had a connection with him and his stories.
She became emotional during the night because of his intersectional identities connected with her own.
“I needed that tonight,” Sponsler-Sánchez said.
Another audience member Isaac Sanchez Mauricio said he loved attending the speech because while he did not know that Reyes was undocumented, he felt a special connection with him, as Mauricio is also an undocumented DACA student.
“It’s inspiring to see that and to especially to know that seeing successful people have the same struggles that I currently have,” said Mauricio when speaking on the inspiration that he drew from Reyes’s presentation and story.
The experience of Reyes touched many in the audience, as throughout the presentation he had the audience laughing and relating to his own hardships and ideas on the country. It was informational, yet people still heard the human stories that of the often-controversial topics of undocumented people and immigration.
Yosimar Reyes’ goal to show people the human side of these topics seems to have touched many at UNC and people were excited to aid activists on immigration issues and share their own stories.