August 2019

The Performance of Breath

you knew how to sing
before you was 
issued a birth certificate
turn off the stereo
this country gave you
it is out of order
your breath 
is your promiseland

  • Pedro Pietri, “Love Poem for My People” (Obituary 78)

My elders say a soul has not made a complete transition into this dimension until the first breath is inhaled, lungs expand, diaphragm contracts, descends,  and the body releases that breath as the beginning of a cycle repeated throughout an entire lifespan. Only then is a body tethered spiritually and physically to the task of living.  Nuyorican poet Pedro El Reverendo Pietri, not only used his breath to ignite a movement of cultural criticism through live poetic performances but also demanded we use our breath along with intention, language, pace, and tension to rediscover our sense of self and belonging. When describing Pietri’s performances in his book In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam, scholar and poet Urayoán Noel states that “breath becomes a tool of decolonial struggle, but it is not simply instrumentalized, since the politics it opens up lead back to the voice and the body.” The body and breath demand space and time, countering years of social and institutional exclusion. 

Thanks to the ever-expanding vision and poetic prowess of editor Raina León, this issue of The Acentos Review, edited by Lupe Mendez and I, the largest in its eleven-year history, features writers who create on the edge of breath; where performance can be found in gesture, sound, tone, repetition, line breaks and in long streams of conscious thought. This issue is inclusive of poetry, short stories, monologues, video performances, and audio recordings. It is a multi-genre body of work that resists limitations, opposes dilutions and invites candidly layered voices that would commonly find traditional publication difficult or impossible. Affording performers this boundless platform, a setting that embraces the ephemeral, literary and artistic breath found in a moment of inspiration, led to hundreds of submissions from both seasoned and emerging poets, previously published voices and ones who will be called home here for the first time. 

This issue is organized in sections echoing the tropes of Latinx performance artists who turned off the country’s stereo in exchange for the beats reverberating from bodies that not only challenge oppressive socio-political structures but simultaneously find and celebrate their inner songs. Performances by  Xandra “La Chica Boom” Ibarra, Alina “Carmelita Tropicana” Troyano, Papo Colo, Josefina Baez, Coco Fusco, and Guillermo Gómez-Peña masterfully conflate traditional artistry with fiction and nonfiction through spoken word, movement, humor, wordplay, pop culture iconography, monologue and poetry that not only signal a shared history of colonization, marginalization and activism but are also in conversation with the submissions present in this issue. Their rituals before during and after performances with the breath as center, claim space where it was previously denied. 

The section headed by  Xandra “La Chica Boom” Ibarra features the work of writers like Destiny Padilla and Ariana Brown who reveal personal traumas and expose their truths as the impetus against the colonial gaze. With the intention set on personal evolution and growth while in the process of introspection and re-envisioning history, as seen in the work of  Alina “Carmelita Tropicana” Troyano, we feature the work of writers such as Rebeca Lois Lucret, Shafina Ahmed and Bonard Molina. Parallel to performances by Papo Colo, who examines and responds to cultural hybridity through a multi-dimensional lens, we position the work of  Morisa Berroa, Annette Estévez and Danielle Williams. In the section headed by Josefina Baez, who is in a constant state of deconstructing the self and redefining what it means to "be", you will find the work of Luivette Resto, Anthony Morales and a video except of the poetic play Live Big Girl.  The elements of identity and voice coupled with the complexities of power and control that fuel the work of Coco Fusco, can also be found in the city described in Luivette Resto’s verses and the immediacy in the tarot card throw of Andre De Leon’s visual poem. The last section quotes Guillermo Gómez-Peña who mirrors the message El Reverendo Pietri shared in his Nuyorican gospel which emphasized the need for artists to reclaim their role as nonconformist unapologetic critical thinkers and experimental cultural producers. Here we position the work of writers like Christopher Luis-Jorge and audio versions of performances by Grisel Acosta and Ignacio Carvajal. 

This issue of The Acentos Review is an online performative sanctuary for what Pietri and Noel would call the writers “inner music”, what my elders attribute to el Ashé and what I dub El mambo mágico that can’t be drowned out by this country’s stereo(típico). I invite you to experience these writers and performers on the edge of breath, who pull at the inner voice deeply set within the body at birth and claim their promiseland. 

 Peggy Robles- Alvarado


“The motivation of most of my work... is to portray the colonial gaze as a damaging social structure... I will, however, continue to expose myself for the benefit of creating the work I want to perform.”

- Xandra “La Chica Boom” Ibarra - 


1.   The Crossing by Katalina Rodriguez (audio version only)

2.   We are La Revolucion By Cindy AnaCaona Peralta 

3.   Días por A by Jacqueline Jiang Chieu

4.   Common Wealth Produce by Destiny Padilla (Audio version only) 

5.   Salve/ Hail  by Ignacio Carvajal (Audio version in both languages) 

6.   Isla del Continental USA by Darinelle Merced-Calderon

7.   Fronteras by Natalie Fisher-Chavez 

8.   Dear White Girls in My Spanish Class by Ariana Brown 


“We’re at a complex moment in time, not only moving forward but also looking back to rewrite history.”

 - Alina “Carmelita Tropicana” Troyano-


1.   Disclaimer By Rebeca Lois Lucret

2.   cuando eres el concón del moro negro con coco by Sydney Valerio

3.   Cumbia by Ariana Brown 

4.   Juncos, Puerto Rico by Isa Guzman

5.   Sancocho by Mario (Ponce) José Pagán Morales 

6.   Legendario. by Rebel Poet

7.   ESPERANZA by El Davíd

8.   The first summer of Ma’s cancer by Shafina Ahmed

9.   RAZE by Karl Michael Iglesias

10. Falling by Bonard Molina García 


“The state of being a cultural hybrid... makes you see the accumulation of transplanted history three-dimensionally.”

 -Papo Colo-

1.   Between Noon and a Funeral by Annette Estévez

2.   Found by Morisa Berroa

3.   Tribes in Taxis by Shafina Ahmed

4.   Mami by Jacqueline Jiang Chieu

5.   Tonight’s Blackout by Karl Michael Iglesias

6.   Crackling Blueness by Nicole Henares

7.   Tano’ I Man Chamorro by Danielle P. Williams



“I will always construct and deconstruct what it means to be.”

- Josefina Baez-


1.   Yemaya’s Pantoum by Luivette Resto

2.   Stories Dique Allegedly about Josefina Baez by John Paul “JP” Infante

3.   "Just Because I'm Deaf..." by Mark Anthony Vigo 

4.   Not for consumption by Morisa Berroa

5.   Hija De La Prieta by Katalina Rodriguez

6.   They Don’t Know by Karina Guardiola-Lopez

7.    On How To by Vanessa Chica Ferreira

8.   ¡Que Quiero Gozar! By Grisel Acosta (audio version only)

9.   Ant Morales: An Exhibition by Anthony Morales

10. The Girl with the Smile By Vanessa Chica Ferreira

11. Live Big Girl Video by  Vanessa Chica Ferreira



“I am interested in politics as sculptural material. I look at relationships of force, of power and control.”

-Coco Fusco-


1.   Defying The Dangers of Being by Saúl Hernández

2.   Strands of Privilege by Cindy AnaCaona Peralta 

3.   Instead by Ariana Brown

4.   The City Is Afraid Of Me by Luivette Resto

5.   Undertakers by Danielle P. Williams

6.   I Bring a Deck of Tarot Cards to a House Party by Andre De Leon



“More than ever, in the Trump era, artists need to recapture, by any means necessary, a central role in society, as ombudsmen, experimental linguists, reverse anthropologists, radical pedagogues, utopian thinkers, and vernacular philosophers,” he said in a rare moment of total sincerity. “We have to assume the role of critical thinkers in our times because it is now or never.”

 -Guillermo Gómez-Peña-


1.   Jaime The DJ at the Fancy and Snooty Winery in that Expensive Wine Valley by Marissa Raigoza

2.   The Heart Wants What It Eats by Annette Estévez

3.   Misbehavior by Christopher Juan Luis-Jorge 

4.   A Letter by Morisa Berroa

5.   We Shine Brighter in the Dark by Janel Cloyd

6.   Chicago DJ Remix, North and Damen, 1993 by Grisel Acosta (audio version only)

7.   La Luna by Carmen Baca 

8.   En Las Calles Vuela (fuego) by Joseph Cárdenas 

9.   Chilango by  Erick Zepeda 

10.  Diary of a Mutant Maya by Andre De Leon

11. Mother Tongue- by Ignacio Carvajal



Adrianne Bonilla

Miguel Guerrero Becerra

Elizabeth Lleonart

Alejandro Nodarse

Cristina Stubbe


Marianna Marlowe


Erika Baeza de Villareal

Mariah Bosch

Majo Delgadillo

Julie Corrales

Lauren Licona

Thea Matthews

Teo Mungaray

Carlos Reyes

Anuel Rodriguez

Petra Salazar


Grisel Acosta

The Acentos Review 2019