“I Am Joaquin” Shall Endure

Today the Librarian of Congress named the 25 films that will comprise the National Film Registry’s entries for the year 2010.  These are films that have cultural, historical or aesthetic significance that warrants their preservation for posterity.  All in all, there are 550 films in the registry.

Although there is great variety in this year’s list – which includes movies ranging from “Airplane!” and “All the President’s Men” to the documentary “Grey Gardens” (which spurred an HBO movie and a Broadway show) – one film will be of special interest to those in the Latino community.

The 20-minute film “I Am Joaquin,” produced and directed in 1969 by filmmaker Luis Valdez (who later directed “Zoot Suit” and “La Bamba”), is a visual presentation of a watershed poem by the Hispanic activist Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales.

I am Joaquín, lost in a world of confusion,
caught up in the whirl of a gringo society,
confused by the rules, scorned by attitudes,
suppressed by manipulation, and destroyed by modern society …

Gonzales, who died in his hometown of Denver in April 2005 at the age of 76, was an amateur and later a pro boxer, retiring in 1955 with a professional record of 65-9-1. He became active in politics later that year and in 1966 founded an organization known as The Crusade for Justice, which was at the leading edge of the Chicano movement.

In 1967, Gonzales – soon to march in Washington leading the Southwestern states’ contingent of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign –  penned “I am Joaquin.” Opening as a cry from the present, it takes its listener back through ancient and more recent Mexican history; it speaks to the Mexican, Spanish, Indian, and American roots of U.S. Hispanics.

I am Cuauhtémoc, proud and noble,
leader of men, king of an empire civilized
beyond the dreams of the … (Spaniard) … Cortés,
who also is the blood, the image of myself …

I am in the eyes of woman,
sheltered beneath
her shawl of black,
deep and sorrowful eyes
that bear the pain of sons long buried or dying,
dead on the battlefield or on the barbed wire of social strife.
Her rosary she prays and fingers endlessly
like the family working down a row of beets…

The poem closes with praise for the awakening of the people to the value of their culture and with the statement:

I SHALL ENDURE!
I WILL ENDURE!

The Library of Congress offers vast resources of interest to the U.S. Hispanic community and to people worldwide who seek research materials in Spanish.  From the Kislak Collection of rare objects reflecting pre- and post-Columbian culture in the New World to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to personal accounts housed in the Library’s Veterans History Project and a “Latinos in math and science: resources for kids, young adults and teachers” web page, there is much to experience, both in-person and online.

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