Jimmy Santiago Baca is a well established American poet whom I read while I was at my community college. Baca first began writing poetry in prison, and his poetry was the first I had ever encountered that spoke about immigrants. Baca’s poem titled Immigrants In Our Own Land is a narrative on the immigrant experience in which the narrator also takes us on a journey through his own experience in prison.
Before you continue reading the rest of the post watch the narrated video of the poem here ->
In his first stanza, Baca writes about the immigrant experience once they arrive in the U.S. as being hopeful since they come to the states to escape the injustices in their homeland. Baca starts his poem with “We are born with dreams in our hearts, looking for better days ahead.” Even though, Baca does not address who he refers to by the “we” I really like that the narrator is including himself in the poem along with other peoples because it shows that he is also part of this immigrant community or has experienced their hardships. He also uses statements such as “We take tests.” which are statements that I feel depict the way immigrants are viewed as being different in the United States of America. They are not only taking one test, but many. That stanza also gives the readers a sense of how immigrants are handed a new identity and have to pass certain requirements in order to become part of a new land.
The narrator and the people are hopeful about coming to the states as it’s previously mentioned in the line that refers to having dreams. However, there is a sense of despair that continues to be present as the poem progresses. Right away, immigrants are given overalls and are put to work. They are also told by what Baca writes, “The administration” to work alone, feeling like they do not belong.
Baca goes from third person point of view to first person which centers on the experience of the narrator. Then the narrator address his own incarcerated experience. The experience of the incarcerated narrator could also be the experience that Baca had since he was incarcerated himself. Something that stood out to me was the way in which all the men in the prison are living in bad conditions. I am not sure if Baca is stating that he is seeing how immigrants are becoming part of the prison system?
In light of what has been going on, it is important to read works about the immigrant experience. This poem a long with other works show the real life of immigrants in the U.S. The strength of the poem, I feel comes at the end of the poem where there is a sense of hope to a feeling of despair that immigrants feel.