Born and raised in Southeast DC, Gabriela Orozco is the 2019 DC Youth Poet Laureate and the 2020 DC Youth Slam Champion. Gabriela’s poetry is inspired by reflections on her Jewish and Latina identities and her South African and Nicaraguan family histories. Gabriela was born to a South African Ashkenazi mother and a Nicaraguan Jewish Father. In honor of Latinx Heritage Month Gabriela shares with us a poem inspired by her experiences navigating her interracial and interfaith family.
Once I was Here
Once I was the child of a Sandinista,
jumped over cliffs on horseback in
my father’s saddle, fulfilled a revolution.
My inheritance: a jagged, broken, holy,
heavenly land and
my grandmother’s proof of God —
clouds kissed mountains, the scent of coffee farms, mist inhaled in love.
Once I was prayed for to a man nailed to a cross;
hope poured into a vessel like thread stitched onto cloth,
I was wished to be washed in water bearing
blessings, destined for the quinceañera dress,
unborn baby betrothed to the baptism.
Once I was the remote recipient of a ritual recitation,
the next number among the stars; nothing
but a future fist held to the heart
or member of the minyan.
Yet I was thought of when the priest
led his blessing and wondered
at when I would appear;
I was felt every Saturday, the beginning
of every year, and now finally
I am here.
Gabriela’s debut poetry collection, Child of Borrowed Churches, releases October 17, 2021. Copies can be purchased at her website, gabrielaorozcopoet.com