Araceli Esparza


Araceli is a poet and teacher of the Urban Art Series that explores art, writing and healing. She was born and raised in Madison, WI; her parents were migrant farm workers from Guanajuato, Mexico, from whom she still gathers her strength. She studied at the University of Minnesota, and is active in the domestic violence movement.

Her writing fluxes from observation (prose) to hip hop (spoken word) to cultural translations (blog essays) where she translates beyond language; she translates the new American culture. She has been published in Madison Magazine, Verse Wisconsin, and HUE Magazine.

Araceli, along with Fabu Phillis Carter, Rakina Muhammed, and Nydia Rojas, founded The Hibiscus Collective, a writers group for women. Araceli teaches and blogs at She volunteers her time teaching English as a Second Language and works to connect poetry to everyday people through presentations and readings.


Stained-glass windows

First, they destroyed our church to put up a new building
All they kept was the stained-glass windows.
I remember a time, when I used to walk up Park Street, to get to church each Sunday.
I asked Abuelita, “Why do we have to walk?”
She would tell the story of how she and Tía walked all the way from our home town in Mexico to San Juan de los Lagos, and how she had to carry my fat baby cousin almost the whole way.
If I was lucky we would have donuts after church, and go to the Eagles store on the way back.
La Iglesia was special for me.
Sister and Padre always had a smile for me.
The kitchen walls had Aztec drawings, paintings, and frames that held old pictures of those who came before me.
In gym I watched with envy and pride the Avila brothers do their dances.
I had mi primera communion and quince there.
I would run and hold my breath when I passed the communion place just in case un espíritu malo wanted to come in.
I remember hiding under the pews.
So unless you are a person of color growing up Catholic in Madison you might not understand or maybe you do.
But they aren’t closing the doors on a building.
There closing the doors on
Our culture
Our espacio
Our space
Our meeting place
My stained-glass windows


Arriba de un cojincito

on top of a small pillow

Manita de piedra
Mano de metate

A small stone hand
A Metate hand

La mazarina sobre la pierda negra
Tres patas de soporte

The corn meal over the black stone
Three feet of support

Echas la maza (ahora la venden preparada)
Y empiezas

You throw the dough (now they sell it pre-made)
And you start to roll

And you roll out the food that will feed:
The man who works
The woman who gives birth
The child who plays
The grandma who sings
The fathers who fixes cars
The mother who drives like crazy
The daughter who studies
The son who comes home
and the country who mass-produces it and sells it to you at your local grocery store

And that is how you make a tortilla.…

A metate (or mealing stone) is a mortar, a ground stone tool used for processing grain and seeds. In traditional Mesoamerican culture, metates were typically used by women who would grind calcified maize and other organic materials during food preparation (e.g., making tortillas). —Wikipedia