The Responsibility of the Writer

By Octaviano Merecias (June 26, 2019)

The responsibility of the writer

Is to measure the rising poison into our soul by reminding us of
our numbness of distraction into the apathy of oblivion
as the dissolving heart of our neighbor lingers in our pupils

Is to face evil with a piece of pen and ink as mighty weapons
And biting the metal fences as their saliva screams…
For the freedom of God, queens, and saints facing administrative agony
because when peace is crucified and hope remains caged
only faith loiters into the roads of our past, present… and future.

Is to scribble angels of water and shelter with a stroke of feeling
Is to draw photographs of rising waters and cadavers
to imprint into our memory the legacy of banana republics
and colonial interventions for our gold comforts and fake peace

What is the responsibility of the writer then?
It is to remind us that it is your river, is my rio, is our Rio Grande too;
Is to remind us that his name was Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramirez
and Valeria was 23-months-old.


The New American Way: Forgiveness is the Healthy Thing

By Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas (July 4, 2018)

If I ask you to think ten positive things that come to mind when you think of people on the opposite political spectrum, how long would it take you to mention them? What if I ask you to think 10 negative things? Is it easier to add negative dimensions as you consider the other?

Psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov tell us that when judging faces after an exposure time of 100 ms, we perceive trustworthiness and competence; meaning how safe that person looks to us or how threatening. Other researchers tell us that in one-twelfth of a second we can identify someone based on race, age, gender (Susan Fiske, Amy Cuddy, Peter Glick, et, al.) We judge, sometimes without knowing; not all the judgments are negative, but it is our actions of distancing ourselves that creates that gap in time and space. We live in times of continued distancing and intimate and uncomfortable real feelings. I was inspired to write these words from many conversations that I hosted with friends and family; some conversations look similar to the following video: Can Trump Supporters And Immigrants See Eye To Eye?

I live in the Portland metropolitan area, the epicenter where ideas are clashing. Just a few days ago, Antifa and Proud Boys clashed violently in what I can better describe as the symptom of our socio-political times.


There are extreme examples but also everyday ordinary examples of an air that feels and breeds separation. What’s the most radical thing that we can do today? I asked a group of friends. Almost all of them added fuel to the fire; except for a few, they all mentioned that they are sick and tired of navigating these stressful toxic times. I think both sides of the visible political spectrum may feel the same: anger, frustration, increased isolation, depression, anxiety…

New findings provide evidence that sociopolitical events can impact the psychological and physical functioning of people.

Lindsay T. Hoyt, an assistant professor of psychology at Fordham University studied young adults in the United States experiencing an increase in biological stress after the 2016 presidential election. Professor Daniel P. Keating has led several studies to monitor the nation’s health related to toxic stress; he mentions that the principal drivers of stress and anxiety are fear, uncertainty, and a lack of control over one’s life and future, and these have grown markedly over the past year. Professor Steven Stanton at Duke University conducted a study on the stress hormone cortisol response in people on both sides of the political spectrum in 2008 after the elections in North Carolina and Michigan. The results: John McCain voters had increases in post-outcome cortisol levels, whereas Barack Obama voters had stable post-outcome cortisol levels. I’m not sure about the studies related to independent voters; Google it.

Family separations cause anger, depression, anxiety worry, clashes in your city between opposite sides of the political spectrum. The added constant negative newsfeed on social media adds more fuel to the fire. Worst yet, families, friends, neighbors that I know for many many years stop talking to each other. Their distancing has created a bittersweet emptiness. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Yes, some knew each other for 20 years, 16 years, and most recently, a social media argument between two superb friends ended dramatically.

In February 1865, 400 people were executed as crowds, reporters and politicians observed; this was after the end of the civil war. This was an unusual execution. However, during that time, Lincoln, a fervent Republican, issued many pardons for war-related offenses. Weeping mothers claimed for their husbands. Many generals did not agree with Lincoln on the pardons because it was a sign of “weakness.” Many historians have documented the limits of Lincoln’s mercy, but what we often hear is the triumph and the victory of the Union over the Confederates. It’s extremely hard, to listen, to hear, to even look at the opposition when so much pain, suffering, and acts of cruel and inhumane can be attributed to them. Trust me; I’m angry right now at family separation and many other things.

What’s the most radical thing we can do now then?

Perhaps the new American way is not the distancing and affirming our ground and holding on to our flag to be right (no matter the cost), but the freedom to explore righteousness; not only because the whole world is watching but because the wellbeing of the next generation depends on our actions today.

In 1961, Dr. King delivered a sermon at Central Methodist Church where he argued that Jesus’ command to love one’s enemies was not “the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer” but the words of a “practical realist.”


He then follows with the words “Put us in jail, and we will go in with humble smiles on our faces, still loving you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we will still love you. . . . But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer.” We can also look at the movement a group that was founded by former violent extremist committed to compassion, education and countering hate and discrimination.

As people of color, we know what is like to suffer constantly. I think is time to give the new American way the chance to be healers and unifiers; however painful and awkward is the beginning of the conversation. Of course, this may apply to a micro-level and inter-personal level; the macro level requires a more complex conversation.

George William Russell wrote once as he reflected on forgiveness: “Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave, Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!” I’m not saying that suddenly neighbors, friends and distancing militants will drop everything and hold hands to dance kumbaya (I don’t even know how to spell it) I’m saying that a new door or window of potential courageous opportunities awaits. It’s 4th of July; first impressions last longer, small but significant gestures of positivity can lead to gigantic socio-political-cultural changes. We have more in common in our political diversity that what we have with the barons that are profiting monetarily and politically from our division.

On April 3rd, outside of Petersburg Virginia, Lincoln rode his horse past the lifeless bodies of a bloody war; he quietly turned to Ulysses Grant and said in a reflective tone… “We made it possible for one another to do terrible things.” He then instructed for a peaceful transition; the painful and intimate decision to forgive and at some time to apply justice.

In Italy, six researchers conducted a study on forgiveness employing functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) looking at the response to painful emotions, anger, hostility, and the desire for revenge. “Granting forgiveness was associated with the regulation of affect through cognition, which comprised the precuneus, right inferior parietal regions, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.” Translation: forgiving is a healthy thing to do.

To my friends and neighbor’s: What’s the most radical thing that we can do? We can begin a small difficult, courageous, and controversial conversation with those who we perceive as different than us yet… so close to us; the new American Way.

PS: I’m an indigenous immigrant with radical ideas on my mind when it comes to community healing, diplomacy, and courageous conversation; you know where to find me… extending my hand. No, I do not have my bbq grill on today.


Have You Ever Had to?

By Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas (June 16, 2018)

Have you ever had to?

Abandon a lifetime at the eye-blink notice of a memory?
As villages collapse and dreams become black fumes?
As tanks roll-in while drones of anger machete their bloody ways into crops and farms?
No laws can stop imploding sadness; burying babies in Syria. 
Dead AF floating towards the shores of your consciousness.
Migration then… is not a fucking choice;
As we become walking clandestine dreams on stolen lands.

Have you heard the symphony of exodus?
Decapitated destinies and mutilated dreams; vibrating!
Toxic poverty of institutionalized stress; raising!
Rows of footsteps carrying crucified Gods in palms of dreamers hands
Escaping carcinogen greed of capitalism; who’s legacy?
Remedying the asthmatic last speech of a 4-year-old
Witnessing tear-ed little hands from moms along the border.

Migrating in paths of your ancestor’s plans; a better life
escaping cages, emperors of corrupt plans and genocide;
AK’s disguised as bibles and doves into moral enforcers
As seven-headed false prophets fight porn-stars; silence
Vomiting hypocrisy underneath the stars of our flag; compliance.

Crossing a fence, jumping a border; the last choice or falling into:
the indignity of decomposing into the mouth of the desert
Suffocating into the extremities of the oceans; praying
Holding crushed infant hands in collapsing clinics.
Starving for a new beginning in shadows of invisibility
flowering into emerging hopes; photosynthesing dreams

Mother, aunties, grandmas, sisters…
holding on tightly the innocent hands
Like holding onto the last feelings that germinate our souls
Her sentence lingering on a piece of paper with her name;
Her hope collapsed into the absence of a piece of paper
When home burns as a waving flag legacy of colonial brutality;
The only house left for us to walk is the naked world;
As memories of dinosaurs-into-butterflies today remind us;
migrate, to survive, like waves, like wind, like time… Like Life.

Is there an accidental kind gesture within your soul?
Can today shine your merciful medicine of secrets?
Here’s the last piece of my hand; families belong together
like mind, soul and spirit belong into one wisdom!

Poesia Mixta

Why We Run: Thoughts for Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzales

By Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas (May 29, 2018)

To whom it may concern: Why we run!

We run to catch the bus at 4:30AM in America
Running our hands to the bones; here, look!

We run with contagious joy like Tarahumaras
We run like whistles emerging from the Zapotec clouds; calling.
We run to the hills to watch our temples burned; Guatemala
We run like poetry of peace in paragraphs of war; Tu’uun Savi.

We run to escape decapitation in borders created by you;
We run to catch la bestia; to tame this tender journey of life
We run with torch and fire of humanity; a reminder of our yesterday’s tomorrows.

We run; porque si no corremos ahora;
El mañana no llegará nunca; contigo.

We run to complete your restaurant orders;
To caress the patience of your landscape and industry
To complete your gold chains desde los andes; las minas
To catch the rain before our dry lips become silence; Bolivia; chained water is death.

Can you understand 500 years of running; escaping?
This indignity of invisibility in everyday songs of poverty?

We run three times as fast just to stay afloat with you;
But we cannot run faster than your bullets… this is America.

Only the shattered pieces of our spirit can… levitating in memories coming back to you; us.

Poesia Mixta
RIP: Claudia Patricia Gómez Gonzáles


We Are Carved Out of Salt of the Earth and Humanity

By Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas (January 12, 2018)

About the “s***hole” comment.

Dear my fellow immigrants and refugees friends/sisters/brothers. They don’t know the long, dangerous and tired road that we have paved and walked to come to this country. The ones with privilege do not have the scars in their skin to prove it, nor they will ever be able to feel the pages and chapters that we have carved with sweat, tears and blood to find a better place during our journey…. to choose living amidst the chaos. That’s why we are thankful answering the call of a greater energy; oscillating.

At times politicians will exploit our stories for their advancement, and at times, they will point the finger at us for… their advancement. The authenticity of our hands, hard work, perseverances, dreams, are the dignifying compasses that drive us everyday… something they cannot take away. The indignity of vulgarity are luxuries reserved for the ones disconnected from our past struggling with colonization and imperial intervention creating our home countries a bittersweet heaven… exiling us. I emigrated from a piece of heaven on earth and I arrived to another piece of heaven on earth; my respect for both moons of my same life is a testament that I will never be ashamed of both lands.

No matter where we came from; we are here and we are bringing mindfulness and much needed peace and inspiration during hard times of transition. With our stories, we carve memories on the walls along the signature of those before us; with our daily sacrifices, we move families and communities forward; with our hard earned dollars, we support the human connection that mirrors the dignity of the golden rule. I’m better because the gifts of knowledge that you bring today; I feel your soul.

Don’t forget that we are carved out of salt of the earth and humanity; out of sugar of steel and kindness; out of mirrors that look like the parents, grandparents and great grand parents of those who wish us ill.

Stay strong, stay loving, and stay human.

Excuse the typos; I wrote this as I was riding the bus on my way to a panel… or maybe my trilingual mind was trying to find the right pieces to craft a small reminder for you.


An actual immigrant made out of flesh, bones and dreams.

Letter to the White Tourist Who Asked Me For Cocaine

octaBy Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas (July 19, 2015)

I have to walk across the street when I see a female at night walking during the evening; “No I’m not a rapist, I’m just traveling home from a late night at work.” Continue reading “Letter to the White Tourist Who Asked Me For Cocaine”