A permanent home and museum for poets and poetry

2017 Latin@ Scholar Benjamin Garcia

Meet Benjamin Garcia

Benjamin Garcia is a CantoMundo fellow. He received a BA in English and in Spanish from the University of New Mexico, and he received an MFA in Poetry from Cornell University. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Kenyon Review Online, Best New Poets, As/Us, Gulf Coast, The Collagist, and West Branch Wired. He works for a nonprofit organization providing HIV/STD and opioid overdose prevention education to higher risk communities throughout New York’s Finger Lakes region.

On Being Named the 2017 Latin@ Scholar

“If after my MFA I questioned whether poetry mattered, 2017 answered—art is a human right. Thank you to the queer and Latinx writers whose hard work has made it easier for me to pursue that right. I hope that someday my work can do this for others. Thank you to The Frost Place for being active in making space for Latin@ poets to make and share their art. It’s an honor to be named the 2017 Latin@ Scholar.

A Poem by Benjamin Garcia

La Virgen de Guadalupe Appears at the Hill of Tepeyac[1]


For those who live below it, the jungle’s canopy
might as well be heaven. If the sun is a god, then
the forest floor is scripture, and a jaguar’s coat

one interpretation. A jaguar hunts the way it prays,
without a shadow it disappears. And reappears
with the skull of a deer between its jaws.

Again. A jaguar disappears and reappears
on a poacher’s wall. It may shock you to know
that even a nun is naked without her clothes.

Those who live below it call it apex, call it god.
We value them. That is why we kill them. The less
there are, the more we value them. Again.

Juan Diego drops his frock of severed heads,
and a jaguar’s marks are called rosettes.

[1] La Virgen de Guadalupe is credited with converting the majority of the native people of Mexico to Catholicism. It is said that in December of 1531 she appeared solely to Juan Diego, a native convert, on several occasions. In her fourth appearance to Juan Diego, she provided him with evidence to present to the bishop who was skeptical of the apparitions. The Virgin Mary instructed Juan Diego to scout the rocky hillside, where he would find flowers growing out of season, and that he was to gather the heads of the roses in his cloak and not let anyone see what he carried until he stood before the bishop. When he reached the church, Juan Diego opened his cloak and let the roses fall to the ground. Not only were they fresh Castilian roses that only grew in the bishop’s home region of Spain, La Virgen de Guadalupe’s image was imprinted on the cloak, which is the very same cloak that has been continuously hanging in the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City the last 500 years.