The Different Connotations of Labels

In “The Abuelita Poem”, Paul Martínez Pompa describes his grandmother and the labor she put in the kitchen, but the part of this poem that stood out the most is in the first two lines of “II. Apology.” The first two lines of this part of the poem are as follows: “Before she died I called my abuelita / grandma.” (Pompa, ll. 18-19). Firstly, these two lines may seem insignificant in a poem that is mostly about a grandmother who prepares food only to end up calling Pizza Hut for her grandchildren. However, whether it is a regional thing or a commonality among Latin American cultures, referring to a grandparent by a title with no affection in it is typically taboo. In this case, the speaker calls their abuelita not only by a formal label but by one in English. The formality usually connotes a detachedness to the addressee. The poet adds this into the second part of the poem labeled Apology to show that they are carrying the burden of rejecting both their abuelita’s food and her by calling her grandma. All in all, these two small lines encompass how in most cultures across Latin America, titles are vital in addressing others, especially elders, to show affection and respect.

Translations:

  • Abuelita – Affectionate term for grandma

Mentioned in the poem:

How to Make Nixtamal!

Nixtamal

Author:

The Man Who Couldn't Stop Thinking" By Paul Martinez Pompa

Paul Martínez Pompa

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