Product of Empire: A Poem About Latin America

Jul 22, 2014
10:03 AM

I wrote this poem a few years ago while touring the United States with the play N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK.

N*W*C is a work that reveals stereotypes that people may harbor about people of color, but my interactions with people across America also challenged perceptions I held about people who are, well, not of color. The people I encountered were largely kind-hearted human beings who led lives with little or no direct contact with minorities.  When we took the stage and shared our stories, it provided an alternative perspective to the story told by their TV sets.  It is easy to hate in the abstract; it’s hard to hate when you see an individual as a human being.

One of the stories I shared in the production was my own experience as an undocumented American. The question I got most often after the show was how and why Latinos would want to come to America in the first place. I only knew the answer for my family, so I started reading to better understand the roots of this migration. I originally wrote this poem, “Product of Empire,” as a way to process the accumulation of what I learned and my disappointment with U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.  Recently after hearing the lies, hate and misinformation coming out of Murrieta, California, I decided to share it. Perhaps I can add some context to the current situation and, with it, help everyone understand that these poor children from Central America are not an anomaly, but are also not alone. We are all children of Murrieta.



“Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a single shot,”
Is what Margaret Thatcher said.
There was no war between the haves and the have nots—
That was the truth we were fed.

And while there was no shot heard around the world,
Genocide and military coups were secretly unfurled—in Latin America.

So I wonder what cookbook was Thatcher reading
And who was the real chef?
Because I refuse to believe she was hard of hearing;
The other fresh to def.

So, no, Reagan did not win the Cold War without firing a single shot.
Instead, he simply popped the US-made blood clot found in Latin America.

Now, I don’t think Thatcher was very angelic – I also don’t think she was blind.
But she has proven to be out of her mind with such an assertion
Because a peaceful end to the Cold War was not Nicaragua’s version.

Yeah, Reagan may have helped bring down the Wall of Berlin, and may have not fired at the Kremlin, but when it comes to El Salvador he sure did our people in.

And I wonder, are we so obsessed with our “up, up, down, down, left right, left right, B, A, select, start” video game mantra
That we completely forgot the games Reagan was playing with his Iran/Contra?

He was selling guns to Iran, who was fighting Sadam, who we put in command! Damn. Talk about supply and demand.
All the while using that money, like a bear uses a bee for their honey, to patron Central American dictators and their civilian-killing military.

But this is nothing new. We can turn back the hour
And see how in 1954 the same occurred with Eisenhower.
When in Guatemala he supported a coup d’état demand
By the company United Fruit who wanted cheaper land.

Because military and free market go hand in hand.
Because think tanks are paid for by people that make tanks.
Because this idea is over 100 years old, that third world countries —like the Dominican Republic— can be bought and sold.

So the truth is Reagan was not the only “executive” involved in the Cold War.
In fact, there were many more presidents
Who did their part at getting rid of people they saw as capitalist dissidents:

People who didn’t side with the U.S. and their fortune 500 companies;
People like Che Guevara who repeated, “I rather live on my feet than die on my knees.”
And I don’t think that it’s any trivia, to point out that it was the CIA that hunted Che down in Bolivia.

“I rather live on my feet than die on my knees” is something Emiliano Zapata also repeated during HIS revolution
As he fought a government that was a by-product of the first American intrusion.
We took half of Mexico’s land and denied them autonomy,
And in 1848 they became the first time we restructure another countries economy.

Then in 1964 we go into Brazil, just like we did with Honduras in 2009—
Damn, doesn’t all this Monroe Doctrine intervention just fuck with your mind?
It sure did Latin Americans, who were always forced to be led by dictators and not by their peers.
That’s why in 1976, when Argentina falls to a right-wing nut
All of Latin America – with the exception of Cuba – is ran by Generals who claim to be fighting a “communist plot”.

And when it comes to U.S. interest, supporting right wing nuts was vital…
Even when the United Nations declared their regimes genocidal.

And if the poor ever dare to want more, then Uncle Sam would come in and take back control.
Like what happened in my homeland of Ecuador.
In 1981, one year after I was born
The U.S. came and screwed us worse than hardcore soft porn.
Penetrating the plane our socialist President was in:
Shooting it down, making it hit the ground like a storm.
‘cause that has always been the norm—in Latin America.

So, maybe… maybe Reagan did win the Cold War without firing a SINGLE shot, because it was never one, IT WAS A LOT.
And Reagan’s people, responsible for War Crimes and all those errors
Never got tried, they got promoted, and now run the War on Terror.

As for me, well, just take a look at my life to see why I’m here.
It’s ‘cause Ecuador went to shit, and not out of fear.
Globalization means that I work in a U.S. company there, to build the American Dream here.
So I came on a tourist visa as a child and stayed once it expired
‘cause at the end of the day… I’m just product of empire.


Rafael Agustín is currently touring the nation with his award-winning comedy, N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK. He was named one of LA’s top “25 Future Latino Leaders” by Latino Leaders Magazine, and received his BA and MA from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television. Rafael is a past undocumented immigrant.  You can follow him @MrRafaelAgustin. “Product of Empire” will appear in Rafael’s new upcoming one-man show, ILLEGAL.