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Barrio slam 


Taco Shop Poets built their reputation by taking their spoken-word performance from bars and slams to the streets, literally living up to everything their name implies through taqueria tours of their native San Diego, California. Locals may remember these guerrilla spoken-wordsmiths from their bravura appearance at the Guadalupe's Inter-American book festival several years ago, or their 1998 spoken-word CD Chorizo Tonguefire. Both were intense and inspired examples of their genius, infused with a "you-had-to-be-there" quality reserved for the best of the Chicano literary underground.

After entirely too long a wait, TSP has delivered Intersection, a follow-up disc that brings us closer than anyone not from SoCal could hope to get to these bean-and-cheese poetas. The group of guys have aged together, and in collaborative and solo pieces they explore what middle age means for a modern movimiento. "If you saw how we treated the barrio / would you cry?" one asks, without answer, or blame, in the opening piece. There are laces of regret here, poignant reminders of how our path of life doesn't always run in the direction we intended, but also a deep-seated sense of understanding and acceptance, neither of which should be confused with resignation.


Taco Shop Poets
The real gems, however, come not from TSP but from José Montoya and raulrsalinas, two veteranos whose work and words inspired and allowed generations of Chicano poets to come into their own. Montoya's "Coretown," a meditation on Detroit's Mexicantown community, should resonate with anyone familiar with the Motor City. "And so / how did it come to be? / why, we had gone so far north / we wound up facing south" he intones, drawing parallels between border towns and barrios on the Mexican and Canadian borders of the United States. Salinas' "The Death of Jonathan Rodney-Death Dirges" hits with the same urgency and forcefulness that followers of this long-time Austin-based activista (with two spoken-word discs of his own) have come to expect. •

Alejandro Pérez

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February 24, 2021

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