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The Payment: A Poem in Honor of Cinco de Mayo

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Richard Walker, Mexican/Yaqui, is a newspaper editor in Kitsap County, Washington, and is a correspondent for Indian Country Today Media Network. His poem "The Payment" pays tribute to Indigenous culture, heritage and pride in current day Mexico and commemorates Cinco de Mayo, which observes the Mexican army's victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

The Payment

To those conquistadors
who came here and tried
to replace our culture
with their own:

This is what the world
shall know about you.

You were nothing but unwelcome
visitors here,

your names and language
were left here
like forgotten baggage.

Here’s what we have done:

We have kept your names
and language as payment
for the destruction you left

for lives lost,

for rape and enslavement,

for your gold lust.

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No one will say now that
we are Hispanic or

We are Indigenous People.

The names we carry and
the common language we speak
belong to us and we
are not giving them back.

They belong to the Indigenous now.

Our names are not Spanish
names. They are Mexican names.

The new language we speak
is not the Spanish language.
It is a Mexican language.

You did not erase our
Indigenous identities.
We still dance the fire dance.
We still dance the deer dance.
We remember and honor our ancestors.

You are gone, but
we are still here.

When people hear our names
and when people hear us speak,
they will say,

“Ah, there is one who carries
the blood,
A child of The Survivors.”

Our People live on.