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There has been a national conversation about the limits of free speech on college campuses and what faculty can say on their personal social media accounts.

October 26, 2017

Indigenous Scholar and Poet Each Share Works With Packed Auditorium

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Eduardo C. Corral, an award-winning poet who writes on issues including immigration and the LGBTQ community, read from his book, Slow Lightning, on Thursday afternoon in Goldwin Smith Hall.

Cornellians discussed cultural diversity and minority struggles throughout the afternoon, using poetry readings to aid in the conversations, as Corral transitioned from English to Spanish in his poems, with no footnotes or translations.

This reading struck home with listener Ana Portnoy, a student at the University of Puerto Rico who is staying with her sister at Cornell after evacuating the U.S. territory following Hurricane Maria.

“My native language is Spanglish, and seeing Spanglish legitimized in an institution like Cornell, I felt represented,” she told The Sun.

Annie Feng ’20, an engineering student who speaks neither Spanish or Esselen — the language of the Esselen Tribe in California — attended after reading Corral’s book in an English class.

“After hearing it loud, I interpreted it in a completely different way,” she said of the poems.

When asked about what inspired Corral to combine two languages so unconventionally, he responded, “Why can’t I write a poem that parallels the way I think?”

Eashan Garg ’20 also appreciated the bilingual poetry.

“The existence of a different language made it more meaningful,” said Garg, who does not speak spanish, adding that bilingual speakers do not just “think in one language.”

Deborah Miranda, an indigenous scholar, also spoke on Thursday, saying the primary goal of her work is to represent a strong Indian voice in a world that “does not allow us to speak.”

“If our names were recorded by history, it was only to reiterate our sins,” she said in her reading.

“We have been erased,” she said to a nearly-full auditorium of diverse audience members. “We have been mythologized.”

“I have often heard, even from other tribes, ‘Aren’t all you California Indians dead?’” she said, calling her work a “re-awakening of a sleeping language.”

Portnoy, the University of Puerto Rico student, said the reading “felt like otherness not being other anymore,” and like the otherness was “being legitimized.”