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< Poetry >


by Luis Alberto Urrea
illustrated by José Galvez
Not currently available.

YALSA Young Adult Reluctant Reader’s Quick Pick, 2002
Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List
Latino Literary Hall of Fame, 2000

Product Details

10-digit ISBN0-938317-52-0
13-digit ISBN9780938317524
Page Count96 pages, 82 B&W photographs
Product Dimensions10" x 8"
Publication DateSeptember 1, 2000
RightsAll Rights Available
One evening, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer José Galvez heard Luis Alberto Urrea read "Hymn to Vatos Who Will Never Be in a Poem" with its chant-like repetitions and its evocation of Chicano manhood. As Luis read each line, an image clicked in José's memory, and he knew that he had already taken that photograph. The result of that experience is this remarkable book.

A unique collaboration of two acclaimed artists, Vatos is a tribute to Latino men who are too often forgotten, ignored and misrepresented by the larger culture: children playing in the streets, migrant workers toiling for a better life, homeboys in the barrio, young men with their girlfriends and their mothers, blue collar workers, activists on the streets, sons, uncles, fathers, and grandfathers. Vatos recognizes their joys, their sorrows, their tenderness and their strength. Through Galvez' photographs and Urrea's words, they will not be forgotten.


Teachers: You'll find this teacher's guide to VATOS very useful in the classroom. The rhythmic quality of the poem, “Hymn to Vatos Who Will Never Be in a Poem” and the visual richness of the photographs in this remarkable book provide an opportunity to introduce young adult readers to reading as a multi-modal and multi-sensory experience. Since the text in Vatos is minimal and the pictures literally are worth more than a thousand words, the book serves as an excellent tool for reducing anxiety and increasing comfort levels for those students who struggle with reading. This teacher's guide, prepared by educator Helen Buchanan, provides activities and discussion prompts designed to increase oral and written language skills, develop visual literacy, and foster reading as a way to make connections.
Foreword Magazine
"Historically, I knew women had been ignored and erased. But I suddenly realized that, outside the historical record, the men were also ignored and erased. The modern Xicano/Mexicano/ Latino man was invisible."

This strong belief that someone had to speak out, be a voice for all these fathers, uncles, and brothers, drove Urrea to create the Hymn to Vatos; vatos who will never be in a poem. Chiefly of Los Angeles, California and Tucson, Arizona, these vatos, the dudes/guys, are represented through the words of this litany. Well outside the usual style of what is considered mainstream contemporary poetry, Urrea draws strongly upon the repetition of oral tradition and in his own words, the poem is like the chanting of "100 grandmothers praying to Guadalupe." The more distant indigenous roots of the Americas are also evident.

The rhythm Urrea produces flows along the pages under an arresting collection of photographs taken by Galvez over the past thirty years. Each photo is captioned and dated, and a helpful and informative index is provided at the end of the poem and photos. The index section, entitled Photo Captions, takes the thoughts provoked by the poetry and photography to a more complex level. In reading the caption of an already striking photo entitled "Don Marcos Romero, 1978," the flat black eyes of an almost unbelievably old man suddenly harden into the challenging focus of a man who has seen more than most people, and knows it. He gazes out from under his straw ranchero hat, a Mexican flag draped behind a portrait of the crucifixion that hangs on the wall of his Tucson home. He sits on the iron-framed bed for his portrait. "Don Marcos Romero, AKA El Charro Negro. He rode with Pancho Villa."

In other photos, readers see first communions, car-hopping competitions, Pachuco gangsters dressed to the nines, war veterans, farm workers, tattooed vatos in public parks, and vatos double-clutching Budweiser cans. A grandfather holds onto his small grandchild as if he is holding on for his life. In fact he is, holding onto his very life itself. In "Altar Boys 1986," a boy with a divine expression seems to be miles away from the two clowning fellows he stands between. Where he seems celestial and somehow elevated above worldly concerns, in his alb, the other boys appear childish.

Urrea is a novelist, essayist, and poet who resides with his family in Chicago where he teaches. He has received many awards including the American Book Award and the Western States Book Award for Poetry. Galvez is a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who has worked with the L.A. Times and other newspapers, in addition to freelance photojournalism.

"All you vatos, you are not forgotten."
Midwest Book Review
Vatos is a joining of the photographs by Jose Galvez and the poetry of Luis Alberto Urrea. The word "vatos" is Chicano street slang for "dude, guy, pal, or brother". The poem comprising the text is Urrea's "Hymn to Vatos Who Will Never Be in a Poem", and is an evocation of Chicano manhood and a shining spotlight on Chicano men who are typically ignored or misrepresented by the surrounding culture, from migrant workers and barrio homeboys to blue-collar husbands and social activists. Jose Galvez's memorable, black-and-white photographs throughout Vatos bring its reverberant poetry to life, creating a unique visual and cognitive experience. Highly recommended.
Dallas Morning News
Vatos is a collaboration between Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer José Galvez and Poet Luis Alberto Urrea. Vatos, “street slang for dude, guy, pal, brother,” is taken from the title of the books’ single poem, “Hymn to Vatos Who Will Never Be in a Poem.” Despite its prediction, the poem celebrates vatos in every line, ending with the affirmation (and promise), “All you vatos, you are not forgotten.” Mr. Galvez’s 65 black-and-white photographs remind us that there is no single “Hispanic experience,” that Hispanic culture is not monolithic. The rich diversity of these images of life in Los Angles, Tucson and elsewhere combines with Mr. Urrea’s deeply rhythmic litany in a way that is by turns haunting and inspiring.
Vatos is a haunting and powerful tribute to all men of Chicano, Latino, and Hispanic descent. The word "vatos" is street slang for "dude, guy, pal, brother." Urrea recognizes and features Chicano men of all ages and sizes, and in all different situations and states. The cadence and repetition within the poem's stanzas weave softness around even the harshest words, romancing the reader into an appreciation of all facets of the subject, even the ugliness of Agent Orange and prisons. The text is enhanced by Galvez's vivid b/w photos, which capture the hope and heart of his subjects despite their hardships and harsh realities. Spanning several years and several states, the photos unify the Chicago people, punctuating Urrea's point that although they may not be in the spotlight, they will not be forgotten.

KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults.
New Mexico Magazine
This vibrant book, billed as a tribute to Chicano men, began as an unlikely collaboration. Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer José Galvez was dragged by his wife to a reading by Luis Alberto Urrea. Although he had no initial interest in going, he was immediately hooked by the writer’s words. As Urrea read aloud his rhythmic jazzy, “Hymn to All the Vatos Who Have Never Been in a Poem,” Galvez began to see a parade of his own photographs in his mind’s eye.

What began as a chance meeting has turned into a unique and original book. Luis Urrea defines vatos as “street slang for dude, guy, pal, brother… It’s a Chicano term derived from the once-common friendly insult chivato, or goat.” The collection takes us into the hearts and souls of Chicano and Latino men. Indeed, as Edward James Olmos says in his blurb, “to all men everywhere.” Each line of the poem is illustrated with a photograph. Here we find workers sleeping in a tent, a man at his mother’s table, gang members, devoted fathers, musicians, veterans, choir boys, lawyers, Aztec dancers, the homeless, grandfathers and new immigrants. These are ordinary people whose feelings and identities are each unique, noticed, captured, remembered by poem and photograph—“All you vatos, you are not forgotten.”

If a coffee-table book is a glossy volume of images where the text is often ignored, then Vatos is not your standard coffee-table book. The text is as important as the pictures. The subject matter can be disturbing and confronts the reader to think and feel. But if a coffee-table book is one a reader wants out in the open, to pick up and browse for inspiration, to reflect on in a quiet moment, then Vatos fits the bill.
"Photographer José Galvez and poet, essayist, novelist, Luis Alberto Urrea, have drawn from themselves, from who they are as Mexican Americans and whom they're not now, to bring us a testament of male bonding in Mexican North America, this hybrid culture—indigenous, Hispanic—largely transplanted, that's now being reshuffled by assimilation. In contrast to the whole of Chicano culture which is struggling not to be subsumed by the Anglo order, Galvez and Urrea posit an aspect of that society, the street subculture, that remains unthreatened."
- Carol Amoruso, Contributing Writer, 
full review >>
Book Dragon
Urrea’s hymn is a lulling chant, drawing you into a vast vato world, offering glimpses of solidarity and exclusion, struggle and joy... For all the forgotten Latino men, Urrea rhythmically chants them back into existence. And page by page, with Galvez’s surprising, poignant, revealing photographs, the invisible men appear, ready to be recognized and ultimately remembered.
- May 22, 2011 
full review >>
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