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‘Quetzales Are Not Extinct’

Ramon Del Castillo’s new book affirms culture, resilience and the use of poetry as collective healing.

By Cory Phare

April 13, 2017

Ramon Del Castillo, professor and chair of Chicana/o Studies, has had a busy 2017. In addition to releasing a book titled “Quetzales Are Not Extinct,” he’s been delivering his unique brand of reflective storytelling across the state, from inspiring high school students in Pueblo to performing “po-jazz” with musical accompanists at Denver’s longstanding creative hub, the Mercury Café.

He believes poetry is more than words on a page – it’s a way to collectively address a wounded spirit.

“Poetry is healing,” Del Castillo said. “That’s the idea behind ‘teatro as communal therapy.’”

A combination of poems and essays, the book is divided into four thematic sections: “From whence the quetzal rises,” “Spiritual rebirth,” “Reclaiming a new dimension,” and “The new conquistadores.”

According to Del Castillo, each section deals with personal reflections and observations the Chicana/o community can relate to, from his experiences in Central America to growing up and playing softball in the barrio of Wichita, Kansas – his hometown. This latter theme is found in “From the Hall of Shame to the Hall of Fame,” a poem about a Mexican-American fast-pitch softball tournament, now featured as a Kansas City Museum traveling exhibition.

Inspiration for the book’s title came from a service learning expedition to Guatemala, where he and students took part in intensive manual labor to improve local infrastructure. While there, Del Castillo learned the quetzal, a regional bird with vibrant plumage, was being discussed as potentially on a path to extinction.

“When I heard this, I knew it was the metaphor I’d use,” he said. “Chicanos aren’t going anywhere.”

Del Castillo is currently planning several upcoming speaking engagements for his book.

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