Museo del Barrio renames "Spic Up/Speak Out!" poetry series
El Museo del Barrio, the East Harlem museum of Puerto Rican, Latin American and Caribbean cultures, has abandoned its attempt to defang the word "spic" by using it in the title of their current hispanic poetry series.
The use of the traditional anti-hispanic slur for the Spic Up/Speak Out series has been hotly debated since its opening November 20th. Supporters, like participating neo-Nuyorican poet Emanuel Xavier, held that el Museo was creating a safe space to allow a discussion. "For me, it's about empowerment. Look at everything we have done and accomplished. And it is a play on the word. We are speaking out our truths and identities in very perfect English."
Opponents felt that the negative connotations of the word weren't redeemed by the setting. Poet Rich Villar of the Acentos Foundation, which promotes "latin@" writers, rejected the re-appropriation argument.
We didn't hear it from other Latinos. We didn't inoculate ourselves against its weight by hollering it from our cars, or our hallways, or our windows. In our homes, our parents never used it. Because our parents were chased by it, had it bounced off their skulls, found a fist at the end of it. Because we knew better. Because we were taught better.
We don't use the word because it's a throwback with no resale value. It is bankrupt. It is wack. It's the kind of word that conjures the cops from West Side Story. We will admit to the acronym: Spanish People in Charge. Yes, we still claim John Leguizamo. But we didn't use it for identifier, salve, naming, or renaming. We didn't invent it like we invented Nuyorican, Xicano, Latino. It was invented for us, like slavery and colonialism was invented for us. And we reject it.
El Museo says they're changing the title of the series because of complaints. Moving forward, the series will be called "Speak Up!/Speak Out!"