Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Brown, Kate
  • Date of entry: Feb-03-1997
  • Last revised: Dec-11-2006


Two voices are heard in this short poem: an English-speaking interviewer and a Spanish-speaking respondent. The interviewer’s lines consist of a battery of single-word questions corresponding to common categories on an intake form ("address/occupation/age/marital status . . . "). The respondent attempts to humanize the interchange by providing significant personal and cultural information. He interjects politely, "perdone . . . ," introducing first himself, "yo me llamo pedro," and then naming his father, "el senor ortega / (a veces don jose)." The interviewer is never swayed from the bureaucratic list of one-word questions.


This deceptively simple poem provides a dramatic demonstration of the power of caregiver’s language to subordinate clients. The interviewer is conveyed as an interrogator who is more interested in completing an intake form than in the client’s personal needs, cultural identity, or experience. The list of English words, spoken starkly as unstoppable, insistent imperatives, overpowers Pedro’s attempts to communicate a depth of cultural values and relationships.

Clearly, the poem has relevance for sensitizing health practitioners to the complexity of communication across language and culture. But its interpretation is not limited to Chicano-Anglo communication. As a metaphor for communication in health care, the poem reminds readers that the specialized, bureaucratic and scientific vocabulary of health care can be distancing and demeaning when talking with patients.


Alurista was born Alberto Baltazar Urista. He moved to the USA from Mexico as a teenager.

Primary Source

Chicano Voices


Houghton Mifflin

Place Published





Carlota Cardenas de Dwyer