BRAVO! Poems About Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
BRAVO! Poems Celebrating Amazing Hispanics written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López
Purchased (with library funds) from Bound to Stay Bound
With BRAVO! Poems About Amazing Hispanics, Engle has done the valuable job of bringing eighteen Latinx people, born in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Spain, Venezuela, New York, California and parts of America before it was America, to the page, recognizing the important contributions they made to this country. Of the eighteen subjects (back matter includes brief biographies of each that enhance the poems and hopefully inspire readers to want to know more), there are names you will recognize, like César Chávez, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente and Pura Belpré, the first puertoriqueña hired by the New York Public Library system and namesake of the ALA awards that is given to the Latinx writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latinx cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children.
I was especially exhilarated and intrigued to learn about contributions of people I had never heard of. As a native Californian, I can't believe that I had never heard of Juana Briones, known as the founding mother of San Francisco. Arriving in Alta California with the De Anza Expedition in 1776, Briones became a curandera (healer), learning from mestiza(mixed race) and Native American women, when San Francisco was still known as Yerba Buena (good herb). Mother of an adopted Native American daughter, Briones spoke out against the widespread brutality against Native Americans and also fought in court for twelve years after California became a state in an effort to keep her ranchland. Even though she did not know how to read or write, she won.
Ynes Mexía is another fascinating figure. The daughter of a Mexican diplomat and American mother, their stormy marriage made for a challenging childhood. As an adult, Engle writes, Mexía finds a way to unite her heritage, if not her family:
I finally figure out how to feel useful,
enjoying the adventure of two-country life.
I go to college in California, study botany,
and then set out to explore jungles
all over South America,
collecting fascinating plants
that are completely new
At the age of fifty-five, Ynes Mexía became a plant explorer, discovering over 500 new species.
Activists, teachers, poets, priests, scientists and more make up the amazing people of the title. While I wish I could tell you about each and every one, here are a few that made me want to know more about their lives. Here's hoping there are individual biographies dedicated these important people in the future!
Louis Agassiz Fuertes, the Father of Modern Bird Art, was a pioneering bird artist who painted living birds in natural habitats at a time when John James Audubon was poisoning and killing birds in order to paint them.
Aída de Acosta, the First Woman of Powered Flight, piloted an airship in Paris for over half a mile six months before the Wright brothers flew a fixed-wing aircraft.
George Meléndez Wright, one of America's greatest conservationists, personally funded a wildlife survey while working as a naturalist at Yosemite that helped prevent the extinction of rare species. Meléndez Wright was the first chief of the Wildlife Division.
Baruj Benacerraf, born in Venezuela and of Spanish-Moroccan-Jewish ancestry, settled in New York after WWII where he studied medicine and researched the genetic basis for allergies and other immunological diseases. He became the Chair of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and receive the 1980 Nobel Prize in Medicine.