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Editor’s Note: This homage to former state Sen. and Mayoral Candidate Leticia Van de Putte was read by State Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla, San Antonio’s first poet laureate, at a recent Save Miguel’s Home event at Miguel and Guadalupe Calzada’s home in Beacon Hill, in appreciation for Van De Putte’s support for the project while still in office, and later, on the campaign trail. A special thanks to Pastor Tom Heger for forwarding the poem to the Rivard Report.
The Leticia Stories: a tribute to a life of service
by Carmen Tafolla
You hear them everywhere,
The Leticia Stories.
Stories that make people roll with laughter,
riverflow with tears,
waterfall with love
swell with pride.
The Leticia Stories.
Almost too good to be real.
But you know they
The one who interrupts
her fresh-wound funeral grief
because she is needed
in the Senate
at 12 minutes to midnight
to say what no one else could say
in quite that raw-honest or gut-strong a way
“At WHAT point
Must a female senator
Raise her HAND or HER VOICE
To be RECOGNIZED
Over the male colleagues
in the room?”
The turned-off mikes and the access-shenanigans
no longer effective
over the chaos in the room
that has erupted like a volcano
of unavoidable truth
So many who have tried to describe her in words,
“Sheer Leadership” and “Uncorruptable Vision”
or “the courage to speak up
for those who do not have a voice”
or “If you can’t handle me,
you CAN’T handle Leticia!”
But it is her own words that capture us best…
“If MAMA ain’t happy,
Ain’t NOBODY happy!”
“…Every COW was required to have a vaccination, but we didn’t have similar policy for our children??”
“Who’s making these rules? What sense does it make to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a premature infant, but not spend a lousy $1.39 …on prenatal vitamins to ensure a healthy child in the first place?”
And her actions– peel back the expectations and the superfice to be
The REAL She
in the real moment.
One minute she sees a woman faint and leaps off the stage,
some rescue gazelle with CPR training in hand,
to aid the EMT’s and revive the woman.
The next, she’s squatting by a second grader
giving career advice.
She can still LASSO like a Jefferson Lariat
on the Battle of Flowers Parade!
or light a candle to St Jude,
patron saint of desperate causes,
Do the Ice Bucket Challenge with ready laughter
and invite a female SPURS Coach to join in…
or March in honor of MLK,
Dreamweekers and Dreamwalkers by her side,
her eyes zeroed in on a future
where all are equal.
She touches the bronze of Bob Bullock
on the way into the Capitol Dome,
every day for 25 years
fighting for justice and sometimes wiping away the tears
or the crumbling debris of the struggle,
focused always on the next action
focused always on the next need
remembering her grandfather’s
palabritas de cariño,
at the farmacia where the people came
with their quejas and dolores,
“Every day, cada día, is a vacation.
What could be better than being here
She picks up her papers, her spirits, la lucha
saving a family home,
or a young person’s chance at education,
the integrity of democracy,
or sometimes, if necessary,
and our belief
in what it means to be
*Featured/top image: State Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla reads “The Leticia Stories: a tribute to a life of service” to commemorate Leticia Van de Putte’s work as a mother, pharmacist, state senator, and neighbor. Photo by Nicki Roberson.