Quique Aviles arrived in Washington D.C. in 1980, at the age of fifteen, escaping death squads in the Salvadoran civil war. His family settled in Columbia Heights, a then mostly black neighborhood in northwest D.C. that became impoverished in the 1970s. In the last few years, Columbia Heights has gentrified, partly because of city-led efforts to redevelop the neighborhood.
“People have tried to rehabilitate us by teaching us to serve them really well. People try to rehabilitate us from our addictions.
Rehabilitate us from our habits from our old countries.
Rehabilitate our housing so we can be put out.
And rehabilitate us through an educational system that teaches us to dislike ourselves.
I’m Quique Aviles and this is the language that surrounds me.”
Aviles no longer lives in Columbia Heights. But in this segment, he walks through his old neighborhood with producer David Schulman, and improvises a few verses on how it’s all changed.
Check out other Quique Aviles poems, “My tongue is divided into two” and “The Immigrant Museum.”
Quique Aviles is a poet and performer whose work addresses social issues. A native of El Salvador and a graduate of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Quique has been writing and performing in the US for over 20 years. His poetry has been featured on NPR’s “Latino USA” and on subway posters through Washington’s “Metro Muse.” A 1991 recipient of the Washington, DC Mayor’s Arts Awards, he is founder and artistic director of Sol & Soul.
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