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Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

Episode 145

Always questioning to always Chicana

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo was born and raised in San Gabriel to Mexican immigrant parents. She is author of Posada: Offerings of Witness and Refuge (Sundress Publications 2016) and Incantation: Love Poems for Battle Sites (Mouthfeel Press 2023). She considers herself an experiential, witness poet and place, including the SGV, is a regular theme in her work. A former Steinbeck Fellow and Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange winner, she’s received residencies from Hedgebrook, Ragdale, National Parks Arts Foundation in partnership with Gettysburg National Military Park and Poetry Foundation. Her poem “Battlegrounds” was featured at Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, On Being’s Poetry Unbound, and the anthology, Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World (W.W. Norton). She is the director of Women Who Submit and teaches poetry and creative writing with Antioch University, MFA and UCLA Extension. Inspired by her Chicana identity, she works to cultivate love and comfort in chaotic times.

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Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo Quotes

But when I was a kid, I just didn’t have an appreciation for it at all, and I thought the area was really boring. And then after going to college in San Francisco and being away for a while, I started to appreciate it more. And then I would watch old episodes of The Wonder Years, which actually was filmed in the San Gabriel Valley. So when I would watch old episodes, I’d be like, oh my god, I basically lived in the Wonder Years, you know?”

And then we went to San Francisco, and I, like, immediately fell in love with the city. And there’s, like, the train goes right by the campus, and you can get on it and go straight to the city to downtown, and I just like loved it, and so I went there”

“I’m proud to be Mexican American, but like, Chicana is more than being Mexican American. It means that you’re civically engaged and that you’re an activist and you’re paying attention and you’re an artist. It’s like all of those things.”

“I wanna create something that’s going to have an echo into the future that’s going to bring something positive into the future.”

“When I teach a poetry class, there’s no difference if I’m teaching a 12-year-old or a 52-year-old. it’s all about just giving space to people and to help them create, helping them feel less anxiety around creating because writing is very hard.”

  • Xochitl-Julisa was born and raised in San Gabriel, California
  • She is a feminist and dedicated to empowering women
  • Xochitl-Julisa is a Steinbeck Fellow and Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange winner
  • Xochitl-Julisa is the author of Posada: Offers of Witness and Refuge and Incantation: Love Poems for Battle Sites.
  • Xochitl-Julisa is the director of Women Who Submit 
  • Xochitl-Julisa teaches poetry and creative writing with Antoch University, MFA and UCLA Extension

What is Xochitl-Julisa’s connection to the San Gabriel Valley?

Xochitl-Julisa was born and raised in San Gabriel. She went to school at the San Gabriel Mission High Grammar School and went to LaSalle High School in Pasadena. Xochitl-Julisa loves being in and around the SGV. She enjoys bike riding, hiking, and exploring new things in the city.

 

Did Xochitl-Julisa commute to Lasalle High School every day?

LaSalle High School is a significant distance from San Gabriel, but Xochitl-Julisa still made that commute every day. She has three older siblings who went there as well. Believe it or not, it used to be an all-boys school, but it became co-ed by the time she went there. Her father would actually bring her brothers to the school an old Volkswagen van, which took about 20 minutes, and then he would come back and bring Xochitl there. 

 

Did Xochitl grow up in a catholic family?

Yes, she did. She was actually baptized at the San Gabriel Mission. Xochitl explains that she is not currently catholic anymore, but her mother is still a large part of that community. 

 

What was it like growing up in San Gabriel for Xochitl-Julisa?

As a child, Xochitl thought that San Gabriel was a very boring area. She now admits that she was crazy, acknowledging the very popular San Gabriel Mountains being right around. However, when Xochitl was young she didn’t have an appreciation for what San Gabriel offered. She used to ride her bike around a lot of cul de sacs. 

 

What are some things in Xochitl’s early years in San Gabriel that helped form her career path and passions?

The first time that Xochitl wrote a poem was in 2nd or 3rd grade. It was her birthday, and her classmate gave her a notebook that had shooting stars on it. She remembers fingering the design of the notebook and feeling inspired and writing a poem about shooting stars. She wrote as much as she could while at San Gabriel Mission Elementary School. She took her first poetry class at LaSalle during her senior year of high school. 

 

What led to Xochitl-Julisa heading to San Francisco?

Xochitl’s family kept telling her over and over again that she had to go to college. She felt like she was an average student and only applied to two schools: Sonoma State and San Francisco State. As soon as she visited San Francisco, she fell in love with the city. 

 

Why does Xochitl refer to herself as Chicano rather than Latin?

For Xochitl, it depends on what she is talking about. If she is talking about herself, she calls herself a Chicana. She is very proud of the deep Chicana history in Los Angeles. Additionally, She is proud to be Mexican-American, but to her, Chicana goes deeper than that. It means you are civically engaged and an activist. 

 

Did Xochitl’s family instill this desire for her to keep her family’s culture?

Xochitl’s grandmother lived until she was 92 years old. So, for much of Xochitl’s life, she spent time with her grandmother every weekend, where she would feed Xochitl traditional food and teach her about traditions. This has led to her family holding many Mexican traditions near and dear. 

 

What is it that Xochitl would like to accomplish in life?

Xochitl considers herself an artist and a teacher. She wants to create something that is going to have an echo into the future or at the very least, bring something positive into the future. 

 

Does Xochitl want to empower young people?

Yes, she wants to empower not only young people but all people. When she teaches a poetry class, there is no difference whether she is teaching a 12-year-old or a 52-year-old. It is all about giving them an anxiety-free space to create.

 

How does Xochitl feel about society today?

Xochitl feels that society is a very sad place right now. She keeps thinking it can’t get that bad, but unfortunately, the hits keep coming. 

 

How does San Gabriel compare to the rest of the world and society?

As much as Xochitl loves San Gabriel, the main symbol of the city is the San Gabriel Mission, which was historically a site of slave and murder. She does not feel the city or the church has owned up to that and discussed its past.

 

Why did Xochitl-Julisa leave the catholic church?

Xochitl found it patriarchal and a hierarchy. Beyond that, she was always arguing with teachers based on fundamental principles. For instance, she has a strong memory of fighting with a priest about homosexuality. As a feminist, she found it hard to continue as a devout catholic. 

 

What is a story from Xochitl’s childhood where she was glad there were no cell phones?

Xochtil doesn’t perfectly have an exact moment, but she loves the idea that you can be goofy and nothing really matters. It wasn’t permanent; it wouldn’t be plastered all over social media. You could just go get lunch or a snack and talk to someone. There were less distractions. She would walk half a mile home in cleats after Little League, which you’re not supposed to do. 

 

How did Xochitl become connected to her group of writers and poets in San Gabriel?

Around 2016 or 2017, they started a group they called the SGV Food Group because a couple of Xochitl’s friends moved to the area. The plan was to use the fact the SGV is known for food to get people to come together. Eventually, all of these poets and writers of color would come to hang out, eat food, and chat. 

 

Xochitl-Julisa’s SGV 3

1 La Laguna – Vincenlugo Park

2 Ogopogo Brewing – Brewery in San Gabriel

3 B-Man’s Teriyaki & Burgers

 

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Music Credits

Intro
Like it Loud, Dyalla, YouTube Audio Library

Stinger
Scarlet Fire (Sting), Otis McDonald, YouTube Audio Library

Outro
Indecision, Dyalla, YouTube Audio Library

Picture of Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

My 1st recommended place in SGV

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