What does it mean to belong? These Latino poets explain

Every return home is both ache and remedy 
by Danyeli Rodriguez Del Orbe.
(Pepe Te Adoro / For De Los)

“Belonging” means to have an affinity to a place or person. When I was invited to curate a series of poems for De Los, I knew I wanted to tell the story of belonging to a city, a neighborhood — to each other.

I firmly believe that a place’s history is best told by its inhabitants. A city block suddenly becomes the backdrop of a love story, and a restaurant becomes an altar to a deceased parent. We might not all be from the same place or have the same stories, but we know what it is to belong, love and claim somewhere as yours.

De Los Latino Poetry Series: Belonging

This illustrated poetry series will feature new works by Latino poets in Los Angeles and across the U.S. Each week in August, guest editor Yesika Salgado and four other poets will explore the theme of belonging with animated illustrations by Pepe Te Adoro.

For this series, I chose Matthew ‘Cuban’ Hernandez, Angela Aguirre, Janel Pineda and Danyeli Rodriguez — four poets whose storytelling asks me to look at belonging in a new way, either by touch and sound or by their unwavering love of complex homes. When searching for an illustrator, Pepe Te Adoro was an obvious choice. I’ve long admired how he creates animated illustrations full of nostalgia and longing for what birthed us and what we’ve become.

I hope you see your home through these creatives like I have.

Danyeli Rodriguez

Danyeli Rodriguez Del Orbe is a formerly undocumented Dominican writer and filmmaker. Her work interrogates the politics of migration, gender and sexuality, in addition to the nuances of being a Black Dominican in the United States. Her work has been featured and published by the Museum of African Diaspora, Teen Vogue, the Bronx Museum of Arts and HarperCollins, among others. Her short film, “Mejor Allá,” is currently screening at Libélula Dorada International Film Festival in the Dominican Republic.

Janel Pineda


Janel Pineda is a Salvadoran poet, educator and literary scholar from South Gate. She has performed her poetry internationally in English and Spanish, and has been published in various anthologies. Pineda is pursuing a PhD at UCLA as a PD Soros fellow, where her research focuses on Central American poetics. She is the author of “Lineage of Rain.”

Angela Aguirre

Angela Aguirre is a Chicana writer, speaker and teacher born in Pasadena and based in L.A. She started her journey in 2010 at Da Poetry Lounge in Hollywood and published a book of poems and prompts titled “Confessions of a Firework” in 2016. Aguirre has spoken at colleges and events all over the country and has been formally recognized for her work with women and youth in her community. She is also the host of “The Millennial Mija Podcast.”

Matthew ‘Cuban’ Hernandez

Matthew ‘Cuban’ Hernandez is an L.A.-based poet, emcee, actor and performance coach from Jacksonville, Fla. Hernandez has spent the last 10 years working in youth detention centers across Los Angeles County, currently serving as the director of camp programming for Street Poets Inc. He is also a lead teacher and co-founder of Spoken Literature Art Movement. Hernandez is a three-time Southern Fried poetry slam champion and an award-winning poetry coach.

Yesika Salgado

Yesika Salgado is a Los Angeles-based Salvadoran poet who writes about her family, her culture, her city, and her fat body. Salgado is a two-time National Poetry Slam finalist and the recipient of the 2020 International Latino Book Award in poetry. She is an internationally recognized body-positive advocate and the author of bestselling books “Corazón,” “Tesoro” and “Hermosa.”