Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Let us sing to our city a new song,
A song that remembers its name and its founders—
Los Pobladores, the forgotten forty-four,
Who built their pueblo beside a small river.

They named the river for the Queen of the Angels,
Nuestra Senora Reina de los Angeles.
Poor, they were forced to the margins of empire,
Dark, dispossessed, not one couple pure.

Let us praise the marriages and matings that created us.
Desire, swifter than democracy merging the races—
Spanish, Aztec, African, and Anglo—
Forbidden matches made holy by children.

I praise myself, a mutt of mestizo and mezzogiorno,
The seed of exiles and violent men,
Disfigured by the burdens they shouldered to survive.
Broken or bent, their boast was their suffering.

I praise my ancestors, the unkillable poor,
The few who escaped disease or despair—
The restless, the hungry, the stubborn, the scarred.
Let us praise the dignity of their destitution.

Let us praise their mother, Nuestra Senora,
The lost guardian, who watches them still
From murals and medals, statues, tattoos.
She has not abadoned her divided pueblo.

She has been homeless with a hungry child,
A refugee fleeing a brutal warlord.
A mother, she held her murdered son.
Her crown is jeweled with seven sorrows.

Pray for the city that lost its name.
Pray for the people too humble for progress.
Pray for the flesh that pays for profit.
Pray for the angels kept from their queen.

Pray in the hour of our death each day
In the southern sun of our desecrated city.
Pray for us, mother of the mixed and misbegotten,
Beside our dry river and tents of the outcast poor.

—Dana Gioia