Books Matter: Alfred Solano
March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her. Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project. To read all the blog posts so far, click here.
By Mariah Bennett
“Our greatness is our diversity. The best thing about life is diversity,” Alfred Solano said.
Alfred Solano is the president and CEO of the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (CTHCC). According to Solano, the CTHCC is about leadership and Latinx representation in the community.
Solano was first introduced to activism and representation work by his father, a Chicano activist in the Alliance of Mexican Americans in Waco. He truly understood representation’s importance at 11 years old when he found a book in his father’s massive literature collection, “I am Joaquin, Yo Soy Joaquin,” an epic poem by Rodolfo Gonzales.
In the poem the narrator Joaquin describes his struggles as a Mexican American born to Mexican born parents. What makes the poem special, besides its connection to the Chicano movement, is its structure. The poem is split in two columns on every page. On one column there is poetry written in Spanish and the other column there is an English translation. To a young Solano, “I am Joaquin, Yo Soy Joaquin,” made him feel recognized, he said.
Solano, like many Mexican Americans, was not taught Spanish growing up. With the book, Solano could learn the language thanks to the structure.
“I remember thinking at the time…that’s really cool I can go from one [column] to another and learn,” Solano said.
Solano said he was also able to learn from “I Am Joaquin, Yo Soy Joaquin” about how the Aztecs invented the concept of zero. Growing up, Solano had a love for math and said he felt connected to the Aztecs because of this.
“I’m part of this group that invented the concept of zeros … It really gave me a sense of power,” Solano said.
“I am Joaquin, Yo Soy Joaquin” is a piece of literature that mattered to Solano as a child and still matters. The poem made Solano feel recognized as a Mexican American, which is the type of work Solano does today for the Latinx community. The CTHCC helps those in the community be recognized, represented and come into positions of leadership. “I am Joaquin, Yo Soy Joaquin” has shaped movements, cities and individual worlds like the ones of Alfred Solano.