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  • Sebastián Nava

Hometown Hero: How Joaquin Zihuatanejo Honors His Roots Through His Work As Dallas’ First Ever Poet

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

- By Sebastián Nava

DALLAS - Earlier this year, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson named Joaquin Zihuatanejo the City of Dallas’ first ever Poet Laureate. I got an opportunity to sit down with him to talk about how his family and his Hispanic heritage shaped him for this honor.

Since his days in the East Dallas Neighborhood, Zihuatanejo has been telling the stories of his childhood in the barrio.

Zihuatanejo describes the area of his youth as a “sanctuary” for Mexicans and Mexican Americans.

But he confesses the area was rough in his youth.

“It’s the kind of neighborhood where people would lock their doors and drive a little faster to go through,” Zihuatanejo said. “I wish they would’ve slowed down because if they would’ve just slowed down or pulled over, they would’ve found places like Jerry’s Mercado, they would’ve found places like Roy’s Barber Shop.”

When thinking back on his old neighborhood, he reminisces about what used to be there. He talks about how beautiful of a garden his abuelo made by hand.

Today, a condominium complex stands where his memories lie.

“I know change is inevitable, it’s going to happen, still doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to break your heart,” Zihuatanejo said.

Now, from an office on the third floor of the Central Library in Downtown Dallas, Zihuatanejo is committing himself to the next generation of poets. He thanks the City of Dallas for this wonderful opportunity.

“I feel like this city shaped my work and I owe this city everything I can give it so I haven’t said no to anything,” he said. “Whenever anybody asks, I’ll be there.”

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