Jimmy Santiago Baca begins “Green Chile” with a distinctly personal statement that establishes his intimate experience with one of the staples of southwestern American cuisine, then expands his meditation on the significance of the chile pepper in the life of the residents of that region throughout the poem. In a conversational address to the reader, Baca declares his preference for “red chile over [his] eggs” in the introductory section of the poem, the first of three parts which convey the poet’s lifelong involvement with an agricultural item that has a cultural resonance considerably beyond its delectable properties.
Indicating the central aspect of chile in his life, Baca describes how “Red chile ristras decorate [his] door,/ dry on [his] roof, and hang from eaves,” before widening the focus to show how forms of the plant are evident throughout the community, lending “historical grandeur” and a “festive welcome” to the market commons. Deepening the description, Baca personifies the plant, claiming that he can “hear them talking in the wind” and likening the sound of their talk to the “rasping/ tongues of old men,” evoking the spirit of village elders whose words recall ancient customs and ways.
The poem shifts perspective in the second section as Baca reverses the outward motion of the first part by developing a warmly detailed portrait of his grandmother, who, in contrast to the poet’s taste,...
(The entire section is 492 words.)