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'Sacrificing everything for hope.' NW poet gives voice to migration stories

Ricardo Ruiz (2)
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Photo courtesy of Ricardo Ruiz

In some families, the stories of why and how our ancestors immigrated to the United States are passed from generation to generation like lore.

But in others, those stories are packed away and locked shut.

That was the case in Seattle-based writer and poet Ricardo Ruiz's family.

Ruiz was born in Moses Lake. His parents emigrated from Mexico and received their permanent residency status before his birth. They went from working in the fields of Eastern Washington to working in a potato factory in Othello, where Ruiz grew up. But much of their history and their migration story remained a mystery to Ruiz.

"These topics in many ways are taboo and just go undiscussed," he said.

As a young man, Ruiz didn't connect with school and struggled to find his path. He was kicked out of high school his senior year.

"I had no purpose or direction in life," he explained. "The school to prison pipeline was my path."

He joined the military at age 23 and credits his time in the Army with turning his life around, even though his three deployments also left him with lingering injuries, including PTSD.

Ruiz said his discovery of poetry while attending community college in Eastern Washington became a way for him to unlock his emotions and "a tool to apologize to myself and the world."

For his first collection, "We Had Our Reasons," Ruiz interviewed friends and family about their experiences emigrating from Mexico to Washington farming communities.

He said collecting the stories and converting them into poetry was painstaking and often left him in tears. But the process has awakened a desire in him to learn more and share more from the people he grew up with, but whose history of struggle for most of his life remained untold.

"Hearing the struggles of migration has ignited a fire to continue this work, to document and tell the stories of marginalized voices, to be a conduit to elevate marginalized voices, providing space for these voices to be heard through my craft, which is poetry," Ruiz said.

To hear the full interview and hear Ruiz read some of his poems, click on the link.

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