Jacobo Perez, a student at Mesa Community College

Jacobo Perez, a student at Mesa Community College, won first place in a national literary competition for his poem reflecting on his Mexican heritage.

A Mesa Community College student has won first place in a national literary competition sponsored by the League of Innovation, a consortium of community colleges across the nation.

Jacobo Perez received the honor for “How to Cross the Border Illegally or How to Make Tamales de Rajas” and won $500 and the opportunity to be published in the League’s Student Literary Competition publication.

“What makes me most proud is knowing my family and teachers and friends know and talk about my accomplishment,” Perez said. “Their recognition means a lot to me.”

He was also happy that he won praise from national poet laureate Tracy K. Smith.

“This recognition by MCC and the League of Innovation for the Community Colleges will encourage me to search for the poetry circles in my community and to continue reading, learning and dedicating time to poetry,” said Perez, who plans to graduate from MCC next spring.

“My career goal is to be a Spanish teacher and to seek out advice and help from my favorite teachers at MCC who teach English and creative writing, Bob Baron and Josh Rathkamp.”

Perez said the poem was inspired by real-life personal stories about undocumented people that needed to be shared and by the Mexican-American writer Miguel Mendez.

“I wanted to write a poem that switched from something logical to something false and made up, but with intentions of becoming a simple and ignorant truth,” Perez said, adding:

“I also wanted to recreate the actual nervousness of what I felt hearing the stories blended with a soothing comfort of safety. What also inspired my poem was the humility, intelligence and courage of the Mexican people I grew up knowing and our family’s Mexican culture.”

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