Julia Malki Mr. Macdonald English 3 Honors 3 January 2018 “The Sign in My Father’s Hands” Do you know how it feels to constantly be picked on for your race? Martin Espada’s free verse poem, “The Sign in My Father’s Hands,” directly portrays what it is like to be a child, more specifically a Latino child, who is forced at a young age to learn what it is like to constantly be treated unfairly and a victim of racism. Martin Espada uses his father’s story and what he had to witness as a child to convey the theme of how Latinos are often victims of racism and constantly treated unfairly.
The poem uses symbolism to show how it is possible to get through racism. The narrator believes that his father is a symbol of Christ. The concept of his father being able to return “from the netherworld / easily as riding the elevator to apartment 14-F,” directly paints the picture of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. This shows how the little boy looks at his father in complete awe and thinks that he can do no wrong. Christ is God-like too many people and the boy puts his father on the same level as Christ. The Brewery cops “watched in drunken disappointment,” could be viewed as all of the Christians who watched as Jesus died on the cross.
The last line of the poem, “I searched my father’s hands / for a sign of the miracle” indicates that he looked for the wounds that Jesus was said to have had on his hands from being nailed to the cross. This connects to the theme of racism because the hole in the father’s hands would have been the only thing that directly connected him to Christ. Which would have explained why the father was able to tolerate the unjust cruelty that he faced every day due to being a victim of racism because it is said that Jesus was able to get through any and every hardship thrown his way. In the second stanza, the narrator says, “in 1964, I had never tasted beer, / and no one told me about the picket signs.
” This can be seen as the beer and the picket signs symbolizing how Latinos are victims of racism and how blacks and Puerto Ricans are unable to get their rights. When it says the narrator had never tasted beer or knew that the picket signs were a thing it is portraying the innocence of a child which would have shielded the narrator from the issues of the outside world until it was directly affecting his family. This all connects to how symbolism helps people through racism because the picket signs helped Latinos have a voice in getting their rights. The tone of this poem plays a major role in showing how Latinos were often treated unfairly. At the beginning of the poem, it states that “the beer company / did not hire Blacks or Puerto Ricans, / so my father joined the picket line / at the Schaefer Beer Pavilion, New York World’s Fair”. This line shows how the whole tone of the poem is most likely going to show how Latinos are unable to do whatever they want when they want, more specifically being able to work at the beer company.
This shows how Latinos were often treated unfairly because they were unable to work at the beer company for the sole reason that they were Latino. A tone of violence is portrayed in the second stanza when it says that the picket signs were “torn in two by the cops of the brewery”. This shows how the Latinos were treated unfairly because mostly everyone at the picket sign was Latino and the cops used violence to stop them. This all connects to the idea of Latinos being treated unfairly because they could have easily been asked to stop what they were doing and leave, but instead the cops chose to use violence.