Poet, translator, and community figure Alfonso Texidor died in hospice on December 25. The 68-year-old local resident had a long history of revolutionary artistry, from his roots as an advocate for Puerto Rican independence to his time as a slam poet at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York to becoming part of El Tecolote and Acción Latina team in San Francisco. But what really won his friends and admirers over seems to have been his brusque charm and all-enduring good humor.
“I never once heard him complain,” said Paula Tejeda, who owns Chile Lindo. Herself a hesitant poet, Tejeda says she was coaxed out of her writing shell by “Alfonsito,” as he was affectionately known. But she remembers he also had no patience for anyone else whining.
“If you would complain he’d go ‘blah blah blah,’” Tejeda said. “He developed a pretty sharp edge you might say. I always saw it with humor. I don’t know if that’s because I chose to see it with humor or because he meant to be like that, but it always made me crack up.”
Texidor continued to exhibit the same fearless attitude at the end of his life. Alysa Telmic, one of his care providers, wrote in an email that she would set aside her tasks to sit with him and listen to his stories. She, too, was encouraged to write by Texidor, who helped her plan a book fair to promote her manuscript.
“I would then ask him how he was feeling and he would look up at me and say ‘I’m dying in 6 (bleeping) months, how do you think how I’m feeling?’” Telmic wrote in an email. She continued: “He would put both of his arms out and one knee up like a ninja and say, ‘I’m not afraid of nothing!’ We would laugh, and before I knew it, it would be time for me to leave.”
Originally from Puerto Rico, Texidor moved to San Francisco from New York and had become part of the community by the 1970s. A great advocate for educating oneself, he quickly became involved with various local newspapers. He worked for the New Mission News for some time, but spent many years as a translator and calendar editor for the bilingual newspaper El Tecolote.
“He took extreme care with editing that calendar,” Tejeda said. “He made sure that the calendar included programs for low income people and for kids … or music or entertainment or medical care.”
In performance, Texidor had an exuberant and evocative style, drawing out vowels and syllables alike in an almost musical fashion, an effect sometimes enhanced by the accompaniment of instruments as in the recording of “Call Me My Name” (below) from Rebel Poets’ Worlds Made Flesh by Don Paul.
Though a music lover, he had exacting taste. Mission artist Dogpaw Carrillo remembered how the two would sometimes get into friendly arguments pitting East Coast music versus styles from the West Coast. They also shared a love of records, but differed on some of the finer points of collecting.
“He scoffed at the idea of putting wood glue on a record to clean it. That’s what you do,” Carrillo said. “And of course he didn’t believe me, because, you know, ‘these young guys and their wood glue trying to pull this prank.’”
Recently wheelchair bound, reportedly as the result of a foot injury after a car hit him on 24th and Mission, Texidor nonetheless continued to make his rounds through the neighborhood. He also suffered from lung cancer, which forced him into a brief hospice stay earlier this year, but he insisted on returning to outpatient care to be part of his community for as long as possible.
Carrillo said he would run into Texidor out on the street and that his appearance masked any suffering.
“He looked good. We were all like: ‘Oh wow, that was quick,” Carrillo said of Texidor’s return to the neighborhood. He and other friends would also caution Texidor against drinking and smoking, as he struggled with alcoholism.
“God knows he has gone through a lot,” Tejeda said. “But he just never really was one to complain or fall apart or walk around feeling sorry for himself.”
Still, Texidor was no optimist. Rather, he saw a present need for community-building and political awareness in a society plagued by meaningless entertainment.
“I have a very bleak view of the world in general,” Texidor said in a video recorded by Sugriel Reyes in a collaboration with El Tecolote earlier this year. He goes on:
There’s very little solidarity with the different groups in society with African Americans, Latinos, and other groups … And the entertainment, the heroes are just very shallow, a lot of the entertainment that I see is just not very creative, it’s very repetitive, very empty and shallow, misogynist and even racist. And it goes unquestioned, it goes unchallenged.
That, it seems, was Texidor’s mission — to challenge the norm with his poetry, his activism, and his connection to the community.
“He was always busy,” Tejeda remembered. “He was doing things, he was contributing, was involved, you know, all those things that make a difference.”
Many of the people who knew Alfonso Texidor and are currently working to arrange a memorial for him accessible to the large community that would like to pay its respects. Because of this, some key friends were not immediately available for comment for this obituary. We will update this post as additional relevant information and important memories reach us. If you would like to contribute your memories of Alfonso, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, friends may show their support by donating to this GiveForward campaign in Texidor’s memory.
Tejeda also wrote a poem dedicated to Texidor in 2011:
Con esa sonrisa de cocodrilo,
y mirada de caramelo,
ha conquistado el Chuculún
–a doncellas y poetas–
desde North Beach a la Misión.
Al igual que “José Ramón Cantaliso,”
“Duro espinazo insumiso,”
dedo índice al aire,
rinde homenaje al “Grito De Lares.”
“…a cortar caaaaaaaaaaaaaña!
From Nuyorican Poets Café to Café La Boheme,
You will always be “about Jam!”
And so will your friends!
Ingenioso caballero, Don Alfonso Texidor.
Alfonso Texidor performing at No Right Turn Studio in 2009:
Texidor appearing in Los Veteranos de la Mision by Sugriel Reyes, recorded earlier this year: