Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, a native of Peru who moved to Minnesota in 1988 when he was in fourth grade, remembers his first morning in the United States.
"I woke up to birds chirping," said Sanchez-Chavarria, 30. "It was like, 'Wow.' I've never really seen a squirrel or flora and fauna. I came from a place where noise was always there, whether it was cars honking or machinery sounds. The culture shock was great."
That absence of noise became the topic of his first poem.
Sanchez-Chavarria is now one of the members of Palabristas, the first Latino spoken word group in Minnesota, he said.
Like many spoken word groups, Palabristas combines the imagery of poetry with the emotion of a dramatic performance.
The word itself - Palabristas - means wordsmith in Spanish.
The nine members in the group represent six Latin American countries, from Peru to Mexico. They range in age from teenagers to mid-50-year-olds.
Although they come from different countries and backgrounds, the poets share a common bond because they understand what its like to live a bicultural life.
Through their poetry and performance, they help each other find a balance between two languages, cultures and identities -- the lifelong question for many Latinos who live in the United States but have roots around the hemisphere.
"We do write a lot about Latino identity and what it's like to be bicultural, bilingual in a place like Minnesota, which is a very unique experience," said Lorena Duarte, another poet in the group.
Duarte, 31, was born in El Salvador and moved to Minnesota with her family when she was a child. She straddles two cultures -- from her world views to her taste buds -- and often describes herself as a "Minnesotana-Salvadorena."
"That just kind of means I love pupusas and Mac and Cheese," said Duarte, referring to the stuffed, tortilla-like national dish of El Salvador. "You have that, and then you go to a potluck and you have hot dish. So, that's the Minnesota Latino experience."
Sometimes, the poets express their bicultural identity in simple ways, like through food and language.
Other times, they convey that duality by writing poems about politics, economics and education both in the United States and back home.
Sanchez-Chavarria describes his transition from Peru to the Twin Cities in his poem, "Land of the Incas."
"I never thought my name would ever escape me, but as a kid coming from the land of the Incas and the Inca Kolas, I was submerged by force to the idea of public education. Where teachers are instructed to brand ESL on the skin of all the students of color that walk in."
He continues the poem, by describing how hard it was for him to fit in at school, especially when kids would laugh at him for looking different.
"I found myself a brown kid so segregated and hated upon that I lost hope. Learned English as my second language not by choice, but little by little, I started to create my strong voice."