Four Mesoamerican Poets


Works by and about Manuel Espinosa Sainos, Ruperta Bautista Vázquez, Adriana López, and Manuel Tzoc Bucup in LALT No. 8:


"Translating kuxlejal in Ab’ya Yala in Four Mesoamerican Poets" by Paul Worley

I would like to begin by stating that translating Indigenous literatures into languages like English is seldom done and even less theorized. In the case of “bilingual” Indigenous texts, for example, Indigenous authors themselves tend to create both the Indigenous- and Spanish-language text. As I lay out in my recent article on the poetry of the Yucatec Maya poet Waldemar Noh Tzec (2017), the divergent discourses one finds across these twinned documents can lead us to multiple and varied readings if we read the text in Spanish, in its Indigenous language, or across both of these languages. In my view, Arturo Arias (2017 35) is quite correct when he argues that we can think of this literary production as a kind of “transcreation” with two independent existences. Indeed, a common complaint among Indigenous authors in México, where bilingual publication is the norm, is that, when compared to their monolingual mestizo colleagues, they must commit themselves to the double work of being a writer in their ancestral language as well as a translator/writer in Spanish. In English or any other third language, then, the problem becomes one of representing these trans-creative processes through the target language. Even if one successfully renders this tension across English and Spanish, where does the Indigenous language fit within this linguistic relationship? Can the reader be directed successfully to look at these texts or are they condemned to be reduced to nothing more than objects symbolizing the author’s ethno-linguistic identity?


Three Poems by Manuel Espinosa Sainos (Totonac)

How can I tell my dead
that this is no longer their land,
that they’ll have to look
for offerings somewhere else?



Four Poems by Ruperta Bautista Vázquez (Tsotsil)

A young girl’s hands
embroider her grandparents’ knowledge
on the traje of her town. 


Four Poems by Adriana López (Tseltal)

She is a goddess drunk on beauty.
She hides the newborn’s face 
while its mother lulls it to sleep, 
warding off the evil eye. 

Desiring eternal silence, 
she shades my head from the sun
and embraces me warmly on my coldest days. 


Four Poems by Manuel Tzoc Bucup (K’iche’)

Oh! My storm-child
of the passing comet
with his crippling fingers
let yourself be burned
with the rays of a tepid sun
let yourself be carried away by a wind
that moves towards forgetfulness


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