"Chicano writers from El Paso are the most progressive, open-minded, far-reaching, and inclusive writers of them all."

Octavio Romano

Friday, August 04, 2006

Publishers looking South at Mexicana Writers

Recently publishers have been looking at Mexican writers to translate their older works in to English. The University of New Mexico has just put out The Skin of the Sky (ISBN 0-8263-4120-9) a novel by Elena Poniatowska, one of North America’s greatest writers. The book is about Lorenzo de Tena, Mexican astronomer born in the 1939s. He’s the illegitimate son of a wealthy Mexico City businessman and poor, but intelligent, peasant woman. Lorenzo is introduced to science by his mother, beginning his life-long passion. When his mother dies, Lorenzo and his sibling are taken to live with their father. The children have difficulty adjusting to a life of wealth and privilege, but Lorenzo devotes all his attentions to astronomy. He eventually goes to Harvard to complete his studies and returns to Mexico, determined to elevate Mexico’s scientific rankings.

In Tinisima (ISBN 0-8263-4123-3), this fictionalized account of the life of Tina Modotti (1896-1942), Poniatowska devoted ten years of research to fully understand the woman who was so caught up in the social and political turbulence of the pre-World War II decades. At different times in her life, Modotti was a silent screen actress, a model for Diego Rivera's murals, and a lover of photographer Edward Weston. She was also a champion for the Mexican people who lovingly referred to her as Tinisima. In 1929, Modotti was accused of the murder of Julio Antonio Mella, her Cuban lover. She fled to the U.S.S.R. to escape the Mexican press and then to Europe, where she became a Soviet secret agent and a nurse under an assumed name, returning to Mexico to meet an early death at the age of forty-five.

Last year, UNM Press republished her first book Lilus Kikus, which was first published in 1954. When it was first publsihed, it was labeled as a children's book because it had a young girl as protagonist, it included illustrations, and the author was an unknown woman. This is the first United States edition. It also includes four of Poniatowska's short stories with female protagonists, only one of which has been previously published in English.

Poniatowska is admired today as a feminist, but in 1954, when Lilus Kikus appeared, feminism didn't have broad appeal. Twenty-first-century readers will be fascinated by the way Poniatowska uses her child protagonist to point out the flaws in adult society. Each of the drawings by the great surrealist Leonora Carrington that accompany the chapters in Lilus Kikus expresses a subjective, interiorized vision of the child character's contemplations on life.

Sandra Cisneros plugs Poniatowska: “When I read Elena Poniatowska, I’m reminded why she’s my hero, why I write, what kind of writer I aspire to be. She’s not only an exquisite writer, she’s an extraordinary human being. It’s this humanity that make her writing soar.

Poniatowska has won various awards and has written over 50 books. Born in France to a Mexican citizen of French ancestry, she lives in Mexico City.

Poniatowska’s writing is also included in Responding to Crisis in Contemporary Mexico: The Political Writings of Paz, Fuentes, Monsivais, And Poniatowska (Hardcover) on Univ of Arizona Press published last fall. (ISBN 0816524912). The book is edited by Claire Brewster: “Regarded as among modern Mexico’s foremost creative writers, Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, Carlos Monsiváis, and Elena Poniatowska are also esteemed as analyzers of society, critics of public officials, and both molders and mirrors of public opinion. This book offers a reading of Mexican current affairs from 1968 to 1995 through a comparative study of these four writers’ political work."


We will continue honoring Trinidad Sanchez, Jr. by posting some of his poems


for Lalo and Lolo Delgado

porque han llegado a celebrar

los cincuenta años de amor

but they do not stand alone . . .

their familia, los nietos y bisnietos

los comadres, compadres y los poetas

locos de todo tamaño stand with them.

Fifty years of standing together has made

them like the double ll

the 12th letter of the Spanish alphabet,

a metáfora, la llamada a la felicidad.
Lo han hecho porque cada uno tiene

la llave del corazonazo de su amante.

They stand together

. . . como el fuego de una llama caliente;

. . . como un llano, lleno de aqua viva;

. . . como las llantas de una bicicleta

that have been around the barrio y han

dado sus vueltas más de cincuenta veces.

Lola y Lalo actually have the same name . . .

for if you switched the first two letters to the end

Lalo becomes Lola and Lola becomes Lalo!

They stand together despite the fact

they have only one “L” in their names.

They have kept their distinct personalities

and lived a life sin much llorar y llovizno;

pero seguro lo han tenido

porque el amor no crece en tierra seca.

Lola y Lalo cosejan, a los demás,

que es el llamamiento – the call for dialogue

that has kept them on their feet

para este momento sagrado.

Lalo y Lola stand together porque al fin,

como buen Mejicanos y Chicanos que son

entienden bien . . .

“Que es mejor morir de pie que vivir de rodillas.”

Trinidad Sánchez, Jr.

Denver, Colorado

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