Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Latin America’

Juanita Visits the Commander

Another excerpt from the exquisite novel Ebba and the Green Dresses of Olivia Gomez in a Time of Conflict and War by Joan Tewkesbury.

Juanita Visits the Commander

Juanita stood in the General’s Commander’s living room. He was watching the Miss Central Committee Beauty Pageant on TV. As the master of ceremonies read off the names of the five finalists, the Commander picked up a bottle of purple liquid and dropped twenty-five drops of whatever it was into a glass of purified water, stirred it with his thumb and offered it to Juanita. When she declined, he shrugged and drank it himself, shuddering as it slid down his throat.

“Best thing to ward off smallpox,” he said.

He plopped the glass down on the marble-topped table edged in gold leaf and patted the cushion next to him on the sofa. Juanita waited a moment then took a deep breath and sat down beside him even though she didn’t want to.

“Look at those dogs!” the Commander shouted. He was referring to the final five Beauty Pageant contestants.

“Where’s that soap opera actress or that blonde who sells toothpaste in the ads? These are dogs. Peasant dogs. How can you give a prize to ugly women like that?”

He turned and gave Juanita his full attention, looked into her eyes, then down to her lovely full lips then back up to the feathery mustache of delicate fur she had ceased to wax since her husband, the Sergeant, had burned up and died. It was something her mother had insisted she do when it started to flourish at puberty. Her brother had hated her because he hardly had any mustache at all.

The Commander couldn’t take his eyes off Juanita’s upper lip.

“You see,” he boasted, “it is one of my duties to wine and dine whoever wins. She will come to this house for an evening with me and none of those dogs are worthy…”

“Commander…” Juanita interrupted, but he just kept talking.

“… Unlike you, Mrs. Chavez.” The General’s Commander stretched, lifted his arms and moved toward Juanita on the couch. He was totally transfixed by her furry mustache. Juanita moved to the very edge of the cushion as the bathing suit competition continued to blare on TV.

“Commander, I have come to ask…”

“Anything,” the Commander interrupted in a whisper. He began leaning forward, tilting his head closer to hers, completely captivated by the dense, dark growth spreading a hairy frame for her mouth.

“Do you know, Mrs. Chavez, that I have fathered one hundred and eighteen children?” Juanita ignored the remark and continued in a firm voice.

“About my dead husband…”

“How can I be of help?” The Commander interrupted again and smiled.

“I would like to see…” Unable to restrain himself any longer he lifted his hand.

“Excuse me,” he interrupted,” but there is something right there…” The Commander leaning forward further moved his finger toward her mouth, but Juanita didn’t stop talking.

“I would like to see that my husband receives a hero’s…” At that exact moment the Commander’s fingers reached their destination.

“Oh my…” he said, feeling the fuzz.

“Memorial!” Juanita blurted, simultaneously with the touch.

Recoiling reflexively, she said very loudly,”What the hell are you doing?!” This took the Commander by surprise. He wasn’t used to being questioned about anything he wanted to do, but he managed to recover and save face by delicately feathering his fingers, as if he was removing something unseemly from under her nose. He made it seem as if he had saved her a great embarrassment. He even went so far as to drop the imaginary thing into an overflowing beanbag ashtray clinging to the arm of the couch, as he looked Juanita straight in the eye and clucked condescendingly.

“A little something caught in the hair.” Then he leaned back and waited for her to be embarrassed, but he’d miscalculated. Juanita didn’t give a shit. She only cared about getting what she came for, so she stood.

“I want to give my dead husband, Sergeant Alberto Chavez, a military memorial for dying in the line of duty.”

The Commander blinked and tried to recall Chavez. Finally, when he did, the Commander spread his short pudgy arms across the back of the white leather couch. Sergeant Chavez had been a total fuck-up, taken off regular duty because he fell asleep and deserted his men, which was why he’d been relegated to Orphan Patrol, the children’s army and family redistribution. The Commander smiled.

“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” he said.

All of a sudden his tone was official and he turned back to the contest on TV, taking note of the third finalist’s bathing suit as it crept up her haunch revealing a lot of backside that should have stayed covered.

“What do you mean, not possible?” Juanita wanted to know.

“No real rank,” he replied and kept his focus on the television set.

“What do you mean ‘no real rank?’ He fought for you…”

Her eyes were filling with angry tears as the Commander smiled unkindly. “Maybe that’s what he told you to feel important, but I can verify whatever war stories he boasted were not true.”

“Liar!” Juanita shouted and stamped her foot.

The Commander sighed. This was growing tedious. Then he remembered. “I hear you sent the boy we gave you away.”

“Of course I sent him away. It was all his fault. If I hadn’t been so busy day and night… too busy for my husband…”

“My dear, it wasn’t as if you gave birth to him or nursed him day and night. He was only with you a short time…”

“So what?” Juanita interrupted.

“So, you will be moving out of the casita,” the General’s Commander announced.

Stunned, Juanita stopped her fury and stared at the Commander.

“What?” was all she could manage to say.

“We have to make room for his replacement. Besides, we don’t have casitas for widows. Casitas are for military personnel in the General’s service. We’ve let you stay on a bit longer out of consideration for the circumstances of his death… a terrible shock. But since you don’t have any children and you gave the one you had away… One person to a casita is extravagant… unless of course you’d like to think about some sort of arrangement…”

Before the Commander could continue with the rest of proposition, Juanita turned and stormed out of his living room to the front door which she slammed so hard the General’s portrait fell off the wall and knocked over the flag.

In the living room, the Commander lit another cigarette and waited to see which one of the unfortunate, ‘peasant dogs’ would be crowned Miss Central Committee.

Get your own copy of Ebba and the Green Dresses of Olivia Gomez in a Time of Conflict and War by Joan Tewkesbury HERE.

Indigenous Marching in Bolivia

From Avaaz.

Last Sunday, Bolivian police used tear gas and truncheons to crack down on indigenous men, women and children who are marching against an illegal mega-highway that will slice through the protected Amazon rainforest.

72 hours later, the country is in crisis — two key Ministers have resigned, Bolivians are erupting in street protests across the country, and President Evo Morales has been forced to temporarily suspend the highway construction. But powerful multinationals are already divvying up this important nature preserve. Now, only if the world stands with these brave indigenous people can we ensure the highway is rerouted and the forest is protected.

Avaaz just delivered a 115,000 strong Bolivian and Latin American emergency petition to two senior government Ministers — they are worried about massive public pressure and are on the back foot. Now after this brutal violence let’s ramp up the pressure and raise a global alarm to end the crackdown and stop the highway. Click to sign the urgent petition — it will be delivered spectacularly to President Evo Morales when we reach 500,000:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/bolivia_stop_the_crackdown/?vl

Thousands of indigenous people have been marching for six weeks from the Amazon to the capital. Finally, at a meeting with Avaaz last week, Bolivia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs pledged to open dialogue with leaders. On Saturday, he went to speak with the marchers, but when he refused their basic demands, they forced him to march with them for one hour to break the police fence. The next day troops stormed the area where the protesters had set up camp and brutally beat and detained hundreds and loaded them onto buses to forcibly remove them.

The proposed 300km highway would cut straight through Isiboro Sécure (TIPNIS in Spanish), the crown jewel of the Bolivian Amazon, famous for its huge trees, astonishing wildlife and fresh water. TIPNIS’s incredible natural and cultural significance have earned it the status of a double protected area — as a National Park and an indigenous reservoir. The highway is financed by Brazil and would link Brazil to Pacific ports. But below the surface, it would be a poisonous artery that would destroy these communities and the forest and open up this pristine land to logging, oil and mining explorations, and large scale industrial and agricultural business. A recent study found that 64% of the park could be deforested by 2030 if the road is built.

Bolivian and international law say indigenous leaders must be consulted if the government wishes to take their land, and the indigenous communities want safer alternatives to foster economic growth and regional integration. But the government has ignored their vocal opposition and failed to study a single alternative road route outside TIPNIS. Instead, Morales is pushing for a referendum for the region which ignores the law and is seen by many as an attempt to fabricate illegitimate consent.

Morales — known as Bolivia’s first indigenous President — is renowned globally for standing strong for the environment and indigenous people. Let’s encourage him to stick to those principles now that this simmering conflict has violently reached boiling point, and stand with those on the front line struggling for Amazon protection and respect for indigenous communities — sign this urgent petition to stop the crackdown and the illegal highway:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/bolivia_stop_the_crackdown/?vl

Again and again, the protection of the land we all depend on and the rights of indigenous people are sacrificed by our governments at the altar of development and economic growth. Our leaders often choose mining and deforestation over our own survival — regularly directly profiting foreign corporations. In the future we all want, the environment and the lives of innocent people come before profit. President Evo Morales now has the chance to back his people, save the Amazon, and rethink what real development looks like in Latin America.

With hope,

Luis, Laura, Alice, Ricken, David, Diego, Shibayan, Alex and the rest of the Avaaz team

A Novel Novel

A few quotes, by some celebrated writers, about the remarkable new novel by Deena Metzger titled La Negra y Blanca: Fugue and Commentary.

Many meetings weave in and out of this splendid, heartbreaking novel. Meetings of multiple Americas, meetings between the living and the dead, meetings where dreams and reality, history and pain, deception and hope, intersect. But above all, what we meet in La Negra y Blanca is a ravishing wager that words can still birth us into the puzzle of existence, that we can all be mothers to one another as the storm approaches. Perhaps her best (and strangest) novel.

Ariel Dorfman, author of Death and the Maiden

This brave and heartrending novel reaches out to the soul, leads us through the traumas of history and weaves together in its characters the dialectic of past and present that marks us all. Metzger illuminates the heritage each of us bears of the sorrows of Conquest and the poignancy of survival. La Negra y Blanca movingly depicts the price we pay for our too-large footprint on this earth and invites us to awaken and reach for a harmony with one another and a universe that has given us life. A splendid journey!!

Nancy Caro Hollander, author of Uprooted Minds: Surviving the Politics of Terror in the Americas

Deena Metzger has written a novel of great beauty, power and wisdom. It is a bordererasing, culture-leaping, time-and-space shattering inquiry into the re-visioned lives of Guatemalan-American writer Victor Perera, novelist and once Vice President of Guatemala Mario Monteforte Toledo and his daughter Morena, whose mother was a Tz’utujil Indian. Told from the perspective of the American writer Blanca (who the reader assumes is a fictional incarnation of the author), the novel follows the ripple effects of indigenous Latin America’s conquest by Spain into contemporary reconquests of the region by dictatorship and imperial power, and on into the inter-woven lives of its protagonists living in both the US and Guatemala. It is a meditation on memory — historical and personal — part vision quest, part detective novel. It bears witness to great historical and personal tragedy, to fraught relationships conditioned by politics, ethnicity and gender, to courageous resistance of spirit and creative genius in the face of injustice. It summons past and future into a shimmering invention of a present that is an act of love.

Robert David Cohen

This is a narrative of conquest and hope, domination and flight, surrender and transcendence. Wisdom leaks through misty realms between memory and imagination. Each character embodies the whole of the world. Divided by bloodlines, class, history and politics, all unite in a pilgrimage of hope. If ever I am headed to the afterworld and allowed to bring just one book, La Negra y Blanca would be the one.

Terry Marks-Tarlow, author of Psyche’s Veil: Psychotherapy, Fractals and Complexity

Tag Cloud