Shenandoah Volume 68, Number 1
Volume 68, Number 1 · Fall 2018

Tacuarembeau, Introducción

 

El día que llegamos a Tacuarembó no conocíamos las calles. Las plazas estaban dispuestas en línea recta, y la ciudad trazada por este eje, se nos abría a los lados de la avenida como una pluma.

En el Club Tacuarembó, una señora rubia nos abordó apenas unos minutos antes de la presentación del libro. Hablamos. Era chiquita (llevaba puesto un tapadito gris apretado, sobre él sostenía un collar de perlas, y cierto olorcito al recuerdo inventado de mi abuela).

-Vamos, vamos a conocer a la Vicepresidenta de la Nación Charrúa -me dijo- y se rió. Yo la seguí pensando en las palabras democracia, Nación y estado de Uruguay (me acordé del libro de Ares Pons). Súbitamente, se me cruzó el recuerdo de los charrúas cortándose una falange…Tras la sugerencia de la señora rubia busqué a la india (o a mi impresión de ella).

Recorrí el salón, las sillas de plástico blanco y un cuadro instalado en el fondo de la pared celeste del espacio. El cuadro representaba a una joven de pelo largo y lacio, vestida de blanco. Ella sostenía una paloma en su mano, por detrás del cuerpo, podía verse una cara en forma de sol. La joven del cuadro de perfil, no se parecía al rostro recto que me hablaba:

-Mucho gusto -le dije-.

-Encantada- me dijo una cara pálida con cara de vasca y mirada hosca (“taciturna” diría hoy, repitiendo de memoria lo aprendido en la escuela sobre la mirada de los indios). Eso sí, tenía el pelo lacio peinado a dos aguas.

-Hablamos. Le conté de un trabajo realizado en facultad sobre Salsipuedes unos años antes (tampoco tantos); yo sabía que la Nación Charrúa existía porque había visto calcomanías pegadas en varios termos con ese nombre, e impreso sobre ellas, el dibujo de unas “boleadoras”.

Rápido, y antes de darle tiempo a que me contestara añadí: -otra de mis compañeras es charrúa- y la señalé. Tuvo un hijo que nació con una mancha azul en la espalda. Cuando el niño nació, el doctor le dijo que la mancha era mongoloide, y charrúa -añadí-.

La señora rubia, la del tapadito gris fue rápida a buscar a la bajita “charrúa” que había señalado para presentarla ante la Vicepresidenta de la Nación. Mientras, la mandataria me preguntaba a mí, por el origen de mi familia.

-Como puede ver, mi color verde aceituna es moro, viene de mi abuela Nefer, aunque en algún punto no sé más y el árbol se nos corta…- le dije.

-Allí -me dijo con mirada y voz también taciturnas- allí donde el árbol se corta, y hay un signo de interrogación, ese signo de interrogación puede indicar tu ascendencia india -y charrúa –añadió.

▴ ▴ ▴

Los nombres no asidos, los no registrados. Los cuerpos extraviados en una ciudad lejana, Tacuarembeau, como el filamento inconcluso de aquella tradición ignorada cuyo rastro enciende en Nefer las mejillas, y refrena el deambular inconcluso en el monte de unas sombras. Es un lenguaje no aprendido que no distingo, pero escucho aspirado en el verdor de la anacahuita y de los espinillos de esos montes. No son cruceras las que aspiran esos sonidos, estas cruzan rápido por las piedras asustadas por las sombras: Batoví o Iporá ignoro tu seña, tu mancha mongoloide.

Mi padre me desapareció de un espacio treinta años, a mi hermano lo desaparecieron ocho (desde el 72)… La historia de las formas que hemos sido sin idea de sustancia, sin sombras; algunas no recordadas por no conocidas (esas que no volverán), acaso te dejen una seña:

-Pero recuerda, recuerda tu discapacidad, recuerda los sonidos aspirados de medias metáforas llevándote al monte sobre la piragua… Rememora la coma irrealizable del gesto desapercibido, acaso tu propia redención leída en las perlas de un tapadito gris, sobre el que una señora rubia llamada “Patria” recuerda el monumento de la plaza, la cuadrícula de un casco antiguo, el centro de un círculo sobre el migrado sonido de la ciudadanía que se repite, invulnerado hoy, en la repetición de las plazas de los pueblos y de sus héroes:

NO TE OLVIDES: los hombros levantados, aunque la discapacidad te impida levantarte apoyado en la silla de ruedas. Di tu verdad como chingado, como perra parturienta y deja la panzocracia del muro de los lamentos.

Tú no eres Maldoror, dignifica esa idea.

Tacuarembeau, Introduction

translated from the Spanish by Jen Hofer

The day we arrived in Tacuarembó, we didn’t recognize the streets.1 The plazas were laid out along a straight line, and the city, traced along that axis, opened out on both sides of the avenue like a feather.

At the Tacuarembó Club, a blond señora approached us just a few minutes before the book launch. We talked. She was quite small (she was wearing a tight short gray jacket, with a pearl necklace resting on it, and there was a bit of a smell about her that invited an invented memory of my grandmother).

“Let’s go, let’s go meet the Vicepresidenta of the Charrúa Nation,” she said to me, and she laughed. I followed her, thinking about the words democracy, Nation, and state of Uruguay (I remembered the book by Ares Pons2). Suddenly, into my mind came a memory of the Charrúas cutting one of their phalanges…At the suggestion of the blond señora I looked for the india (or for my impression of her).

I wandered through the hall, the white plastic chairs and a painting hung at the far end of the space’s light blue wall. The painting depicted a young woman with long straight hair, dressed in white. She was holding a dove in her hand; behind her body, you could see a face in the shape of a sun. The young woman in profile in the painting didn’t resemble the upright aspect that was talking to me:

“Pleased to meet you,” I told her.

“Enchanted,” a pale face said, with a Basque face and an unhospitable gaze. (“taciturn,” I’d say today, repeating from memory what I learned in school about the gaze of the indios.)

Of course, she did have straight hair parted down the middle like an A-frame.

We talked. I told her about a project I had done at school about Salsipuedes3 a few years earlier (not so many, either); I knew that the Charrúa Nation existed because I had seen stickers on a number of thermoses with that name, and printed on them, a drawing of some “boleadoras.”4

Quickly, and before giving her a chance to respond to me, I added: “another of my friends is Charrúa”—and I pointed her out. “She had a son who was born with a blue splotch on his back. When the boy was born, the doctor told her that the splotch was mongoloid, and Charrúa,” I added.

The blonde señora, the one with the short gray jacket, quickly went to look for the petite “Charrúa” woman she had pointed out, to present her to the Vicepresidenta of the Nation. Meanwhile, her representative was asking me about myself, about my family origins.

“As you can see, my olive-green color is Moorish, it comes from my grandmother Nefer, though at some point I don’t know anything else, and the family tree gets cut off…” I told her.

“There,” she said with both gaze and voice taciturn, “there where the tree is cut, and there is a question mark, that question mark could point to your india ancestry—or Charrúa ancestry,” she added.

▴ ▴ ▴

The names that aren’t anchored, the ones that aren’t recorded. Bodies gone stray in a distant city, Tacuarembeau, like the inconclusive filament of a tradition disregarded, the traces of which flush Nefer’s cheeks, curb the inconclusive wandering of a few inconclusive shadows through the hills. It’s an unlearned language I can’t make out, but I hear it breathed in the green of the anacahuita and espinillo trees in those hills. It isn’t crucera vipers that breathe out those sounds, those move swiftly across the stones shocked by the shadows: Batoví5 or Iporá6 I’m unaware of your sign, your mongoloid splotch.

My father disappeared me from a space for thirty years; my brother was disappeared for eight (starting in ’72)…The history of the forms we have been with no idea of substance, with no shadows; some unremembered because they were unknown (those that never came back), leave you with barely a sign:

“But remember, remember your disability, remember the sounds breathed at half-metaphor carrying you to the hills on a canoe… Recall the unrealizable comma of the undetected gesture, perhaps your own redemption read in the pearls of a short gray jacket, on which a blond señora named “Patria” remembers the monument in the plaza, the grid of an ancient shard, the center of a circle above the migrated sound of the citizenry repeating, inviolated now, in the repetition of the town plazas and of their heroes:

DON’T FORGET: shoulders raised, though disability might prevent you from rising up from the support of your wheelchair. Speak your truth like someone who’s fucked, like a bitch giving birth, and let go of the bellyocracy of the wailing wall.

You are not Maldoror,78 dignify that idea.


  1. A Note On Notes: Virginia Lucas’s work contains footnotes—some for purposes of explanation, and some for purposes of expansion, counterpoint, provocation, pique. In translating Virginia’s poems, I translate her forms and uses of language, including, of course, her notes. And in translating what is not translatable in her work—that is, what is most important to translate, the snags or tangles or collisions that don’t readily succumb to expression in English, and hence become opportunities for us as readers to become translated, or for English to be de-Englished—I take recourse in the form of the note, for purposes of explanation, expansion, counterpoint, provocation, pique. That is, I’m following the lead of Virginia’s poetics, even as I lead them astray. (trans. note) 

  2. Roberto Ares Pons (1921-2000), Uruguayan historian, journalist, and activist. (trans. note) 

  3. “Salsipuedes” refers to the 1831 massacre and mass capture of Charrúa indigenous people at Salsipuedes Creek, often considered a culminating moment in the genocidal extermination of the Charrúa people. It is estimated that there are between 160,000 and 300,000 people of Charrúa ancestry alive today, all of them mestizo. Salsipuedes literally means Get-out-if-you-can; there are places called Salsipuedes in a number of Latin American countries, including Chile, Mexico, and Panama. (trans. note) 

  4. A weapon used primarily for hunting by the Charrúa and other indigenous peoples, made of hard stones polished into spheres, tied together with leather cords. (trans. note) 

  5. The Cerro Batoví is a hill near Tacuarembó, considered to be the symbol of Tacuarembó Province; the name means “Virgin Breast” in Guaraní. (trans. note) 

  6. The Balneario Iporá is a park in Tacuarembó, developed between 1950 and 1968, with two artificial lakes and a number of other facilities, surrounded by forested land. The name means “Beautiful Water” in Guaraní, though in Guaraní would be written “Yporí.” (trans. note) 

  7. Les Chants de Maldoror is a long poem written by Uruguayan-born French writer Isidore-Lucien Ducasse in 1868-1869. (trans. note) 

  8. How do I decide where to intrude, which interruptions (if any) will be helpful, which interventions illuminate? Which moments of “snag” do I footnote, and which do I leave without annotation? Do my footnotes reflect my own assumptions underlying what is or is not “common knowledge” for a Spanish-language reader or for an Uruguayan reader? What is, I wonder, the imagined audience for the original book? What is the imagined audience for the translated book? Do I footnote every reference I had to look up, thus suggesting that the limits of my knowledge are the parameters for explication, problematically positioning myself, then, as the imagined (or in this instance very overtly enacted) audience for both the original and the translation? Do I footnote terms I imagine a non-Uruguayan Spanish-reading public might not know, in an attempt to replicate an (imagined) Uruguayan reader’s experience of the book for (imagined) non-Uruguayan USAmerican readers? Do I choose which references to explain in a note, which translation choices to explode in a note, based on my own intuitions as I navigate these texts, in a nod (or more than a nod) to all the ways that translation practice relies on intuition, channeling, and feeling my way through unfamiliar territories? My approach constitutes interventionist translation, perhaps—a form of ultratranslation (about which more here)—and is thus a little clunky and a little uncomfortable and a little lacking and a little excessive. It goes a little too far, while not getting near enough. It’s not quite right, as translation never gets things quite “right”—it’s not about rightness or fixity or one-to-one correlation, not about digesting the source or hitting the target, but about the always-in-process-of-failing attempt to recognize the substance and context of something from somewhere else, and bring that recognition here, while remaining wondrously aware of the processes of transfer, and of what resists transfer. (trans. note) 


Virginia Lucas was born in Uruguay in 1977 and is a poet and editor. Among other books, she has published: Épicas Marinas (Artefato, 2004), No es de acanto la flor en piedra (Lapsus, 2005), Muestra de cuentos lesbianos (Trilce, 2010), and Orsai: género, erotismo y subjetividad (Pirates, Mvd., 2008). Jen Hofer’s translation of her book Amé.RICA (tu valor de cambio) will be published by Litmus Press in 2019. English-language versions of her poems have been published in Aufgabe, Drunken Boat, HarrietJai-Alai, NACLA Report on the Americas, the Offending AdamTripwire, and Tupelo Quarterly.

Jen Hofer is a Los Angeles-based poet, translator, social justice interpreter, teacher, knitter, bookmaker, public-letter writer, urban cyclist, and cofounder of the language justice and language experimentation collaborative Antena and the local language justice advocacy collective Antena Los Ángeles. She publishes poems, translations, and visual-textual works with numerous small presses, including Action Books, Atelos, belladonna, Counterpath Press, Kenning Editions, Insert Press, Les Figues Press, Litmus Press, LRL Textile Editions, NewLights Press, Palm Press, Subpress, Ugly Duckling Presse, and in various DIY/DIT incarnations.