WOLM 2016 Spring: #1 Gabriel Garcia Márquez and the Solitude of Latin America



merit the title is Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the solitude of Latin America with Professor Alejandro Murguia chair of Latino latina studies at San Francisco State University my name is Abby Bogomolny faculty in the English department we hope that you will join us for our other work of literary merit events honoring 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez tomorrow we will have an interdisciplinary bilingual reading of excerpts from the novel here in Newman from 5 to 6 p.m. reading will be SRJC faculty Susannah Ackerman and Michael Hale student affairs officer Erika Hernandez and a o-p-s counselor Raphael Vasquez then on April 4th at noon we will host Professor purses Kareem of San Jose State University English department and comparative lit she will discuss history shadow and L really small meheeco in 100 Years of Solitude and finally on Tuesday April 5th from 5 to 6 p.m. dr. Lauren Nahas SRJC English department faculty will discuss social protest in 100 Years of Solitude for the faculty present I hope you will bring your classes and our warm events are available for faculty flex credit so it is my pleasure to introduce Alejandro Guillermo Maria professor of Latino latina Studies at San Francisco State University and current current poet laureate of San Francisco he is a two-time winner of the American Book Award for this war called love nine stories and southern front his memoir the medicine of memory has been nominated for the victor Turner Prize and ethnic retic ethnographic writing he was also a founding member and the first director of the mission cultural center in San Francisco he has several other route books averse to his name the latest of which stray poems I invited Alejandro to speak with us as a poet because I thought no one less than a poet should discuss the beautifully rich writing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez please welcome alejandro media Thank You Abby for that very generous introduction but she forgot to mention that I also make really good breakfast belittles a and sometimes that's the most important part of my CV nearly fifty years ago a roving and nostalgic Colombian exiled in Mexico City published a book on which he had been working on with unrelenting discipline for sixteen months and which was destined to enrich not just literature but the hopes of a continent too long abandoned to misfortune misinterpretations and the vagaries of foreign powers and I'm referring of course to cien anos de Soledad and before I go excuse me any further I want to thank cetera Rosa Junior College and especially Abby Bogomolny who risked her academic career by inviting me here today to share these thoughts boy si la palabra Soledad Lomas possibly and best Bella traduction porque me parece que la palabra Soledad tiene mucho mas auntie rose KNL unless it ambient separate referee por ejemplo I won't nombre and nom de Soledad kiss and repeat the muchas veces mi familia inclusive el nombre de my mama and so for those of you that are linguistically challenged and what I said was I hope the Warriors continue to win the season and in today's remarks I want to reference not just CNI noses Soledad but actually even more so I want to reference the speech that Gabriel Garcia Marquez made in 1982 in Stockholm when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and his talk that historic day was in fact titled the solitude of Latin America which is the title that I adapted for today's reflections and so I want to mix a little bit of the characters and some of the events that happen in that fabulous book with his speech and try to bring it up to date because his thoughts thirty-five years ago still resonate I think amongst Latin Americans and throughout this continent and at the same time I hope if I have enough time to close by offering a few remarks about California in California's link to Latin America and how just like in the struggle to express the reality of Latin America it took writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez to develop or create almost a new method of narration to be able to capture not just the beauty and the pain and the history of Latin America but what it means to be a Latin American at that time in the twentieth century but now that we live in a 21st century I think it's important to reflect on his hopes that day when he delivered that speech in Stockholm I want to start by referencing that although the world since 1982 has grown so much closer for example with the technology of satellites with the technology of cellphones where any one of you can pick up a cell phone and talk to someone halfway around the world and although that technology has expanded our communication it seems to me and I don't think I'm wrong that the perception of Latin America that Gabriel Garcia Marquez was talking about back then still has not changed we still especially in the United States and especially the politicians of our time still refuse to look at Latin America with the eyes of Latin Americans we are still looked upon as strangers as if instead of using the technology of today those that observers are using the telescope of Christopher Columbus to define who we are and so one of the things that Gabriel Garcia Marquez mentions and you'll have to excuse me if sometimes I refer to him as Gobbo in a more personal tone not because I was a friend of his or knew him intimately but just to speed up the narrative a little bit but one of the things that he points out is what are the reasons that the Western world does not understand Latin America is because the Western world looks at Latin America through its own eyes expecting to see not Latin America not that reality right but expecting to see a reflection of themselves which by its very nature is absurd because we are not Westerners in that sense and in fact to live in Latin America to be a Latin American to live in California in fact is to accept a dull reality the reality of our continent that is also mixed with a reality of the rest of the Western world and before I go any further the reason I include California in this narrative of in America is because for all practical reasons and I will expand on this if you go as we go further on California has always been since the first Spanish explorers in the 1540s stumbled upon this land and even before then has always been part of Latin America and all we have to do is reflect on the name of California or even reflect on the name of this beautiful town Santa Rosa and we know that we are in fact linked indelibly with a history in the fate of the rest of this continent and I want you to ponder that today and in the future and although at that time perhaps because one of the things that Marquez reflects on is that we didn't have a new method of narrating our reality and it has taken that just gobble but other great writers like Carlos Fuentes Octavio Paz Isabel Allende Mario Vargas Llosa and so many others to be able to synthesize what it is to be a Latin American and I may expand that because the same conflict of perception that is prevalent throughout Latin America is equally equally prevalent in other parts of the world like the Middle East like in Asia and in Africa and so one of the first things I think that needs to be re-evaluated is this perception that Latin America is somebody's backyard Latin America is actually nobody's backyard and a better way perhaps to think about that is that we are neighbors and part of what has happened is as another great writer Eduardo galeano many times pointed out that in the quest the European quest beginning with Columbus who is really here for gold as he mentions in his own diaries is that the richness of Latin America even to this present day has served not to enrich our countries not to enrich our people but to make other people wealthy and we see that same sad reality 35 years after Gobbo delivered that talk in Stockholm that not only has it continued to impoverish us but to this very day in places like Honduras where the rivers are open Duras are not to serve the people of endurance but to be and to provide life to the people of Honduras but to provide hydroelectric energy for foreign mining companies that now are destroying under us and most recently few weeks ago the assassination of Berta Caceres a lenka indigenous woman and that these crimes still exists in Latin America deep into the 21st century has to be a shock and a reminder to all of us that in fact things have not changed and in fact like the repetitive cycles that appear over and over again in a hundred years of solitude the same history of the 1500s 1600s 1700s 1800s 1900s and into the 21st century seems to be repeating over and over again in an endless cycle of violence and misery for our continent and because we are deep into the 21st century it is important as gobble also points out right that we do deserve a right to our own destiny and not only a right to our own destiny but a right to our own mistakes because in many ways we are still a young continent Mexico for example and most of Latin America has not even achieved 200 years of independence from colonial power and when he and he compares it compared to Europe where Rome took Jews 2,000 years to become established right where Britain took 600 years to build its first major city so why is it that in Europe and in the United States areas of history of development are permissible and rightly so but those heirs are denied to the continent of Latin America and he also goes on to point out and I think it's a fair perception because not only was gobble a great novelist he started his career as a journalist so he knows how to draw facts out how to do research how to add the details to make the story vivid and we can see that same conflict developing all through the 1980s in places like El Salvador and even now in the present era in places like Bolivia where they are not allowed to become who they should be and what destiny permits them to be instead we are forced to be poor copies of the Western world and so and part of the debate unfortunately and I never tire of pointing it this out that although the debate started with Columbus back after he returned to Spain after many other voyagers came here to the Americas that debate somehow still goes on the debate that was held in the cities of Spain in the 1500s are the natives of the Americas human it's an important philosophical question that in fact no one yet has they're declared that the indigenous people the Americas are human which is why the genocide of indigenous people of the Americas that has reached over 100 million people in the past centuries is totally ignored because look around you where is the monument to that genocide where's the remembrance to that genocide and even as we sit here in the comfort of this auditorium in the comfort of Santa Rosa as I mentioned before the assassination of Berta Caceres two weeks ago an indigenous lenka woman who is fighting for environmental rights and I will link that story of endurance to our present political system in a few minutes and it's not just the assassination of Berta Caceres but the destruction of indigenous communities like the alwah in brazil communities that up to now have had minimal if perhaps no contact at all with the Western world right now being deprived of their homelands and again the genocide continues because it seems that in spite of the incredible power and impact that cien anos is sort of that had not just on this continent but throughout the world it's basic lessons of humanity right and love if I may say that as well have not truly been absorbed by those who most deserve to absorb it and at the same time what are the fabulous things of cien anos de Soledad is this that although politicians in the United States have not read that book and perhaps not even heard of it they have adapted the characteristics of some of its characters like Coronel Arellano buendía and furthermore they have adapted the narrative techniques developed by writers like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez which is known as magical realism but Marquez himself says I'm not a magical realist everything that I write about is based on my reality and what I know intimately and in fact he prefers to call himself a supra realist meaning he takes reality and just maybe perhaps expanded and even I know you're all wondering because some of you have read Hundred Years of Solitude how is it possible that the story of the Mario's heaven with a sheet could be based on reality but if you've read interviews with gobble he points this out that in her his hometown of my condo one spring day a girl eloped banished from the town her family so embarrassed by that incident came up with a story which they taught with a straight face to the villagers that she had been swept away while she was hanging the sheets and if you read carefully that section where she goes up to heaven and Fernando's rant about her you will see the grain of that story but yeah you had to kind of make up but in fact it's based on his own sort of reality in that sense and let me tell you how it is that politicians in this country have adapted the character of Coronel our our daily and open dia without even having read the book if you are familiar with a story you know in the end the colonel realized and musalla his mom realized that he was a cynic about those 32 revolutions and you might remember that here drive a circle of 10 feet with a chalk around him a circle that nobody could penetrate remember those scenes now let's apply it to our own world in the United States we had a president the previous president who not only had a circle around him of security but it was a circle a mile wide in which no one and you can look it up yourself because everything I say today just like Cabos remarks are based on reality their reality that I have lived in the reality that we all have lived without understanding that in many ways we are living in our own magical realism reality and so we had that president it was cynical beyond words with a circle of security a mile wide much grander than anything Gobbo could have not up and even more recently President Obama's visit to Cuba I could not help but here because it has to be cynicism because irony is lost one of the things we've lost in the United States the sense of irony but ironies in fact the most powerful literary device a writer has and so mr. Obama in Cuba in all cynicism talking about human rights accusing the Cubans of some sort of human rights violation Wow mr. Obama is standing an hour away from a concentration camp called want animal into which there's torture every day but he seems not to know that part of history and further on in his visit to Argentina notice that he kind of arrives as some of the new conquistadores because the new conquistador ders did not bring a sword and a cross but they come as multinationals and hedge fund managers the black frock lawyers that appear to Colonel Aureliano Buendia so many times confusing the reasons why he had launched 32 revolutions and he made this remark in Argentina and notice he didn't go visit the first indigenous president in the history of Bolivia Evo Morales and he furtherer even before that had turned his back on another African American president that he should have extended a hand of friendship to and I'm talking about Google Chavez instead he goes to collect the debt of the hedge funds that have ruined not just Greece not just Berto Rico but Argentina as well and he makes the remark that I will wait eternally for him to do it that he would release and declassify the papers of the United States involvement in the dirty wars in Argentina but we already know that story because we lived through it we know the story of the Condor plan we know this thorry of how the naval Mechanics Institute in Argentina was torture University with the professor's CIA agents and psychiatrists we're all that most advanced forms of torture were developed including electrodes to the body and waterboarding all the techniques that would later be used and implemented in Guantanamo so we don't really need him to declassify those documents because we already know the story clarinet Oh in a great book masters of war Greg Grandin in his incredible work empires workshop they have already detailed for us with documents what the United States has been doing these past 50 some years all over Latin America including in El Salvador where it was a very deliberate policy to go quote-unquote primitive on the people of El Salvador meaning let's become as violent and is crazy and as savage as possible to break the spirit of a Salvatorian people and so you had questions like new vocabulary the word disappeared there's a besito that word did not exist before that word perhaps didn't even exist during the time that gap okay that speech in 1982 we have and you can read great novels like one dear life by my new Argueta that show the brutality the beheading of campesinos right the thrashing of the houses of the women the forced exile of one-tenth of a population of El Salvador and so what happened as Gobbo so brilliantly pointed out instead of El Salvador achieving its death the knee and it's faith its history was totally distorted and now of Salvador it's a distortion of what it wanted to be and just like a Salvador was changed by those brutal wars the United States has also been changed because now one tenth of the population of El Salvador lives in the United States changing forever what the United States will be in the future and furthermore we also here in the United States just like in my condo Justin in insomnia plagued that destroyed their memory we also suffer from an insomnia plague that has this thought distorted and destroyed our historical memory so that what happened yesterday is completely forgotten and is repeated again today and will be repeated again tomorrow in this endless cycle of repetitions and let me just bring you up to date and some of those repetitions our very own President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton overthrew the democratically elected government of own Duras force the president Celaya out of the country at midnight in his pajamas now that is something that a future novelist will include in their stories and critics will say my goodness that's so outlandish that could never have happened but in fact it did happen and it converted on Duras into the most violent country in the world more violent in Iraq than Afghanistan then West Oakland or the Mission District and here's the forgetfulness of history because I compare the overthrow these governments to setting a house on fire and of course when the people fled orders fled their house that had been set on fire 150 thousand Central American kids because that's just on Duras it's also a Tamala that has been set on fire back in 1954 and the overthrow of that democratically elected government and el salvador where we funded such brutal death squads that they would even assassinate the archbishop in the middle of his mass that they would assassinate for north american nuns that they would assassinate six jesuit priests along with their housekeeper and her 14 year old daughter these things are immediately forgotten and so when fifty thousand kids arrived at the border last summer fleeing those houses set on fire by the United States it was Secretary Clinton that demanded that those kids be sent back into that wire yeah and in another sort of act that would have astounded even Gabrielle Marquez our President Obama who was elected by the Latino population turn around and deported 400,000 Patino's a year in the greatest force migration in the history of humankind and any point this out that every president in my lifetime has overthrown a government America or assassinated a political leader or car or invaded a latin-american country and sometimes all of those and at the same time and yet as Garcia Marquez also says and many other Latin American writers also say that in spite of this horrendous history it is beautiful to be a Latin American and that instead of death we do embrace life and so what we offer to you and also to the politicians of this country is not violence because not one Latin American country has ever invaded the United States not one Latin American country has ever committed an act of terror in the United States and so it seems that tragically enough 35 years after this great novelist pointed out these facts it seems like nothing has changed and we are still looked upon as perhaps not quite human or almost human or perhaps they see you saw with the tail of a pig and so as I mentioned these cycles going on repeating and yet and here's where the narrative has been adapted so effectively by politicians in this country you see the technique of magical realism is this to say the most outrageous outlandish things in a perfectly natural tone of voice in fact Gobbo mentions that he learned that technique from his aunt and it wasn't until he heard her voice talking to him again on a road he was taking trip to Acapulco when he heard that voice again because he had had a writer's block for years he hadn't written he in fact he had stopped writing and had wanted to become a script writer to work with the films he heard that voice he was on his way to Acapulco stop the car turned around go back to Mexico City and told his wife Mercedes you take every take care of everything and I'm gonna write this book and she had to sell the car couldn't figure out how to pay the rent for 16 months and if you look at the dedication to one hundred years of solitude you will find two names that are in fact Bosque and he dedicates the book to his landlords who gave him free rent for those 16 months that he was working and a hundred years of solitude but here's how politicians have adapted that narrative technique that I had just described I'll give you just one concrete example because the days to look not long enough to get it all but about 14 years ago Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote the great magical realist not narrative of the 21st century in which incredible weapons the best master struction right out of 100 Years of Solitude Oh Sarah Kavya Pontius giant magnifying glass remember that to create solar war appeared before the eyes of Condoleezza Rice and appeared before the eyes of President Bush and yet when inspectors on the ground in Iraq searched desperately even searched Saddam Hussein's palace and even searched his toilet room this is true they could not find no weapons of mass destruction so I always say that Condoleezza Rice should have received the Nobel Prize for Literature for a great narrative in that sense and also notice how magical realism is in our everyday life right in our country now corporations are people that means they get up in the morning like you and I they go have lunch and then they take a and that's something that not even Gabrielle Garcia Marquez would have dared put in his own magical realist narrative and yet we live within that magical realism that same extended reality that seemed dual reality of Latin America without realizing it and so let me shift briefly to the question of California because sometime in the early 1500s because we don't know the exact date because that first edition has been lost an incredibly imaginative Catalan by the name of Garcia Ordonez the Montalvo first described a beautiful black queen who lived on a Nitori island in which everything was made of gold and when the first Spanish explorers in the 1530s were just starting to sail north from Mexico searching for this mythical island of this black Queen they stumbled upon the Peninsula of Baja and since their maps were primitive they thought that that peninsula was the land of the black queen known as calathea and therefore this must be the land called California so California existed in the imagination way before it existed on any map and ever since then as I mentioned earlier our history our worldview has been linked to Latin America and and just like Gobbo mentioning that part of the difficulty of Latin America was discovering the techniques to be able to capture this dual reality a reality of the indigenous people of the people of the Americas blended with a reality and the science of Europe we have been struggling perhaps in a way to define who we are as Californians and although we have produced great novelists John Steinbeck amongst many many many none of them I think yet have been able to capture that magical essence of what California is and they may not be able to capture that magical essence until they develop perhaps new techniques or new methods of magical realism and let me point out some of the similarities just like the first Europeans the first Spaniards were driven by a gold fever to invade the Americas California also has its own cold fever in 1848 and in fact one of the mythical figures Dorado a city made all of gold was supposed to have been is somewhere in California and just like because if you've read the work of Garcia Marquez in almost every one of his books there is the mention of the pirate Francis Drake including in a hundred years of solitude because that's what begins that whole lineage of the buendia family and let me just point out that Francis Drake also landed along our coast and not only that but we've had other pirates French pirates in the 18 18 18 or so sack Monterrey and sack Santa Barbara so we also have that link and who can deny for example the many sightings and visions of ability and the Guadalupe in places like skyscrapers in and the windows of Los Angeles or even more recently her apparition in the oak tree in Pinto Lake County Park by San Jose a site I visited once and it was like something out of my condo with dollar bills and medals and prayers offered to the building in that or who could deny the history of that city that makes nothing but illusions known as Hollywood so yes I do believe and I I hate to be the one to bring you the news that yes California history is linked the Latin America and it is not linked to New England at all so in some ways all of us in this room are Latin Americans and I want to close by reading the last sentence of his speech that he gave in 1982 in Stockholm upon being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature if I were not fully aware that the colossal tragedy William Faulkner refused to recognize 32 years ago is now for the first time since the beginning of humanity nothing more than a simple scientific possibility meaning the extermination of human race faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere eight topia through all of human time we the inventors of tales who will believe anything feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia a new and sweeping utopia of life where no one will be able to decide for others how they died where love will prove true and Happiness be possible and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have at last and forever a second opportunity on earth and I hope that we as humans of this continent will still have that hope to survive at least another hundred years thank you and I know they've asked me to take questions but it's not questions really that I'm interested in because all great books provide his questions I would much more prefer to hear from you some answers but I will take questions if you have some yes ok thanks for that reminder ad so I wrote a story many years ago which also seems to be magical realism a story called the other barrio based on a horrific fire that happened in the Mission District at the Gartland apartments in the mid 70s and I published that story about six seven years ago about that based on that fire fictionalized account when that story was first published another fire happened in the Mission District that is big but many people were displaced than one person died in the Gartland fire twelve people died a week before the film the other body it's a full-length feature premiered at the San Francisco dependent Film Festival at the Bravo Theatre a week before it premiered a huge fire twenty-second admission destroyed the housing of 60 Latinos and one young Latino also died and during the filming of the other barrio another fire happened and if you see the movie you'll see the big burned-out building in the background we didn't have the money to build that set we used an actual building that had burned mission during the filming so it seems that any mention of the other bottle that film seems to spark fires somewhere so if you do go see it this Saturday night at the Roxy theater I hope you come safely home and there's no fires yes yes Marcus is an incredible scene of a 3,000 dead banana workers whose bodies are dumped into the sea and afterwards and this is typical of Latin America right the response is it never happened nothing ever happens in my condo never has and never will which is similar by the way and that not only is it vividly describe the lives of the banana workers but their demands for more better working conditions or how the banana company claims that they do not exist because they're not under contract it's similar to what corporations still do right the workers don't exist they're not under contract there's no paychecks for them yes and in fact it's also somewhat similar I think to Secretary of State Clinton's response to endure us it never happened there's no such thing right but the proof is that 50,000 kids were on the border yeah so it's typical of how history gets erased in Latin America the most horrific events who remembers anymore what happened in El Salvador and 90,000 dead who remembers anymore the 300,000 dead in Guatemala from the coup of 1954 so although it seems to be magical realism as he has always said cien anos de Soledad is based on strict reality okay well I hope that you may not just reread a hundred years of solitude for its beauty and its incredible and beautiful sentences right but to find a way to see how that incredible story applies now in our everyday lives because we are living in a time of magical realism thank you you

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