Notes from My Journal: the Chicago-Indianapolis Book Tour (Part 2: María Rosa Lojo and the Revelation of the Hidden)

Bolivians at Indianapolis

Los Bolivianos, Lilly Auditorium, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis

Saturday, November 19

Passionate Nomads The event yesterday evening in Indianapolis was better attended, it’s being on a campus with lots of students to be brought in. And it went well. The time was shared by a Bolivian writer, María Cristina Botelho, resident now in Indy with her daughter Paola and [Paola’s] husband and child. I don’t  have my copies of her books with me right now in the University Place Hotel where I am writing, but in the trunk of the car which awaits us in the underground parking garage. One is a slim collection of short fiction and the other, even thinner, a collection of poems. She presented first, we after her. It was just María Rosa and I at the table; María Rosa spoke briefly to introduce the subject, I followed with a brief talk (perfectly informal) about how I came to translate this work. She followed with a slide-show presentation tracing her personal history of coming to Mansilla as a subject, etc., then I with a brief reading – the passage toward novel’s end containing the Ranquel chief Mariano Rosas’ eloquent speech to his ghostly compatriots. Much as Thursday night except that Jay introduced us then and Professor Rosa Tezanos-Pinto sat with us at the table and read a rather lengthy background-bio about María Rosa and her work. (After the session last night she gave me a signed copy of the book of essays she and two other editors compiled in relation to María Rosa and her literary ouvre.)

María Cristina Botelho, María Rosa Lojo, Rosa Tezanos-Pinto

María Cristina Botelho, María Rosa Lojo, Rosa Tezanos-Pinto

My father attended last night. While Thursday’s session was conducted in English, last night’s was in Spanish. Dad listened intently, understanding parts; and told Anita later that he was proud of me. Anita, for her part, had a hard time staying awake for this one, except when I read in English; the previous night I was delighted to look out and see her wide smile from the front row.


Table Talk at Indianapolis Bar

Table Talk: José Luis, Rosa, María Cristina, Paola, Anita, María Rosa, Brett

At home now, 10:00 pm Central time, after partially settling in this evening after supper at Fiesta Grande, where Anita and my former ESL student Mercedes Mendez conspired to have an over-sized ceremonial Pancho Villa hat placed on my head while they presented me with a complimentary sopapilla con helado, and sang me a happy birthday two days early. It was a pleasant enough way to cap off my three-day mini book tour. Today, technically, was post-book tour, but a few hours of it spent with friendships both renewed and newly formed. My day’s earlier writing, in fact,  was sandwiched between 9:00 Eastern (Indianapolis) breakfast in our hotel room and 11:00 check-out, when I put our bags in the car and we headed out with María Rosa, our hostess Rosa, and her charming and solicitous husband and fellow professor José Luis. Departing to where? After a side excursion to their home where José picked up an old GPS  – “to give to Braulio,” he sweetly said to his wife, in his soft, delicate voice – to help me get around in and about big cities. [Braulio is a nickname acquired in Argentina, and Anita’s pet name for me.] The previous night, after the presentation at the IUPUI university library, Lilly Auditorium, we had gone with them and with María Cristina and María Paola to an upscale restaurant-bar where we had drinks and a variety of snacks that we shared all around the crowded corner table. It was a social gathering, full of laughter and conversation, that had all the feel of a South American gathering of family and friends. A gathering at which José Luis seemed to take me under his wings, coaching me on which drink to try (a combination of wine and champagne, very good) and how to properly eat an oyster – a first for me. I feel deeply touched by his and Rosa’s generosity in particular. Of course, the visit with María Rosa, the reunion, to be clear, was wonderful even moreso for the bonding with Anita who now has her own connection into my international social world and even wants now to visit Argentina.

But where to this morning and early afternoon? I asked in the previous paragraph, and the sentence got away from me before I could answer it. We went to the Eiteljorg Museum which features the Native American experience in Indiana as well as further afield in our American West. María Rosa, so intent on the lives of those who the official histories have disappeared, written off, erased from the record to the extent possible, was enthralled with it. From there, before their dropping Anita and me at the hotel where we retrieved our rental car for the journey south, then whisked María Rosa away to the airport in time for her flight out of Indy – next stop, Virginia – from there, as I was saying, from that remarkable museum, to what I think was called the Barcelona Tapas Café where we shared some Spanish foods.

María Rosa's daughter Leonor's childhood art as backdrop to Brett's reading from Passionate Nomads

María Rosa's daughter Leonor's childhood art as backdrop to Brett's reading from Passionate Nomads

Leonor Beuter, artist

Leonor Beuter Lojo, artist

About María Rosa and her devotion to the recovery of the histories of indigenous American Others, a couple of notes from her presentation complete with computer-aided slide show: one, there was a darling picture of her at perhaps four years old, on “the greatest day of her life,” sitting at the wooden writer’s desk that she had wanted after her maternal grandmother had taught her to read and write, absolutely beaming with joy, sitting at the desk with which she felt herself now to be officially a writer, the desk which had been placed on her shoes outside on the patio by the Three Magi after the camels had eaten their grass. Secondly, an equally charming “portrait of the teenage girl as a young artist,” when she had commenced her career as a poet. In the first picture, hair cropped short; in the second, beautifully long. (On this visit, by the way, her hair is long again, though styled differently and not quite as long – perhaps for husband Oscar.) Combine those with her introduction to what [Argentine filmmaker] Atilio Perin called “the singularity” of Lucio Victorio Mansilla, who she read at about the time of that second photo, and which revealed to her a world that what she had learned in school totally hid from view. That was the commencement of her passion to reveal the hidden. Besides that, as she explained it, alluding to her “Minimal Autobiography” – recently published in Marjorie Agosín’s anthology, “which was also translated by Brett Alan Sanders” – it was by these means that she established herself, “the exiled daughter,” with roots in this American soil so distant from the mythic Galicia to which the father’s longing required her to “return” without having ever been there. But returning now not as a homeless girl but as a young woman with roots on both sides of the Atlantic, in different and even multiple worlds. Leonor had helped her put the visual aid together, and did a wonderful job. The last image was a briefly and elaborately crayoned picture of Leonor’s when she was a precocious child with vocation not unlike her mother who already wanted to be a writer – and the desk, which the child María Rosa had asked for with exactly that intention.


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