Tag Archives: Rosa Tezanos-Pinto

Small Graces in the Valley of the Shadow of Trump (with malice for none, if you’ll pardon the pun)

"We won't be silenced."--Jorge Ramos, Univision journalist and newscaster

“We won’t be silenced.”–Jorge Ramos, Univision journalist and newscaster

In an essay still forthcoming in Hourglass Literary Magazine (see 8/17/16 blog), I speak of certain “small graces” that help us wade through whatever intervening darkness might otherwise engulf and drag us down in life. Indeed, for those readers accustomed to these occasional scribblings of mine, it will come as no surprise that the electoral results of November 8 did send me into one of those spirals toward the Land of Despond, although my intuition had been warning me all along that it might well happen. When it did, I was more disheartened than really surprised.

Trump to Ramos as he signals to his people to have him removed from the premises

Trump to Ramos as he signals to his people to have him removed from the premises

So I ask those of my readers who might have voted for Herr Trump—for whatever variety of motives; with hopeful heart or held nose—to indulge me any signs of that honest discontent while I give thanks for the small graces that do continue appearing to me. Which give me reason, as well as strength, to struggle on.

First, to those closest to me who were my initial support:

  • Anita, near tears of her own and startled by mine, who hurried to notify our daughters and son that their father needed comforting (I had been trying to express in words the sadness I felt for all the children who were already so fearful of the wall that might soon separate them from their parents—all the more since watching Jorge Ramos’s documentary, Hate Rising, on my computer the previous night: his interview with a classroom of those children, in particular; and also with some white supremacists just up the road from me inPaoli, Indiana—the virulence and unreason of their hatred, pre-existent but newly vindicated by authoritarian demagoguery, so overwhelming);images2T8B1O1V
  • My daughters, both of whom answered, for my sake, their mother’s call to share a dinner out with us the following evening: Stephanie, conscientious and empathetic social-work therapist, who also cried that night thinking of her own unorthodox family (two wives/mothers, one teenage son), the struggling people she counsels, and so many others, known to her and unknown; and her sister, Nadina, who marveled at the ubiquitous and vindictive Facebook rants of otherwise kind, generous, loving, even upright and church-going people;
  • Their brother, Jonathan, who called me on the phone from his home three hours north in Indianapolis; and who sent a card bearing a message about love—received a couple of days later—from that radical dreamer John Lennon;
  • My vivacious and good-hearted cousin, Jeri Lynn, to whom Jonathan had confided on Facebook that I was feeling low, who also sent me a card with her own personal sentiments of shared commiseration and condolence; as well as the women of the Southern Indiana Writers group who, whatever the content of their individual perspectives and politics, lifted my spirits at our weekly Thursday-evening meeting—
L to R: Brett Alan Sanders, Luis Alberto Ambroggio, Ana Ona

L to R: Brett Alan Sanders, Luis Alberto Ambroggio, Ana Ona

But then, on November 29, the event I have been leading up to: on a stage on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus (IUPUI)—I, American-Argentine poet  Luis Alberto Ambroggio, and fellow translator Ana Ona—in front of an auditorium full of almost two hundred people, mostly students, where we discussed and read from two of Ambroggio’s recent books; as my readers may know, the one that I translated for him (who I met that evening in person for the first time) is Todos somos Whitman/We Are All Whitman, his Latin American response to the “Song of Myself” and tribute to that Great Bearded Bard, published this year by Arte Público Press in Houston, Texas.

I had been to the Lilly Auditorium before, visiting it about five years ago with Buenos Aires writer María Rosa Lojo to discuss and read from both versions of her novel La pasión de los nómades, or Passionate Nomads (Aliform Publications, 2011). And now, for this second time, I was invited by Professor Rosa Tezanos-Pinto, whose published work includes a separate anthology of literary criticism about each of those writers’ work; and who also edited an impressively thick volume of roughly thirty years of Ambroggio’s poetic production.

To say that this was a moment of no small grace for me is perhaps an understatement. I would say, in fact, that no single book event that I have participated in has been a bigger one.

Dr. Rosa Tezanos-Pinto (front, in dark suit); Dr. Ambroggio, (behind her), and students

Dr. Rosa Tezanos-Pinto (front, in dark suit); Dr. Ambroggio, (behind her), and students

Why? For the gracious enthusiasm of this group of students, for one thing, several of whom shook my hand and thanked me effusively for my contribution and for even being there; and who later, after the meal that they had prepared in honor of the three of us (each dish representing the country of their families’ origins), were among those purchasing the Whitman book and asking for mine and Luis Alberto’s autographs.

And then—not to mention the usual graciousness of Dr. Tezanos-Pinto and her husband, José Vargas-Vila—there was Liz Goodfellow, friendly university employee (and non-Spanish speaker) who had arranged our hotel accommodations; and who also asked me, with credible signs of having been touched by my translations, if I wouldn’t also sign her copy.

Ambroggio and Sanders, the Whitman reading

Ambroggio and Sanders, the Whitman reading

So with all of that, in particular hers and others’ repeated and insistent praises, like Don Quixote after an unexpected victory I may have gotten a slightly inflated head. But not to worry: it was only a mildly intoxicating feeling, not on the whole unhealthy and, if I may say so, quite delightful. When I fell asleep a short time later in its fragrant mists, just imagine that it was into the most pleasant dreams of literary glory; and which appear, after all, to have done me no lasting harm.


Speaking of unlikely Quixotic victories, can it be possible that, as I was composing the rough draft of these words last night, the Standing Rock Sioux scored at least a temporary victory against my good knight’s evil magicians and the determined capitalists and enforcers of the Dakota Access Pipeline? Who had so lately taken to showering them—water protectors, or agitators, or “bad, bad people,” as I seem to recall our triumphant president-elect having characteristically dismissed them—with blasts of icy water in already sub-freezing temperatures? Blowing off an arm, here, with a concussion grenade, and taking out an eye, there, with a rubber bullet, for good measure?

Militarized police drenching peaceful water protectors in freezing weather, during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Militarized police drenching peaceful water protectors in freezing weather, during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

To protect them from the ravages of hypothermia, I suppose; so that now, to prevent that from happening to them (or for whatever official reasons or unofficial intentions), the Army Corps of Engineers decides to call for the environmental study that may or may not force the “big snake” of the oil barons to direct its path around Native lands—as it had already been re-routed before from Bismarck, with far less spectacle and show of force, when the good and respectably white residents of that city had previously petitioned.

For such graces large and small, in any case, let us rejoice! And lay praises on the brave community of nonviolent resisters who fought on in the great tradition of their ancestors—as well as of Henry David Thoreau, the Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Palestinian support for Standing Rock Sioux protesting DAPL.

Palestinian support for Standing Rock Sioux protesting DAPL.

And, from however near or far they came, those others from the populous and diverse United States of America and beyond, including those who just sent money, made phone calls, or wrote letters; but none more so than the courageous American veterans of foreign wars, whether of Native or Immigrant stock, who came this time by the thousands to really defend the freedoms (for perhaps their first time) of the American people.

So let’s not allow the dividers to divide us, my good neighbors and kith and kin, from those who might become our faithful allies. Together with whom, if we dare imagine it, through whatever darkness may lie ahead, we might still become the more united … mutually reliant and peaceable … and truly democratic people that our better angels would have us be.

Blessèd, as scripture says, be the uniters and the peacemakers!

"Vict'ry?" said Don Quixote to Sancho Panza. "Vict'ry!"

“Vict’ry?” said Don Quixote to Sancho Panza. “Vict’ry!”


Chicago Amplified: Recording of Book Event at Instituto Cervantes

Here is the link to the audio recording that was done by a local public radio station of the November 17 book event at the Instituto Cervantes in Chicago. It begins with introductory remarks by the director of the Argentine Consulate in Chicago, the translation’s publisher Jay Miskowiec, and Professor Rosa Tezanos-Pinto of Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI); followed by my own remarks about the history of my involvement with the text that became Passionate Nomads; Maria Rosa Lojo’s presentation about her personal history and that of the original novel; and concludes, finally, with my brief reading from the translated text.


The presentation is entirely in English, so Spanish-language proficiency not required. Pleasant listening!

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.

Notes from My Journal: the Chicago-Indianapolis Book Tour (Part 1: A Quixotic Adventure)

Passionate Nomads“According to The Oxford English Dictionary, quicksotic sentiments: “If … our Quixotics seem foolish or extravagant.” Our foolish extravagances, then, our quixotics, or quixotries, or quixotisms, are simply quixotical. By extravagantly emulating the grand Quicksote himself, the don Quicksote of Cervantes’s novel that we may or may not have read, we become our own Quicksotes, sinking into the quicksand of our lofty, unrealizable idealisms: “Thus the Quixots of this Age fight with the Windmills of their own heads.” But to our mind quixotics is more than foolishness to be forgotten; it is a different way of knowing things, of perceiving the deeper realities that are hidden by their plain surfaces. We declare this definition boldly, without apology to this world’s wise or to the editors of dictionaries, who looking at us askance, smiling out of the sides of their mouths, are wondering if at last we would just stop quicksotizing, or quicksoting, and accept the realisms they proffer.”

– BAS, “Quicksotics,” from the chapbook Quixotics

Thursday, November 17

 The drive up to Chicago today was smooth, sunny skies all the way, brisk cold air. We drove up in a 2012 Chevy Sedan 200 XL, a rental from Enterprise in Jasper, so we were comfortably warm except for the moments standing in the brisk wind pumping petrol gas, as the Brits would say. (I’m channeling Cat Stevens, his song “Where Do the Children Play?”) Anyway, the ride was good until we hit the toll road toward Chicago and I missed a quick turn and ended up going east and then south again for a good twenty minutes or more before I could even find a way out of that mess to turn around. Studied the directions and took it more slowly the second time, and made it into Chicago well enough, but the ride was rather harrowing and we were both a little shaken by it. Now tomorrow to find our way out.

Indiana Windmills

A modern La Mancha in northwestern Indiana?

Before we hit the concrete jungle, anyway, in the northern Indiana that is mainly corn fields and open spaces, I had a rather Quixotic experience, almost as if I were in a new, more modernized La Mancha, driving toward a bunch of tall, sleek windmills. “Anita! Look! Giants!” I shouted. “I have to attack them.” She replied that I should just knock myself out then, but first park and put her in a safe place. Oh, Sancha (yes, I called her Sancha, not Anita), I should have reproved you for your lack of faith and valor, but not being knighted herself I would let her watch and learn. As we drove further into this vast wind farm, planted here and there in impressive symmetrical rows, and still the windmills as far as I could discern in front and to either side, I just felt a kind of awe, a quixotic rapture, as it were. This, if our governments have the wisdom and foresight to prioritize such projects over bombs and military adventures, here is what our future ought to look like, sleek, modern, high-tech windmills dotting the country from shore to shining shore. It occurred to me too, though, that Don Quixote, were he somehow re-vitalized (like Mansilla in María Rosa’s brilliant novel), he would be totally bewildered by the spectacle, the remarkable stretch of giant after giant after giant, an army so vast that, well, where could he start? The new age therefore must require a new Quixote borne from this Midwestern stretch of North American flatlands and prairie, someone riding – driving – an old nag of a car, perhaps climbing head and torso out the window and shooting them up, sitting in the open window while his Sancho or Sancha reaches over from the passenger’s seat and tries to steer well enough to keep from crashing itno those big metal trunks. Would the bullets do any harm to these modern behemoths? Would the ricocheting projectiles just turn back on knight and metal steed? Perhaps putting out a window or taking off an ear or striking the good don’s shoulder, knocking him out of the car and flat on his middle-aged back? Oh, the possibilities!

Anita, Maria Rosa, and Brett in Indianapolis

Anita, Maria Rosa, and Brett in Indianapolis

I will save more detail of the book event itself for another writing, but suffice it to say that it went rather well, though the turn-out was not huge. Those who were there, perhaps a dozen or so beyond hosts and participants, were a rapt audience. Afterwards there were empanadas and alfajores, and publisher-editor Jay Miskowiec and his adult son, a grad student in Chicago, helped me haul a couple boxes of books to the trunk of our sleek and relatively gas-efficient car before rushing back to the Instituto Cervantes and off to the Weber Café, just around the corner from the Institute and at a couple blocks from our hotel, with María Rosa, Jay, and his son – Professor Rosa Tezanos-Pinto, who introduced María Rosa and me to our audience, had to hurry away for her bus back to Indianapolis, where Anita and I and María Rosa will see and probably dine with her tomorrow.