Ocosingo War Diary: Voices from Chiapas- La Tona (1995)
Author InformationWriter: Efraín Bartolomé (1950 - )
Writer's Country: Ocosingo, State of Chiapas,Mexico
Original Language: Spanish
Event: Latin American Repression
(excerpt from Ocosingo War Diary: Voices from Chiapas)
La Tona is an indigenous Tzeltal who was widowed when her children were still little girls. She is from Sivacá. After the death of her husband, she came to Ocosingo to live. She spends every day, from six in the evening on, selling the delicious tamales she makes throughout the day: banana leaf tamales; round, pork-rib tamales; guaán plant tamales; Mexican pepperleaf (mumo) tamales; chipilín tamales; chicken tamales; sweet tamales; vegetable tamales, etc. This she did, does and will do for some time to come, let us hope. I remember the image of the beautiful woman 25 years earlier: tall, haughty and fine, a bronzed, lovely creature with a mane of blackish hair, an indigenous beauty typical of Sivacá. By the fruits of her labor, she bought a piece of land, and built a house. Her daughters grew up to be as hard-working as their mother. La Tona comes by during these “postwar days”, and asks with a preoccupation that almost makes her cry: Miss Celinita . . . I don’t know whether to ask or not to ask . . . it’s just that I’m so scared . . . but . . . can it really be true that we’re no longer Mexicans? Some of those men, they were saying that the government’s already sold us off to the gringos. Sold everything. Sold Palenque, even! That now we belong to them. . . . What are they gonna make us do? They say that’s why the guerillas are fighting. That that’s why they’d come to kill people. My daughter has had to go to work in the clinic, and, poor thing, every day she comes back like this: shaking like a leaf, poor thing! Me, I can’t even sleep, Miss Celi. In those days, everybody was sleeping with me, my daughters and my grandchildren. I looked like a mother hen. You should a seen it. I believe those guerilla fighters are from Hell. And now you can’t even go to the church to put yourself in God’s hands, because those priests are no good anymore, they’re no help . . . Who’s gonna believe them?
. The Tzeltal are a North American Indian ethnic group concentrated in the central highlands of the State of Chiapas, Mexico. . . . The Tzeltal and Tzotzil languages form the Tzeltalan subdivision of the Mayan language family.The Tzeltal-speaking population . . . is distributed through 12 municipios, with 13 main communities. Of the latter, 9 are almost entirely Indian (i.e., reported to be over 85 percent Tzeltal-speaking): Aguacatenango, Amatenango, Cancuc, Chanal, Chilon, Oxchuc, Tenejapa, Petalcingo, and Sitala. The other 4 communities are about 65 to 80 percent Tzeltal-speaking: Altamirano, Ocosingo, Villa de las Rosas, and Yajalan (Villa Rojas 1969: 195-96; Vogt 1969: 139).. http://lucy.ukc.ac.uk/ethnoatlas/hmar/cult_dir/culture.7881
 doña Celina Bartolomé, the author’s mother. Palenque was a Maya city-state in southern Mexico that flourished in the 7th century. The Palenque ruins date back to 100 BC to its fall around 800 AD. After its decline it was absorbed into the jungle, . . . . but has been excavated and restored and is now a famous archaeological site attracting thousands of visitors. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palenque)
 EFRAÍN BARTOLOMÉ, born 1950 in Ocosingo, State of Chiapas, Mexico. His poetry has been collected in the following volumes: AGUA LUSTRAL (Holy Water: Poems, 1982-1987) (Col. Lecturas Mexicanas, Conaculta, 1994); OFICIO: ARDER (Poet Afire: Poems, 1982-1997) (UNAM, 1999); and EL SER QUE SOMOS (Being Who We Are) (Col. Antologías, Editorial Renacimiento, Sevilla, 2006). Winner: Mexico City Prize; Aguascalientes National Poetry Award; Carlos Pellicer Prize for published work; Jaime Sabines International Poetry Prize. The Mexican government awarded him the National Forest and Wildlife Merit Prize. In 1998, he received the Chiapas Arts Prize. In 2001 he received the International Latino Arts Award in the United States. He is a member of the National Council of Creative Artists. His poems have been translated into English, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, Arabic, Galician, Nahuatl, Peninsular Mayan and Esperanto.
 Translator Kevin Brown’s interview with Gregory Rabassa appeared in the December 2006 issue (Vol. 7 No. 2) of the University of Delaware’s Review of Latin American Studies. His translation into Spanish of Virginia Woolf’s essay “Reviewing” (1939) appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of the Iowa University translation journal, eXchanges. A chapter from his ongoing English translation of Efraín Bartolomé’s Ocosingo War Diary: Voices from Chiapas is scheduled to appear in the Spring 2012 issue of Metamorphoses, the literary translation journal of Smith College. http://www.smith.edu/metamorphose
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