Synchronized Chaos October 2022: A PAN-LATIN AFFAIRE *

by Synchronized Chaos Guest Editor Lorraine Caputo

© Luis Lázaro Tijerina

From mid-September to mid-October, Hispanic / Latinx Heritage Month is observed, celebrating the culture and history of Spanish-speakers of either side of the ocean, in Europe and in the Americas.

This month starts off with the observances of the independence from Spain of the Central American Republics – Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica – on 15 September, and Mexico’s Independence from that colonial power on 16 September. Chile celebrates its Independence and Fiestas Patrias on 18 and 19 September.

Also during this month – on 12 October – is the former Columbus Day, observed in Spain, Italy and the Americas. Now this date has different names in recognition of the Indigenous nations that populated the Americas before the 1492 Spanish invasion: Día de la Raza (El Salvador, Uruguay), Día de las Culturas (Day of the Cultures, Costa Rica), Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance, Venezuela), Día de los Pueblos Originarios y el Diálogo Intercultural (Indigenous Peoples and Intercultural Dialogue Day, Peru), and Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity, Argentina). 

Synchronized Chaos’ Hispanic / Latinx Heritage Month literary feast also invites the other Latin cousins – French, Italian, Portuguese-Brazilian, Romanian, Catalan – to participate. 

So, come join our party! ¡Buen provecho!


In his delightful short story “Mabel’s Library,” Fernando Sorrentino portrays the love of reading and of one’s personal book collection, in both life … and death.

In “Why (Do) White French Institutions Have a Hard Time Admitting The Impact Of Racism/Colonialism In Black Serial Killers’ Psychological Damage?: The Case of Thierry Paulin”, Victoria Kabeya asks a question that is common in this “post-colonial / post-racial” world, that [former] colonial powers proclaim – whether it be France, Spain, Portugal, Britain, the US, or …

Gabriella Garofalo’s “Blue Scenes” is a suite of poems woven with blue and so many colors of lives and their trails / travails. (Read this poem aloud – the rhythm will carry you …). In “Flames in the Wind”, Andrea Soverini captures the spirit of what is life – a perfect allegory for the upcoming Día de los Muertos.

Los Angeles

The duality of what heals us – yet poisons us is presented in Diosa Xochiquetzalcoatl’s poem, “Café de la Olla.” Meanwhile, with his pair of poems, Roberto Rocha invites us to his barrio to witness the contradictions that are the “American Dream,” and the realities versus the stereotypes of what a Chicanx is.

With his essay “When the Stars First Came Out – Carmen & Bidu,” Josmar Lopes recounts the life and fame of two great Brazilian singers: the lovely Bidu Sayão, who is virtually unknown in the United States, and the electric Carmen Miranda, who became a Hollywood star. 

In “Ballad of the Checkboard”, Ana M. Fores Tamayo asks who should be stepping back – the white or the brown-skinned, pawns in a chess game dictated by a white judge. “Fishing in the Green” is a surreal landscape of different lives / lifestyles existing parallel. “Matrimony” is a celebration of love. In “The Three Fates” / “Los Tres Destinos,” Fores Tamayo meditates on the passing of time … and life.

Despite her mother’s well-founded misgivings, Linda S. Gunther gets to see her father once again, at least for a short while. This “Rockefeller Center Reunion” is a story that is well-known by many children of divorced families.

@cottonbro

Diana Magallón‘s trio of images portray dancelike movements across multiple dimensions – trompe l’oeil (trick of the eye), hieroglyphics, and 3-D syncopations quiver with indigenous flair. Magallón and Jeff Crouch then offer a quartet of images that dispel the smoke of “100 Días de Humo” (100 Days of Smoke).

Does dancing cause one to fall into an everlasting love? Daniel de Culla answers that question for us in his poem “El Bailaré” / “The I’ll Dance.”


* This edition was inspired by the work of Fernando Sorrentino as well as the principle of Pan-Latinidad.

Poetry from Lorraine Caputo

WASHES

I stretch out across the white-sheeted bed
in my sea-colored room
dappled with filtered sunlight
I fall asleep, Don Quijote’s spine splayed
above my head

& I awaken to the sound of rain

I peer through the open wooden slats of my window
The sky is solid white with low clouds
laying upon the sea
grey & rolling, rolling white
Thunder tumbles through this early afternoon

This morning 
I sat out in the sandy courtyard
to eat & could not
I sat out here to write
& could not
I watched the white sun play tag with the clouds
I wished it would rain, that it would
so I could hide away
within these blue walls
where no-one could disturb me

I feel like delving into this poetry
to flesh out the sketches I have begun
to give life to them 
I want to give birth
to more & more poems

But I am filled with hesitancy
to hold my poems within these hands
& to shape them
My journal looms with its fleshless events
Fear I may forget washes into me
& I shrink away

Then once more I expand
to embrace the words
&       once more       I contract
 
A TOWN AWAKENING
 
In the morning twilight, 
a pair of women washes dishes on a corner. 
Then one places the oilcloth over the tables 
where soon they’ll serve pupusas & coffee. 
She stacks the plates in the rack, 
recounts the silverware. 
The second checks the swelled corn 
before taking it to be ground. 
The beans are on the fire.
 
A drunk stumbles & sways past 
on the other side of the road. 
In front of a shop, a man sweeps 
yesterday’s trash into the street. 
The broom’s swish is lost 
on the rumble of a passing bus. 
Pigeons swoop down from the tops of buildings. 
They peck along the ground. 
A skinny golden dog sniffs 
the garbage in the gutter.
 
A graying-haired woman in experienced haste 
sets up her general store stand. 
The tarp overhang is stretched, 
items placed on shelves. 
A woman stops to buy eggs & sugar.
 
A pick-up truck drives towards the market. 
Baskets & crates stack a-back, 
full of bananas, cabbage, tomatoes. 
Wood boards clank as they build make-shift stalls. 
Mangos & melons, green-topped onions 
& braided garlic mound. 
The rattle of a dolly, 
the groan & hiss of bus brakes, 
the laughter of men’s conversations. 
A radio is turned on somewhere.
 
The sounds of this town awakening 
swell around the pupusa woman who sits, 
chin on hand, at one of the tables, 
waiting for her comadre to return from the mill.
 
YEARNING THE SEA

I.
A child is crying
when I fall
into a visionless
sleep …

& I awaken
in the dark
to a voice
& the perfume
of a night flower

my journey soon
will continue
wending, twisting
from snowy mountains
to warmer lands


II.
In this lower place
the days grow thick
with storms
never to break
the sky heavy
the horizon hazed

I long to hear
the wash of rains
all day, all night
with a crisp explosion
of thunder


III.
I need to journey once more
in search of 
the rain
the sea

& in my fatigue
as I await
my near-
midnight hour
departure

once more I smell
the sweet perfume
of some flower


IV.
This new day I awaken
to flat, flat plains
& nearer to
another range
alpenglow-bathed
in the sunrise

Still too far
from the sea, the rain
the thunder


 
LISTENING

This three-quarter moon
brightens the paths
& brush

In the breeze
of the lessening tide
sway salt bush
& muyuyo

The night air washed
with the constant whisper
of waves washing
upon worn lava

& here I sit, listening
to this night
listening …

Lorraine Caputo is a wandering troubadour whose writings appear in over 300 journals on six continents, and 19 collections – including On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019) and Escape to the Sea (Origami Poems Project, 2021). She also authors travel narratives, with works in the anthologies Drive: Women’s True Stories from the Open Road (Seal Press, 2002) and V!VA List Latin America (Viva Travel Guides, 2007),  as well as articles and guidebooks. Her writing has been honored by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2011) and nominated for the Best of the Net. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America with her faithful knapsack Rocinante, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her adventures at www.facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer or http://latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com

Poetry from Lorraine Caputo

 THE AZTEC EAGLE

 El Águila Azteca – Mexico City to Nuevo Laredo
 27 January 1997
  
 South of Tula
      we finally begin to escape
           the clutches of Mexico City’s smog
 The mountains are clearer
      winter gold speckled with
           dull green brush & cactuses
 A red-tailed hawk perches atop a budding tree
 Canyons sculpt the leached sandstone
      where dry arroyos wind like rattlesnakes
  
 We slow for a stretch where
      a train has derailed
 Metal power lines lay twisted
 The ages lava rocks, pale soil are charred
 Our locomotive hums as we
      pass by the workers repairing
           that other pair of tracks
  
 Broad-leafed nopales play patty-cake
      in the climbing sun
  
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
  
 La Guega, Querétaro is where
      our train meets the Juarez-bound train
           continuing on its north-bound journey
  
 & we wait here
      listening to a barrel-chested man sing
 He rests the accordion on his paunch
 It waves like the sea
      between his broad, longer-fingered hands
  
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
  
 At Escobedo, a woman stands on the platform
      twisting on tiptoes
           looking for her husband
               who’s inside this crowded train car
 She at last finds him & waves
 I’ll return soon
      he calls to her through the open window
           leaning over seats
 She nods & wipes away
      a tear with the edge of their
           infant daughter’s blanket
 Call, she yells
      putting thumb to mouth
           little finger to ear
 She smiles fighting painful tears
  
 The wife stoops to their toddler
      & whispers in her ear
 Then lifting her onto the other hip
      they wave good-bye to father
 She turns away with the children
      to stand beneath the overhang
           of the station roof
 Again she wipes a tear
      turning a bit from her husband’s view
  
 As the train pulls away, she smiles
      We’ll be fine, love
  
 & I see her tears shadow her face
  
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
  
 In a field dozens of men & women sow seeds
 Down a dirt path a woman balances
      a bundle of long-cut reeds
           atop her head
  
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
  
 I stand in the vestibule
      watching three locomotives pull
           of a long string of cargo cars
 They click by just feet away
  
 Our brakes hiss as we stop
 Like an old-time movie
               frames clumsily flowing from one to another
      I can see the village on the other side
           of that passing train
  
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
  
 The sky is lightening with the coming
      of another morning
           overcast & dull
 Leaves dance in an approaching storm
 White stone crumbles off the eroding
      mountains outside Monterrey
 The sierra further north
      is fuzzed by fog
   
-  
   
 VOYAGING FROM VERACRUZ
  
 The rising sun goldens the open wooden doors of the station. 
 In front is parked the old black & silver Engine Nº 9 with its coal car. 
 The tarnished-brown station bell awaits to be clanged.
  
 Across the street, in the port, a large ship berths at a pier.
 Standing idle to one side, a leading crane flexes.
  
 Through this white & ochre cavern echoes the flight of two lost pigeons.
 On the other side of the gates separating lobby from tracks, a man
 sweeps the tiled platform with a wide push broom.
  
 People bound for Xalapa & Mexico City line up at Gate 5.
 Plastic tote bags, handles tied with a bit of string – 
 large boxes carefully wrapped around & around with rope – 
 small knapsacks all lie at feet.
  
 A mother holds her new-born child, 
 covering its head with a thin flannel blanket.
 Next to her, on a duffel bag, sits her chubby-faced son.
 He stuffs a stick of gum into his mouth & another.
 His slightly slanted eyes  squint at the pack in his hands.
 He stands up & offers a piece to his mother, then to abuelita.
 His tuft of black hair bobs as he chomps his gum.
 The boy walks away, pulling his sleeves over his hands
 & prances around the station.
  
 We are told to move to Gate Nº 4.
 Boxes & packs are shifted to the orders of the guard.
  
 & the young boy pulls his gum out of his mouth with plump fingers.
  
 El Jarocho arrives a half-hour late from Mexico City,
 amidst the blare of its locomotive’s horn.
 From its long line of cars – 2nd class, 1st class, sleeper & dining cars,
 its passengers rush towards the lobby.
  
 The young guard holds his automatic rifle off his right shoulder.
 His black pants are tucked into shiny black military boots, neatly laced.
 He commands us to form a single line, a single line.
 For the love of God, form a single line, I said.
 His hand rubs the stock.
  
 Suddenly he finds the gate opening out of his control, from the other side.
 He calls for our steady stream to have tickets in hand.
 The man before me shifts his box to one shoulder as he is stopped for his.
 Hurriedly I dig mine out of my pocket & the guard allows me to pass.
  
 People run the half-length of platform to where our cars await on Track Nº 5.
 They wobble under the weight of heavy bags & boxes,
 laughing at the insanity of the rush.
 & even I find myself picking up my gait to the closer car.
  
 Sunlight dodges the platform roofs 
 & finds its way into my window open to the morning.
 In the engineless passenger cars on Track Nº 4, 
 I see a man weeping the length, followed by another swaying a mop.
 On the other side of us clangs the bell of El Jarocho’s locomotive
 dieseling alone into the railyards, abandoning its red-striped blue cars.
  
 & on the platform between, a young cat ochre & white sits alone.
  
-
   
 GHOST TRAIN
 (Santa Cruz to Yacuiba, Bolivia)
  
 I.
 Late afternoon       I float
       on this train’s requiem
 Brush scrapes the sides
       of the car       & occasionally
             reaches through my open window
                   to quickly tap my shoulder
  
  
 II.
 From the vestibule steps
       I watch the twilight countryside blur by
             & listen to the swooshing of wheels
  
 But soon I must leave
  
 Death has taken a seat
       next to me       in a toothless
             man chewing coca leaves
  
  
 III.
 In my hazed sleep
       ghostly history whorls
             in the dust of our journey
 Río Grande clatters by
       & the guerrilleros with Che Guevara
             watch my shadow head bob
                   in rhythm of this train
 Spider-web curtains drape
       from electrical poles
             to the thick vegetation
  
  
 IV.
 In the new dawn
       a white calf bounds into
             an emerald forest
                   powdered by our passage
  
 Within the billowing storm we raise
       the spirits of a hundred thousand
             soldiers still roam this
             bloodied soil of the Chaco
  
  
 V.
 We are nearing
       the end of our journey
 The bright seven-a.m. sun
       glints off a blue-
             graved cemetery
                   nestled atop a hill 

Lorraine Caputo is a wandering troubadour whose poetry appear in over 250 journals on six continents, and 18 collections – including On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019) and Escape to the Sea (Origami Poems Project, 2021). She also authors travel narratives, with works in the anthologies Drive: Women’s True Stories from the Open Road (Seal Press, 2002) and V!VA List Latin America (Viva Travel Guides, 2007),  as well as articles and guidebooks. In 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada honored her verse. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America with her faithful knapsack Rocinante, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her adventures at facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer or latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com

Essay from Lorena Caputo

REVISITING A MEMORY

15 January 1994 / Estelí, Nicaragua

            We gather in front of a blue bullet-pocked building near the central park.  Women of the Madres de los Héroes y Mártires sell home-made plastic flowers.   A late-afternoon summer wind blows.

            Soon we are a procession, honoring the memory of Leonel Rugama.  That seminarian, teacher, poet.  The guerrillero who helped finance the Revolution by robbing banks.  He and two compañeros were trapped in a safehouse.  Surrounded by tanks, by hundreds of troops.  For three hours the shooting went on.  The planes bombed.  That was 15 January 1970.

            His petite and spry mother leads us to the cemetery.  In song and conversation we go.

            After a simple commemoration at his grave, we wander around the yard alone, in groups.  The Mothers visit their heroes’, their martyrs’ tombs.

            A professor from the States says to me, “Stop and listen.  It is time to listen.”

            His students find a series of turquoise crosses.  The people all died about the same date.  We are told they were victims of a Contra attack.

            I feel chilled, hollow.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 

            Almost four and a half years later, I return to face those graves that have haunted me.

            Do they really exist?  Was it a dream? No.  I have the journal entry. What were the dates?  Fourth to sixth of June 1987?  Or ’86?  I don’t remember.

            It is a scorching late-dry-season day.  For several hours I wander, trying to find those sea-blue markers.

            I encounter Combatiente Juana Elena Mendoza’s site.  She fell on the day of Liberation, 19 July 1979.

                               You walked without resting

                                               the long road of liberation

                                               with the recompense

                                               of seeing your people

                                                                                  In Freedom

And I come across that simple white marbeline cross surrounded by a white wrought iron gate: Leonel Rugama R.

            My memory remembers that sea to be to the right.  But it is now crowded with newer tombs.  I cannot find what I’m looking for.

            I ask a grave digger, standing chest-deep in a fresh hole.  He shrugs, “Go ask the pantonero.”

             “Ah, yes.  It is over there, to the right.”

            Again, I do not find those 30, 40 turquoise crosses.  I give up.  For today.

“No, he’ll show you there,” the caretaker says, nodding to an assistant.

I am lead to a section of simple concrete crosses, and of tiled ones.  Of blues, yellows, greens.  Of combatientes, subtenientes, tenientes, sargentes.

            I spend several hours more, copying the names and dates of these 57 heroes.  They fell in battle against the US-Contras between 16 October 1983 and 8 January 1985.  The majority in those two Octobers, Novembers, Decembers.  Four in July 1984—the time of Congressional budget hearings, no?

            First Sergeant Sixto A. Moreno did not see 1984 arrive.  Subteniente José Angel Calderón Ordónez fell on Nochebuena—the Good Night—Christmas Eve.  Ramón Arier Rizo Castillo died a week after his 19th birthday.

            But I know this isn’t what I witnessed four years earlier.

            The doubts, the uncertainty gnaw at my mind.  After several weeks, I go back to Estelí and ask several Mothers.

            I went to look for it, but I can’t find it.  The workers showed me to the Armed Forces section.  But it isn’t what I remember.

            “Do you know of such a place?”

            “It must be that common grave,” one says leaning in her chair.

            “Yes.  They were all victims of a Contra attack,” the other says, running her hand over the counter.

            “There’s a common grave?”

            “Yes.”

            “There’s another one, too, in Cemeterio El Carmen.  A mass burial of combatants of the April Uprising,” the second informs me.

            “During the Insurrection,” the first clarifies.

            I ask myself out loud, “Could that common grave have been disappeared by those newer ones?”

            The Mothers look at one another and shrug.

            But still, my memory remembers not one marker.  It still sees so freshly a wash of 30 or 40 turquoise crosses.

            I return to that part of the cemetery and widen the circle.  More groupings of dates I’d missed before, among the newer sites of this decade.

            There’s a tall, blue-brick pedestal with a black iron cross:

                      MARIO RANDEZ CASTILLO

                                      4 February 1988

                      The bullets of the Contra assassins

                                      may have killed you

                      But they did not kill your faith

            The rain drizzles.  The dripping weeds are slick.  The earth is soft.

            Still I cannot find them.

            I ask Rugama’s cousin, who works here.  “Ask the pantonero.”

            The caretaker does not know.  He swears there is no common grave.  He asks the Rugama.

            “Look, we’ve both been here only a few years,” the cousin apologizes.

            The pantonero points to the western part of the yard, the opposite direction from the others.  “Over there are burials from the same era.  Perhaps it’s there.”

            In the petering rain I enter the sea of crosses.  Into 1985.  Soon their dates group.  Scattered here and there are combatientes, first lieutenants.

            There are so many dozens from May 1985.  How many just between 17th and 19th?  One, two, three, six.

            I weave back and forth through.

            Another group: 2 to 7 August.  One, two, four—again, six.

            I climb between the closely packed graves.

            Silvio A. Chavarría Méndez—fell in defense of the fatherland in Miraflores, Estelí, 20 May 1986.  And entombed next to him are more people killed on that same day.  Three from the Talavera family.

            Oh, god.

            I continue wading through these mostly blue crosses, scanning them for dates.

            28 July 1985—so many, it seems.  One, three, six, eight—nine.

            I begin to swoon, ready to vomit.  My solar plexus is hollow.  I almost sink to my knees.

            This is it.  I remember this feeling.  The same I had four years ago.

            I want to stop.  But I continue strolling through this jumble of graves.

            How many died 7 September 1985?  In May ’86?

            I want to scream, “How could you do this?”

            How many hundreds of graves are there?  I dare not count.

            How could we do this?

            And those velvet storm clouds rumble overhead.  A chill wind blows.  The sprinkled rain has stopped—for a while.


Lorraine Caputo is a wandering troubadour whose poetry appear in over 200 journals on six continents, and 14 chapbooks – including Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017) and On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019). She also authors travel narratives, with works in the anthologies Drive: Women’s True Stories from the Open Road (Seal Press, 2002) and V!VA List Latin America (Viva Travel Guides, 2007),  articles and guidebooks. In 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada honored her verse. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America with her faithful knapsack Rocinante, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her adventures at facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer or latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com