The translation of the interview with Patricia Guzmán will be up sometime in the next few days. I will also be posting a translation of a recent interview with another Caracas-born poet, Eugenio Montejo (see poem below).

Caracas has always been a lesson in deracination for me. I lived there from 1976 until 1982, and even though I was born here in Boston, I usually think of Caracas as my home. But it’s a home I lament because it was always being taken away from me. Of course, my distance from Caracas probably makes me prey to the illusions of nostalgia.

My recent experiences in Caracas have been centered around two seemingly opposite emotions, love and paranoia. The latter is common to anyone who has spent any amount of time in Caracas in recent years. No one is immune to the chaos factor of violent crime. But the love I have for Caracas remains undiminished. It hurts to not be able to return, as I had hoped to this summer. Perhaps one of the reasons I am so vehemently opposed to the current government in Venezuela is because its Stalinist policies have directly affected my family.

When I’m in Caracas I often despise the city. But my conversations with her are frequently the source of my writing. My cousin told me recently how our grandfather used to take her into downtown Caracas on Sundays to walk around Plaza Bolívar, to chat with friends, eat lunch or see the sights. According to her, he knew all the corners’ names and histories (most of the corners in the central grid of the city have names—see Carmen Clemente Travieso, Las esquinas de Caracas, Libros de El Nacional, 2001). As they walked through the streets, our grandfather would stop to point out specific houses and buildings for my cousin to notice. For him, Caracas was his adopted home. He left Maracaibo as a teenager to attend high school in Texas in the 1930s. When he returned to Venezuela he settled in Caracas, where he died in 1989. I often think of how much of Caracas disappered for me when he and my grandmother died.

Nostalgia is irrelevant for me. More than that, it's dangerous to indulge in its corridors.

When my siblings and I left Caracas in 1982, and throughout the 1980s, I felt as though we were the only Venezuelans in Florida. I’m interested in writing about that void that inhabits you when you lose a house, a city, a country.



Tan altos son los edificios
que ya no se ve nada de mi infancia.
Perdí mi patio con sus lentas nubes
donde la luz dejó plumas de ibis,
egipcias claridades,
perdí mi nombre y el sueño de mi casa.
Rectos andamios, torre sobre torre,
nos ocultan ahora la montaña.
El ruido crece a mil motores por oído,
A mil autos por pie, todos mortales.
Los hombres corren detrás de sus voces
pero las voces van a la deriva
detrás de los taxis.
Más lejana que Tebas, Troya, Nínive
y los fragmentos de sus sueños,
Caracas, ¿dónde estuvo?
Perdí mi sombra y el tacto de sus piedras,
ya no se ve nada de mi infancia.
Puedo pasearme ahora por sus calles
a tientas, cada vez más solitario,
su espacio es real, impávido, concreto,
sólo mi historia es falsa.

{Eugenio Montejo, en Julio Ortega, ed. Antología de la poesía hispanoamericana actual, México D.F. : Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2002.}

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