The Nobodies

I ran across this poem from a classmate from twu, and it really caught me. It is his translation of a well-known Uruguayan journalist, Eduardo Galeano. Galeano describes himself as "A writer obsessed with remembering, with remembering the past of America above all and above all that of Latin America, intimate land condemned to amnesia." This piece he laments the place of the Indigenous people of Latin America in the eyes of fellow citizens.

It is more powerful in Spanish, so if you know any, I recommend reading it in its original context. But here is my attempt.

The Nobodies

"The fleas dream of buying themselves a dog and the nobodies dream of leaving poverty
That one magic day suddenly good luck will rain, pouring rain of good luck
But good luck doesn’t rain: yesterday, today, tomorrow or ever
A sprinkling of good luck doesn’t fall for the nobodies that call for it
Even if they wake up on the right foot
Or if they change their broom at the beginning of the year

The nobodies: the sons of nobody, the owners of nothing.
The nobodies: the no ones, the lowest of lows, dying in life, the doomed, doom forever.
The Ones that are not, even If they are.
The ones that don’t talk a language but a dialect.
The ones that don’t have a religion but superstitions. 
The ones that don’t have a culture but folklore. 
The ones that are not human beings but human resources.
The ones that don’t have a face but a number.
The ones that don’t appear in world history but in the police blotter of local papers.
The nobodies, the ones that, are even cheaper than the bullet that kills them"

Eduardo Galeano

Original en Castellano.


"Sueñan las pulgas con comprarse un perro y sueñan los nadies con salir
de pobres,
que algún mágico día llueva de pronto la buena suerte, que llueva a
cántaros la buena suerte;
pero la buena suerte no llueve ayer, ni hoy, ni mañana, ni nunca.
Ni en lloviznita cae del cielo la buena suerte, por mucho que los
nadie la llamen,
aunque les pique la mano izquierda, o se levanten con el pie
o empiecen el año cambiando de escoba.
Los nadie: los hijos de nadie, los dueños de nada.
Los nadie: los ningunos, los ninguneados, corriendo la liebre,
muriendo la vida, jodidos, rejodidos.
Que no son, aunque sean.
Que no hablan idiomas, sino dialectos.
Que no profesan religiones, sino supersticiones.
Que no hacen arte, sino artesanía.
Que no practican cultura, sino folklore.
Que no son seres humanos, sino recursos humanos.

I have seen this attitude present in Latin American countries towards the Indigenous people of the countries, and it is definitely present in North Americans' response to hearing daily international news of major catastrophes.

But I have to wonder if the last stanza ("The Ones that..."), isn't North Americans' attitude toward Native (American) people? I have to wonder if despite my 5+ years spent with Native people, if this isn't my own attitude many times?

3 notes:

Polythene Pam said...

That was really good Jenny. Convicting, beautiful, and dripping with truth. I'm going to pass it along to Michael. Today he is visiting small pueblos in the Amazonian region. He is going to be studying the social conditions of these poor migrant farmers in order that their voice may be heard in the conversation about deforestation. The rhetoric he always hears is that they "have no environmental concience" and that is why they practice slash and burn agriculture. But his observations thus far has shown it to be far more complicated - that they farm this way because they are desprately poor and lack alternatives for survival. I just spent a 3 days with a rural village which is only acessable by boat. This issue of the voicelessness and dehumanization of Latin Americans, and especially indigenous peoples, is therefore very close to our heart and I love that you are spreading the message. I love you!

Jenny Built-house said...

Yeah, half the reason I posted this was for you. I knew you'd appreciate it.

p.s. love you too.

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