26 Fruits


From 26 Exchanges/International PEN

I’ve now completed my version of Edwin Gomez Anconi’s poem. I hope, if he sees it and can understand enough of the English, that he doesn’t think it a complete travesty. But I’m aware that in producing ‘my version’ I’ve introduced my own thoughts and sensibilities that might not have been intended by Edwin. In doing so, I hope we still meet each other on the same bridge, walking towards each other from different sides.

This has been a wonderful exercise to undertake. I have just a little Spanish but enough to feel my way towards a meaning. But the process of thinking in another language and another culture has been enormously rewarding. It’s absorbed a lot of time and thought over the last few weeks but I feel I’ve emerged refreshed by being dipped in these two languages that are not mine: Spanish and Aymara

Finally I discovered that San Simon is a Bolivian university in Cochabamba high in the Andes. You can study Bolivian folklore at San Simon and there is a group Caporales San Simon that has gained a wider reputation, becoming one of the ways to spread Bolivian culture around the world. You can watch them on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R323-5GBOAE

I’d like to thank Edwin for sending me, perhaps unwittingly, on this extraordinary journey. Here’s the complete poem.

Edwin Gomez Anconi

The cholita of San Simon

Whatever flower you are, you are a flower of beauty,

A flower that blooms today in San Simon’s cold hard cemented class.

Whatever flower you are, you are a flower of beauty,

That after today not even winter will wither.

And so you are my cholita of San Simon
So strong, so brave, my lovely dreamer
Waiting for the end of your class
So we can stroll together through the gardens of San Simon
Anxiously waiting for the break
Scattering seed corn in your earth
Making me into corn whisky.

Your long, thick, black braids

Quick-flick playing with them

Your embroidered blouse

Everything tells me it will be hard to keep you at my side

While you dance in your pollera, your pleated skirt,

Oh to have such a woman, such a symbol of my pride.

Hurry up, university calls you

To be part of your own transformation

You’re already here to stay

Like you, we’re all Uni today.

In the shifting degrees of your life, be proud to be Quechua

K’acha tik’a kochalitay

Whatever makes me fall for you

Whatever inspires me to write these lines

Whatever makes me what I am: it’s you, my cholita of San Simon.

Don’t change, don’t ever change;

Be mine, cholita San Simon.

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