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   Volume II, Issue 2
November 2005   

Hispanic Heritage Month: Of poets and politics

Dr. Carlos Trujillo

Dr. Carlos Trujillo, associate professor of Spanish in the department of classical and modern languages and literatures, Villanova University

The poet’s multiplicity of voices and the slow evolution of Chile toward democracy were the themes of two Falvey Memorial Library events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

On September 22, Dr. Carlos Trujillo, associate professor of Spanish in the department of classical and modern languages and literatures, read from his latest collection of poetry, Palabras (Lima, Peru: Alberto Chiri, ed., 2005). Dr. Trujillo was introduced by his colleague, Dr. David Miralles, assistant professor of Spanish, who also offered a personal appreciation of the new publication.

Dr. Miralles described Palabras as “poetry that thinks about itself; a sort of meta-contextualism that questions its own fragility.” This persistent self-reflection leaves the reader wondering if, indeed, all that really exists in the “poetic act” are the questions themselves. The complex and polyphonous lyrical voice of the poet in Palabras, “one who seems the self and one who seems the other” at the same time, echoes and intensifies the voice first heard in Dr. Trujillo’s earlier collection of poems, Mis Limites (1987). These are poems that also reflect on language itself, a theme that can be “arid and difficult.” Yet they combine in Palabras to form a “mature and beautifully written” work that testifies to the maturity and art of the author.

Dr. Fernando Leiva, assistant professor of Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latino Studies, SUNY at Albany.

Offering his own reflections on his new collection of poems, Dr. Trujillo echoed many of his colleague’s observations. The poems in Palabras constitute “a poetry that talks about itself,” and a poetic art that has succeeded in liberating itself from its many preoccupations, political and otherwise, that characterized poems in the earlier years of the author’s career. What is left is the grand theme, la palabra, the word, as “the essential tool in the understanding of oneself, of others, and the entire world.” The polyphonous, lyrical voice of the poet can be compared to a river always carrying along new waters, a river that is at once the same and yet another.

On October 6, Dr. Silvia Nagy-Zekmi, chair of the department of classical and modern languages and literatures, Villanova University, and Dr. Fernando Leiva, assistant professor of Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. Latino Studies, SUNY at Albany, led a thought-provoking discussion of the political, social and cultural landscape of Chile over the last thirty years. Their new book, Democracy in Chile Today, The Legacy of September 11, 1973 (London: Sussex Academic Press, 2005), a collection of conference papers that they co-edited, served as the focal point of their presentation.

Dr. Sylvia Nagy-Zekmi

Dr. Silvia Nagy-Zekmi, chair of the department of classical and modern languages and literatures, Villanova University.

Drs. Nagy-Zekmi and Leiva spoke of the Chilean military coup of September 11, 1973, that brought to an abrupt end the world’s first democratically-elected Marxist government under Salvador Allende and replaced it with the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Out of a desire to re-examine the legacy of Chile’s 9/11 came plans for a conference on Latin American democracy that was held at SUNY Albany on October 10-12, 2003.

In the thirty years following the coup, hopes for democratization in Chile have clashed with the realities of a neo-liberal economy, ever-increasing demands of globalization, and the impact of these political and ideological forces on the collective memory of a people and its culture. The collection of poignant, interdisciplinary essays that emerged from the conference invite readers to consider how the Chilean people have continued to live their 9/11 as we continue to live ours.

Barbara Quintiliano is Instructional Design Librarian and a member of the library liaison team serving the department of classical and modern languages. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Drs. Trujillo and Miralles, who kindly provided English summaries of their original Spanish remarks. Photographs by Andrew Nagy and Laura Hutelmyer