News | Economy | Culture | Opinion | Lifestyle | Nature
Noticias | Opiniones | Archive | Unclassified Ads | Home

Volume 16, Number 3
February 28, 2010

opinion

Also in this section:
Editorial: Panama's endangered institutions
Sirias, Translating a people
Leis, The National Education Council
Bernal, Why a constituent assembly?
Mendez, Children of ink
Inter-American Human Rights Commission, Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela
Deprez, Climate migration in Latin America
Amnesty International, Indigenous peoples struggle to survive in Colombia
Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the press: a worldwide survey
Reporters Without Borders, RCTVI yields but cadenas still a problem in Venezuela
Weisbrot, Independent Latin America forms its own organization
Alexander, Chile
Kehoe, Hugo Chávez: this year's challenges and opportunities
Nasser, US-Iran power struggle over Iraq
Avnery, Dubious in Dubai
Visotzky, Inter-religious dialogue between Jews and Muslims
Haperskij, Cuba and Russia
Jackson, Orlando Zapata and the Castro brothers
Letters to the editor

Translating a people
by Silvio Sirias

Translation is at best an echo.
                                                  George Borrow

A great age of literature is perhaps always a great age of translation.
                                                                                                                    Ezra Pound

One of the best things that happened to me upon my parents moving back to Nicaragua --- when I was eleven years old --- was that I ceased being the translator. My mother's English-language skills were limited. Because of this, whenever we'd brave the streets of Los Angeles without my bilingual father, the moment my mother encountered a linguistic puzzle beyond her capacity to solve, she'd gently nudge me before the interlocutor to act as her interpreter. Although I found the experience interesting at first, after a few years stuck at the job, translating became a chore.

Thus, once we moved to her homeland, where she didn't require my services any longer, the freedom was exhilarating.

Yet, ironically, today, as a novelist --- and I suspect it's also the case with other Latino and Latina writers --- I'm once again fully engaged in a variant of the act of translation.

From the moment I took my first trip to my parents' homeland --- at the age of seven --- I became acutely aware that Nicaragua and Nicaraguans were a land and a people vastly different from the United States and its populace. I found the landscape of Nicaragua --- physical and human --- mesmerizing. Nicaraguans were open to an extent I'd never experience, and their joy toward life was contagious. But at the same time there was an underlying sadness --- manifested in an acceptance of their lot that to this day I find baffling --- brought on by poverty and by centuries of never-ending political turmoil.

During my Nicaraguan adolescence, I grew to adore the country and its people. I gladly shed my American skin and embraced a new identity as a full-fledged Nicaraguan. I fit in perfectly, and loved almost every minute of the seven years I lived in my ancestral homeland.

When I returned to Los Angeles, at age eighteen, to attend college, I soon learned what I wanted to do, more than anything: it was to explain the sights, sounds, tastes, relationships, and experiences I had in Nicaragua to anyone who was willing to listen. Of course, conveying these things over lunch was impossible --- I could only produce the distant echo George Borrow spoke of when referring to everything that is lost in translation.

Yet I always knew, instinctively, that the best way to inform Americans about their Nicaraguan brethren --- we do share a continent, after all --- would be through the written word. The problem was that I had no idea what I needed to do to become a writer. Blindly, I plunged into the study of literature --- in Spanish --- and eventually earned a doctorate. But that was of little help at the time in bringing the Nicaraguan experience to an American audience.

The turning point, though, was waiting for me right around the corner: I was introduced to US Latino and Latina literature --- a literature written primarily in English by authors with backgrounds similar to mine. Their work struck me like a bolt of lightning, and I started to read their production voraciously.

The climax of this odyssey, the moment where a light descended upon my thirsty soul to reveal the key to rendering my love for Nicaragua onto the blank page, came after I read Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies. Through that example, as well as others penned by equally talented Latino and Latina writers, I learned how to retrieve stories from my parents' homeland --- originally experienced in Spanish --- and reinterpret them for an English-language readership.

This is what I did in my first novel, Bernardo and the Virgin, and I've done it again in Meet Me under the Ceiba. I lifted events and wrote them in a manner that English-speaking readers can hopefully make their own.

Now the circle feels complete. I am back where I started: translating other people's experiences. Admittedly, it's a different type of translation than what I did for my mother. But it's a kind of interpreting I truly love.

Silvio Sirias resides and writes in Panama. For more information, visit his website at www.silviosirias.com



Also in this section:
Editorial: Panama's endangered institutions
Sirias, Translating a people
Leis, The National Education Council
Bernal, Why a constituent assembly?
Mendez, Children of ink
Inter-American Human Rights Commission, Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela
Deprez, Climate migration in Latin America
Amnesty International, Indigenous peoples struggle to survive in Colombia
Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the press: a worldwide survey
Reporters Without Borders, RCTVI yields but cadenas still a problem in Venezuela
Weisbrot, Independent Latin America forms its own organization
Alexander, Chile
Kehoe, Hugo Chávez: this year's challenges and opportunities
Nasser, US-Iran power struggle over Iraq
Avnery, Dubious in Dubai
Visotzky, Inter-religious dialogue between Jews and Muslims
Haperskij, Cuba and Russia
Jackson, Orlando Zapata and the Castro brothers
Letters to the editor

News | Economy | Culture | Opinion | Lifestyle | Nature
Noticias | Opiniones | Archive | Unclassified Ads | Home


Left Wing PublicationsRight Wing Publications

Panama Vacations
Tankless Water Heaters --- http://www.eztankless.com/
Panama Hotel: Luxury apartment rentals in Casco Viejo, Panama City
Panama Real Estate: Original travel and investment articles on The Panama Report
Make the Executive Hotel your headquarters in Panama City
Find the boat of your dreams through Evermarine


© 2010 by Eric Jackson
All Rights Reserved - Todos Derechos Reservados
Individual contributors retain the rights to their articles or photos

email: editor@thepanamanews.com or

e_l_jackson_malo@yahoo.com

phone: (507) 6-632-6343

Mailing address:
Eric Jackson
att'n The Panama News
Apartado 0831-00927 Estafeta Paitilla
Panamá, República de Panamá