Sprummer

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How beautifully I sit, my dear

under the blooming mimosa

and not worry about asthma.

To walk lightly in spring

and not choke on the breeze,

my dear.

Just like Alice across the mirror

I glide through the summer

smelling like roses, red,

revelling in this weather

until light-headed.

Now I sing in the streets

without a care, should they stare

I sing, I skip, I hop, I dance

the grief away.

What a lovely spring,

a magical summer

this year

when you are no more

my dear.

What a lovely spring,

what a magical summer

indeed.

What a lovely time,

in Madrid.

– Karessa Ramos

Hush, hush… no more!

A month ago, I saw the theater adaptation of the novel and the movie ‘La Voz Dormida’ (‘The Deadened Voice’, is the best translation I could come up with). It took me some time to write this post because the subject is very sensitive: the Spanish post-war. Here goes nothing…

Fresh wounds

The wounds are still fresh, and the topic still stirs very intense debates within the society. As an observer, it’s very exciting to see this kind of interaction among people who fight for what they believe is right, for what they believe is best for this country today, and tomorrow. I try to steer clear unless asked, of course. Because this is something not to be taken lightly.

The war impoverished the country in many ways than just materialistically. Everybody lost somebody, may it be due to death, which in turn could have been caused by the fighting, hunger or very poor health. Loss was also reflected in the shape of exile and emigration. So may Spaniards escaped to France and Latin America, mostly.

If I may be allowed an honest and perhaps irreverent opinion: although both fighting sides lost people and resrouces, this was part of the context of war. People were aware of what was going on, and those who were in the battlefields certainly didn’t make plans beyond three rifle shots. What happened after the war, though, was simply a poor and pathetic show of sickening power and misguided might.

The onus on the survivors was divided as such:

a) the winning side (the ‘Nationalists’) bore the responsibility of reconstructing the country under the mandate of Francisco Franco

b) the losing side (also called ‘Republicans’) bore the pain of restarting their lives in a country under the orders of Francisco Franco

Terror reigned. But not the kind of terror we see today, where the pinpointed terrorists are usually foreigners, or separatist groups. The kind of terror experienced during the Spanish post-war was created and perpetuated by the same government who had the privilege and the obligation to rebuild the country from a million crumbled pieces.

Fueled by the will to rid Spain of subversiveness, the dictator placed the nation under an iron fist- Franco established a dictatorial regime. Freedom was curbed, the national borders were shut down, progress was constrained. The country lived practically in isolation, while its neighbors enjoyed the new opportunities of the reconstruction era.

The victory of the Nationalists ended the battle-related hostilities, but the dictatorship opened fresh wounds for Spain to suffer.

Nowhere graves, throbbing scars

Without wishing to spoil anything, just allow me to say that the most haunting part was the mass graves of republican prisoners who were sentenced to death. The bodies were dumped on mass graves and until now, many families are still searching for their dead relatives.

Mourning is an essential part of the journey towards healing and finding closure. So how can this nation expect healing and closure when many of its people haven’t been able to mourn their dead yet?

I’ve heard exasperated sighs from those who are already tired of this topic, and only wish to move forward. As I understand their impatience and frustration, I’m at the same time happy for them because clearly, they were lucky enough not have to keep searching for the remains of a dead family. If these people are desperate and anxious to move on, can you imagine those who are still searching for the nowhere graves, with only throbbing scars to guide their way?

Silent no more

Obviously, the deadened voice refers to the repressed freedom of expression during the dictatorship- may it be in the form of speech, writing, art, music… if the content doesn’t comply with the established standards, people faced consequences.

At present, victims and families of victims are able to express themselves and fight for long-awaited justice. Songs are now sung, films are shot, stories are written and people talk. The dead may not rise from their lost graves to show us which way to go, but the awakened voices will make some of us turn our feet and walk with them, chant with them, heal with them.

 

Votantes majos, políticos ejemm…

Últimamente me estoy sintiendo cada vez más acogida en Madrid. Quizás es porque, debido a mi trabajo actual, me veo obligada a someterme en una intensa inmersión cultural: desde el idioma, hasta el uso de ese idioma para la comunicación corporativa. El caso es que, gracias a esa “obligada” (re)educación, tengo la oportunidad de conocer más a los españoles. Y ¿sabéis qué? Pues que son majos. Mucho.

Hacen que un país bonito sea aún más encantador por su calidez, amabilidad, tolerancia y alegría. Todo esto ha facilitado nuestra adaptación a los cambios del año pasado (mudanza desde Francia, nuevo trabajo, guardería del niño, etc.) y está contribuyendo a formar a mi hijo para convertirse en un ciudadano cercano, optimista y, ¿por qué no?, divertido.

Quizás una de las características que más me ha gustado de los españoles es su capacidad para quitarle hierro al asunto, lo que viene a decir que no se toman las cosas demasiado en serio. Eso hace que haya casi siempre un ambiente agradable.

Y lo más importante: contrario al mito de que son vagos, están demostrando ser bastante trabajadores, sobre todo la generación más joven. Cierto es que en todos lados siempre está el típico caradura, o el que es simplemente holgazán. Pero por lo general, trabajan mucho, trabajan bien, y si trabajan en lo que les apasiona, los resultados son impresionantes (fíjate en Antonio Banderas, Ainoa Arteta, Pedro Duque ,Mireia Belmonte, o estos académicos, entre otros).

Entonces, ¿por qué España tiene los dirigentes políticos que tiene?

Lo pregunto porque actualmente, observo que frente a toda esa riqueza de capital humano, y la gran potencial de construir un fuerte capital social, ningún líder votado por la mayoría parece representar a un español medio.

Un sabio una vez dijo que el pueblo se merece los políticos que le dirige. Y eso me hizo pensar:

¿Será por querer quitar hierro al asunto que perdonan y “se olvidan” del pasado, lo que les hace votar otra vez más a los mismos corruptos y sinvergüenzas de siempre?

¿Será porque trabajan tanto con el fin de revitalizar la economía que eligen el “menos malo” de los candidatos?

¿Será verdad aquello que escuché una vez en una peli: “España nunca aprende de sus errores”?

Sea cual sea la razón, esta reflexión me hizo mirar hacia otros países.

También me animó a hablar con personas de diferentes nacionalidades.

Me tentó a leer, escuchar entrevistas, buscar opiniones…

¿Y?

Me di cuenta de que muy poca gente se siente realmente representada por los políticos que actualmente dirigen sus países.

Incluso en Filipinas, donde uno puede encontrar los más fervientes defensores del presidente, la mayoría de las personas no se sienten identificadas ni con su política, ni con su persona. (No es tan difícil ver el porqué)

¿Entonces?

No sé. De verdad que no sé.

No obstante, en una entrevista, el actor José Sacristán compartió que: “lo malo es que los políticos salen de nosotros, que somos quienes los votamos”. ¿Estaríamos proyectando lo peor de nosotros hacia las personas a quienes vamos a delegar la gestión del país? Y en el caso de ser verdad, ¿qué dirían los psicólogos de esto?

Da mucho que pensar.

Así que si encontráis la respuesta me escribís o me comentáis algo en Facebook. Quisiera hallar la explicación. Gracias.

Spring Fever II

Amidst the clamor, at the height

of confusion,

your stillness stood out.

Giving color to the season.

Now songs are sought,

poems get written,

laughters are echoed

by hearts

no longer hollow.

Only skies, and seas

and sapphires are blue.

The prevailing woe

is no more.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice, darling,

if I saw you in the corner?

– Karessa Ramos

 

 

Enraged

This path I choose to take.

It is, albeit dark and uncertain,

lighted by the whiteness of rage.

The brightness of this ire,

cleansing, almost healing,

ever burning

the venom I inhale.

So pure and searing,

energizing, never stifling

this life

I live. For now, seething,

yet trusting

that rancor will purge

the foul and the grime.

To reveal a clear, starry sky.

-Karessa Ramos

A lesson in retrospect

She was always hesitant to make friends over the internet. Most men she met were gross slobs, and correspondence with women would stop after a couple of messages. But this guy seemed very different. He was well-spoken, formal, even. It was as if one of Jane Austen’s characters time travelled and made a Facebook profile.

It took some time, but slowly, and through heated political (virtual) debates at first, she started to learn more about him: he was a ballet dancer, he was not much older than her, but possessed an old soul’s wisdom, he was American but considered himself Canadian, he was gay, he sent money to many Filipino families, and he loved the Philippines. His age, former profession and exposure would explain his online demeanor. She was in awe.

Pretty soon, they started swapping life stories. He learned about her love for writing, she discovered about his foster son; he told her about his poor beginnings, she shared about her dreams; he confessed his concern for the Philippines, she owned up having authoritarian tendencies; he admired her mastery of the English language, she praised the athletic discipline ballet dancers possess… and so forth.

The messages they exchanged, whether long or short, interesting or trivial, personal or professional, got her through the day. She was thankful for the distraction at first, but eventually, she developed a real appreciation for this peculiar, interesting and bordering-the-eccentric man. Her admiration for him grew when she discovered that he held the title of a “Ballet Master”. He told her that himself, but she already knew it, thanks to her Google searching abilities.

She would respond to him no matter what her mood was, regardless of the battles she was waging. As a personal challenge, she set herself up to always reply with the same courtesy, richness in vocabulary, and coherence that caught his attention. She never told him so, but his correspondence provided her a peaceful oasis amidst the terrible sandstorms in her heart- choking her tears, clogging her chest, blinding her sight. At least when she wrote to him, she was forced to breathe right and dry her eyes so she could type correctly. It gave her a purpose for herself, she felt useful and appreciated. Lifted and encouraged. She never thanked him for that.

Because she was sinking deeper and deeper in her quicksand, she had to excuse herself from their exchanges. He, gentleman that he was, acknowledged how tough her situation must be, and sweetly bid her adieu.

That was the last time she heard of him.

That would also be the last time she would neglect the people in her life, no matter what issues she has.

To regret is to waste time. But to mourn the deceased, whether superstition or not, could help ease their final journey. So mourn, she will.

Farewell, Edward. Thank you.

*This article has been updated on January 1st. Edward was not octogenarian, as was previously written.