Sunday, June 17, 2018

El Tratado de Tordesillas

It’s an old world, one I enjoy.  The lilt of Spanish, the coziness of la plaza, dando la vuelta, a slow way of life, savored like wine.  Time to saludar y platicar con todo el mundo.  The direct way of speaking, full of dramatic gestures and booming voices.  La frutería / la carnicería / la bodega.  The soft rhythm of time strolling across the sky.  La comida casually blending into la cena with the fragrance of una copa.  Friendships that last a lifetime and family that ties you to the earth.  Architecture that tucks seamlessly into the landscape, all curves and flores salvages reclaiming the upturned stone.  Buildings soak in history, cool caves wind like a labyrinth beneath our feet.  La gente anda, comfortable in their own skin; mi amor/mi cielo rolling like water off their tongues.  No one pretends to be anything but human, with all the faults and vices that give sabor a la vida, that make us unique and precious.    

But still, under all this harmony, there is a hidden sin, un pecado, that no one wants to confess.

You see, I am in the heart of colonialism.  This is where the art of domination was perfected and exported all over the globe.  I can’t help but wonder if what I am enjoying is the wealth, las sobras, that they brought back from las Americas, the relaxed lifestyle granted to those who live off of other people’s sweat.  I am both shocked and implicated when the guide in the museum talks of the discovery of the new world.  I didn’t know people still talked like that without putting it entre comillas.  Tordesillas is where Spain and Portugal split the “New World” between them, this pueblo’s nefarious claim to fame.  However, everyone talks about it as a point of pride rather than of vergüenza.  There is no remorse, or even acknowledgement, for the ancient worlds they were destroying, enslaving, and plundering in the process.  Only a little embarrassment for the regretful error of geography.  

Yet I blend into this sea of white faces,
comfortable despite being halfway around the globe.
Las raíces son iguales.
We have yet to atone for our sins of slavery, slaughter and devastation.

There is a mural en la calle a la plaza que me encanta y la paso todos los días.  It reminds me of the truth behind the façade.  The layered story floating beneath the surface. There is an indigenous woman with the árbol de la vida sprouting from her head, tears trailing from her eyes.  She is a mountain with una herida profunda.  From where a wooden cross pierces her flesh, a deep gash tears the earth in two.  To the west Spain pulls her apart, to the east Portugal.  Both men, “noblemen” with flags to identify them as so.  But nothing is noble about what they do.

This is the role of artists.  To lift the magnifying glass to our own skin, and to hold it there, even when it burns.  

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