Jonathan Paúl Alvarez Torres
The family three of those who migrate always gets broken in two: those who went away and those who stayed. Those who stay usually are the oldest ones and the youngest ones… Those who go away usually are the biggest children and the teener, following the adults of their family that migrated before them.
Valeria Luiselli, Los niños perdidos
Some countries are so new that their names are not based on arcane mythologies, but on imaginary lines. Well, Wittgenstein would say that all names are imaginary. Some other countries base their names to elements of the periodical table, but they are still being imaginary. And some of them base their name on coincidences that are such that we finally don´t understand at all. Nevertheless, many things have happened in the world during the short existence of those… nations?
There were two world wars. Europe showed itself to not be that charitable as it claimed to be when it left out of its borders of free migrations and economy countries like Turkey, where the so-called “European culture” was born.
Latin America passed from the Monroe Doctrine to the Mero Mero Doctrine. Who would have even imagined that El Chavo del 8 would become so abhorred in Mexico, but so beloved in the rest of Latin America? The same as Cantinflas that passed from being a noun and became the Spanish verb cantinflear that is now widely used in other Hispanic countries. Is it the same in the Philippines and Equatorial Guinea? Who knows?
Gringo films do not include only native Americans, blacks and Asian actors because the Latin community in the USA has grown so much that in the United StatesSpanish and English are spoken almost in the same proportions. Now we see Latinos on the big screen, while still having roles that keep the prejudices about them active. Well, the same happens with the films from Spain; or, do we believe ourselves prejudices-free? Maybe prejudices are not so far from the judgment and post-truth.
In Latin America, the teenagers use a mix of colloquial expressions that tend to be a sort of a Babel Towers, but backward.
¡No mames, boludo!
And blahblahblah. No one told us that the Babel Tower was the end instead of the beginning.
The First World War was not won by the countries, but by the surnames behind the conflicts that sold weapons. The arms traffickers have no nationality and the only anthem they sing is the one sang by the bullets. They even put their hands on the chest. A new anthem never sound like an anthem sang before it. They laugh at chauvinism and at any cause that others would give their lives for. The grandchildren of these people may be a bit cleverer and they bet with their friends for the adversary team in the matches of the Champion´s League. They go to the closest dock; they point out a container that has no register of arrival nor departure, and give the keys to the winner. During the weekends for sure, they travel to the country of their parents, grandparents, or any other relative: they are way more cosmopolitan than anybody that brags about it. Gunshots sound the same here, in China or Haiti.
The people lost and not the countries. Those entelechies that compound the almanacs of geography are way more ephemeral than the cultures studied by the anthropologist. Talking about entelechies, the Literature won too. And the win was not a small thing.
From a Wittgenstein uprooted from the world, his homeland, and his ancestors, to a hurt and dislocated Bernhard for not being able to return to the location of his childhood, the number of humans dedicated to letters who experienced the same is enormous. Fallen busts of emperors. Money that stopped circulating because it returned to what it was at first: cellulose turned into a paper without any exchange value.
But around all this, Latin America was almost always lagging. Its participation in the First War, and the Second one, was only on paper. Paper that at the end of the day endured everything that was written on it and all the erasures that were made. Almost like all the paper on which something has been written. Imagine the leaders of those times signing their signatures on the paper, to support the powers that left the lives of their citizens on the battlefields. Perhaps they were “shitting their pants” at the time of signing, imagining that there was a possibility that their diplomatic support would be taken seriously.
Perhaps in the Cold War, there was more Latin American protagonism, but that was not definitive either. Outside of a small skirmish due to missiles and the angry mobs that took over the jungles to create belligerent armed forces, Latin America remained hidden from the world. Many of us know more about this site than of the names of footballers who speak Portuguese and singers who now sing in English in the middle of the Super Bowl.
There was a time when – although they did not know the names of the countries that make up the “ass of the Western world”, the cocaine they snorted was indeed Latin.
After a few years, the great-great-great-grandchildren of those men who came armed with surcoats, leggings, gauntlets, and company, would unknowingly go towards a reverse conquest of the territory from which half of their ancestors left for the unknown oceans. Of course, this time the grandchildren were without bracers or greaves. Upon reaching those territories, they would change their dialect to go unnoticed and they would paint their hair in colors, far from that of the other half of their ancestors, the half that they would always try to hide.
Thus, all of us in Latin America have at least one relative or acquaintance who travelled North, looking for the thing those who previously travelled South in Carabelas did not find: El Dorado. But history is cyclical for fools. Those who went in search of what their grandparents looked for found the same thing as them.
God’s wrath remains the same, Aguirre!
Jonathan Paúl Alvarez Torres (Quito, Ecuador 1991) co-author, with José Luis Barrera, of the book Esquiziudades (2018), winner of the literary chronicle contest called by Núcleo de Pichincha of the Hose of the Ecuadorian Culture. Some of his texts appear in anthologies of stories. He has written literary essay and academic essay. His articles have been published in academic journals in different categories. And he has been recently translated to English and Slovene by Literatura.si.