La Recoleta Con Nora Patrich, Yuki y Unos Felinos
Saturday, May 07, 2016
Three weeks ago my friend, painter Nora Patrich and I met
at La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. We were there to meet up with our
model friend Yuki
who shared and shares a love for the place. In Yuki’s case
her friend in the cemetery are still alive. Her friends are the cats. She feeds
them and one in particular is her friend. The weather was unstable so we had
sun and rain and a cold autumn wind. After our shoot we crossed the street to
the fashionable La Biela Café. We took a selfie in the woman’s bathroom and
then I posed Nora and Yuki between the statue of two friends, Jorge Luís Borges
and Adolfo Bioy Casares.
tres semanas mi amiga, la pintora Nora Patrich y yo nos encontramos en el
cementerio de La Recoleta. Nuestra meta era encontrarnos con Yuki, nuestra
modelo favorita. Los tres compartimos un amor por el cementerio. La única
diferencia es que Yuki tiene amigos muy vivitos en el lugar. Va a menudo a
darle de comer a los muchos gatos que habitan el lugar. Uno, en particular es
su especial amigo. No llovió, nos salió el sol y un viento frio presagió un
invierno que ya se venía. Después de las fotos cruzamos la calle al café, muy
de moda de La Biela. Tomamos unos selfies en el baño de mujeres. La foto final
es con dos estatuas reperesentando a dos amigos, Jorge Luís Borges y Adolfo
recoleta – Jorge Luís Borges
tantas nobles certidumbres del polvo,
demoramos y bajamos la voz
las lentas filas de panteones,
retórica de sombra y de mármol
o prefigura la deseable
de haber muerto.
son los sepulcros,
desnudo latín y las trabadas fechas fatales,
conjunción del mármol y de la flor
plazuelas con frescura de patio
muchos ayeres de a historia
detenida y única.
esa paz con la muerte
creemos anhelar nuestro fin
anhelamos el sueño y la indiferencia.
en las espadas y en la pasión
dormida en la hiedra,
espacio y el tiempo son normas suyas,
instrumentos mágicos del alma,
ésta se apague,
apagarán con ella el espacio, el tiempo y la muerte,
cesar la luz
el simulacro de los espejos
la tarde fue apagando.
benigna de los árboles,
con pájaros que sobre las ramas ondea,
se dispersa entre otras almas,
milagro que alguna vez dejaran de ser,
su imaginaria repetición
con horror nuestros días.
cosas pensé en la Recoleta,
lugar de mi ceniza.
Fervor de Buenos Aires, 1923
By Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by Stephen Kessler
Convinced of decrepitude
by so many certainties of dust,
we linger and lower our voices
among the long rows of mausoleums,
whose rhetoric of shadow and marble
promises or prefigures the desirable
dignity of having died.
The tombs are beautiful,
the naked Latin and the engraved fatal dates,
the coming together of marble and flowers
and the little plazas cool as courtyards
and the many yesterdays of history
today stilled and unique.
We mistake that peace for death
And we believe we long for our end
when what long for is sleep and indifference.
Vibrant in swords and in passion,
and asleep in the ivy,
only life exists.
Its forms are space and time,
they are magical instruments of the soul,
and when it is extinguished,
space, time, and death will be extinguished with it,
as the mirrors’ images wither
when evening covers them over
and the light dims.
Begnign shade of trees,
wind full of birds and undulating limbs,
souls dispersed into other souls,
it might be a miracle that they once stopped being,
an incomprehensible miracle,
although its imaginary repetition
slanders our days with horror.
I thought these things in the Recoleta,
in the place of my ashes.
Don Homero Aridjis - The Butterfly Man
Friday, May 06, 2016
I first met Homero Aridjis
, The Butterfly Man in 1993
when he visited Vancouver. Since then we have become friends. In some of my own
visits to Mexico City I am always invited for lunch at his home by his wife
It is difficult to pin down the Contepec, Michoacán-born man
as he is a complex mixture of diplomat, environmentalist, journalist and
poet/novelist. The latter combination is deadly. To read the prose of a poet be
it Jorge Luís Borges or The Butterfly Man, leads you to re-reading soaring
passages over and over. Many of his novels have been translated into English
and the bulk of his poetry here in British Columbia by George McWhirter.
It was in his Mexico City home in Lomas de Chapultepec that
The Butterfly Man told me the story of his philosopher friend Ramón Xirau
calling him to tell him that when he left his house he could not breathe. Xirau
and The Butterfly Man organized the Grupo de Los Cien
which pioneered the idea
of limiting the circulation of automobiles in Mexico City to license plates
that alternated between odd and even. Soon the organization was pushing for the
protection not only of the atmospheric environment of one of the largest and
most polluted cities of the world but to also saving endangered animal species
including whales and turtles.
But dear to The Butterfly Man were the Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) that wintered near his home town on the Mexican Oyamel
fir trees (Abies religiosa).
When I first met The Butterfly Man my garden butterfly bush
) was completely covered by Monarchs in August. By the
beginning of the 21st
century there were the odd three of four. At
the the time (when I first met The Butterly Man) there was a great ignorance on
where Ontario butterflies wintered. Strangely The Butterfly Man told me that
they did not know where the wintering Monarchs came from but certainly knew where they ended up. Once this
communication disconnect was fixed new efforts were made, guided and led by The
Butterfly Man who personally visited Mexican presidents and urged them to set aside
Oyamel forests in Michoacán as places that could not be logged.
Of his efforts The Butterfly Man has written many a lovely
poem of the dazzling sight of millions of butterflies arriving at his home town
of Contepec to winter and how the Oyamel’s vibrated as if injected by LSD.
But it seems that it has been to no avail and The Butterlfly
Man has again warned us all via the Huffington Post.
Grateful Dead Diversity
Thursday, May 05, 2016
tell you that this is a long lost 1930 portrait of a young Mexican woman,
Indiana Luna, taken by Tina Modotti in Edward Weston’s studio near Avenida
Tamaulipas. I would be half right. As indeed this is a portrait of Indiana Luna,
but it is one I took some years ago. I danced with Indiana the Argentine Tango.
Nobody noticed my just efficient dancing style as Indiana was very good, very
beautiful and very tall. She wore long and tight black dresses with a slit on
portrait is not very good. It is not in sharp focus, I had to crop it for my
blog viewers and worst of all I gave no room for Indiana’s head on the top of
the frame. I was much too busy taking photographs of everything else.
have come back to this image and chosen it to illustrate a realization I had in
Buenos Aires in April when riding the Buenos Aires Subte (their 6 line
underground). I stared at the people, most not noticing me as they were all
equipped with Samsungs. I marveled at the fact that I was not in a Vancouver
bus because people looked different. Even those who had a mixture of Spanish
blood with indigenous did not look at all like our BC Native Canadians. These
had noses, big hawk-like noses.
the influence of Irish immigration. There were many redhaired people. And of
course in my two-week stay I spotted one (and only one) young Chinese girl
walking on Calle Paraguay. I had to stare as here in Vancouver I take it all (and her)
made me think of how in the past (not so much now with the encroachment of
globalization and the universal availability of Grateful Dead T-shirts) I could
spot people, as an example, in an airport and guess their country of origin.
Were I to see a young man wearing penny loafers without the penny and no socks,
plus, perhaps gray flannel slacks I would think, “He is Argentine.” In
Vancouver I have been led astray by the similarity of Iranians to Mexicans and
Latin Americans. I must wait for them to speak before I can interject my
greeting in Spanish.
Vancouver I now stare (but carefully) at my fellow passengers and glory in our
city’s ethnic (but different from Buenos Aires) diversity.
La Secta del Cuchillo y el Coraje
Wednesday, May 04, 2016
¿Dónde estará (repito) el malevaje
que fundó en polvorientos callejones
de tierra o en perdidas poblaciones
la secta del cuchillo y el coraje?
El Tango - Jorge Luís Borges
The United States and Argentina in the 19th
century both had fierce and warlike indigenous peoples. In both countries
civilization had to spread west and those peoples were in the way. In both
countries these natives were almost systematically killed to near extinction.
The epic work Martín Fierro by José Hernandez paints most of
these indios in bad light. But then the white man does not fair any better in Martín Fierro.
I have been thinking about Martín Fierro
since I returned
from my two week trip to Buenos Aires in April. I have read a blow by blow analysis
of Martín Fierro by Jorge Luís Borges.
When I recently saw that very good film version by
Leopoldo Torre Nilsson I noticed two startling omissions in my comparison of
the USA and Argentina.
In the film you hardly ever see a firearm in the hands of
anybody, although we do know that Argentine Army used the rifle in its wars of
the interior. And the Indians are armed with long lances. I never saw a bow and
arrow. I did spot the boleadoara in the hands of a native. The natives would
shape rocks into little balls and wrap them in rawhide. Three balls would be
attached to three long leather thongs. One ball would be held in hand and the
other two were twirled around and then thrown at the man, the man’s horse, or
beast. On horseback the forward motion of the horse would add to the range of
80 or more yards according to Charles Darwin in his Voyage of the Beagle.
In short few Argentine Westerns have been made and the
usual weapon of choice in those few has been the knife. Borges has written many
poems and stories about the role of the knife in Argentina in the 19th
century and the beginning of the 20th.
When I was around 10 I visited a large estancia in the
Province of Corrientes. One of the workers (peones, peh-óh-nes, and this word
is not deprecative in Spanish) had borrowed another’s mate (note no accent on
the e even though Darwin insisted on using it). The mate is a gourd and with a
silver straining straw to drink the herb also called mate is part of the necessary
equipment of the gaucho and this is usually as important as his facón or knife.
The two men decided to come to blows in a knife fight. I was not allowed to
watch. I found out that one of them died (never knew which one) and the other
had to leave for other parts to escape justice.
The concept of the knife as a manly weapon is in all
In my life there have been three knives close to me. One
of them, my mother’s Barrilito (a brand name) kitchen knife made in Mexico is currently being
Displayed in my living room is the facón (a gaucho knife)
given to me by my sailors friends when I ended my stint in the Argentine Navy
in 1966. It is a beautiful weapon but it is a glorified bayonet. The other knife, the switch blade,
also has an Argentine story to it.
During my conscription I would visit my Tía Sarita (who
had been married to my mother’s brother Tony). I can never forget the address
to her downtown apartment. It was Larrea 1234. We would sit and chat and talk
of her son Jorge Wenceslao, my first cousin, who most of the time was in the
Province of Corrientes in the city of Goya.
Before I left I went to see her to say goodbye. She was a
serious woman and would always mention to me her communist leanings. She told
me that in my trip back to Mexico in an Argentine Merchant Marine ship I would
meet up with potential perils. She handed me a sevillana which is a switch
blade made in Spain. With it she handed me a little bottle of whale oil so that
the blade would open quickly. And for reading material she gave me a copy of
Nicolás Guillen’s Sóngoro Cosongo.
Edmundo Rivero and Astor Piazzolla interpret Jorge Luis Borges's poem El Tango
from where I found those lines: La secta del cuchillo y el coraje
or the sect of the knife and courage.
El Hornero - Furnarius rufus
Tuesday, May 03, 2016
In my youth I was fortunate to be sent to summer camps in
the Argentine Pampa by my parents. There was the pleasure of riding a horse on an
Argentine saddle (two or three sheepskins cinched up with stirrups) and running
after South American ostriches (but never catching up to them), of seeing
that lonely Ombú (a sort of very large tree)
breaking the monotony of the horizon, the sound of the teros
, a most elegant
bird, swooping to protect their nests, not finding any pebbles to use with my
sling because the pampas are just plain and rich dirt, but in reference to this
blog, seeing those roundish Hornero nests on top of crooked fence posts (when
one happened to see a fence post, a most rare occurrence, brought me delight. I
was told by gauchos that the serpentine entrance of the nest is supposed to
prevent snakes and other little animals from getting to the eggs.
The genus Furnarius
contains several species, all small birds, living on the ground, and inhabiting
open dry countries. In structure they cannot be compared to any European form.
Ornithologists have generally included them among the creepers, although
opposed to that family en every habit. The best known species is the common
oven-bird of La Plata, the Casara or housemaker of the Spaniards. The nest,
whence it takes its name, is place in the most exposed situations, as on the
top of a post, a bare rock, or on a cactus. It is composed of mud and bits of
straw, and has strong thick walls: in shape it precisely resembles an oven, or
depressed beehive. The opening is large and arched, and directly in front,
within the nest, there is a partition, which reaches nearly to the roof, thus
forming a passage or antechamber to the true nest.
Chapter V – The Voyage of the Beagle – Charles Darwin
"El Hornero" de Leopoldo Lugones
casita del hornero
alcoba y tiene sala.
alcoba la hembra instala
el nido entero.
sala, muy orondo,
guarda la puerta,
siempre un poco viejo
aseado y sencillo,
tanto hacer ladrillo,
habrá puesto bermejo.
como un artista
de un sauce añoso,
o en el
el barro está blando,
quisiera ser hornero
mi choza cantando.
sale bien todo,
en su honrado desvelo,
mirando al cielo
en el agua
de su lodo.
fuera la construcción,
por dentro, parece
y buen corazón.
como su casa es centro
amor y destreza,
de su cabeza
corazón pone adentro.
trabaja en paja y barro,
el barro y en la paja
casita del hornero
sala y tiene alcoba,
en ella no hay escoba,
está con todo esmero.
el hornero el horno,
y con el
áspero el revoque
el frío y el bochorno.
explora al vuelo el circuito,
cobre la tierra lisa,
fuerza y garbo pisa,
parece un martillito.
se orea, en tanto,
a su señora,
elegante y avizora,
humildad de encanto.
arreglarla a su deseo,
con un gorjeo
vajilla de cristal.