Screams of Pain and Pride

Screams of Pain and Pride: The World According to GH

Georgina Herrera, on her balcony in Alamar

Georgina Herrera, on her balcony in Alamar

Georgina Herrera, or GH, as she is frequently called by her fans, is not someone that you can keep quiet. And that’s a good thing, if you ask me–and you kind of did, if you are reading my blog entry.

Born into poverty, “isolated and misunderstood” by her family (as Paula Sanmartín says), given no opportunity for education but plenty of discrimination because of the color of her skin, she has plenty to scream about. So she does. The bilingual collection of poetry Always Rebellious/ Cimarroneando, with beautiful translations by Juanamaria Cordones – Cook, gives loud and strong expression to the world according to GH.

A self-taught poet philosopher, GH contemplates the rigors of the Middle Passage of her forbears, the suffering inherent in being a black woman, and how she has broken out of her own metaphorical shackles to find a true voice that can’t be ignored. By the force of her poetry, she draws me, a white woman, in to comprehend just a little bit more what my family was spared, what I am spared on a daily basis, even though many of her verses resonate for me, as a woman from a working class home.

Still I can’t overlook my shared guilt in centuries of inequities, and I must strive to understand as much as possible my own privilege, to respect just how much a woman like GH has had to struggle maintaining the ferocity of her pride amid so much pain.

“On those ramparts
Still damp, on the walls
Which the rain and sobs from long ago
Wore down and also
Made eternal, I lay my hands.
Though my fingers, I hear
Moans, curses, swearing
From those who quietly resisted for centuries
The fangs of the whip on their flesh.” (From “The Slave Quarters”)

And

“The rubies
Of your favorite pendants
Are drops of blood, taken from the veins
Of Oweni and many,
Many more.” (From “Messages Arrive at the Royal Palace”)

GH shows that the pain of her history is great, but does not overshadow the suffering of today:

“Who will hand me, on loan,
His head,
His feet, his heart,
His entire body and both his arms,
For
This long journey of return?
And then, once
I’m in place, who
Will lend me his hands,
His handkerchiefs, all
The vessels in the world
When
So many old tears
Will offer me their wholesome welcome?” (“Doubt”)

As moving as is her scream of pain, her masterful shout of pride and empowerment is what truly makes this reader’s heart soar. Here I find hope for myself, inspiration to move beyond blame, to dig deep within my gut for the strength to change myself, my little corner of the world. She left home young, made it to the city of Havana, where soon her promise was nurtured, her value measured, by a few key people–like Nancy Morejón. And despite ongoing difficulties, people in high places who didn’t appreciate her blunt honesty, she flowered into a generous, compassionate and passionate woman.

“It begins with you
The unusual task (almost magic)
Of growing toward love
Like a dark, strong stem
From. Rare wheat…” (From “Last Tribute as a Little Girl”)

Her poetry gives her a way to grow spiritually, intellectually, “earning my place, defending my glory and my right.” (From “The Bright Day”) she comes to believe that her past can not be a ball and chain for ever, keeping her down. Instead, she sees:

“A risky and grand legacy.
Tempting.
I go for it.” (From “Turmoil”)

And

“Oh, you body of ancestral wood
My faith and my heart: Iya!
You are the one who gives me true life
I cry your name as if a queen, and I free myself.” (From “Iya”)

Even at 80 years old in fulsome glory and self-confidence, thus, she leaves her own legacy of self-knowledge and power, for her own children, and for all of us who can see even a shred of ourselves within her:

“The portrait of what I am
Remains fixed between my eyes.
It scares me, then later, I accept myself.
Intact in my body
Remains a time
Of distant splendor.
Where there was glory
Nothing will be defeated, and, thus,
My hands reconcile
With what they feel, when
Grateful, I touch myself.” (From “Second Time Before a Mirror”)

Always Rebellious/Cimarroneando is available at http://www.csuchico.edu/Cubanabooks, at your local independent bookstore, or on Amazon. Georgina

Herrera will be on tour in the USA spring 2015–contact cuban.authors@gmail.com about booking an appearance.

About cubanabooks

Cubanabooks is a small independent press devoted to bringing first-class literature from Cuban women to a United States audience as well as to a global English and Spanish-speaking public. Publishing select literary gems in English or in bilingual English/Spanish volumes, Cubanabooks aims to correct the current U.S. unavailability of excellent literature from Cubans living in Cuba. At this time we prioritize the dissemination of works by living female writers who reside on the island. The founder and senior editor is Dr. Sara E. Cooper (Ph.D. University of Texas, Austin 1999), Professor of Spanish at California State University, Chico.
This entry was posted in Cuba, Cuban literature, Cuban women, Cuban women poets, Cubanabooks publications, Feminism, Latin American Literature, Mujeres cubanas, Women writers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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