Near Lake Xolotlán in Nicaragua, you can see footprints that were left imprinted in the mud 2,000 years ago.
Feet of adults and children, which bear witness to the flight from a volcanic eruption, rivers of lava, skies on fire, the earth that trembles.
Since then we have always been fleeing from something, earthquakes and hurricanes, civil wars, and tyrants clinging to power, the first Pedrarias Dávila, the Furor Domini, who died at the age of 91, and who had a mass for the dead sung every year, lying down in a catafalque on the main altar of the cathedral of León, from which he would rise to order that the insubmissive Indians be dogged;
And 500 years later, the tyrant who is the same and is another continues to grow old in his bed and on his throne, and strays in his commandments and arbitrariness, owner of lives and estates, continues to impose silence, fills the jails, condemns to exile, a face superimposed on the old face in the phantasmagoria of the centuries.
The literate wrote the constitutions and laws of the illiterate tyrants, and the paper republics concealed the sinister apparatus of despotism that was never enlightened.
And weapons have always exacted their price from the letters that fight for freedom, because the profession of writing is free by nature, and power, when it wants to be absolute, poorly conceals its grudge against the imagination, which is free, and is critical of power, and contradictory, and rebellious to servitudes by nature.
Because they have no sense of humor, tyrannies punish jokes and fictions in novels by ordering them to be banned, and whoever writes them must pay with exile, and face the claim that they want to take away your country, erase your date and place of birth , your memory and your past and your words, because, in the delirium of capricious arbitrariness that takes over the heads of tyrants, they believe theirs is the power to make you disappear, as in one of those spells of Camacha de Mantilla, the sorceress from
The Colloquium of the Dogs,
who "froze the clouds when she wanted, covering the face of the sun with them and, when she felt like it, she made the most troubled sky serene."
But the words of the books will always remain there, hard and luminous, steely and sharp, and they will always return to our eyes every time we open a book that was once banned, to tell us again what tyrants, from their evil dreams of greatness and power, they did not want to hear, or they wanted to prohibit.
“Little book, you will go, without being forbidden or accompanied, to Rome, where, alas, your author cannot penetrate.
Leave without decoration, as befits the son of an exile…”, Ovid sings in
from his exile in Ponto Euxino.
“The booksellers will reject us.
The SS stormtroopers will break the shop windows… the word is dead, men bark like dogs”, writes Joseph Roth in a letter to Stefan Zweig in October 1933, with more than divinatory power of the approaching Nazi catastrophe, to encircle and cut off lives and burn words on bonfires.
«My faithful tongue, / I have served you.
/ [...] You have been my homeland, because I lacked any other…”, wrote Czesław Miłosz,
condemned to non-existence in Poland, because all his books had been banned, and he was sentenced to exile.
But it is impossible to erase the words.
"Literature is the only form of moral security that society has... if only because it deals from beginning to end with human diversity and this is its raison d'être," another outlaw, Joseph Brodsky, reminds us.
In Latin America, which is my homeland, and in Spain, which is likewise my homeland, its writers have forged their lives from time to time in the fire of exile, which has molded their solitudes, and their hopes, and that glimpse of a return to The lost land does not cease in memory, nor does it cease in the tongue, it always awakens in the mouth.
"Country of memory where I was born/ died/ had substance/ little bones that I gathered to ignite/ land that buried me forever," says Juan Gelman, exiled from his homeland by another dictatorship, after all, everyone has had the his, his piece of sour bread on the ravaged tongue.
And from that side, on the other side of the vast territory of La Mancha, through the ocean, where so many Spaniards went to make America in their exile, Luis Cernuda writes: "If I am Spanish, I am/ In the manner of those who cannot / To be something else: and among all the burdens/ That, when I was born, destiny placed/ On me, that has been the hardest”.
If I am Nicaraguan, I am so in the manner of someone who cannot be otherwise.
Nicaraguan of my language, which is the language on everyone's lips, from which there is no possible exile, because the language takes me everywhere, takes me away from jails and exiles, and sets me free.
The language that no one can take from me, from which no one can banish me.
The language, which is my homeland.
is a writer and winner of the Cervantes Prize.
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