Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

Little Apocalypse, a poem

August 11, 2017 2 comments


RT has been uncharacteristically silent these past few months as various matters tangential to his writing but nonetheless important (for instance, his health) have continued to preoccupy him. The good news is that he has made significant progress on tablets 5 and 6 of Gilgamesh, hoping to finish the poem by fall. He has even at odd moments set down a brief poem.

This particular piece was inspired by Peregrine, the recently (and first) published collection of fellow scribbler, Tom Donlon. Tom’s impeccable craftsmanship and domestic themes have won RT’s admiration, especially since his poems have a way of opening out on broader perspectives.  Sadly, Peregrine (Franciscan University of Steubenville) is not commercially available, but the poem that sparked this piece, “Tsunami” is available in the collection, ONLY THE SEA KEEPS: Poetry of the Tsunami (Bayeux Arts, 2005, available on Amazon). 

A fine poet and a fine collection. Here is RT’s response:



(for Tom Donlon)

the voice of the day proceeds carefully

through the clouds, the

ritual of its trajectory a carpenter’s pencil

sketching out the pilot in his craft, the

child tottering through its first step, the

ballet lessons and headless Barbies. 


stillness of sermon, like sitting in traffic 

on route 9, tsunami of grace overwhelming 

the driver, pushing aside everything else, 


only the fact of its words shining in the long

silence, to be approached on knee over 

snow, rough tezontle stone,

tearing postulant flesh—almost as 

if with obsidian knife, the truth pouring out—

as once before jadeite gods opulent

in the carven glyph, now overturned

in the high, thin air glinting with dust.

, our lady of waving grass, 

Marina, one of the native gift to Cortés;

the horse rearing muscular like an angel,

panicked eye, flaring nostril—

Calmese! the ships are burning.

Copyright, Eric Quinn, 2017


Drawing: Cortes and Mallinali meet Mocteczuma II, November 9, 1519. Unknown Aztec artist. Public Domain. 


Cúpula de la…

September 19, 2013 2 comments




simply superb photography from Mexico…enjoy!   RT

(reposted from Javier GM Photography)


Cúpula de la….

Mexico’s Lincoln

February 24, 2012 2 comments

Benito Juarez (1806-1872), full-blooded Zapotec Indian and five-time President of Mexico, may summarize the differences between Mexico and the United States (especially when compared with his contemporary, Abraham Lincoln). Born in an adobe house to Zapotec peasants, he worked as a shepherd, field hand, and domestic servant before an employer, realizing his gifts, sent him to seminary. He subsequently studied law and was elected governor of Oaxaca. Sent into exile by long-time dictator Santa Anna, he worked at a cigar factory in New Orleans before returning home, where he was instrumental in helping promulgate the liberal Constitution of 1857. Serving as interim president under the new constitution, he was elected in his own right in 1861. The constitution’s liberal slant, which, among other things, mandated education free of religious dogma, plunged Mexico into civil war, during which France intervened, installing the Archduke Maximilian as Maximilian I of a new Mexican Empire.

Juarez resisted the French occupation, and, with military help from U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, expelled the French in 1867. He was reelected President twice more, in 1867 and 1871. He died of a heart attack while in office.


Tough, stubborn, and unstoppable, Juarez is remembered in Mexico today for his belief in democracy, the rights of Mexico’s Indians, and secular government. He is generally regarded as Mexico’s greatest president, and has been called “Mexico’s Lincoln.” He came closer to realizing the dream of an independent, federal, and democratic Mexican republic than anyone before the Mexican Revolution.


RT’s Related Posts: 1) Mexico!! and Its Native Languages


Photo: President Benito Juarez, WikiCmns, Public Domain.


Sor Juana

March 14, 2011 4 comments

Juana at the Viceregal Court (1666)


My father was a foreign service officer, and one of my most vivid memories from childhood comes from the period we were stationed in San Jose, Costa Rica. We were driving through the Central Valley and entered a small town that looked like something out of a fairytale. The middle of the town was occupied by an enormous Baroque church, around which the town crowded like a fringe. Of course, we had to see the church–and standing on its marble parquet floor in the dimness, looking up at the glass windows, I experienced a moment of awe. I had glimpsed something fundamental about Central America–its rich beauty and intense spiritual life.

So, sadly, it was not until recently that I learned of Sor (Sister) Juana de la Cruz–though she lived during the 17th Century, Octavio Paz has called her Mexico’s greatest poet. I hope that by writing about her, I can do something, in a small way, to mend the generally difficult relations between the United States and its Latin American neighbors.


Spoiled men—how smooth

your insinuations, the bait

of our desire… Sor Juana (from “Spoiled Men”)


I don’t think I’m far off when I say that current U.S. perceptions of Latin America are strongly influenced by memories of the Mexican Revolution–images of a desert land and a rough, struggling culture. But during the 17th Century, Mexico was home to a high civilization, an amalgam of Colonial Spanish rectitude and the underlying genius of its native peoples.

Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, fell to the Spanish in August 1521, and by the mid-1600s, the Spanish had secured their conquest of Mesoamerica. But winning the peace was another matter: it could be argued that the Aztecs are the most alien civilization that Europeans have ever encountered. Blood worship and cannabalism were essential parts of Mesoamerican culture, and, the most ardent efforts of the Spanish notwithstanding, it was sometime towards the end of the 17th century before these practices were finally eliminated. Despite their abhorrence of native religion, the Spanish instituted a special court to which Indians could bring legal complaints, and the Indians quickly learned how to avail themselves of this legal recourse. In Puebla, the Spanish established Talavera-majolica pottery workshops very early in their rule, and these workshops were soon employing Indians. Finally, Indian gods and rituals were absorbed into New Spain’s Catholic practice, and a core population of the Indian peoples survived the Colonial period, bequeathing to modern-day Mexico the largest number of native language speakers in the hemisphere.

As if all this were not enough, a building boom swept New Spain soon after its founding, as new towns, churches, and public conveniences were constructed–all financed by the discovery of gold and silver (Mexico is still the second largest producer of silver in the world).

Readers should bear in mind that these achievements were accompanied by widespread exploitation of Indians, especially as the Spanish Empire declined in the 1640s and later. But the degree to which the Spanish accomplished the seemingly impossible fusion of their culture and Mesoamerican society is testament to the resources and sincerity they brought to the task.


Red in the flesh; you stare.

A loud technique and studied,

you argue your colors so well

that flesh forgets its coldness…

Sor Juana (from “To Her Portrait”)


It was into this world that Juana Ines de Asbaje y Ramirez de Santillana was born in 1648. To begin with, Juana was illegitimate: her father was a Spanish captain; her mother, a criollo (a full-blooded Spanish woman born in Mexico). When she was small, she lived on her maternal grandfather’s hacienda.

From her earliest years, Juana was deeply religious. By age 3, she had taught herself to read; by age 8, she had composed a poem on the Eucharist. She taught herself both Latin and Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. At 16, Juana was sent to the viceregal court in Mexico City, where her request to study at the University disguised as a boy was refused. The wife of the Vice Regent, Leonor Carreta, sensed Juana’s gifts and took her under her wing. The young woman continued her studies in private.

The Vice Regent himself (Antonio Sebastian de Toledo) soon arranged a difficult test of Juana’s genius: a panel of jurists, philosophers, and poets examined her knowledge, asking demanding questions that she answered unprepared. Her responses were so impressive that the examination helped establish her reputation thoughout the colony, which was further extended by the publication of her poems.

In such circumstances, many men proposed to her, but she decided against marriage and entered a Carmelite convent, and then the Convent of St. Jerome, where she remained for the rest of her life, becoming known as Sor Juana de la Cruz. Though it seems she endured a period of penance in the years just before her death, in the main she was supported in her studies and writings by the Viceregal Court and the Jesuits. She had a significant audience in Spain and became known as the first great poet of the colonies.


Which offense is worse—

to have sex for money or

to pay for it?

Sor Juana


All of this would have been remarkable if Sor Juana had merely been a brilliant poet and advocate of the church and status quo. But while she remained deeply committed to her faith, Sor Juana wrote verses that challenged social realities–and in particular the inferior status of women. That she also continued her studies in science many people found deeply disturbing. And yet she perservered, outwitting the Counter-Reformation and dying of a fever in 1695.

Not many of Sor Juana’s writings have survived, and we are indebted to the Viceregent’s wife for saving what we have. Fortunately, good translations of her work are beginning to appear in English. This thinker and poet early in the history of post-conquest Mexico is worth reading both for her beautiful poetry and for her courage in defying stereotypes and expectations.


Image. Author: J. Sanchez; Source: WikiCmns; License: Public Domain

Poetry. Translations copyright, The Rag Tree, 2011.