Heard: Code-Switching and Bilingual Identity in Poetry

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In the creation and performance of some poetry, the literary device of code-switching allows for unique self expression. The writer, alternating the use of two languages in his/her work, invites us to share the poem’s bilingual qualities and authentic linguistic identity. Listening to this unique storytelling is a special connection.

Dr. Enrique Lamadrid

Dr. Enrique Lamadrid

 

In this guest post, Dr. Enrique Lamadrid (Ph.D., University of Southern California), Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Spanish and former director of Chicano Hispano Mexicano Studies at the University of New Mexico, introduces us to a written and audio reading of the poem, “Rescoldando Chile Verde,” by author Rudolfo Anaya.

Dr. Lamadrid was part of the foundational meetings of Sabores sin Fronteras (flavors without borders), UA’s regional, bi-national and multi-cultural alliance. He provides BorderLore readers with a perspective on Anaya and the author’s reading about the Pierto de Luna chile, a rare, small, thin-skinned chile with irregular pods and unbelievable flavor. In his introduction, Dr. Lamadrid describes why Anaya insists on sharing his poem with no translation. The poem and a rare recording of Anaya’s reading follow this introduction:

“Rescoldando Chile Verde” — An Introduction
by Dr. Enrique Lamadrid

Rudolfo Anaya

Rudolfo Anaya, Albuquerque, 2008. Courtesy
Miguel Gandert.

 

“Rescoldando Chile Verde” is Rudolfo Anaya’s paean to the Río Grande Chile, the icon and cornerstone of the Indo-Hispano foodways of New Mexico. Celebrated for his bilingual fiction embroidered with vernacular Nuevomexicano Spanish, Anaya writes poetic prose, but has published precious few poems. This is one of two known published poems in Spanish, both in his anthology Poems from the Río Grande (University of Oklahoma Press, 2015). I recorded him reading it January 2016 in Albuquerque, to offer an aural example of the richness and texture of our regional Spanish, in its creative use of traditional archaisms as well as newly minted Anglicisms. Code-switching between languages is a colorful feature that lends itself to creative writing. Rudolfo prefers that the poem not be translated, to maintain its integrity. Our advice to eager readers that don’t yet know Spanish — “find a friend to guide you through it.”

As a native of the Pecos river valley and the plains that surround it, Anaya is proud of his “PDL” chile. The beautiful farming community of Puerto de Luna is situated where the sweet waters of the upper Pecos meet the salty water of the middle valley. A “land race” of smaller sized native chile indigenous to the area is widely celebrated for its complex blend of smoky, earthy, piquant flavors. In the hierarchy of New Mexico chiles, it is right up there with its famous cousin from Chimayó. It is difficult to describe the aroma of roasting chile in words. It is one of the signature scents of late summer and fall. Instead of using a practical verb like “tostar,” we use the more colorful “rescoldar,” which describes the blistering of the pod as it writhes on the hot comal griddle. It must be carefully tended and turned and then peeled. In the poem, el maestro Rudy makes fun of the modern squirrel cage contraption that chile sellers use today.

Anaya is a celebrated Chicano novelist best known for his evocation of traditional Indo-Hispano culture and folkways from rural and urban New Mexico. His characters face the challenges of cultural and linguistic subordination with strength and resolve. His 1972 novel Bless me, Ultima is an international best seller, translated into a dozen languages and became a feature film in 2013. The coming of age story of a boy and the curandera who guides and protects him are a resonant portrayal of farm and ranch life in the Pecos valley. Landscapes of the valley, the river, the cenotes, and the plains take on mystical qualities as the setting for the millennial rivalry between farming and pastoralism and the mythical struggle between good and evil.

Read “Rescoldando Chile Verde” by Rudolfo Anaya, here.

Hear “Rescoldando Chile Verde” by Rudolfo Anaya, as recorded by Dr. Enrique Lamadrid, here.

Puerto de Luna chile

Puerto de Luna chile

 

References:

  • More about community food partnerships through Sabores sin Fronteras, and University of Arizona’s Center for Food Studies, established to coincide with the UNESCO Creative City designation, here.

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