Friday, November 2, 2007

Literary Spanish: A Personal History of the World.

Maria Magdalena, Leonardo Davinci.


Agriculture shot up in Hispania, and with a network of roads, wide enough for carriages pulled by four horses, connecting production centers to seaports, distribution to other imperial provinces was optimum.

Hispania is Rome’s granary, said the Emperor, and Pamplona’s hams aren’t bad either. I want to honor Hispania. I want a coin minted with a ham crowned by a diadem of wheat branches.

The Emperor’s Counselor asked: Are you sure? The Emperor had the tongue of the insolent counselor cut off. The Counselor loved cow’s tongue stew. The Emperor asked if he wanted the cook to fix him stew with his tongue. No, nodded the Counselor, and fainted.

The first century was underway.

Shot up = se disparó.
Network = un complejo, un sistema.
Horses = caballos.
Aren’t bad either = no son malos tampoco.
A coin minted = una moneda acuñada.
Wheat = trigo.
Are you sure? = ¿Está seguro?
Tongue = lengua.
Nodded = negó.
Fainted = se desmayó.
Underway = en camino.


Julius Cesar conferred Roman citizenship to notables, and tracks of land. Hispania is now endowed, said Cesar, then Proconsul, with the privilege of full Roman civilization. Hispania has togas, baths, the numerical system, city councils, laws, Latin, Cicero’s classical elegance and the corner vendor’s practicality, and the Roman Legions.

[Greek democracy was the exclusive club for educated men, but Roman plebeians fought to reverse the privilege of the few. They had a saying: Quiet children don’t get to suck the she-wolf’s tit. Roman aristocrats, the patricians, let plebeians in the Senate. Hispania had her plebiscites.]

Conferred = confirió, otorgó.
Citinzenship = ciudadanía.
Laws = leyes.
Fought = lucharon.
Reverse = invertir.
They had a saying = Ellos tenían un dicho.
Quiet children don’t get to suck the she-wolf’s tit = Los niños callados no maman la teta de la loba.

Years earlier Hispania revolted. Julius Cesar massacred the rebellious. His report to the Senate spoke of imposing discipline, and he used the Senate reports to write his portrait for posterity. But even great autobiographies can’t empty memories of soldiers decapitating family members, people hold grudges, and history is a centrifugal force. Climate changes destroyed harvests in the Italic Peninsula. Romans escaped famine walking to Hispania 16 to 20 miles a day across La Via Augusta, ahead went brothers, cousins and close-friends, a wife joined here, a whore there, but mostly it was men alone. Married men sent for their families as soon as they settled. Single men suffered solitude. Aristotle asked pupils at the Academy, having a Platonic moment, which disease most pained a man’s asshole? Hemorrhoids, master Aristotle, said the annoying know-it-all every classroom has. He was not lecturing on Anatomy, said Aristotle. Solitude, boys, solitude!

Years earlier = años atrás.
Can’t empty = no pueden vaciar.
Held grudges = guardan venganzas, rencores.
Famine = hambruna.
Ahead went = adelante fueron.
Whore = puta.
Sent for = mandaron a traer.
Setteled = se establecieron.
Most pained = más le dolía.
Asshole = el culo.
Annoying = irritante.
Know-it-all = sabiondo.

Roman soldiers started the conquest of Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula) during the Second Punic War. Romans called Hispanics barbarians [stuttering idiots, Umberto Eco defined barbarians.] Hispanics now called Roman immigrants barbarians. The memory of offense is a coliseum where tigers are fed innocent descendants. Fortunately men alone excel in seduction. Roman immigrants seduced women’s hearts and men’s pockets. They had a way off saying things that girls liked (accent and syntax) and had needs (needy men awake the feminine nurturing nature), and immigrants were good workers. Powerful Hispanics said immigrants made sense economically. Julius Cesar crafted for himself a rhetorical statue but children grew up hearing the story of grandfather’s head flying off before they went to sleep, and the head, dripping blood, besieged their dreams clamoring revenge. Immigrants had to build lids over past offenses.

Conquest = conquista.
Second Punic War
Barbarian = bárbaro.
Fed = alimentados.
Awake = despiertan.
Grew up = crecieron.
Besieged = asediados.
Lids = tapas.

One grandmother told new generations how she married an immigrant with arms thick as Herculean columns. He was, said grandmother, closing her eyes to savor her memories, seeing herself a girl not older than her granddaughters sitting at her feet, how can I put it not to offend the Gods? Grandfather was funny and handsom like a rooster at daybreak. He was solid and tender. You should’ve heard his melodious voice. He used to play with other boys boules down the street (bocce is now played throughout Mediterranean Europe and Latin America) and gather afterwards to serenade.

Grandmother = abuela.
Savor = saborear.
Hansom = guapo, buenmozo.
Rooster = gallo.
Daybreak = al amanecer.
You should have heard him = debiste haberle oido.
Throughout = a lo largo, a lo largo y ancho

Soldiers enslave, rape, kill, they bring weapons, laws and impositions (there the etymology for impuestos, Castilian for taxes.) Immigrants bring their wooden trunks and veins filled with music, images and ancestral stories that mixed with local rains irrigate new orchards. Imagination bridges over nostalgia (the impossibility to return.)

Antonio brought in his trunk his mother’s Roman mantum, a silk rectangular shawl. She gave it to him so that he would not forget her, and Antonio gave it to his bride so that she would not forget who loved her.

Enslave = esclavisar.
Rape = violan.
Trunks = baúles.
Rain = lluvia.
Orchard = jardín (flores), huerto (frutas).
Silk = seda.
Forget her = le olvide.

Yes, said Grandmother, when I was a young girl, I took a good look in the mirror and said to myself, Rosita, who are you kidding? You have lost your head for that crazy Roman with curly hair, haven’t you?

And her granddaughters asked: And then what happened?

I married your grandfather, that’s what happened. And my sister, seeing that I was so happy, she married your grandfather’s brother.

And the granddaughters asked: And then what happened?

They built homes one next to the other. A new neighborhood emerged in Saragossa. New neighborhoods sprout in Toledo and Lisbon.

I took a good look = le di una Buena mirada, lo miré bien.
Who are you kidding? = ¿A quién le mientes?
I married = me casé.
Built = construyeron, levantaron, hicieron.
Emerge = surgir.

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