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LA ÑAPA

In Dominican Spanish la ñapa refers to "the little extra" added on at the end. Just when you thought you'd gotten all that you would get, along comes your ñapa, like a baker's dozen, with one more kiss, one more pastelito, one more mango at the mercado.

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Border of Lights

This past October, 2012, we held a historic gathering commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Haitian Massacre, a shameful genocide of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent on the Dominican side of the border under orders of the dictator Trujillo. It was known also as "the Parsley Massacre" because the way the perpetrators distinguished Haitians who claimed to be Dominicans from dark-skinned Dominicans was to hold up a sprig of parsley and asked them to name it. The Haitian Kreyòl does not have the rolled "r" of Spanish, and so the pronunciation would be "pewejil," instead of "perejil." Many died "for a single, beautiful word," as Rita Dove writes in her poem, "Parsley."

The silence surrounding this event (never officially addressed or redressed by the Dominican government) as well as the continuing violation of the human rights of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent compounded the necessity many of us felt to acknowledge this anniversary.

Border of Lights, October 2012

So a group of us in the diaspora began a movement called Border of Lights -- www.borderoflights.org, also on facebook.

We met in Dajabón this past October 4-6, and during the vigil by candlelight at the border, poems were read in Spanish ("Haití" by Chiqui Vicioso) and Kreyòl ("Bajou" by Edwidge Danticat).

I, too, wrote a poem for the occasion, echoing Pedro Mir's famous poem, "Hay un País" ("There is a Country"), a poem beloved by the Dominican people, often set to music and sung or recited by school children. My own poem was titled, "Hay Dos Países" ("There are Two Countries"). Here it is in English (original) and Spanish (translated by Chiqui Vicioso):

Hay Dos Países

     (after the maestro, nuestro Pedro Mir)

There are two countries in the world
in the same path
of the sun.
Natives of the night
in a colonized archipelago
of tourists
and free zones.
Simply clear
like the kisses of children
raised together
who do not yet know
to hate each other.
Simply nestled
on one small island
like twins
in the womb of Quisqueya,
"Mother of all the Islands."
Simply and tragically
torn asunder,
by history,
greed
for sugar to sweeten
the porcelain cups
of the rich,
leaving the dregs
of bitterness behind
in our mouths.
Greed of kings
for gold and more gold,
for nectar of alcohol
to dull the ache
in their souls.
Greed of Spain,
greed of France,
each pulling an end
until the land tore,
and the river flowed
blood,
at the place
where the two
come together.
Across the River: Haiti. Photo by Bill Eichner. Border of Lights, October 2012
A river
named massacre,
which today we rename "mother,"
meeting place,
temple and tabernacle
of a new holy communion
by the sons and daughters
of one island.
Quisqueya,
with hilly Haiti
to the west,
four central cordilleras,
immense bays,
eroded hills
where poverty meets necessity,
and the trees give up
their throats to the knife
like sacrificial lambs
on the altars of power.
Quisqueya,
where nothing thrives
like the dream of allá,
the nightmare of parting
of tearing apart brother
from sister,
father from daughter,
son from mother
and lover--
another massacre
for the green parsley
of the dollar.
We are two countries in the world
located in the path of hope,
victims of the same history,
sharing the same ghosts:
the blood of our Taíno grandfathers,
the sweat of our African grandmothers,
soaked in our soils
and our souls;
sharing the sad regress
of progress,
like the shuttle of a loom
weaving our common narrative
rarely given voice.
We are simply
brothers and sisters,
not meant to be divided
or set one against the other
by wars
or the rumors of wars,
by comparisons
from the richer neighbor
to the north.
Here at the border of massacre
we create a new border
of hope;
here in the killing fields
we sow the seeds of the future
and await
the flowering of peace.
Here at the wall of wailing
we take up the cries
of the dead
and make
a new song;
here at the tomb
of the unburied dead
we create a memorial of life,
a border of lights
to shine on the path
forward in peace.
One island, like a bird
with two wings--
Quisqueya & Haiti flying home
in the path of the sun,
to its nest
in the blue Caribbean,
to hatch a future of peace,
with a song of forgiveness
in its throat,
and a sprig of parsley
in its beak.
Julia Alvarez
October 1, 2012
on the eve of setting out for
Border of Lights

HAY DOS PAÍSES

     (Parafraseando a Don Pedro Mir)

Hay dos países en el mundo
en el mismo trayecto
del sol.
Oriundos de la noche
en un colonizado archipiélago
de turistas
y zonas francas.
Sencillamente claro
como el beso de los niños
criados juntos
que aun desconocen
como odiarse.
Sencillamente anidado
en una pequeña isla
como gemelos
en el útero de Quisqueya
"madre de todas las islas".
Sencilla y trágicamente
desgarrados
por la historia
por la ambición
por el azúcar con que se endulzan
las tasitas de porcelana
de los ricos
dejando los escombros
de la amargura detrás
en nuestras bocas.
Ambición de reyes
ávidos de oro y mas oro
néctar de alcohol
para embrutecer el dolor
de sus almas.
Ambición de España,
ambición de Francia,
cada una tirando para su lado
hasta que la isla se desgarro
y el rio se desbordo
en sangre
en el mismo lugar
que los unía.
Un rio
llamado masacre
que hoy rebautizamos "madre"
lugar de encuentro,
templo y tabernáculo
de una santa comunión
entre los hijos e hijas
de una sola isla.
Quisqueya
con el montañoso Haití
hacia el oeste,
cuatro cordilleras cardinales,
inmensas bahías,
erosionadas lomas
donde la pobreza y la necesidad
concurren
y los arboles
en los altares del poder
son corderos sacrificiales.
Quisqueya
donde nada florece
como el sueño del allá,
la pesadilla del despedirse,
de separar al hermano
de la hermana,
al padre de la hija
al hijo de la madre,
y el amante
por el verde perejil
del dólar.
Somos dos países en el mundo
en el mismo trayecto de la esperanza,
victimas de la misma historia,
compartiendo los mismos fantasmas:
la sangre de nuestros abuelos tainos,
el sudor de nuestras abuelas africanas
empapándonos
el alma;
compartiendo el mismo regreso
del progreso--
como el vaíven de un telar
tejiendo nuestro canto común
raramente anunciado.
Somos simplemente
hermanos y hermanas
que no han de ser dividos
o enfrentados
por querras
o rumores de guerra
o por las comparaciones
con el rico vecino
del norte.
Aquí, en la rivera del masacre
creamos una nueva frontera
de esperanza;
aquí en los campos asesinos
sembramos las semillas del futuro
y esperamos
el florecimiento de la paz.
Aquí en el muro de los lamentos
recogemos los gritos
de los muertos
y con ellos escribimos
una nueva canción,
aquí en la tumba
de muertos desenterrados
creamos un memorial de vida,
una frontera de luces
que alumbre el camino
hacia la paz.
Una isla como un pájaro
con dos alas--
Quisqueya y Haití volando
en el mismo trayecto del sol,
hacia su nido
en el azul caribe,
hacia un futuro de paz,
con un canto de perdón
en la garganta
y una hojita de perejil
en el pico.
Julia Álvarez
octubre 1, 2012
en la noche antes del encuentro
Frontera de luces
traducción de Chiqui Vicioso

Copyright © Julia Alvarez 2012-2017.
All rights reserved. No further duplication, downloading or
distribution permitted without written agreement of the author
(please contact my agent, Stuart Bernstein).
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