NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel – September Equinox 2020

Indeed, my poetry and travel writing continue to appear in journals and on websites around the world – in Spain, the UK, the US, Ireland and Nigeria.

In the realm of travel narrative – I have been continuing to examine the topic of how post COVID-19 travel will be and proposing different kinds of adventures we can embark on!

Spend this September equinox browsing through the list (with links) below, poetically journeying to Chile’s Patagonia, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina’s Patagonia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Guatemala, the Galápagos Islands, Buenos Aires … and lands within & beyond …

…. and until we next meet …..

Safe Journeys!

Quito, Ecuador, Panecillo, Virgin

The wingéd Virgin (Pachamama) atop Yavirac – a.k.a. El Panecillo – the subject of one of my freshly pressed poems! photo © Lorraine Caputo

NEW LITERARY EXPRESSIONS

“Trilogía” in Bajo Otros Cielos (España/Spain) (June 2020)

“Aztec Phoenix,” “Sacred,” “Narihualá,” “Chan Chan” and “Templo de los Jaguares” in The Writer’s Café Magazine – Can You Dig It? (Ruins) (UK) (Issue 19, June 2020)

“At Blue Beach” and “Sounds of Silence” in Crêpe & Penn (Issue 8)

“Cueva de las Manos” in Silver Birch Press – Landmarks series (3 July 2020)

“Watchtower” and “Pincers” in Cavalcade of Stars (6 July 2020)

“Hushed Dreams;” “Caribbean Nocturne,” “On a Full Moon Night” and “Pastors” in The Blue Nib (Ireland) (23 July 2020)

“At the Water’s Edge” and “New Moon (Galapagos)” in Verse-Virtual (August 2020)

Chile Chico,” “Salango” and “Yaviracin Voices on the Wind – Voices on History (volume 82, August 2020)

“Anochecer Bogotano” in Bajo Otros Cielos (España/Spain) (August 2020)

“Time to Feast” in The Raconteur Review (August 2020)

“Denouncing the Violence of the Past” in Halfway Down the Stairs (September 2020)

“Mexican Murals – Puerto Escondido” and “These Hands” in Praxis Magazine (Nigeria) (4 September 2020)

“León” in Poetry & Places (4 September 2020)

“When We Grew Up,” “Spring Storms” and “Lanterns” in The BeZine (Volume 7, Issue 4 – September 2020)

“Recoleta” in Poetry & Places (17 September 2020)

Peru, Zorritos, beach, playa, ocean, sea

This beach in northern Peru is a-callin’ my name for a post-pandemic escape. photo © Lorraine Caputo

NEW TRAVEL EXPRESSIONS

South America Buses

South America’s Beaches: Escape the Pandemic Blues

Latin Bus

Bicycling in South America: A Travel Solution in the Pandemic Era

Now Available! ¡Disponible Ahora!

Me voy de casa (Wanderful Quito / Yo Viajo Sola, 2020) — colaboradora

Todo lo necesario para planificar un viaje, y para ayudarnos durante la travesía – más consejos de viajeras (¡incluyendo de mí!).

¡El regalo perfecto para las viajeras que conozcas!

guía, viajes, mujeres, travel, guide, women

Me voy de casa (Wanderful Quito / Yo Viajo Sola, 2020)

If you are in need of an article for your publication or website, a translation – or your dissertation, book or article proofread / edited, please feel free to contact me. I am also available to participate in literary events.

PATRONS OF FISHERMEN : San Pedro and San Pablo

In Latin America, June is a big festival month. Four holidays are celebrated: the feast day of San Antonio (Saint Anthony of Padua, 13 June), Inti Raymi (an Andean festival at about the time of the June solstice), the feast day of San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist, 24 June) and the feast day of San Pedro y San Pablo (Saints Peter and Paul, 29 June).

San Pedro and San Pablo are the patron saint of fishermen. In many countries (including Mexico, Paraguay and Colombia), 29 – 30 June are national holidays.

In coastal towns throughout Latin America, these saints are being fêted. The saints are paraded around the harbor in flower-festooned boats, followed by special masses. They are petitioned for plentiful fishing and – in some areas – rain. Bands, traditional dances and other cultural events accentuate the scene. Other activities may include special tours of the coast and gastronomic fairs.

Surprisingly, San Pedro and San Pablo are also saluted in highland villages, such as Neiva and Jongivito in Colombia, and Punín in Ecuador. In some areas, the feast day of Saint John the Baptist (24 June) merges with that of Peter and Paul.

One year, I was in Arica for the feast days of San Pedro and San Pablo. Let’s take a look at how it is celebrated there – as well as shrines to the fishermen’s saints in other Latin American villages. Let’s take a look at how they celebrate it in that northern Chilean port city.

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Who Were Peter and Paul?

You might be wondering who San Pedro (Saint Peter) and San Pablo (Saint Paul) were – and why they have become associated with the fishing trade.

Saint Peter, one of the original disciples of Jesus, was a fisherman by trade. He was the founder of the Christian Church in Rome, and that city’s first bishop. He is also counted as the first pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

Saint Paul was born Saul of Tarsus. He never knew Jesus in person. He worked for the Roman Empire, in the persecution of Christians. (One of his most famous cases was the stoning of Saint Stephen.) Between jobs of persecution – legend states – he experienced a visit from the spirit of Jesus which led to his conversion. Saint Paul became a major proponent of Christianity, and much of the surviving New Testament is credited to his pen. He was beheaded for being a Christian on 29 June 67 AD, during the reign of Nero.

 

Where to Join the Saint Paul and Saint Peter Celebrations

There are many places in Latin America where you can join in on the dancing, boating and delicious food fêting these two saints. Almost any community on the coast – whether of the Caribbean Sea, or the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean – will have celebrations. But throughout the Andes, you’ll also find mountain villages honoring these saints, in hopes of rains for the season’s crops.

Below are just some of the places where you can put on your itinerary.

Safe Journeys!

 

Festival, fiesta, Saint Paul, San Pablo, Saint Peter, San Pedro, fishermen

Many fishing villages have shrines to Saint Peter (San Pedro). The shrine in Pisagua (Chile) is near the fishermen’s wharf. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

Mexico

  • San Pablo del Monte (Tlaxcala)
  • San Pedro y San Pablo Ayutla, and San Pablo Villa de Mitla (Oaxaca)
  • Tzimol (Chiapas)

 

Guatemala

  • Almolonga (Quetzaltenango)
  • Chuarrancho, San Pedro Sacatepéquez (Guatemala)
  • San Pedro Carchá (Alta Verapaz)
  • San Pedro La Laguna (Solalá)
  • San Pedro Sacatepéquez (Sacatepéquez)
  • Yepocapa (Chimaltenango)

 

El Salvador

  • Caluco (Sonsonate)
  • Corinto, and Sensembra (Morazán)
  • San Pedro Masahuat, and San Pedro Nonualco (La Paz)
  • San Rafael Cedros, and San Pedro Perulapán (Cuscatlán)
  • Teotepeque (La Libertad)

 

Nicaragua

  • Cuidad Darío (Matagalpa)
  • Diría (Granada)
  • El Jícaro, and Mozonte (Nueva Segovia)
  • Jinotepe (Carazo)
  • Puerto Cabezas (RAAN)
  • San Pedro de Lóvago (Chantales)
  • San Pedro y San Pablo (Villanueva, Chinandega)

 

Costa Rica

  • Alajuela
  • Ciudad Buenos Aires de Puntarenas
  • León Cortés
  • Limón
  • Pococí
  • San José (San Pedro de Montes de Oca)
  • San Pablo (Heredia)
  • San Pedro de Poás
  • Turrubares
  • Upala

 

Venezuela

  • Guatire and Guarenas (Miranda State)

 

Colombia

  • Jongivito (Nariño)
  • Neiva (Huila)
  • San Pablo, Mahates (Bolívar)

 

Ecuador

  • Alausí (Chimborazo Province)
  • Crucita, Manta, Jaramijó, and Montecristi (Manabí)
  • Esmeraldas (Barrio El Panecillo) (Esmeraldas)
  • Checa, Licán, Cayambe, Pomasqui, Ayora, and Tabacundo (Pichincha)
  • La Magdalena (Bolívar)
  • Pimampiro, Cotacachi, and Cayambe (Imbabura)
  • Puerto Bolívar (El Oro Province)
  • San Pedro y San Pablo, Ayangue, and Santa Rosa (Santa Elena Province)

 

Peru

  • Chimbote (Huáraz)
  • Chorrillos and Callao (Lima)
  • Ilo (Moquegua)
  • Ichu (Puno)
  • San Pedro de Cajas (Tarma)

 

Chile

  • Arica (Región XV Arica y Parinacota)
  • Pisagua (Región I Tarapacá)
  • Puerto Cisnes (Región XI Aysén)
  • Valparaíso (Región V Valparaíso)

 

Argentina

  • Tucumán (Tucumán)
  • Corrientes (Corrientes)

 

Festival, fiesta, Saint Paul, San Pablo, Saint Peter, San Pedro, fishermen

The shrine to San Pedro in Puerto Cisnes, in southern Chile. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

 

 

 

 

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel – June Solstice 2020

Indeed, my poetry and travel writing continue to appear in journals and on websites around the world – in Ecuador, the Czech Republic, Liberia, and the United States. As well – and quite exciting! – one of my poems has been translated into and published in Chinese!

As well, I have done poetry readings “in” Texas and the Galápagos Islands (from afar, as – like many of us – I have been in lock-down …)

In the realm of travel narrative – I have been examining the topic of how post COVID-19 travel will be.

 

Spend this June solstice browsing through the list (with links) below, poetically journeying to the Galápagos Islands, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, El Salvador, Venezuela, Uruguay, Colombia … and lands within & beyond …

…. and until we next meet …..

 

Safe Journeys!

 

poetry, amber, Argentina

A piece of amber I found on a Patagonian beach in Argentina – the inspiration for the poem “Beholding” which has now been translated to Chinese. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

NEW LITERARY EXPRESSIONS

“Estas Nubes” in Revista Máquina Combinatoria (Ecuador) (Volumen 2, Nº 3, Marzo 2020)

“John the Baptist” in Nixes Mate (Issue 15, Spring 2020)

“Return of the Three O’Clock Rains” in New Feathers Anthology (Spring 2020)

 

“Isla de Ometepe” and “Siete Calles” in Doubleback Review (Issue 2:1, April 2020)

“Beholding the Entombed” (in English and Chinese) in Poetry Hall (Issue 7, April 2020)

“Misted Awakening” and “A Quiteño Sketch” in Fragmented Voices (UK-Czech Republic) (22 April 2020)

“The Rainy Season Has Arrived,” “Sonata for a Late Afternoon” and “On the Shore” in Muddy River Poetry Review (Spring 2020)

“Missa Cantata” and “In This Obscurity” in Dreams Walking (Issue 1, April 2020)

 

“Through the Cordillera Blanca” in Dragonfly (Spring 2020)

“Sandlot Samurai” in Freshwater Literary Journal (May 2020)

“Serenata del paisaje” in Revista Máquina Combinatoria (Ecuador) (Volumen 2, Nº 5, Mayo 2020)

“Islands in the Stream” in Canyon Voices (Spring 2020)

“Ajar to the Night” and “As Our Train” in Otherwise Engaged Literature and Arts Journal (Volume Five, 2020)

 

Where Shall We” and “Amazon Dream” in Trouvaille Review (1 June 2020)

“Jungle Rains,” “Cinnamon Moon,” and “On This Cloud-Shadowed Land” in The Ducor Review (Liberia) (8 June 2020)

“Alone” in Birdsong Journal (18 June 2020)

“Thunder” in Flora Fiction Literary Magazine (Volume 1, Issue 2, Summer 2020)

 

poetry, festival, Galapagos, Ecuador

The First Galápagos International Poetry Festival, in which I participated.

 

And – something special – several virtual poetry readings!

(Click on the title to listen to the readings.)

 

BLAST YOUR OWN BREATH – National Poetry Month edition – April 11, 2020 (pt. 2 of 4)

Hosted by Tammy Gómez

Featuring: Austin Caraway, Lorraine Caputo, Alexandra Corinth, and Rita Vigil.

 

GALÁPAGOS INTERNATIONAL POETRY FESTIVAL11-13 June 2020

Organized by Paola Zambrano and Galápagos Contra Corriente

 

Peru, beach, post-pandemic, travel, Covid-19

Where will you be going after the pandemic? I dream of the beach – once the borders reopen, perhaps I’ll head for this piece of paradise in northern Peru … photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

NEW TRAVEL EXPRESSIONS

 

            Colombia Schedules

Lodging in South America | What to Expect As Countries Reopen (June 2020)

 

            Latin Bus

Post-Pandemic Travel | New Rules (and New Thinking) for the Road

 

 

If you are in need of an article for your publication or website, a translation – or your dissertation, book or article proofread / edited, please feel free to contact me. I am also available to participate in literary events.

WELL-LAID PLANS

The rail lines between Durango and Tepehuanes (to the northwest), and to Felipe Pescador and Fresnillo (to the southeast). photo Lorraine Caputo

 

Over a decade earlier, I had fallen in love with train travel. Whenever I could, wherever I was in the Americas, I would travel by train. The trips inspired so much poetry and narratives. I set myself the goal of taking at least one train in each country, from Alaska and the Patagonia.

 

In 1996, the trains in Mexico were privatized. I had caught the last train from Durango to Tepehuanes. In that village I spent several weeks, planning my route in search of trains. But those plans, well …

 


 

9 November 1997 (1 month, 8 days since privatization)
Fresnillo, Edo. de Zacatecas

Oh, so much for well-laid plans.

I’d spent three weeks in Tepehuanes.  I was going to take a bus to Durango (as there was no more passenger train service), and from there catch a train to Felipe Pescador.  In that village where no road arrives, I could catch the south-bound Juárez train for Mexico City.

One afternoon I went down to the station in Tepehuanes.  The cargo train had arrived.  It was 7 November.

“Do you know what day this is?” they asked me.  “National Railroad Day.  There used to be a band greeting us here, celebrations along every line.  But not this year.  Just silence.”

“And how is it now without passengers on this train?”  The late afternoon sun through the trees mosaicked on the blue locomotives.

Triste.  Sad.  And now they’ve ended the train from Durango to Felipe Pescador.”

My mouth dropped open.  “Since when?”

“Since a few days ago.  And the new owners did it without notice.”

Well, so much for well-laid plans.

I must go to Fresnillo to catch that south-bound train.

 

I arrive at the pink-trimmed stone-block station of Fresnillo. The early afternoon sun glares off the rails. Many families sit under the shade of an ancient eucalyptus tree. A girl and her two younger brothers look for round stones along the tracks. They fill a green bottle with them.

I walk off to explore this abandoned station. The black lettering on white signs is faded. There’s the  station chief’s office ticket window, the waiting salon, the telegraph office. Black metal bars cage the raggedly broken window panes. Rocks within the empty rooms testify to their destruction. Graffiti on the walls of these spaces that smell of stale urine. The tiled floors are heavy with dirt, trash, fragments of glass.

The doors of the old bodega have been rammed in. Now the entrances are guarded by a grating made of iron rails. The heavy wood and glass counter is still there. Shelves behind it hold the heat of this late afternoon. Many old posters are plastered on the walls.

THE RAILROAD IS THE NERVE
OF THE INDUSTRIAL MEXICAN REVOLUTION

In the far reaches to the South appears the light of a locomotive against the dull of distant mountains. The mother calls to her children to put aside their rounded stones, “Apúrate.  Hurry up,” she says to the youngest. “Don’t you want to come see papá?”

 

The shiny and clean primera especial cars pull up. Water still drips from the window sills. Dark eyes peer from between the venetian blinds.

The porters step out in their impeccable uniforms to help these northward journeyers aboard. “The south-bound should pass at ’bout 4:30,” the conductor calls out as his train leaves. And within a few, it disappears towards that Juárez horizon.

 

All that is left are us five: a mother, her not-quite-four-year-old son and the grandparents – and I, with my eyebrow still raised at the sight of that perfect train.

“Now,” the grandfather tells me, “there is only one class, la clase única, and all the trains in and out of the City are like that one that just passed.”

Little Ernesto picks up the bottle the other children left behind. It rattles in his small hand. He begins his hunt for more rounded rocks.

 

Not quite 3 p.m. On that northern horizon, we see a light. It couldn’t be ours, could it?

Three locomotives, with a caboose zoom by, fluttering up track-side trash.

 

THE DANCE OF THE FREIGHT TRAINS

Those three lone engines switch
off to a side track
on the other side
of the station

 

From the north a freight train approaches
For minute upon long minute
rumbling by its
3 locomotives
15 cars
3 more locomotives
63 cars
Nacional de México
Cotton Belt     Santa Fe     Southern Pacific
Union Pacific     Western Pacific
and, finally, the yellow caboose

 

To the south I see
the exhaust plumes
a second freight train
It stops on the second track
waiting for the first to pass
After that long while
it backs up and
switches to the third track
There it waits, waiting . . . .

 

A sudden gust of wind scurries
dried leaves and litter by our faces
The three lone engines hum deeply
on the other side of this
abandoned station
Children walk up that platform
and pause beneath
the engineer’s window
He hands them each a
pack of chicles
He tells Grandfather
our train should
arrive about 6:30

 

A third cargo train comes
out of the north
clanging its bells
I sit on this side of the platform
counting off the cars
2 locomotives
23, 24 cars
The twenty-fifth one
arrives before me
Brakes hiss
the train stops
Its locomotives blacken
the blue afternoon

 

The third train pulls apart
to allow those three lone engines
to join its chain

 

and after the link is made
this railbox in front of me
eases back
The cars creak a bit before
the brakes release with a clank

 

I resume my tally
2 locomotives
plus 3 more
67 cars
Nacional de México
Conrail     Southern
Southern Pacific     Norfolk Southern     Chessie
Norfolk and Western     CP Rail     Union Pacific
Canadien National     Grand Trunk Western
A multi-color of dented and rusting
freighters and hoppers
blacks and greys and light blues
bright yellows and browns and greens
and, of course, at last
the caboose

 

The second train has begun
to slip behind this
nearer third

 

As each one  passes before him
a young boy throws rocks
They clash against
the  metal sides

 

I begin to count off
as many cars of the
second as I can from
the distance
2 locomotives
perhaps 57 cars
mostly Nacional de México
scattered with a few
Cotton Belt     Norfolk Southern     Southern
—and one marked
EXCLUSIVE USE OF PROCTOR and GAMBLE
I wave at the worker
hanging off that caboose
He motions me in his
north-ward direction
I shake my head

 

and I watch those two trains
fade into their horizons

 

The sun has burned away the shade of the station and its tree. The family moves off in search of refuge from its raw light.

Four teenagers hang out behind the station, coolly smoking cigarettes and drinking pulque. They chase away the younger boys and continue on with their talk of tough exploits peppered with güeys. As each bottle is emptied, they throw it towards the old switching tower, its flag now missing. Rough-housing each other, shoves, smacks on rears, punches on upper arms.

After a while, they walk back to town where they can’t be these young toughs.

 

As the sun lowers, the bird song begins in the old eucalyptus tree. Shadows fall long, deep. A pink house across the tracks catches the last light. For a short while the dusty road leading to town is bathed in gold. The colors of twilight palely appear on the eastern horizon, blue into purple into rose. The moon, now grown more than half-full, brightens in the gathering darkness. A rat runs out of the empty station and along the silent rails.

The night deepens with its sprinkling of stars. We wait here, now 30 or so, in the light of that moon, for the south-bound train.

On his jambox a young man plays Creedence Clearwater. Then the sound of Mexican rock politicizes our vigil on this platform.

Every eye is trained on that northern horizon. Children fall asleep wrapped in blankets against the growing cold. “A light, a light,” someone will announce. People grab their bags. It is only another car crossing the tracks.

The moon casts the shadow of the eucalyptus, throwing the platform into darkness, robbing us of her light.

The hours pass and pass. It is now well after eight. Time continues to slip away.

Some people are about to leave. One of them glances over her shoulder. “Here it comes,” she yells. I hear a very faint rumble.

On that distant horizon, a glare floods it. We watch that light behind those trees for the longest time. It seems to get no nearer. It disappears around bends.

Then into the straight-away towards this station. Blinding light blinding us.

The train pulls into view. A few passengers turn away dejected. “It’s a cargo train.” “No”—others say—“the passenger cars are behind.” And the chase begins, down the platform, past the station, to where the blue cars await.

 

Once inside, a seat next to the window, I peel off my jean jacket and sweater. The heat is on. I dig my watch out of its pocket. It is almost nine-thirty.

 

A TICKET TO RIDE

An Affair Never-Ending -- Mexican rail map

A copy of the rail map the FFCC de México used to give away, with most of the rides I’d taken marked. © Lorraine Caputo

 

So much for making it on the evening train to Juárez. All the seats are sold already. The woman at the ticket window says, though, that when the train comes in, we can ask the porters. We just have to wait until the train arrives at 5:20 p.m. and see.

A family who was also on the train from Durango decides to get a hotel room. Tomorrow morning they will return to the station, to buy tickets when they go on sale at eight.

Martin and I decide to try our luck. If we can’t get on tonight’s train, then we’ll overnight here. The station closes at night, so we would have to sleep out front. No problem. We each have sleeping bag. He even has a tent. We can pull watches until the line begins forming at four. I’ll even volunteer to pull the whole night’s watch.  But we’ll wait and see what happens.

And so we sit here, in the train station in Torreón, surrounded by my knapsack (upon which I rest my feet), and Martin’s gear: a sleeping bag and tent (which I carry)—plus two large book bags, a mail sack and a shoulder bag. Our mobility definitely is limited.

trains, Mexico, travelogue

Our sojourn: from Durango to Torreón, to Ciudad Juárez on the Mexico-U.S. border. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

I’d met Martin north of Mexico City at an indigenous gathering. I agreed to be his escort north to the border at Ciudad Juárez, on the condition we go to Durango. For over a year that Bob Dylan song had been going through my head—and I wanted to send a postcard to Sarah. But Martin’s vehicle gave up the ghost: broken drive shaft, leaking radiator, a carburetor needing to be rebuilt and Spirit knows what else. We abandoned it at a mechanic’s garage.

I salvaged what I could of his belongings, spending an hour field-packing everything I could get into these bags. Our other passengers—two curanderos from Jalisco and a woman from Slovenia—parted ways. And I continued north with Martin.

I pass the time, my feet propped up, writing in this journal. I may snuggle down for a bit for a nap. I’ll need it if we have to camp out front all night. But Martin keeps interrupting me—and he says I’m a talker!

Well, here he comes again, carrying a piece of cardboard in his hand. I wonder what he wants. I saw him before, sitting in the row of seats behind me, dictionary in hand. He now stands before me, his glasses catching the sunlight filtering in through the roof eaves. He flashes his goofy smile, his thin skin wrinkling.

“What do you think?” He holds up a neatly printed sign: Quiero comprar dos boletos a Ciudad Juárez.

“Well, you got the grammar right. But, Martin, I don’t think it’s necessary. As I explained before, when the train comes in, we can ask the porters. I’ve seen it done before. Why don’t you just sit down and relax? Take a nap, eh?”

“Well, it can’t hurt to try.” He walks off, strolling around the station with his sign. I shake my head and drift lightly off to sleep.

After a while, Martin comes walking back to me, a big smile on his face. Two railroad workers, one dressed in a black, kid-glove jacket, follow him. “Do you know Spanish,” one asks.

Martin nods and points to me. I wish I could wipe that silly grin off his face. “She speaks Spanish.”

The man begins explaining the whole system—again—of how when the train comes in and all that jazz.

“I know, sir. I already explained that to him. But …”

He turns to Martin. “Look, when the train comes in, let her handle it. Understand?” I translate for Martin, so he will understand.

After they leave, Martin sits two seats down, his stuff on the seat between us. “Oh, honey, he was just humoring you.” He smugly slumps in his chair and pulls his hat down, over his closed eyes.

Yea, right. Only Latinos are macho, right? And what about this boy from Phillie?

The train pulls in on time, at 5:20. The man at the platform gate is carefully checking everyone’s tickets. Martin and I sneak by when he isn’t looking, lugging all of Martin’s stuff.

Out the vestibule door, a porter stands, hanging onto one handrail. Already he is surrounded by a large group of people asking for tickets.

We walk up, Martin in front of me. The man looks over Martin’s blond head, to me. “What do you want?”

“Two tickets for Juárez.”

“Get on.”

We slip behind him. We waddle under the weight of our packs, finding a seat near the bathroom. We stow some below bags, others on the rack overhead. My pack is at my feet.

“Well,” says Martin, “we did manage to get seats after all. And all thanks to my sign.”

I won’t breathe a word—whatever he wants to believe. I just shake my head and look out the window.

Soon the train pulls away, into the dusk. The conductor comes along, collecting fares, issuing tickets. He looks at Martin sitting by the aisle, then ignores him. “Señorita, para dónde va?

Dos para Juárez, por favor, señor.

 

 

published in: Australian Latino Press

60 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR BOREDOM : How to Survive a Lock-Down, Lock-Up or Lock-Away

We are in lockdown in many countries of the world – and others will be joining us soon.

Whether for pandemics, civil unrest – or even the weather (snow storms!), we all can find ourselves in situations in which we are confined to the ol’ abode.

But, ay! How to survive the boredom!

 

How can you fend off depression while having to stay confined at home? Some advice I have read states to follow your daily routines. Get up at the same time as usual (okay, you can sleep in a bit … and go to bed a bit earlier to make sure you rest more than usual … if you’re like most folk who can manage to squeeze in only six hours on our hectic schedules!). If you are working or schooling from home, do it at the usual time. Have meals at the usual time.

Yes, get dressed each day (but, hey – you’re at home! You can dress as wildly as you wish!). Bathe and brush your hair each day. Keep things normal as much as possible.

But there is a positive to staying at home. How much time do you spend on commuting to and from work or school? How much time in doing grocery and other shopping? Think of how much more free time – time for yourself and your family – you will have! Once more we can push aside the craziness of our modern lives and sit down to meals together, watch movies together, create together – support each other. But also remember to allow each of you to have time alone.

 

Please, in this time, contact your neighbors – especially if they are older or in other at-risk groups – and see if there is any essentials they need, and help them access them. Compile a list of local businesses that are preparing and delivering meals, or of courier services that are delivering groceries. (Some grocery stores are also providing this service.) Also check to see what services are being offered to the homeless in these times, and if you can, donate to them. Shelters and zoos are also in need at this time.

And please support your local businesses – local shops for picking up groceries, the neighborhood bakery. Keep in mind the small mom-and-pop shops for services you may need once the emergency passes (more ideas on this below).

 

Travel, planning, future, hope

Awaiting the journey. Popayán, Colombia. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Last week, in another corner of cyberspace, I offered you all An Invitation to Virtual Travel, featuring my poetry, travel writings and photo essays through which you may journey to other lands.

An in another region of cyberspace, I wrote about Social Distance | 30 Tips for Travelers, to help us prepare for traveling in the future, when these “unprecedented adventures” which we are now experiencing end and we once more may go a-wandering … yes, we CAN dream – and plan – for future trips!

 

Now – I offer you 60 (and more!) ways to leave your boredom behind during pandemics – or other times when we may be forced to hide away …

Please drop your suggestions in the comments below!

 

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Will it be possible to salvage at least ONE of these old pair of jeans?!? photo © Lorraine Caputo

Around the House

With all this down time, take the opportunity to clear your living spaces – both physical and immaterial. This will help “lighten” the space you’re in!

  • Give your living space a deep clean. You’ll be getting your Spring cleaning done early (or, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, getting your abode ready e’er Winter settles in)! Also, it’ll help clear out any dust, spores or other respiratory tract irritants.
  • DYI small home repairs or improvements. Keep a list of the things you can’t do – and once the curfews and home isolation lift, refer them to a handyperson. (They’ll be needing income after this passes!)
  • Catch up on your mending (you know, that pile of jeans that need patching, socks that need darning, etc.). Put aside those that you’ll need to take to the local seamstress / tailor once we can circulate again.
  • Wash your woolens. Now’s the opportunity to give them all a proper hand washing with soft soap.
  • Wash your knapsack, day pack, cloth shopping bags, etc.
  • Clean out your junk drawers.
  • Clean out your closets and drawers and get rid of the clothing, shoes, etc. that you no longer use (or no longer fit). Put them aside for donating to a homeless or women’s shelter or church charity, or for reselling.
  • Give a good cleaning of the ol’ fridge – and defrost the freezer.
  • Clean out the pantry.
  • Organize your files.
  • Clean out your e-mail accounts and Facebook pages.
  • Plant a windowsill garden of herbs – or with seeds from your vegetables and fruits. (This would be a great lesson for kids!) If you have success, you’ll have fresh produce to supplement your meals.

 

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Old-fashioned letters are always a good way to stay in touch – especially to those who do not use (or have access to) internet. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Keeping in Touch

In these times when we may be separated from our friends and loved ones, it’s good to keep in touch. This is especially true for those that are in the at-risk groups (over 60 years of age, with chronic health issues or undergoing cancer treatments). It will assure them how you’re doing, and help them AND you feel less lonely, less isolated.

  • Catch up on e-mail correspondence that has fallen by the wayside. Write letters that will be sent once the post offices open once more.
  • Have chats by ZOOM, Skype, Messenger or other means. Use the telephone to call loved ones (especially if they don’t have a computer or internet).
  • Start a daily blog to inform loved ones and friends of what’s happening in your life. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate – just even a Note on your Facebook page.
  • Share your daily creations – poems, meditations, art work – on social media.
  • Brush up on the language you learned in high school – or learn a new one to prepare for a future trip (when we CAN once more travel). Popular sites are Babbel and Duolingo.

 

Culinary, foodie

Enjoy a special meal during this time. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Breaking Bread

Spending time at home gives us all the opportunity to leisurely enjoy food preparation and dining – something that, unfortunately, modern times don’t allow us to do. We often eat on the run, or each junk food … and rarely sit down together to break bread and share conversation. Now we can!

  • Prepare meals together – or take turns.
  • Involve the young ones in your household in the preparation and clean-up. They’ll learn useful skills they won’t in school.
  • Make Sunday dinner (or Sabbath seder) especially special.
  • Eat foods you normally wouldn’t for lunch – like deviled eggs or a mini antipasto.
  • Have an afternoon tea.
  • Prepare the labor-intensive foods you normally don’t have time to make (like lasagna or eggplant parmigiana), or a big pot of spaghetti sauce. Freeze part of it for a future meal.
  • Bake bread to serve hot and fresh with dinner. Experiment with different types of breads and different grains.
  • Check out my Recipe Corner for quick and easy meals to make.
  • Cook with legendary chef Julia Child.
  • The renowned Italian chef Massimo Bottura is offering cooking classes on his Instagram account.
  • Have a different country’s cuisine each night – Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai. Check for tutorials online.
  • Bake cookies, brownies or a cake for dessert – or for unwinding in the evening.
  • Set a nice table – complete with flowers, if you have a garden, or dine by candlelight.

 

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Anyone for a movie this evening – or even a 3 o’clock matinee? photo © Lorraine Caputo

Having a Cultural Night Out – At Home

After dinner, why not gather ‘round and share a night of culture – whether watching movies, visiting museums around the world, literary readings, interviews with renowned actors, opera, concerts and much more. Don’t forget the snacks!

  • Fix up a bowl of popcorn with your favorite toppings and kick back to watch movies. See the classics you haven’t seen in AGES, catch up on the new ones, view foreign flicks to learn about other cultures – and even be a kid again!
  • Watch the award-winning Inside the Actor’s Studio, James Lipton’s interviews with your favorite actors.
  • Or visit virtually 2,500 museums around the world. Here is one list 10 of the world’s top museums online, and another 12 you can stroll around. Google Arts & Culture has access to over 500 museums around the world, as well as tours of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) has FREE online courses on modern and contemporary art.
  • Pennsound offers a sound library of literary readings.
  • New York’s Metropolitan Opera is livestreaming its performances, and the Paris Opera is broadcasting theirs.
  • Tune in to a few classic concert flicks like the Concert for Bangladesh (with Ravi Shankar, George Harrison, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and many others; 1972), Live Aid (with not only Queen, but also Elvis Costello, Sade, Sting, Elton John and dozens of other acts; 1985) and Woodstock (Santana, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix … and so, so many other legends; 1969).
  • Musicians are joining in the Together, At Home initiative and giving concerts on Instagram.
  • Here are even more museums – and concerts and operas – you can enjoy from home.
  • If you are a musician, why not offer concerts on Facebook or Instagram? (I have several friends who are doing that.)
  • Poets and other writers can do the same by staging literary readings.

 

Take a Virtual Excursion

Just because we are stuck inside doesn’t mean we can’t experience the wonders around the world!

  • Take a virtual field trip to the Great Wall of China, the San Diego Zoo, Mars and many other destinations!
  • Visit 31 US national parks.
  • Or what about going on a safari to see penguins, pandas, African wildlife and other critters, with a live webcam?
  • Or perhaps Outer Space?

 

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Some common pantry goods you can use for a home spa. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Taking Care of Yourself – and Self

In these times of stress and uncertainty, it is important to pamper ourselves. There are various ways we can relax and help our immune systems stay strong.

  • With so much time on our hands, take the opportunity to have long, leisurely sessions of yoga. You can search online for videos, classes or consult websites like Yoga Journal. Some yoga postures are helpful when you have a respiratory ailment.
  • Another great way to keep the chi (energy) flowing through your body, to help you fight off infections and build your immune system is to practice tai chi and qi gong. Tai Chi 5 Minutes a Day is a course for beginners. Tai chi master Peter Deadman has a qi gong routine to strengthen the lungs.
  • Meditate! (My long-time favorite with scads of meditation styles is psychologist Lawrence LeShan’s book How to Meditate.)
  • Keep a journal in which you share your personal feelings and observations of what is going on. This can act as a release valve for your emotions – and serve as a document for yourself (and your family, and future generations) of what you experienced during these trying times …
  • Learn to make homemade facial masks – and give yourself an in-home spa. (Don’t forget cucumber slices or manzanilla/chamomile tea bags over your eyes to soothe them!)
  • Have an avocado that’s going bad? Use it as a deep-conditioning mask for your hair. Smash the avocado up and apply it to your freshly washed hair. Cover your hair with a plastic bag for 15 to 20 minutes, and then rinse your hair well.
  • Take a hot bubble bath – mix in soothing herbs (or herbal oils) like rosemary or lavender.

 

Night Sea

Night Sea (pen & ink; colored pencil) (published : Sea Stories, Blue Oceans Institute, Autumnal 2006) ©Lorraine Caputo

Passing the Time Creatively

Crafts allow you to escape for a while into another space – they are a meditation of sorts. It’ll help to pass the time (especially if you are out of work or alone) – and you’ll have items you can gift at Christmas or sell at fairs.

  • Learn – or if once upon a time you learned, pick up the hobby again – to knit, crochet, quilt, sew or woodworking.
  • You know all those scraps of soap you’ve been collecting? Why not finally turn them into new bars!
  • You can do the same with all the candle stubs that have been collecting.
  • Take a class with that tranquilo painter, Bob Ross!
  • Or download this fascinating, fantastic Color Our Collections, an initiative of the New York Academy of Medicine.
  • You can also print off my drawings to color.
  • Take the time to write – stories, a novel, travelogues, poetry – and to edit the backlog of works you’ve created.
  • Submit your work for publication! Many journals look for poetry, short stories, artwork, photography and other creations. To look for possible venues, check Trish Hopkinson’s website, Poets and Writers, New Pages, and Publishing … and Other Forms of Insanity. On Facebook, you’ll find the groups Call for Submissions and No Fee Call for Poems, among others.
  • Take a FREE daily online poetry workshop with Marj Hahne (16 March – 5 April).

 

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A stack of books – and many adventures, many worlds – to enjoy during these times. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Off the Grid

With so many people now working online, schoolkids doing lessons online and people escaping through videos and internet classes, you might find your internet connection getting stressed out. (And not to mention getting stressed out by the constant news – and increased stress means decreased immunity.)

So – disconnect and unwind!

  • Read an old-fashioned book. Catch up on the novels you’ve always meant to read – or browse through travel guidebooks or travelogues (we CAN continue to dream – and plan – for journeying in the future!) Here is a list of 25 sites from which you can download books FREE,
  • Play cards with your housemates – or play solitaire (there are over 150 ways to play!)
  • Play board games like dominoes, checkers, Chinese checkers, chess, jenga, or ladders & snakes.
  • Put together jigsaw puzzles. (Now you have time to do that 1,000-piece one that’s been lurking in the shadows!)
  • Have a home concert with musical instruments (or even a bucket or washboard!). If you’re alone, dust off your forgotten school recorder and relearn the songs you once played as a kid.
  • Have an at-home poetry reading or storytelling session.

 

And at the end of a long day ….

 

 

 

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel – March Equinox 2020

Ah, this year has started with so many challenges – rejections (17 in January alone!), and now the Corvid-19 corona virus pandemic, national decrees to stay inside, going out only for essentials, and curfews. But, nonetheless, my poetry and travel writing continue to appear in journals and on websites around the world.

Spend this March equinox browsing through the list (with links) below, poetically journeying to Ecuador, Colombia, the US and Venezuela.

In the realm of travel narrative – get valuable advice from women travelers, the low-down on over-rated and under-rated towns in the Andes mountains, and valuable tips on planning for a trip – yes, we CAN dream and prepare for traveling again in the future … for there WILL be a future!

…. and until we next meet …..

Safe Journeys!

 

Woman Scream Anthology, celebrating the 10th anniversary of this international women poets’ festival organization.

NEW LITERARY EXPRESSIONS

“Golden Horizons” in Sabr Literary Magazine (4 February 2020)

“Lejos de Casa” in Revista Máquina Combinatoria (Ecuador) (Febrero 2020)

“Mother Peace Meditation: Show Me Our Future, Sisters” in Woman Scream (Dominican Republic: Editorial Rosado Fucsia, 2020)

“Visits” and “Visitas” in Sin Fronteras / Writers without Borders Journal (Issue #24, March 2020)

 

Putre – an under-rated Andean village in Chile. photo © Lorraine Caputo

NEW TRAVEL EXPRESSIONS

Me voy de casa (Wanderful Quito / Yo Viajo Sola, 2020) — contributor

This collection of women travelers’ advice is culled from seven presentations viajeras gave at Yo Viajo Sola events in Quito, Ecuador. (I presented at the second such gathering.) An English translation of this book will be available in the future.

 

Latin Bus

Over-Rated and Under-Rated Towns in the Andes

 

AndesTransit

Social Distance | 30 Tips for Travelers

South America Borders – 2020 edition

 

If you are in need of an article for your publication or website, a translation – or your dissertation, book or article proofread / edited, please feel free to contact me. I am also available to participate in literary events.

 

 

 

 

THE CONDUCTOR AND HIS WIFE

I have spent many hours studying the hatched lines to see where the rail roads go. © Lorraine Caputo

 

For many years, I rode the rails in Mexico. Once upon a time (until the massive disappearance of passenger services in late 1997), Mexico was extensively criss-crossed by rail lines. I relished riding the train, experiencing the country on a more intimate level.

Between seasons in Alaska, I sometimes would travel. The winter of 1993-94 I had spent journeying in Mexico and Central America. Returning northward in mid-March, I took the División del Norte train from Mexico City to Ciudad Juárez on the northern border. (Ciudad Juárez is across the border from El Paso, Texas.) This narrative is from that ride.

Aaaaaalll aboooooord!

 

THE CONDUCTOR AND HIS WIFE

The conductor sits behind me. In the light of this car, he does his paperwork while listening to music. His black vest hangs open over a white shirt. His round, black hat lies on the seat beside him.

I settle in my seat on this train from Mexico City, heading north to Ciudad Juárez, and watch the half-moon following us. I wrap my shawl around me and listen to the song that has haunted me the past five months: Lástima que seas ajena … I drift in and out of sleep the entire night. The desert cold seeps into my bones.

Morning comes with the sounds of big band jazz—Gene Krupa’s unmistakable drumming and Frank Sinatra’s smooth crooning, Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade.” I sip a cup of coffee, warming away the chill and last night’s dreams.

At Aguascalientes, the conductor’s wife struts aboard. After the conductor finishes his paperwork, she fixes his lunch. He snuggles her plump body next to his. Throughout the afternoon, they watch the scenery slip by.

The sun has set and night fallen. A bright-yellow banana appears over my left shoulder. I turn to the smiling face of the conductor’s wife and thank her.  Just as I am biting into that creamy flesh, a croissant appears over the same shoulder.

Later, when she and her conductor-husband sit back for their dinner, she lifts up a jug of milk, asking if I want some. I hand her my mug, still with a bit of coffee in it. She shakes her head and cleans it out, and hands it back to me full of milk. Señora, thank you.

Once more, Vincente Fernández’ voice fills the night: Lástima que seas ajena … I drift into my dreams and memories.

The second morning has broken. I listen to Gloria Estéfan, learning the words to her songs, hand-drumming their rhythms. The scenery clicks by as we slowly near Juárez.

 

 

published in:

Foreign Encounters (Writers Abroad, 2012)

 

NEW YEAR’S EVE IN LATIN AMERICA : A Photographic – Poetic Journey

At the stroke of midnight, eat one grape at each toll, making a wish of what you desire the New Year to bring you. ©Lorraine Caputo

At the stroke of midnight, eat one grape at each toll, making a wish of what you desire the New Year to bring you. photo ©Lorraine Caputo

 

Tonight, as this old year ends, people will be celebrating throughout Latin America. Fireworks burst across the midnight sky, and twelve grapes are eaten with each stroke of that hour, to bring twelve wishes to fruition. Viejos (Old Man Year) are set afire, finally exploding into a million sparks shooting into the new year. Food and liquor flow into the wee hours.

 

One of Latin America’s most common New Year Eve traditions is the Old Man Years, often representing politicians, sports stars or other people in the news. photo © Lorraine Caputo

One of Latin America’s most common New Year Eve traditions is the Old Man Years, often representing politicians, sports stars or other people in the news. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

The most explosive of the customs is the Años Viejos (Old Man Years). These effigies represent politicians, sports figures, entertainment celebrities or other famous persons. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, they are dragged to the middle of the street and lit ablaze. Once the flames reach the center of the effigy, the fireworks stuffing explodes.

Some Latin American neighborhoods have contests for the best one, in which civilians and public services, like the bomberos (fire department), participate. In Ecuador, the end-of-year custom also includes displays summarizing the year’s events in political, sporting and other arenas. Often Años Viejos are accompanied with a testamento, a word of advice or with a list of the things to be burned before the New Year begins.

 

Colombians believe that a sheath of wheat placed in your home brings abundant food and prosperity in the New Year. ©Lorraine Caputo

Colombians believe that a sheaf of wheat placed in your home brings abundant food and prosperity in the New Year. photo ©Lorraine Caputo

 

Colombia has a bevy of traditions (agüeros) not practiced in other parts of Latin America. They believe that a sheath of wheat placed in your home brings abundant food and prosperity in the New Year. At the stroke of midnight, Colombians walk around the block with a suitcase (to bring lots of travel in the next year), count money over and again (to make it multiply), or take a champagne bath (to ensure good fortune and prosperity). They also have a number of other ways to draw wealth, good luck — and even to divine the future year.

 

Yellow for luck in life, red for luck in love. ©Lorraine Caputo

Yellow for luck in life, red for luck in love. photo ©Lorraine Caputo

 

One custom that Colombia shares with its southern neighbor, Ecuador, is wearing yellow underwear to draw good vibes. Red will fulfill passionate desires.

 

Ecuador’s most unique New Years’ custom is the Viudas Alegres, or Merry Widows. ©Lorraine Caputo

Ecuador’s most unique New Years’ custom is the Viudas Alegres, or Merry Widows. photo ©Lorraine Caputo

 

But besides the fireworks and the Viejos, that equatorial country seems to have something all its own: the Viudas Alegres, or the Merry Widows. Ecuadorian men dress up as women and joyfully greet all on the streets. Why do the men do this? Some state that these are the Merry Widows of Old Man Year, so happy to see him finally gone and done with. Others say, to disguise themselves from the problems of the old year, so those troubles don’t follow them into the New Year. But you’ll see everyone, man and woman, child and adult, dressing up. Quito’s Centro Histórico streets are crowded with vendors selling everything from cheap, florescent wigs to pointy witches’ hats to help outfit the Viudas.

 

Street vendors and shops begin selling colorful wigs the day after Christmas. ©Lorraine Caputo

Street vendors and shops begin selling colorful wigs the day after Christmas. photo ©Lorraine Caputo

The perfect eyelashes to go along with your new hair-do. You may also pick up shimmering, pointy witches’ hats, and an array of body parts: breasts, tushes, and aprons covering the (ahem) nether regions. ©Lorraine Caputo

The perfect eyelashes to go along with your new hair-do. You may also pick up shimmering, pointy witches’ hats, and an array of body parts: breasts, tushes, and aprons covering the (ahem) nether regions. photo ©Lorraine Caputo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Ecuadorian custom is to have a baño – or spiritual bath, to cleanse oneself of negative energies. Business owners also sweep their stores clean, from back rooms to the front door, with brooms made of eucalyptus, rue, chamomile and other herbs, then lock the shop up tight until the New Year.

 

To enter the New Year spiritually clean, Ecuadorians line up for a baño. photo ©Lorraine Caputo

To enter the New Year spiritually clean, Ecuadorians line up for a baño. photo ©Lorraine Caputo

 

Since 1988, I have spent most northern winters travelling in Latin America. I have rung in the New Year in large cities and small towns in Mexico, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina.

One scene that stays with me – that I have never witnessed before or since – are the fireworks in Santiago de Chile: The burst formed one giant blue heart, from which emerged another blue heart and yet another and yet another … Such a beautiful way to end a night of feasting, drinking and bottle dancing in the middle of a street at a block party.

In Trujillo (Honduras), like everyone else, I dodged the Bárbaro. This Garífuna custom involves a bare-chested man dressed in a grass mini-skirt, covered in rouge or grease, demanding spare change from all on the street. (The money is used for community parties and projects.) If you don’t give him even a mere centavito, he will give you a big bear hug – thus covering you with grease (or rouge).

In Havana, I spent the night with Cubans, eating and dancing to the world’s best music. At the midnight hour, the national anthem played, everyone singing along, to mark another year of the Revolution. (Yes, that scene from the Godfather II is true: At the stroke of midnight, dictator Fulgencio Batista announced he was throwing in the towel and, loaded down with millions of dollars in cash, art and jewels, boarded a plane into exile, thus handing victory over to the guerrilleros after their decisive victory in Santa Clara, under the command of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.)

In Bucaramanga (Colombia), at the invitation of the hostels’ family, I lit a candle for my next year. In Puerto Ayora, Galápagos (Ecuador), I saw the beauty pageant in which those lovely Viudas Alegres showed off their talents, modeling and answering “probing” questions.

In Mexico, I pondered what the New Year would bring to a world on the brink of war. In Ecuador, I watched a Syrian refugee immerse himself in the local customs.

Today, let us poetically journey to these celebrations and ponderings.

May the New Year be full of Light, and wishes come true.

Safe Journeys!

 

“ … & at that hour / they are burnt …” photo © Lorraine Caputo

“ … & at that hour / they are burnt …” photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

WELCOMING THE NEW YEAR

(Colombia)

Midnight approaches

without a

bell toll

 

Already rockets burst

in green & white

in a red heart

against a sooty sky

The old men are dragged

to the streets

 

& at that hour

they are burnt

firework stuffing

exploding

 

& we eat grapes, one

by one

Gabriel counts his money

over & again

Rice is thrown, scattering

in the still air

Someone walks around a block

suitcase in hand

 

To welcome in a

better year

 

published in:

The Blue Hour (1 January 2013)

 

“ … blasts of fireworks / To scare away the demons …” photo © Lorraine Caputo

“ … blasts of fireworks / To scare away the demons …” photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

NEW YEAR’S TRIPTYCH

(Mexico)

I.

Outside the empty

streets echo

with blasts of fireworks

To scare away the demons

that lurk in the shadows

of time a-changing

 

& within this silent house

my mind echoes

Scare away those demons

of war, hunger, disease

Scare away those demons

of misery & poverty

Scare away those demons

of corporate greed

that is destroying this planet

 

II.

At midnight

the streets fall silent

I eat a grape

at each stroke of the hour

& wish

May there be no war

& wish

May there be peace on earth

 

& then

more cracks to scare

the last demons away

 

III.

Come dawn

the smell of a fire

creeps along the

abandoned streets

A police car’s red-blue-red-blue-

yellow lights silently

reflect off windows

 

Standing in the

ochre fog that slithers

past sleeping homes

& closed shops

I look for an answer

of what this new year

may hold

 

published in:

The Blue Hour (1 January 2013)

 

“& the man in the bright pink wig dances …” photo © Lorraine Caputo

“& the man in the bright pink wig dances …” photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

DANCE FOR A NEW YEAR

(Ecuador)

The near-midnight streets

are littered with

the frenzied sales of this day

Someone sweeps them

into large piles

& sets them ablaze

On one corner a family sits

drinking to music

 

& the man in the bright pink wig dances

 

On corners

& midways down blocks

the Merry Widows of this dying year

stop cars for coins

dancing, lying atop hoods

 

& the man in the bright pink wig dances

 

On stages decked with eucalyptus

Old Man Years slump in plastic chairs

a DJ spins, a young woman sings

 

& the man in the bright pink wig

dances with abandon

 

The midnight hour

the Old Men are dragged to

the center of those cobblestone streets

gasoline poured & set afire

 

& the man in the bright pink wig

dances with frenzy

 

As far as the streets climb

steeply up, the fires blaze, fireworks

explode

 

& the man in the bright pink wig

frantically dances

to forget he cannot go home

to his war-rent country

his family cannot get out

his uncle dies of poisoned water

a wife to be found, a family to be formed

 

Heavy smoke filled the narrow streets

stinging eyes, burning lungs

creeping past shuttered shops

creeping past the migrant indigenous

families come to the city for work

round dancing to Andean cumbia

 

& the man in the bright pink wig

dances, dances

 

published in:

Prachya Review (Bangladesh) (Summer 2016)

 

“Music of distant parties throbs in the land’s crimps.” photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

MIDNIGHT TOLL

(Ecuador)

Even before those

midnight bells ring

 

This valley resounds with the explosion, the sizzle of fireworks spiraling green, white, red sparks against the yellow-light speckled hills.

The Old Men are dragged to the streets & set afire. Eager to see this year ended, people leap over the flames, beckoning luck to come.

 

Yet I await that

new year hour to toll

 

Awaiting to embrace my future dreams

bursting, sizzling before

 

The fireworks die … fading. Silence fills the streets. Music of distant parties throbs in the land’s crimps.

The smoke of Old Man Year’s fires & of the fireworks lowers with the silence, mingling with the clouds lowering, obscuring this valley’s slopes.

 

poem © Lorraine Caputo

 

Another year ends, another yet begins. ©Lorraine Caputo

Another year ends, another yet begins. photo ©Lorraine Caputo

 

CHRISTMAS IN LATIN AMERICA : A Poetic – Photographic Journey

Navidad procession in El Cocuy, Colombia. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Navidad procession in El Cocuy, Colombia. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The streets are crowded with people rushing from shop to shop, buying gifts. Vendors call, Wrapping paper, five sheets for a dollar! Barely heard above the ruckus are the greetings of the jolly fat man dressed in red, perhaps accompanied by two curvaceous elves dressed in micro-minis. At schools and workplaces, partiers are dressed in costume, and bags of candies or large boxes of viveres (dry goods) gifted.

Pase de Niño. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Pase de Niño. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Processions wind through narrow streets. From before Christmas through the Feast of Epiphany, city traffic will be stopped for the Pase del Niño. Schoolchildren dress as José, María, the three Wise Men, shepherds (pastores) and angels to accompany the baby Christ. And, of course, in the novena leading up to Christmas Day, the pre-dawn prayers and song of the faithful softly echo down the cobblestone lanes.

Large manger scenes decorate the churches, homes and even hilltops. In living rooms, families read the novena in front of the nativity scene. On Nochebuena (Christmas Eve), they go to the special mass where the baby Jesus is presented, kissed by all, then placed in the manger scene. The midnight sky is painted by the bursts of hundreds of fireworks, celebrating the birth of the Lord Savior. After the mass, families retire home for a big feast and to exchange gifts. (In few places do they keep the custom of gift-giving on the Feast of Epiphany, the Day of the Three Magi – 6 January.)

Christmas-season dinners differ from country to country. There may be turkey or tamales (a.k.a. hallacas). A Mexican side dish is ensalada de Nochebuena (Christmas Eve Salad), made of apple, celery and walnuts dressed with heavy cream. In Argentina, they’ll be sitting down to a parrillada (barbecue). A common desert is pan de Pascua or panetón, similar to the Italian delicacy, panettone (a sweet bread with dried fruits and nuts). Rompope, a drink very much like eggnog, will be spiked with rum; this typical drink is called cola de mono in Chile.

Everywhere, villancicos are sung. Some of these Christmas carols are familiar, like Noche de Paz (Silent Night). Others are unique to Latin America, such as El Burrito Sabanero. Unlike northern European (including US) traditions, caroling from house to house is not common.

In Latin America, the weeks leading up to 25 December are like much elsewhere. But each country, each place also has its traditions.

In Mexico, are the posadas, nine days of processions through neighborhoods, topped off with tamales and hot atole drink. Also in Mexico – specifically Oaxaca – is the Noche de Rábanos, or Night of the Radishes, celebrated on 23 December with a popular competition of the best-carved giant radishes.

In Trujillo, on Honduras’ Caribbean coast, the Indio Bárbaro accosts people for donations to community projects. If you happen to be out on the street when he passes by, and you refuse to give him a “tip,” he will bear-hug you with his grease-covered body! Another Garífuna tradition in these Black Caribe towns, is Hüngühüngü (also called Fedu), the women-oriented processions of the singing, dancing grandmas.

Cousin Its in Málaga, Colombia. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Cousin Its in Málaga, Colombia. photo © Lorraine Caputo

During the Christmas novena (16-24 December) in the small mountain village of Málaga (Colombia), teens dress up as Matachines (masked, Cousin-It-looking creatures). They prowl the streets, brandishing gaily painted, inflated cow’s bladders. Money collected from would-be wallop victims is used to fund the carrazo floats in the parades at the beginning of January.

Everyone heads to the beach during the Christmas-New Year holiday, if they can. Prices rise – for transport, lodging and food – and the strand is über-crowded with lots of drinking people blaring music. This is definitely a time to witness Latin American partying at its finest. (If you prefer your beach scene to be, well, rather saner, I recommend you wait. Leave the beaches to the locals during holidays – you can go any time.) And some folk, in order to finance these family vacations, resort to petty thievery in the weeks leading up to the holiday: Keep an eye on your belongings!


Since 1988, I have spent most northern winters travelling in Latin America. I have passed the Christmas season in large cities and small towns in Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina.

I have witnessed and celebrated many of these traditions. My encounter with the Indio Bárbaro in Trujillo (me, barefoot, recuperating from a broken toe, returning from the beach with nary a centavito in my shorts, is one of the culturally most embarrassing moments I’ve ever, well, enacted …) In Estelí (Nicaragua), I shared a meal with a Quebecois, of whatever special things we could find in the market ($1 US for an apple!). In Chile, I took a train on Christmas Eve, arriving in the capital like the Virgin Mary: no room at the inns.

Today, let’s take a poetic-photographic trip through the sights and sounds of Navidad in Latin America.

And however and wherever you are celebrating this holiday, may your season be bright, and the New Year be full of wishes come true.

Safe Journeys!

 

This beautiful pesebre in Iglesia Señora del Carmen (Pamplona, Colombia) extends half-ways down the nave. photo © Lorraine Caputo

This beautiful pesebre in Iglesia Señora del Carmen (Pamplona, Colombia) extends half-ways down the nave. photo © Lorraine Caputo

For the past few weeks, Catholic churches and public spaces throughout Latin America have displayed crèches, These Nativity scenes – called belén (Bethlehem), nacimiento or pesebre in Spanish – display Mary (María), Joseph (José) and the three Kings (Tres Magos or Tres Reyes Magos) along with shepherds and angels.

Beyond the usual cast of characters, though, is a motley assembly of animals: Among the expected sheep, camels and burros are farm animals – chickens, pigs, cows, etc. – and local fauna, like llama. The animals and humans are of a variety of sizes. It is not unusual to see a cock towering over a Magi.

 

MÉRIDA MAGI

(Mérida, Mexico)

In the oldest cathedral

on the American continent

built of Maya temple stones

On the day the Three Kings

visited the manger

in this side chapel

Mary tenderly places the Christ child in his cradle

Joseph presents him with out-stretched hand

Slowly the Magi approach

passing by a giant cow

by a giant tapir

Yellow lights drape the plastic pine boughs

& dried palm fronds hung

with colorful glass ornaments

They wink in electronic rhythm to

 

Oh, All ye faithful coming

shepherds     magi     & others

Hark! Do you hear the herald angels singing

with the jingling bells?

Even Santa Claus is coming to this town

on this silent night

when joy has entered the world

Frosty the Snowman watches

those who come a-wassailing

 

Through the open windows

wrought-iron-grilled

the sound & smell of traffic passes

The chapel begins to resound

with the cathedral bells pealing

for five-o-clock mass

 

poem © Lorraine Caputo

 

Iglesia San Sebastián, located on the eastern flank of the Panecillo (Calle Loja and Calle Borerro) reflects the barrio’s indigenous heritage: José and María are from the Shuar nation. The three Magi are from Otavalo, Esmeraldas and Tsáchila. The scene also includes the fathers and nuns of the Oblate order doing missionary work among Ecuador’s other indigenous nations. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Iglesia San Sebastián, located on the eastern flank of the Panecillo, reflects the barrio’s indigenous heritage: José and María are from the Shuar nation. The three Magi are from Otavalo, Esmeraldas and Tsáchila. The scene also includes the fathers and nuns of the Oblate order doing missionary work among Ecuador’s other indigenous nations. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The infant Jesus is not added to the Nativity scene until tonight, 24 December. At the night mass, the infant is presented to the congregation. Each devotee shall kiss him, before he is tenderly placed in the straw-filled cradle in the center of the pesebre.

The Latin American custom is for the family to attend mass together (however, the Misa de Gallos, or Midnight Mass is quite rare these days), and then break fast with a huge family meal.

 

NATIVITY

(Valladolid, Mexico)

Near midnight       on Christmas Eve

Within the aged church

A line of people slowly passes to the front

 

Each stoops to kiss

the Christ child nestled

in the arms of a woman

A nun stands next to her

handkerchief in hand

ready to wipe away lipstick

 

Fathers with their young sons and daughters

stop in front of the manger

framed in winking lights

to ponder the miracle

of the still-empty cradle

 

After the last mother, the last child

has welcomed that baby

He is laid into the straw-bedded cradle

his hands wide open to this world

his fat legs kicking the air

 

& the families step into the streets

washed clean by the rain

the sunset lightning had forebode

 

poem © Lorraine Caputo

 

In many Catholic homes, families also present a manger scene. In the evenings, they gather around it to say the novena and sing villencicos (Christmas carols). It is not uncommon for the manger cradle to hold more than one infant Jesus. They are the personal Christs of several generations of the family: mother, daughters, aunts, grandmother. photo © Lorraine Caputo

In many Catholic homes, families also present a manger scene. In the evenings, they gather around it to say the novena and sing villancicos (Christmas carols). It is not uncommon for the manger cradle to hold more than one infant Jesus. They are the personal Christs of several generations of the family: mother, daughters, aunts, grandmother. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Nativity scenes aren’t just relegated to churches. Many homes and businesses will also have one set up – like this inn in northern Mexico.

 

COURTYARD CRÈCHE

(San Fernando, Mexico)

The moon is almost full

sometimes visible through

the swift heavy clouds

 

Beneath, within the black of this night

Mary recently full, now illuminated

stares down upon her child

Her hands are crossed

against her full breasts

Joseph looks plaintively

upon her child

They are framed

in winking multi-color lights

Each strand alit for just a moment

then still in the gusty night

 

The courtyard is dark and quiet

Puddles from the days of passing rains

glisten in the holy lights of this chilled night

 

poem © Lorraine Caputo

 

 

The scene in Quito’s most luxurious church, La Compañía, has a classic air to it, in harmony with the temple’s Baroque interior. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The scene in Quito’s most luxurious church, La Compañía, has a classic air to it, in harmony with the temple’s Baroque interior. photo © Lorraine Caputo

 

SOUNDS OF SILENCE

(Quito, Ecuador)

These Christmas Eve streets

echo with the mournful

song of a blind

man’s accordion

 

These Christmas Eve streets

beneath the dim light

of a waning crescent moon

yet to be arisen

 

 

These Christmas Eve streets

echoing with the footfall

of families going to mass

 

announced by silent bells

the cry of a new-born

babe in a manger

 

in a parish church

bathed in the perfume

of palo santo

 

 

The silence of footfalls

upon centuries-old

wooden floors

 

the silence of prayers

before the crèche broken

by a baby’s cry

 

 

These Christmas Eve streets

echoing with the silence

of the departed blind

accordion

 

 

poem © Lorraine Caputo

 

The crèche in Iglesia La Merced, in the Historic Center of Lima, Peru, occupies one large side chapel of the church, and includes scenes of the Peruvian life in the countryside and the city. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The crèche in Iglesia La Merced, in the Historic Center of Lima, Peru, occupies one large side chapel of the church, and includes scenes of the Peruvian life in the countryside and the city. photo © Lorraine Caputo

We grow up with the tale of ghosts of Christmas past. In Northern European indigenous traditions, ghost stories are told around the Yule log. This season, it is believed, is one of the times of year when the veils between the World of the Living and the World of the Dead part, allowing families and friends to once again reunite.

One year in Buenos Aires, I could sense those spirits and I thought about relatives who had immigrated to that port city almost a century earlier.

 

MIDNIGHT NAVIDAD

(Buenos Aires, Argentina)

In these narrow streets

of San Telmo

lit by a nearly

full moon

Midnight Navidad

erupts with the burst

of fireworks

set by boys & men

The sparkles reflect

in windows of

Gardel’s day

The cracks splinter the

mourning song

of bandoneón

In the shadows

of doorways stand

families shawled in

the cool of summer’s eve

& the spirits perished

from cholera & yellow fever,

of immigrants surviving

in cramped conventillos

 

published in:

North Dakota Quarterly (issue 86.3 / 4, November 2019)

 

Iglesia Santo Domingo (Quito, Ecuador). photo © Lorraine Caputo

Iglesia Santo Domingo (Quito, Ecuador). photo © Lorraine Caputo

One thing – especially for travelers from the Northern Hemisphere – that is much different about Navidad in Latin America is that a White Christmas exists only in song. Only in the extreme north of Mexico (perhaps, depending on the year) and the highest of mountains will you find snow. Most of the region is located in the tropics, and it is summer south of the equator.

 

RESISTENCIA CHRISTMAS EVE

(Resistencia, Argentina)

All day
the heat, the humidity
strummed sultry,
multi-grey cumulus mounding
high into the heavens

until late afternoon
when its crescendo
erupted into thunder
pulsed by lightning

a rain washing
the blistered streets raw
& the clouds
into a uniform tone

Near midnight
the cathedral is dark
A man eats cake
before resting
on his blanket
upon the steps

A few kiosks are yet
grilling sandwiches, serving beer
to customers
at sidewalk tables

All else is closed
(save a pharmacy)
security guards murmur

Festive lights pulsate
in darkened windows
The laughter, the music
of a party drifts
down a deserted street

As that twelve o’clock hour nears
the crescendo of rockets
mounts, pulsed by sprays of
multi-colored sparks across
the heavens, clouds of gunpowder
drifting skywards
Resting birds startle
from a tree

The hotel watchman
sits in a lawn chair
on the front walk,
sipping sidra &
listening to chamamé
on his radio

 

poem © Lorraine Caputo

 

A Nativity scene in Esquel, Argentina. photo © Lorraine Caputo