CHINATOWN MEETS LATIN AMERICA

After weeks on the road, do you need a respite from the typical Latin American experiences and food? Then head to the nearest Chinatown and trip into a cultural and culinary break! In Spanish, these neighborhoods are called Barrio Chino.

If you need a break from the ubiquitous rice or lake of vegetables in Latin American meals, you can always head to a chifa, as Chinese restaurants are called in Latin America, for tallarines (noodles). These eateries are found in cities and small towns alike. The food, though, is often prepared for locals’ taste buds. It can be difficult to find authentically flavored Chinese food outside of a Barrio Chino.

And, if it happens to be the Chinese New Year, you can watch the dances!

Chinese Immigration to Latin America

Chifas are so common wherever you go in Latin America, you may be wondering, Why are there so many Chinese in this region?

At the beginning in the mid-19th century, many Chinese arrived to the Americas to work in building the region’s railroads, laying irrigation ditches or working in other agricultural tasks. Today, many of the new immigrants take advantage of the favorable investor visas many Latin America countries offer, and open import shops or other businesses.

Chinese have emigrated from many parts of China, especially Guangdong (Canton), Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Other Asians – especially Japanese and Koreans – have also migrated to Latin America. In Spanish, these nations are also colloquially called chinos (Chinese).

º

From the Crossroads of the World

(Panama City, Panama)

Before sunset I stroll atop the old Spanish seawall, on the very tip of the Casco Viejo. From there I see a looming yellow & blue ship finishing its passage through the canal. Further up-canal lights are just outlining the spans of the Bridge of the Americas.

That soft, ever-present sea breeze blows. I descend to the Plaza de Francia. Near the pale-blue and white French Embassy, a creole child sits on his balcony, eating a sandwich.

& through the narrow brick streets lined with fine & crumbling colonial buildings I wander. The day’s laundry still hangs on lines strung across balconies. Radios blare salsa, boleros, old-fashioned sones.

The Chinese shopkeepers stutter What do you want?, their faces crunched in not-understanding of this foreign tongue.

All along the way, women lean on the picket fences of their doorways, talking.

East Indians roll down the metal gates of their import stores. But still the scent of their incense lingers.

Kids play kickball, ride bicycles, scooting out of the way for an occasional taxi.

Kuna women in bright mola blouses and batik skirts continue home. Their black hair cropped short, their wide beaded anklets & bracelets catch the last of the waning sun.

published in:

Australian Latino Press (22 May 2014)

º

Chinatowns exist in Panama City and a number of other Latin American cities, most often in the historic center of the ciudad. Here you’ll find restaurants, bakeries, import shops, cultural centers – and even in some, Chinese medicine personnel, fortunetellers and practitioners of other traditional occupations, as well as Buddhist temples. Other Asian nationalities – Japanese, Korean, etc. – also reside in some Barrios Chinos.

Some Chinatowns you can visit are:

  • Mexicali, Mexico (Avenida Madero and Calle Melgar, 500 meters south of the US-Mexico border, and surrounding blocks) – the Chinatown here is called La Chinesca and is reported to have over 300 restaurants
  • Mexico City (Calle de Dolores, near the Palacio de Bellas Artes)
  • San José, Costa Rica (between Calle 7 and Calle 11, and between Avenida 2 and Avenida 14, bwteen the Catedral and the Museo Nacional) – Latin America’s youngest Barrio Chino, officially founded in 2012
  • Panama City, Panama (Calle Colón and Calle Salsipuedes, Barrio Santa Ana)
  • Guayaquil, Ecuador (Calle Sucre, between Chimborazo and Carbo)
  • Lima, Peru (Jirón Paruro and Jirón Ucayali, Central Lima)
  • São Paulo, Brazil (Avenida Paulista) – This Chinatown is known as Liberdade, and has a largely Japanese population
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina (Calle Arribeños, between Juramento y Olazábal, in Barrio Belgrano)
  • Havana, Cuba (Calle Zanja and Calle de los Dragones) – said to be the oldest and largest Chinatown in Latin America, and is the only one with its own cemetery (Cementerio General Chino, in Nuevo Vedado, near the Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón)

Let’s head down to Lima’s Barrio Chino for a quick photographic journey!

Lima’s Barrio Chino

From Lima’s Plaza de Armas, walk three blocks up Huallaga to Avenida Abancay. Turn right on Abancay and walk one block to Ucayali. Walk two blocks further east on Ucayali, and you’ll arrive at a large, ornate rad gateway.

This marks the entry into Lima’s Chinatown, which stretches from Jirón Junín to Jirón Puno, and from Andahuaylas to nearly Huanta.

As you walk along the pedestrian mall, you’ll see the 12 signs of the Chinese horoscope beneath your feet. The bustling streets are lined with stalls offering Chinese-language newspapers and a kiosk attends to spiritual matters. Banks and stores have signs in Spanish and Chinese. Over there is another acupuncturist, and there are several Oriental medicine shops. Import shops provide everything from foods to knickknacks. Dozens of chifas line these streets. In many of their windows, roasted ducks hang and pigs repose.

Lima, Peru, Chinatown, Barrio Chino

The gateway into Lima’s Barrio Chino. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Lima, Peru, Chinatown, Barrio Chino

The pedestrian mall is paved with the animals of the Chinese horoscope. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Lima, Peru, Chinatown, Barrio Chino

You can have your Chinese horoscope cast. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Lima, Peru, Chinatown, Barrio Chino

A Chinese news stand. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Lima, Peru, Chinatown, Barrio Chino

Roast ducks. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Lima, Peru, Chinatown, Barrio Chino

If you’re needing relief from the rigors of the road, you can drop by a clinic for acupuncture treatments. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Lima, Peru, Chinatown, Barrio Chino

Even the major banks advertise in Chinese. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Celebrating Chinese New Year

Lima, Peru, Chinatown, Barrio Chino

photo © Lorraine Caputo

Lima, Peru, Chinatown, Barrio Chino

photo © Lorraine Caputo

Lima, Peru, Chinatown, Barrio Chino

photo © Lorraine Caputo

Lima, Peru, Chinatown, Barrio Chino

photo © Lorraine Caputo

Lima, Peru, Chinatown, Barrio Chino

photo © Lorraine Caputo

GINGER ALMOND CAKE 

cake, ginger, almond, backpacker

A dollop of whipped cream is a great finishing touch for this Ginger Almond Cake! photo © Lorraine Caputo

This buttery, spicy Ginger Almond Cake is perfect after-dinner treat or special occasion. It’ll warm you up on a chill evening – yet is refreshing on a sultry night.

And like many of my specialty cakes in the Recipe Corner, this Ginger Almond Cake can be baked in an oven … or on a stove top!

For a quick primer on ingredient names in Spanish, please consult: IN THE KITCHEN : A Bilingual Glossary to Ingredients.

 

GINGER ALMOND CAKE

In blender pitcher, whip at high setting:

½ cup butter, softened

⅔ cup brown sugar

⅓ cup almond liqueur (amaretto)

2 centimeter (¾ inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled

Add and whip well:

2 eggs

1 cup almonds

In another bowl, mix together well:

1 cup flour (I prefer using whole wheat flour)

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

Fold the butter mixture into the flour mixture.

Lightly oil and flour a heavy four-liter pot. Pour in the batter. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the top springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick (or thin knife) inserted near the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

To cook it in a more conventional manner, lightly grease and flour a cake pan, and pour in the batter. Bake in a preheated 180ºC (350ºF) oven until the top springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick (or thin knife) inserted near the center comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.

When the pot is cool, remove the cake. Serve plain, or top it with whipped cream and, for an extra-special touch, a fresh strawberry cut into a fan.

¡Buen provecho!

º

Tips

If you cannot obtain the almond liqueur, brew a strong ginger tea and add ⅓ cup of the ginger tea in place of the liqueur. Omit the ginger in the recipe. To make the ginger tea:

  • Cut 3 centimeters (1 inch) of peeled ginger into small chunks. Add to 1 liter of water in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn fire down to low, cover the pot with a lid, and simmer the mixture for 15-20 minutes.
  • This Ginger Tea is also a fantastic cold remedy! Add honey and lemon for maximum medicinal effect.

THE MÉRIDA EXPRESS

Mexico, trains

Taking the train from Córdoba (far left) to Mérida (far upper right)

º

19 December 1997 / 6:45 a.m. / Córdoba, Veracruz

Day is just breaking. The air is cool and damp.

The Mexico City train has finally arrived … late. We, its newest passengers, stumble across the tracks where these two lone cars await their locomotive.

º

II.

I drift from out of memories of the dream I had before awakening at four to catch this train.

We pass by kilometers of tassling sugar cane. The morning mist swirls over blades of cane and around flowering mango trees, around banana trees, around orange trees heavy with fruit.

A man sings a ditty, holding up boxes of vitamins: “Oh, you can have a woman so beautiful. Oh, but on the inside she could be oh, so sick. And with these vitamins… Only ten pesitos…”

Teenage girls giggle at his comments. Men snigger and sneer.

But as this vendor walks the length of the car, people pull out ten-peso notes with the face of legendary revolutionary Emiliano Zapata for those red and  black magic pills.

We now pass through a narrow valley. Sugar cane stretches out to those green mountains swathed in misty clouds. Those mountains look like mango trees. Oh, and the mango trees – like clouds. So many villages all along, houses made of scrap wood boards, of scrap tin.

º

III. 10:10 a.m. /Tierra Blanca, Veracruz

The car in front of us is unhooked. Our locomotive pulls it away. The woman next to me says assuredly a third one will be added.

Into this car, more passengers flow aboard, and vendors with buckets of drink, plates of food. They can barely push by the people without seats.

The sun brightens my window as it weakly tears at the clouds. Along the ground aside our car, dogs sniff for chicken bones tossed out windows. A boy rides a donkey down the street.

Across the aisle, from the overhead rack, a father strings a hammock for his son. The young one suckles his mother’s breast.

We begin traveling again, just one car. A troupe of buzzards flies up off the tracks we approach.

Our train passes truck upon truck, railcars upon railcars overflowing with cut sugar cane. A man sits in his yard husking corn. Those mountains are now further off.

º

IV. 1:15 p.m. / Approaching La Palma

We’re traveling through a huge patchwork of various shades of green and different textures. Fields of pineapples, fallow fields, pastures.

At the side of the tracks, zopilotes casts their shadows over a dead cow. We clack past small towns of cabañas, palm-thatch roofs. Their cane-slat walls are stuccoed and rarely painted.

º

V. 3:15 p.m. / Los Tigres

It’s still 45 kilometers to Medias Aguas, about an hour away. The train stops briefly at this station in the middle of flatlands.

Two women come aboard with large baskets filled with tacos and chilis rellenos. The train’s porter follows right behind, selling soft drinks and beer.

º

VI. 5:37 p.m. / Stopped south of Medias Aguas, in the middle of nowhere

On this train is a young man, his hair greying already. He wears four layers of filthy shirts beneath a holey sweater. His pants are several sizes too big and held up with a rope. The tennis shoes are mismatched, one held together with a string tied around the sole.

It’s going to be a long night – no lights in this car, that screeching kid, and the humidity.

Dusk has fallen. People rush to move their belonging down from the racks to the floor, in front of their seats.

The trees are getting restless. I wonder if a storm is a-coming.

º

VII. 8 p.m. / Just past Chinameca, Veracruz

I am awakened by a conversation between a woman from Chiapas sitting next to me and a man in the aisle. I am held by the edge in her voice and his replies.

“It’s a disgrace how they treat us passengers,” she says.                               

“Indeed, it is,” he replies.

“Not giving us another car, making us squeeze into this one. Especially when there are so many people traveling now with the holidays.”

“Yes,” the señor says.

“But there aren’t any extra cars. They’re using them all to transport soldiers to the south.” Since the Zapatista uprising in her home state, many troops have been mobilized in that region.

“No, you don’t have that right,” the man states firmly. “It’s to transport soldiers and federales to the north, to Chihuahua, to fight against the narcotraffickers.”

“No, to move soldiers to the south.”

“No. It isn’t as simple as that. It’s much more complex.” He spits on the ground, leaving a mark on his pant leg.

º

 VIII. 20 December / 7:30 a.m. / Macuspana, Tabasco

This is my second dawn upon this train that once more is nothing more than the lightening of a clouded sky and still the steady light rain. The morning mists swirl around the jungle-covered mountains. The sun is beginning to break through the clouds. Canes and vines brush against our train.

We pass a village of rough-board, tin-roofed houses.  Turkeys waddle in the yards. One fans his ragged tail wide.

º

IX. 11:43 a.m. / Tenosique, Tabasco

We have been stopped here now for 20 minutes. A whole chorus of women’s voices – from young girls to abuelitas (grandmothers) – chant their noonday offerings.

A musical family boards. Father plays guitar and sings. A son plays güiro and takes tips. Someone plays an electric keyboard, drowning out the rest of them.

º

X. 3:33 p.m. / Don Samuel, Campeche

I chuckle as we pass the primary school named after Emiliano Zapata. (Again he appears during this train journey.)

º

XI. 5:38 p.m. / Wherever

It’s now my second dusk upon this train is about to fall.

Some say we will be in Mérida about 2 a.m., others say no, 9 or 10 a.m. We’ll see … we’ll see …

We had been passing through the heavily wooded, rolling flatlands of Campeche State. Sometimes we dip into a cut through these low hills.

º

XII. 7:40 p.m. / Campeche City

We’ve just pulled into here. According to the train schedule, it’s four more hours to Mérida. But if this trip so far is any indication …

A group of soldiers come aboard and begin checking baggage. Their lights flash across the ceiling. I look out the window. More soldiers, rifles slung over shoulders walk the platform.

I quietly ask another passenger, “Why is there so many of them?”

In the darkness, comes the answer. “They’re looking for drugs and other contraband. If you look suspicious, they’ll haul you and your belongings off.”

The vendors rush on with heavy baskets and jugs. As the soldiers leave, people stare after them.

With a stomach full of tamales and pineapple juice, I snuggle down for a nap. We leave Campeche at 8:15, finally with a second car.

º

XIII. 21 December / 3:35 a.m. / Mérida, Yucatán

I found an open eatery just around the corner from the station. A cup of coffee warms my hand.

The train for Izamal, my final destination, leaves at 6 a.m.

We arrived here at 3:05 a.m. – 44 hours later – and over 17 hours late.

º

º

published in:

Lowestoft Chronicle (Nº 50, Summer 2022)

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel – December Solstice 2022

Happy December Solstice!

As summer is beginning here in the Southern Hemisphere and winter officially starts in the Northern Hemisphere, it is time for another quarterly round-up of my recent publications.

Indeed, my poetry and travel writing continue to appear in journals and on websites around the world – this quarter, in India, the US, Austria, Hong Kong, and the UK.

Spend this December solstice browsing through the list (with links) below, poetically journeying to Venezuela, the Galapagos Islands, the US, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and Uruguay …

… and destinations within my self / Self …

Added features this month include my artwork and photography being featured in several publications … and several newsworthy bits & pieces …

In the realm of travel narrative and articles, we’ll be riding a train in southern Mexico and another in northern Mexico, witnessing a crowd watching a football (soccer) game in the Guatemala highlands, visiting southeastern Guatemala – and information to help you plan the ultimate road trip in southern Peru, way off the proverbial “gringo trail”!

And until we next meet …..

Safe Journeys!

Sunrise over the Condor Range (pen & ink, colored pencil) drawing © Lorraine Caputo

º

NEW LITERARY EXPRESSIONS

“Mucuchíes” in PPP Ezine (Poetry Poetics Pleasure Ezine) (India) (Volume 6, Issue 10, October 2022)

“Answering Some Call” in Literary Cocktail Magazine (India) (Volume 1, Issue 2, Fall 2022) – also photography

“Chill Breeze” in Scarlet Dragonfly Journal (Special Issue – Hallowe’en 2022)

º

“The Circus” in Silver Birch Press – One Good Memory Series (6 November 2022)

“After that Eclipse” and “Orisha Storm” in The Pine Cone Review (Austria / International) – Glissade: Special Issue on Dance (Issue 5, November 2022)

“In This Season of Light” in The Gift (Sweetycat Press, 2022) – anthology

“And That Rain Again” in Red Eft Review (16 November 2022)

“Spirit Suite – Étude Nº 11” (poem); “Roots” and “Talking Trees” (drawings) in fws (formidable woman sanctuary):  journal of art and literature – woodlands (issue 1, volume 1, Fall 2022)

“Delayed Journey” in 聲韻詩刊 Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine (Hong Kong) (Issue 68, December 2022)

“Lament for the Missing Moon” in Scarlet Dragonfly Journal (30 November 2022)

“Early Morning” in Panorama Journal (UK) (Issue 7 : Dawn, November 2022)

º

“Escaping the Night,” “Holiday Trippers” and “Secrets” in Otherwise Engaged Literature and Arts Journal

(Tenth Volume, Winter 2022)

Sketches of La Purísima” and “Songs of La Purísimain Agape Review (11 December 2022)

º

Besides my photography and artwork appearing in the above journals, my visual creation also have been featured :

“Fire, Water, Earth, Air” (drawing; pen & ink) and “Lilac Moon” (drawing; pen & ink, colored pencil in Sequoyah Cherokee River Journal (Issue 11, Fall/Autumn Issue – November 2022)

Antisana” (photography), “Sunrise over the Condor Range / Amanecer sobre la Cordillera del Cóndor,” “Parinacota,” “Puracé-Coconuco” and “Ushuaiain Feminist Hiking Collective – 16+1 campaign (25 November – 10 December 2022)

“Autumn Night” (drawing, colored pencil) in New Feathers Anthology (3.3, Winter 2022)

º

… plus a few that flew under the radar (so to speak) …

“Sojourn” in PPP Ezine (Poetry Poetics Pleasure Ezine) (India) (Volume 6, Issue 7, July 2022)

“Homeward Bound” in PPP Ezine (Poetry Poetics Pleasure Ezine) (India) (Volume 6, Issue 8, August 2022)

º

º

AND OTHER NEWS IN THE PUBLISHING REALM

I was invited to guest edit Synchronized Chaos October 2022: A PAN-LATIN AFFAIRE.

I was shortlisted for Yellow Arrow Publishing’s 2023 Chapbook Releases.

º

Cerro Baul, Torata, Moquegua, Peru, archaeology

The view from Cerro Baúl near Moquegua – one of the incredible destinations to add to your itinerary! photo © Lorraine Caputo

º

NEW TRAVEL EXPRESSIONS

Ají Magazine

To the Brink of Central America” (Fall 2022)

Litro Magazine (UK)

Riding and Endangered Eagle” (22 October 2022)

The Championship Game” (5 November 2022)

Synchronized Chaos

Quiriguá” (November 2022)

Peru Schedules

Southern Peru | 9 Incredible Destinations You’ve Been Missing!

º


Please feel free to contact me if you need:

  • an article for your publication or website

  • a translation (Spanish – English) of your scholarly article or literary work

  • proofreading / editing of your dissertation, book or article

I am also available to participate in literary events.

OVERNIGHT TO MONTERREY

DSCN5857

14-15 April 1992

El Regiomontano (Mexico City – Monterrey)

~     

Welcome to the Regiomontano – a purely first-class train: several cars of primera especial, a bar car and a dining car. Behind are the sleepers. Not a second-class or first-class numbered seat (primera numerada) does this locomotive pull.

Even in here, primera especial, the floors are carpeted. The upholstered seats recline and have draw-down tables. Napkins drape the headrests. The overhead lights also work.

You can even tell you’re riding first-class-all-the-way, baby, by the Mexicans aboard here. Very light skinned (unlike their paisanos who can only afford to ride second class or primera numerada). They show their Spanish blood well.

And they wear it as haughtily as their conquistador ancestors. They don’t talk with strangers – not even of their own class. It’s very cold on this train – and not only because of the air conditioning blasting away.

This is the first time I’ll be traveling on a pure first-class Mexican train. (I normally ride in second-class or, at most, primera numerada. But I had no option on this run. Well, this should be a cultural experience.…)

~       ~      

I head to the dining car for a cup of hot chocolate or herbal tea – something to warm me. I walk through the bar car. Four young North Americans are playing cards at one table. Mexicans stand at the bar, sit at tables, sullenly downing their drinks.

The white-coated dining car waiter shows me to a table. I hold a cup of coffee (no tea, no chocolate) in my left hand, feeling the heat seep into my bones, move throughout my body. The landscape silently slips by on this smooth ride.

After a while, a man and a woman are seated with me. The poet, Darío Manuel Ehecatl (Nahuatl, meaning the wind) begins reading aloud from his collection-in-process: Amor. Long, repetitious, aimless in their imagery.

But how could I insult this great poet?

He shows me his previous book, Démosle la Palabra a la Poesía. I begin reading the poems of living in the city and reconnecting with the earth, with one’s self, with god. Impressive. Then comes a whole slew of love poems. The more I read them, the more I am reminded of the feeling, the sensibilities US poet Kenneth Koch evokes.

He’s never heard of him.

I tell him that I, too, am a poet. “May I share some with you? But I write only in English.”

“Well, I don’t read English,” he says and excuses himself to return to his sleeper car cabin.

I spend a while yet here, chatting with the workers as they close down the dining car. Then I, too, return to my seat.

The bar car is still jammed.

~      ~      ~     

The chill of the desert night is beginning to mix with the air conditioning. I wrap my sleeping bag around me.

Until the bar closes at midnight, drunken people stumble to their seats. A woman I saw back there draining glass after glass now bottlefeeds her baby.

~      ~      ~      ~     

In the middle of the night, I have to toss my sleeping bag aside. The heat has been turned on. This is another sign that this is a pure first-class ride. (Cars of the lower ticket classes very rarely have heating – let alone air conditioning.)

~      ~      ~      ~      ~     

As we near Monterrey, the black-vested, white-shirted porters begin collecting rented pillows and the headrest napkins.

And, of course, as befits the first-class traveler, we arrive a few minutes ahead of schedule.

(And, indeed, this was a cultural experience. I think I’ll stick to the lower classes.)

 

 

published in:  Potato Soup Journal

SOUTHWEST TATERS

potatoes, chili, cheese, vegetarian, easy, camping

Southwest Taters — spicy and cheesy potatoes with a Southwest US touch. © Lorraine Caputo

Sometimes I just hit the kitchen and let my taste buds lead me in the creation of a dish. And dang – to such a delicious destination they led me to this time: the US Southwest with a stop in South America. The resulting creation? Southwest Taters!

When traveling in the Andean countries, you’ll find that potatoes (taters) are awfully cheap – about $4-7 US for an arroba (an old Spanish measure of weight, equivalent to 25 pounds). So, if you’re travelling or living here on a budget, you might find you use this tuber a lot.

Then there is the mere variety of potatoes available in its Andean birthplace – in fact, over four THOUSAND types, including several that are freeze-dried on the dry, high altiplano of Peru and Bolivia. In Cusco (Peru), you can visit El Museo de la Papa (Calle Maruri 320) to learn more about this important native crop.

My recipe Southwest Taters uses a variety of other ingredients native to the Americas, also: green pepper (pimentón) and chili peppers (chili in Mexico and Central America; ají in most of South America – and, if you can get ahold of it, chipotle, which is smoked-dried jalapeño pepper) and tomatoes.

This is a one-skillet dish that cooks in about 20 to 25 minutes – perfect for preparing in the hostel kitchen or over a campfire.

So, head down to the local shop to pick up the fresh vegies and dig into your Knapsack Pantry for the spices. Now let’s get to making these yummy Southwest Taters.

¡Buen provecho!

º

SOUTHWEST TATERS

Estimated cooking time: 20 minutes

For: carnivores or vegetarians

º

1 tablespoon oil

100 grams of ground (minced) beef – optional

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks

1 medium onion, cut into chunks

1 medium green (bell) pepper, cut into chunks

1 medium tomato, cut into chunks

to taste:

salt (about 1 teaspoon)

chili powder (1 teaspoon) or chili powder (½ teaspoon) + chipotle (½ teaspoon)

º

3 thick slices of cheddar cheese – or –  ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese

º

Put skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. If you wish, add the ground beef and cook. Add potatoes, onion, green pepper, onion, tomato, salt, chili powder and chipotle and cook until the potatoes are golden and the onions a bit translucent. Add 1 cup of water, cover and simmer until the potatoes are soft and the water almost evaporated, about 15-20 minutes.

Put cheese over top the mixture, cover skillet again and cook until cheese is melted.

Serve with fresh salad, and a glass of cerveza (beer) or vino tinto (red wine).

º

Potatoes, chili, spicy, vegetarian, easy, camping

This dish’s assortment of ingredients. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Tips:

  • Before you begin cooking, have all the ingredients prepared.
  • The spices and salt are to taste – if you don’t like your food so spicy, use less chili and chipotle – or add more if you like a real kick.
  • Any type of yellow cheese (cheddar, javierino, etc.) is best, though you can also use other types, if you like.

TLATELOLCO

Every country has chapters in their histories that are hidden and hushed. But in the memories of the pueblo, the people those events are held in silence and passed from generation to generation in whispers. At times, the silence is infused with pride – and others, with pain so intense that it is reflected in eyes …

In Mexico’s history, one such event is the Massacre of Tlatelolco.

In 1968, Mexico – like France, the United States of America and other countries – rocked with demonstrations for human and civil rights. These manifestaciones were largely led by students.

But Mexico was being put in the world’s spotlight. The capital, Mexico City, would be hosting the 1968 Summer Olympics in October.

Ten days before the games were to start, then-President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz ordered the military soldiers to suppress a demonstration of unarmed students and their families. The venue of this demonstration was the Plaza de Tres Culturas, also known as Tlatelolco.

º

I present to you the following multi-voice poem I composed about the Tlatelolco Massacre, and how I came to learn about it – and Mexicans to touch their own history…

º

To the martyrs of Tlatelolco …

2 de octubre

¡No se olvide!

2 October

It won’t be forgotten!


TLATELOLCO

(a poem for four voices)

— al pueblo mexicano

 º

I. 1968

July they marched

for human rights

Mexico City will be

hosting the Summer

Olympic Games

º

August they marched

at times a half-million

filling the Zócalo

Mexico City is preparing

for the arrival of thousands

hundred countries

º

September they marched

The athletes are already

beginning to arrive here

in our City

º

October

The second of October

They gathered in the Plaza

of Three Cultures

Tlatelolco

Students

& their families

Seven thousand

Ten thousand

No-one counted

º

The second of October

dusk

The meeting is over

The rumble of arriving tanks

 blocking the exits of the Plaza

The meeting is over

The sound of helicopters overhead

 dropping flares

The sounds of panicked voices

The sound of troops moving

                       

For almost an hour

 the sound of gunfire

People shot down as they run

The sounds of wounded & killed

For almost an hour

the sound of gunfire

People shot as they

try to surrender

their hands in air

The screams of wounded & killed

For almost an hour

the sound

of gunfire

People drop to the ground for refuge

only to be riddled with bullets

The screams

For almost an hour

º

º

Then the silence fell

with the completeness of night

The Plaza ran with blood

an inch thick

Shoes       hundreds of shoes

thousands of men’s shoes

of women’s shoes

of children’s shoes

º

The bodies were disappeared

before the ambulances

were allowed to arrive

º

No-one knows how many died

how many hundreds were massacred

how many thousands

º

The night’s rain washed the blood away

º

& the silence fell

the silence fell ….


II. 1989 – Missouri

A Mexican student at our university smuggled a copy of the banned movie out of his country.

In living rooms around town we gather, munching on palomitas & tortilla chips.

The violence of that night fill us with horror.

The Mexicans cry.

º

º

The next day dawned red

with the blood of

the Plaza massacre

& with the police sweeps

through homes throughout the night

ROJO AMANECER

The secret police arrive

 º

Grandpa opens a secret

compartment beneath his bed

Here,

Hide here, my grandson

 º

The secret police arrive

& kill the entire family

for hiding a wounded student

Not even the father’s position

could save his wife

his daughter       his father-in-law

his two sons

their compañeros

Nor even himself

 º

& the secret police flee

from this massacre

 º

Only the nine-year-old grandson survives

to step diligently

through the mass of his

slaughtered family

Only this son survives

to cry

& to remember


III. 1991 – Mexico City

I come to this City

& ask

Is it true there was a student

massacre here in ’68?

º

Silence

Not with blank stares

but those full of pain

Muteness

Muted voices

º

Silence

º

º

I find the Plaza

of the Three Cultures

º

Within the Aztec ruins

bathed in the blood of Cuauhtémoc

lie the Lovers of Tlatelolco

Their skeleton arms

embrace one another

º

To the east is the Franciscan church

built of stones of those ruins

º

All surrounded by

this modern Mexican city

º

La Plaza de las Tres Culturas

grey & red volcanic slabs laid

Open       & empty

º

& silent


IV. 1993 – Austin, Texas

I arrive at the gift shop of a friend’s art gallery. The place is ablaze with Mexican artesanía & Frida Kahlo posters.

Upon a case of silver jewelry, I hoist my books. They are bound into a stack with old shoe strings. Their aglets softly click against the glass.

His eyes fall upon the uppermost book. “La Noche de Tlatelolco. Where did you get that?”

“At the public library.”

His long fingers touch the cover lightly. “I was there. At the time, I was a student at the Politécnico. I survived.”

I look into his dark eyes, pained by the tears of more than twenty-four years.

& the silence falls between us.


V. 1995 – Mexico City

A novelist from the US asks me

Is it true there was a student

massacre here in 1968?

º

Yes

I can take you there

º

The silence within the Plaza

is pierced  by a white slab

towering 20, 30 feet into

the winter-blue sky

Three sculpted doves fly

into the sun’s light

º

… ADELANTE !!

To those compañeros who fell

the 2nd of October 1968

in this Plaza

 

Cuitlahuac Gallegos Buñuelos, 19

Ana María Maximiliana Mendoza, 19

Gilberto Reynosa Ortiz, 21

Antonio Solorzano Gaona, 47

Augustina Matus de Campos, 60

 

Cecilio León Torres, 27

Ana María Teuscher Kruger, 19

Jorge Ramírez Gómez, 59

Carlos Beltrán Macieli, 27

Miguel Baranda Salas, 18

               

Juan Royas Luna ( )

Leonardo Pérez González, 29

José Ignacio Caballero González, 36

Luis Gómez Ortega, 20

Jaima Pintado Gil, 18

 

Guillermo Rivera Torres, 15

Reynaldo Monzalvo Soto, 68

Cornelio Benigno Caballero Garduño, 15

Fernando Hernández Chantre, 20

Rosalino Martín Villanueva ( )

 

& many other compañeros

whose names & ages

we still don’t know

& I, Rosario Castellanos, testify

Who? Who? No-one. The next day, no-one.

The Plaza dawned, swept up.

The newspapers gave as the major news the weather report.

And on television, on the radio, in the theaters, there was no change in the programs, no announcement inserted.

Nor a minute of silence in the regular programming.

(Well, the regular programming continued.)

– 2 October 1993 –

 


 

VI. 1996 – Mexico City

For the second year in a row, the government has cancelled the official May Day parade, that of its unions.

But the people march. A half-million or more fill the broad Avenida de la Reforma.

There are independent unions & neighborhood organizations.

The Frente Zapatista de Liberación Nacional & the Frente Popular Francisco Villa.

Here come those revolutionary artists of CLETA. Up on a flatbed truck, they provide theater & song.

The women veterans of the guerrilla movement of the 70s.

& there, their banner fluttering in the bright day – THE SURVIVORS OF TLATELOLCO.


VII. 1997 – Mexico City

Now another Cuauhtémoc rules

this valley metropolis

& on this warm December afternoon

I enter the Plaza

passing the grassy ruins

A modern wall

prods the collective memory

2 of October

It is not forgotten!!

º

By those empty poles at

one end of the Plaza

Two mothers sit with their children

Blown bubbles catch the

sun’s light before

it passes behind a swift cloud

º

& not but a few meters from them

lies a red body

outline

2 of October

It is not forgotten!!

It is a comabative struggle

Prepa 9

Karman Cole

Another compañera whose name

has been known?

º

The Plaza is littered

with spray-can & brush graffiti

Some students –

– a shame only some …

But its words fade into

the red lava stone

º

On the other side

three more human outlines

in white       & a flower

CCH SOUTH

We offer our ♥

to the student compañeros

who fell in the struggle

The fight continues!

º

That slab memorial

still towers into the

bright blue sky

The backside has been marred

by gang taggings

But in bright green paint

the call goes out

People unite!

2 of October

It is not forgotten!

º

& there       between monument & church

within an abandoned fountain basin

A young boy kicks a soccer ball

His dark hair is a bobbing

tangled mop

A blue & white jacket

hangs loosely off

his shoulders

º

I leave through the

high-rise neighborhood

Birdsong fills the trees

Uniformed police stroll

wearing bulletproof vests

º

º

As the New Year approaches

the call grows more audible

in the newspaper headlines

After Thirty Years

Tell Us the Truth!

º

January

12 of January

They march

for human rights

Protesting the massacre

of Acteal, Chiapas

º

12 of January

a half-million or more

fill the Zócalo

A woman’s sign

prods the collective consciousness

1968 – Tlatelolco

1998 – Acteal

º

12 of January

dusk

We have sad news to report

The sound of thousands more

entering the Plaza

We have sad news to report

The sound of thousands of

murmured conversations

We have just received news

The military opened fire on

the march in Ocosingo

Three are fatally wounded

The Zócalo erupts

into a collective grito

Ricocheting off the lava block walls

of the National Palace       the Supreme Court

the Cathedral       the five-star hotel

ASESINOS

ASESINOS

ASESINOS

ASESINOS

º

º

I think back to my nine-year-old fall

watching those Olympic Games

The black & white image flickered

on our TV screen

Howard Cosell’s nasal drone

filled the living room

The African American runners

gave the power salute

heads bowed

º

Then       & through all these years

white America has

wrinkled its collective nose

“Those uppity …”

º

But now, almost thirty years later

I wonder, I wonder if

they knew of what had happened

& we – the US public, Howard Cosell

& this nine-year-old girl

didn’t hear

the silence


VIII.

Survivors of Tlatelolco

Those who lost family       friends

at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas

Please pardon me for touching your wound

For touching your wound

º

Which is the wound of

Haymarket Square, Chicago

1 May 1885

number killed – unknown

Which is the wound of

Hooverville, Washington DC

28 July 1932

number killed – two veterans, and an eleven-week-old baby

Which is the wound of

the indigenous massacre in El Salvador

1932

estimated number killed – 30,000

Which is the wound of

India’s Independence

1857-1947

estimated number killed – 35 million

Which is the wound of

Sharpeville, South Africa

21 March 1960

number killed – 69

Which is the wound of

Kent State, Jackson State and other US university campuses

2-9 May 1970

number killed – 14

Which is the wound of

Tiananmen Square

3-5 June 1989

estimated number killed – over 10,000

Which is the wound of

University of San Carlos, Guatemala

10 April 1992

number killed – 1 … plus 15 disappeared

Which is the wound of …

Which is the wound …

Which is …

your wound

Which is their wound

Which is my wound

º

Which is our wound

º

Please pardon me …

for touching …

 º

 º

published in a bilingual edition :

Tlatelolco (Twin Tails Publishing, 2000)

© Lorraine Caputo


To learn more / Para aprender más:

La Noche de Tlatelolco: Testimonios de Historia Oral / Massacre in Mexico by Elena Poniatowska

The Other Mexico: Critique of the Pyramid by Octavio Paz

68 by Paco Ignacio Taibo II

Los muertos de Tlatelolco, ¿cuántos fueron?” Aristegui Noticias (1 octubre 2013)

Videos: Los documentales sobre el 2 de octubre en Tlatelolco,” Aristegui Noticias (1 octubre 2013)

Rojo Amanecer (movie, 1989, 1993), directed by Jorge Fons

Please add any other books, movies or other sources about the Tlatelolco Massacre in the comments below. Thank you … Gracias.

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel – September Equinox 2022

Hello, once more, to my humble corner of cyberspace. Let us gather to review the quarterly roundup of my poetry and travel writing publications, which continue to appear in journals and on websites around the world. During this past quarter, my works have been published in the US, Australia-New Zealand, Canada, the UK, Czech Republic – and in Spanish, in Ecuador.

Spend this September equinox browsing through the list (with links) below, poetically journeying to Guatemala, Colombia, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Venezuela, Alaska, Peru, Argentina, the US … and destinations within my self / Self …

An added feature this month is a new microchap of my travel poetry – this time from the Chaco region of northern Argentina.

In the realm of travel narrative and articles, we’ll be riding a train in Bolivia, hiking the Caribbean coast of Honduras, and learning labor history from and Honduran banana worker.

º

In Other News …

Two of my poems have been nominated for Best of the Net Anthology 2023: “Fiesta Plains,” which appeared in Dashboard Horus, and “Floating,” which was published by The Field Guide Poetry Magazine.

I have been invited to guest edit a special issue of Synchronized Chaos, which will coming out in October.

º

Until we next meet …

Safe Journeys!

º

lunar eclipse, moon

An eclipsed moon. photo © Lorraine Caputo

º

NEW LITERARY EXPRESSIONS

“Eclipse,” “Skygazing,” “Respite from the Rains,” “This Night’s Rising Tide” and “Entwine” in The Stars and Moon in the Evening Sky (Southern Arizona Press, 2022) – anthology

“Cold Moon Night,” “Night Pulse,” “The Stillness,” “The House of 1,000 Windows” and “The Warning” in Setu (US-Bangladesh) (Volume 7, Issue 1, June 2022)

“Viaje de vacaciones” in Revista Máquina Combinatoria (Ecuador) (Volumen 4, número 5)

º

“Una noche en Caleta” in Revista Máquina Combinatoria (Ecuador) (Volumen 4, número 6)

“Enchanted Illusions” in Otoliths (New Zealand-Australia) (Issue 66, Southern Winter 2022)

º

“A Quito Canvas” and “The Wind Xocomil” in Verse-Virtual (Volume 9, Number 8, August 2022)

“Triple Lakes” in The Jewels in the Queen’s Crown (Sweetycat Press, 2022)

“Dis-Eased Time,” “Lucid” and “Parched” in Bare Bones Writing (Issue 1, August 2022)

“White Rains,” “Neverending,” “Surrendering to Wakefulness,” “River of the People of the Clouds” and “Turbulence” in Academy of the Heart and Mind (16 August 2022)

“Silver Travelers” in Your Daily Poem (23 August 2022)

º

“Watching Me” in Zooanthology (Sweetycat Press, 2022) – anthology  

“Monday Morn A-Opening” in Al-Khemia Poetica (6 September 2022)

“They Will Loosen Their Grasp” and “Renascence” in Fragmented Voices (UK-Czech Republic) (14 September 2022)

“Casas de Adobe” in Revista Máquina Combinatoria (Ecuador) (Volumen 4, nº 7, Julio 2022)

“Veterans Day” in The Poppy: A Symbol of Remembrance (Southern Arizona Press, 2022) – anthology

“And the Rain Comes” in Memoryhouse Magazine (Issue 27, Fall 2022) – also photography

º

poetry, Chaco, Argentina

Chaco Dreams – Journeys through Argentina’s Chaco Region (Origami Poems Project, 2022)

º

the ode

The complete manuscript of my works about the United and Standard Fruit Companies. photo © Lorraine Caputo

º

NEW TRAVEL EXPRESSIONS

Schuylkill Valley Journal – Dispatches

Into the Chaco” (18 July 2022)

New Feathers Anthology

On to El Triunfo” (3.2, Summer 2022)

Rabble Review

Another Man Who Remembers” (Canada-US) (Issue 4, Summer 2022)

An installment from the yet-unpublished Ode to the United and Standard Fruit Company

º


Please feel free to contact me if you need:

  • an article for your publication or website
  • a guidebook updated
  • a translation
  • proofreading / editing of your dissertation, book or article

I am also available to participate in literary events.

 

NEW E-BOOK SERIES : Cultural & Poetic Journeys

Are you getting ready to travel to Latin America? Or are you still dreaming of the adventures in that part of the world?

Latin America Wanderer has opened a special E-Book Library, featuring a different concept of travel literature.

Latin Americ, poetry, Lorrine Caputo

 

These aren’t your typical travel guidebooks – but rather collections of travel poetry that invite you to experience Latin America’s varied landscapes, cultural traditions and lives. Some of these special e-books are bilingual – a great text for learning Spanish.

º

Alaska, Denali, poetry, Lorraine Caputo

º

ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD -- S Peru Andes

º

Each volume takes you to a different geographical region, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego and many points between. Each month a new collection is added to the E-Book Library.

º

A New Series in The E-Book Library

Ecuador, Quito, Virgin Mary, pilgrim, travel, tourism, celebration, religion, poetry

 

Today begins a new series in the E-Book Library, combining these travel verses with cultural and tourist information of different cultural celebrations and destinations – and generously illustrated with photography.

Our first stop is Quito, Ecuador, to witness the pre-dawn processions dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Also included are other attractions in the city, a Marian tour of Ecuador’s capital city.

Future collections will cover Day of the Dead, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and other important cultural traditions.

So – hop on over to Latin America Wanderer’s E-Book Library and check out SONGS TO MARY : A Pilgrim’s Guide to and a Poetic Witnessing of  Marian Celebrations in Quito, Ecuador and any other poetic adventures you’d like to depart on.

Safe Journeys!

 

 

 

YES, WE HAVE NO (RIPE) BANANAS

the ode

The complete manuscript of my works about the United and Standard Fruit Companies. photo © Lorraine Caputo

I walk by the stands in the small Trujillo market.  Cabbages, tomatoes, huge carrots.  Oranges, pineapples and green bananas.  Only green bananas.

I chose a sweet piña from one man.  “Señor, why are there never ripe bananas here in Trujillo?”

In the dim, dusty sunbeam filtering in, I can see he is fairly tall—for an Honduran—and brusquely built.  “Because Trujillo is so poor.”

Quickly those other vendors group around this stall.

“But, sir, there are other towns much poorer on this coast, and they all have ripe bananas.  This is the only place I know where there are none.”

A man chimes in, “But we’re poor.”

“Poor?  There’s a major port near-by,” I reply, referring to Puerto Castilla.  “Even Puerto Cortés has ripe bananas.”

Another señor pipes up, “It’s because Trujillo is so poor.”

I shake my head, braid waving.  “Not as poor as Omoa.  They don’t even have a market.  People there have to go to Cortés—oh, forty minutes away by bus—to get fruit.  But some stores there will have ripe bananas.”

The original vendor: “But we’re poor.”

I smile with a slight, frustrated laugh.  “Not as poor as Omoa, sir.  They don’t even have fincas nearby anymore.  The Company closed them all down years before.”  I continue, “And not as poor as Tela.  They don’t even have a pier.  It was destroyed some two or three years ago.”

The familiar refrain, “Porque somos pobres.”

I return to my original question: “Why are there no ripe bananas here in Trujillo?  This is the only town where there are none.”  I catalog the others again, “Sí, hay in Omoa, Puerto Cortés, Tela, La Ceiba—and even in smaller villages like Sambo Creek and El Triunfo de la Cruz. Why not here?”

My pineapple man simply responds, “Shit, you know more places than I do.”

I sigh my frustration.  I must be missing something.

º

Later that evening, I drop into a hide-away café.  The low lights shimmer off the tables.  A slight breeze sways the plants.

At the rattan bar, I soon leave the months-old Time aside, and join the Canadian owner and her United Statien friend in conversation.  The presence, the power of Standard Fruit Company here, in Trujillo.

I relate my market tale.  “Why are there no ripe bananas here?”

Our hostess shakes her dishwater blond hair.  “I have no idea.  I’m surprised, too.  Even Tocoa has ripe ones.  I can’t serve a decent banana licuado because there aren’t any.”

“And you know what I find strange?” adds the other woman, setting down her cup. “I’ve tried to put them in a brown paper sack for a few days, but they still don’t ripen.”

I nod my head.  Yeh, I’ve tried that myself.

“All we can get here are the rejects, the ones that won’t sell in the US and other foreign markets,” the Canadian rests a hand on her large, round belly, “because they aren’t ‘perfect’ enough.”

º

Ah, yes—the perfect banana: bright yellow skin, creamy flesh.  Not a bruise or brown spot allowed.

Cut green from the fields, sent by cable lines to the empacadores. Once there, carefully inspected and chosen.  Dipped into disinfecting baths by bare-handed women.

Packed into boxes, loaded into trucks (or, perhaps—more rarely these days—into frutero rail cars) and sent to the Puertos: Barrios, Cortés, Castilla. Down those roads, the Banana Lady hesitantly smiles, that yellow-red sun eternally shines.

And there, the banana-yellow cranes place the containers onto the Chiquita Las Americas, onto the Tropical Light.  Within three days, that perfect banana will be in a northern market, the skin bright yellow, the flesh creamy, yet firm.

But in the Trujillo market, the song remains the same:

           Yes, we have no (ripe) bananas….

º

º

published in:

Contemporary Verse 2 (Winter 2001 Volume 23 No. 3: eco-poetics)