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The Hispanic World: United By Spanish, Divided By Spanish

Latin Americans are proud to be part of a "brotherly" region united by its Hispanic heritage, until they suffer hearing each other's "Spanish."

The Hispanic World: United By Spanish, Divided By Spanish

A wall in Mexico

Ricardo Bada

BOGOTÁ — In February this year, my friend and fellow columnist Juan David Zuloaga expounded on the reality of a historic, cultural and linguistic community known as Spanish or Hispanic America. It includes Spain and the nations that were once a part of its American empire. I won't dismiss the idea, but I do question it.

Days ago, I read the most interesting article by Itziar Hernández Rodilla, in Vasos Comunicantes, a translators' journal, which began, "I read these words in Claudia Piñeiro'sCatedrales: "The way we name plants, flowers, fruits, while still using the same language reveals our origins as much as any tune, if not more. That is where we are from, the place where every word blooms or gives fruit."

Piñeiro, an Argentine novelist and screenwriter, then gives us a list of names for the bougainvillea plant: "Buganvilla in Spain; bugambilla in Mexico, Peru, Chile and Guatemala; papelillo in northern Peru; Napoleón in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama; trinitaria in Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela; veranera in Colombia and El Salvador." In Argentina they call them santarritas. Piñeiro shows we speak Spanish in several languages.

It's all semantics 

Looking back, I recall that in October 1984 I was asked to represent my radio station, Deutsche Welle (the German BBC, as it were), at a symposium of the International Center of Higher Studies in Journalism for Latin America in Quito, Ecuador. Attending were representatives from all the Latin American broadcasters as well as various European ones. On the last day, there was a conversation between broadcasting reps from both sides of the pond.

A female colleague from Mexico spoke first and, surprisingly, discarded the traditional courtesy of Mexicans: She said she thought the best programs from Europe were on Deutsche Welle. Only, she was bothered by all the Argentine accents! I replied that no Argentine worked at our desk — only two Uruguayans.

I was surprised to hear this after listening for a week to so much talk of brotherly ties and Hispano-American fraternity. It was empty rhetoric, I said; if Mexicans found the Argentine accent irksome, Chileans would say the same thing about the Peruvian accent and Colombians of the Puerto Rican accent. Nobody thought to contradict me. Apologies here to our favorite Argentine girl, the beloved comic book character Mafalda.

Every year when it's October 12 (Columbus Day), I quietly repeat, like a mantra: Latin America is haunted — by the ghost of its Spanish identity.

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Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

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