Tuesday, August 2, 2016

it's time to talk about the sea.

Querida irmá,

I left Santiago. And Spain. It broke my heart a bit. Although Porto is mending it preeeeetty well, what with being all lovely and also a return to the land of vinho verde. But more on that a bit later. Right now I'd like to take a minute to talk about the sea. You know how much and forever she is a part of me, well, I took a step in terms of my commitment to that relationship.
Isn't she lovely?
Before I tell you how, though, there's another piece that needs explaining. So here's the lit. nerd and politics of language segment of today's entry. By the mid XIX, Galego had basically disappeared as a written language because of all kinds of linguistic and regional discrimination. It was still the language spoken in Galicia, but was not well regarded and speaking it (or about it) was a major low-class indicator. The language reappeared in a written form, and underwent an aesthetic (and culturo-political) renaissance due in large part to this gal:

Rosalía de Castro: Isn't she lovely too?
Even though it wasn't the first text to be published in Galego, the book of poems published by Rosalía de Castro in 1863, Cantares Gallegos, is the marker that we tend to use as the kickoff of the rexurdimento.  Castro wrote in both Castellano and Galego, and also wrote about Galego and Galicia in Castellano. In a sad (for her presumably, and for us definitely), in 1881 she made a promise to never write again about or in her mother tongue. This promise seems to be based largely on the vituperative response that she got to a particular published article, combined with her desire to be seen as a serious presence in the literary world –something made triply difficult by being both a woman and writing in a subordinated language. 

What she said was this: 
Ni por tres, ni por seis, ni por nueve mil reales volveré a escribir nada en nuestro dialecto, ni acaso tampoco a ocuparme de nada que a nuestro país concierna. 
Not for three, not for six, not for nine thousand reales will I ever again write anything in our tongue, nor even will I occupy myself with anything concerning our country. 
Side note: The article that the public academic consciousness cites as the trigger for this rejection of Galego was a description of a Galician custom, in which families succoring shipwrecked sailors would show so much hospitality that not only would they take them in and feed them and give them a bed to sleep in, that bed and the night passed in it would not be passed in solitude, but rather with one of the women of the house.

In retrospect, there is a reasonably probability that Castro did continue to write in the language that she so clearly loved, although we will never know for sure. When she was dying (at 48 in 1885 of uterine cancer –one of the few things that makes me almost like the century we live in: medical miracles and the ability to fight cancer), she asked her children to burn all of her unpublished writings, and they followed her wishes –an action that hurts the literary critic in me, but that I also get. So really, we'll never know. 

Another thing that we'll never really know brings me back to the sea, and that's death. Her death, and her last words, to be a bit less morbidly vague. The account of Rosalía's death that we have comes (in Castellano) from the lawyer and politician Augusto González Besada. He describes her last moment like this:
 Delirante, y nublada la vista, dijo a su hija Alejandra: «Abre esa ventana, que quiero ver el mar», y cerrando sus ojos para siempre, expiró. 
Delirious, and with her vision clouding, she said to her daughter Alejandra: 'Open that window there, I want to see the sea,' and, closing her eyes for ever, she expired.
Why the Galician lesson if she gave it up and died in Castellano? Well... did she though? González Besada's account would say yes, so too would the fact that she was talking to Alejandra, with whom critical consensus is that she stuck to the more accepted language. But she was dying. Delirious. And in lots of pain. I know how that messes with language production. You know how that messes with language production from listening to my messed up language production. And her friend González Besada would have reported those words in Castellano anyway, to avoid casting a pall on her death by feeding the internet trolls of the politics of language. So does it matter if she said “Abre esa xanela/fiestra, que quero ver o mar” or “Abre esa ventana, que quiero ver el mar”?  Maybe not. But if there hadn't been a stranglehold of negativity on Galego, I bet it would have been the former (in the case of it being the latter). 

Why the deathbed tale and the Galician lesson? Because I want to see the sea. And I want to see it in Galego. 

Hey, it's me! And the sea! And the Cies (islands)!
Before I let you get back to the most adorable baby niece of mine and her perfect first tooth and her angelic almost-pronunciation of 'cat' and the fruit that is probably smeared all over her face right now, there's one more piece to the story. 

Rosalía died in a town called Padrón, which, while the river Sar runs through it, is not on the ocean. Because of this, the virtual library Miguel de Cervantes suggests that the sea in her last words was metaphoric, as the sea had long been for her a temptation to suicide. And yeah, she was a Romantic in all of the ways, but I feel like if you are legit dying of uterine cancer, you're probably not being nostalgic for your depression. And she also loved the sea. Also, they assume that because Padrón is inland, you can't see the sea from there. At the museum that was her house, though, they explain that the water that used to be visible from the window of her room, while not quite at the sea yet (in actuality the lower part of the river Sar), was referred to as such in her time, because it was pretty close to real sea. And since she lived a lot of her life in places that were truly on the sea (girl moved way more than we did, probably even more than dad, which is saying something), making the connection between the two connected bodies of water makes a lot more sense to me, personally. 

This is the Sar as it runs through Santiago. It's way broader, deeper, and faster in Padrón.

Tl;dr: I love the Atlantic, and so did one of my favorite authors. Also I'm morbid as all get out so I wrote her last words on my arm forever. 

 "y ahora subiendo, ahora bajando,
unas veces con luz y otras a ciegas,
cumplimos nuestros días y llegamos
más tarde o más temprano a la ribera"  
"and now rising up, now sinking down again
some times with light and others without seeing
we carry through with our days and then arrive
be it late or be it early, to the shore"-RdC

I love you forever and for always. Swoopy up in the air hugs to my niesling, 
your sister

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