Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners. ~Edward Abbey
The Latin American understanding of the Spanish word, Desaparecidos, means a person who has disappeared, presumed killed by members of the armed services or the police. The closest English translation is simply ‘disappeared’ a word missing the nuance of a governmental agent involved in the disappearing. I am glad there is no exact English equivalent because it means government secretly disappearing it’s citizens has not escalated to the level where there needs to be a single word to describe the condition. I am not saying the US government doesn’t disappear its people, I have no doubt they do, just that the cowardice resulting in authority eliminating its citizens has not reached sufficient levels to warrant it’s own English word.
I learned of the word while reading books from one of the many Central/South American authors whose works captivate me. My goal this year is to ensure half the books I read were originally written in a language other than English by authors with roots originating in soils outside the USA. So far, most of those have been books with roots in the Spanish language. I find myself drawn to the works of writers from South of the US border. I think it may be because so much of their writing seems to be based on revolution – Viva La Revolución.
The history of the Americas is of countries permanently teetering on the precipice of war, permanently steeped in revolution, permanently suffering at the hands of cruel dictatorships. And the dictators seemed to never end. They include: Porfirio Diaz (Mexico), Pinochet (Chile), Eloy Alfaro (Ecuador), Videla (Argentina), Chavez (Venezuela), Augusto Leguía (Peru), Peron (Argentina), Fulgencio Batista (Cuba), Augusto Pinochet (Chile), Rafael Trujillo (República Dominicana), Alfredo Stroessner (Paraguay), Solano López (Paraguay), Anastasio Somoza (Nicaragua), Carlos Castillo Armas (Guatemala).
The thought of la gente, the people, the exploited people, throwing off the shackles of oppression from those many dictators pilfering their countries for personal gain, from Spain, from Europe, from my own country figuratively sitting atop them all in the white man centric map of the world quickens my blood. It’s like someone force-fed me adrenaline then cut me loose wild-eyed.
With US American writing, the message is the words. In many other languages, and it seems in the writing of South American authors, the message is encoded in the spaces between the words. Words giving structure to concealed missives. This type of writing leaves much to the imagination, it requires deep reading to extract the message. It is a reading that cannot be skimmed. It must be ingested, digested.
I am drawn to their dance of words, the poetry of their thought, the lyric of their expression. Is it the Spanish language from which it arises? Possibly. Is it the underlying current of tortured, indigenous bones speaking truth from mass graves, of flesh flayed by the conquistadors who valued the god gold more than the god Jésus? Probably. Is it borne of the necessity to speak in code and create a plausible deniability so those in power could not understand and use it as an excuse for retribution? Presumably.
Whatever the case, the words intrigue me. They speak to the part of me that grew up at the tail end of the Vietnam Conflict, the side of me that developed a deep mistrust of government officials of ALL parties and affiliations. It festered in the suite of lies spewed by the presidents of the age, their choice to sacrifice thousands of young men to satisfy the vipers in government seeking to line their pockets with blood money, the ones Bob Dylan called, Masters of War.
I guess with this background it’s natural that I infuse my mind with the words of the great authors speaking the voices of la gente. I guess it was inevitable I would be drawn to revolutionary writing.