Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Xicana in Germany. On-Line Floricanto for Earliest June

Guest Columnist Sarah R. Garcia:
Xicana Travelogue: Deutschland, Representing Humanity

As my days in Deutschland fade into each other through art, history and endless conversations over meals, I am rediscovering my own reasons for being an artist and exploring new cultures. One of the most common topics of conversation in and out of the German film studies classroom, outside of the constant rain, has been deconstructing the “collective guilt” that has transpired after war and through unavoidable cultural changes. The conversations have taken place in post WWII films featuring proud artists, German and American history museums from Bonn to Berlin, and over schnitzel, white spargel and pommes with my German housemates.

Currently, I am residing with three undergraduate German students: two rambunctious young women who are aspiring educators and the third an outdoorsy male student who majors in History, also with the goal to teach. All have made it a priority to visit other countries and live in a communal lifestyle, which consists of recycling everything and sharing a small living space and meals regularly.

The modest apartment consists of three bedrooms. First, there’s a small 10 x 10 living room that serves as a clothing rack space on laundry days. On the left hand side of the front door, a toilette houses the washer machine and clothing hampers. Ten steps past the front door and passing a bedroom on each side, there’s a cozy kitchen that has just enough depth to turn a long bookcase sideways to use as large family-style table. Against a wall in the kitchen, on the right hand side of the third bedroom door, there’s a long bench and two folding chairs on the opposite side of the table that seat all attending the common potluck meals.

The mix-match of utensils and plates, the variety of beer glasses and tourist coffee mugs, along with the collage of international postcards and flags on the small frig, represent the diverse human perspectives within the enclosed walls. But I, being a proud Chicana, couldn’t help in taking notice that there are no signs or symbols of German pride.

While dipping my boiled potato onto the flavorful hollandaise sauce, I run through the course’s list of films. As I mentioned a few German flicks that my German counterparts have never seen, they all simultaneously blast questions with regards to the significance of the stories presented. Without looking up from my plate, I slide my finger along the edge, simply to lick off the sauce and keep it from staining the faded red table runner. At the time, I was watching “A Foreign Affair” by Jewish filmmaker Billy Wilder and prepping to present “The Murderers Are Among Us,” by German film director Wolfgang Staudte whose primary focus in his work was to depict the limits of German national pride. Glancing upwards, I see them all waiting for a reply. I paused to sip the three-euro Spanish wine we purchased at the closest Turkish kiosk earlier, then introduced America’s pretentious position after WWII in Berlin and Staudte’s failure to represent and properly interpret women in his award-winning film.

Similar to the drool that prefaced the large consumption of German indulgences, words impatiently slipped out of my mouth telling all of my inner contemplations. Ironically, it was after gulping more than my fair share of wine and protruding belly rejecting a second round of the gluten-free schnitzel. I ignorantly recalled a statement from another German student that was said while visiting the German history museum in Bonn. The exhibit presented various forms of propaganda, including the graphic posters displaying mounds of naked, dead bodies that were utilized as part of the “denazification” of Germany. I said something like, “Can you believe she said, ‘That’s the American propaganda to make Germans feel guilty’?” And that’s when the real conversation started.

Now since then, I’ve attended another week of lessons in the awkwardly designed classroom that we use - in German terms - backwards. We watch German films on a stark white wall, across from the stained chalkboard and caddy-corner from the shadow-casting blinds. Every seat offers an obscured view of the film presented, literally and figuratively speaking. I’ve also been introduced to Berlin’s then and now. Trekking across sunny Berlin to visit the Mexican embassy, I found myself reading about the Victory Monument surviving WWII and contemplating Germany’s cultural changes post war while walking through Tiergarten, Berlin’s central park. But it wasn’t until I stared at Sergio Hernandez’s piece displaying deaths in Oaxaca by noting names and dates on a calaca that I began to process the Jewish monument I had seen the day prior.

Rows and rows of 2,711gray stone slabs bearing no markings, such as names or dates, spread over 205,000 square feet of space near the Brandenburg Tor and just a short distance from where the ruins of Hitler's bunker is buried. On my walk back to the hostel, I passed by an anarchist dive and Jewish memorial stones on the sidewalk. Just a few hours later, while it drizzled just enough to carry an umbrella, I photographed the diverse art covering the remaining parts of the Berlin Wall, collectively known as the East-Side Gallery. The overwhelming reminders of the German past, my culture and the contrasts in deaths through art, made me come to terms with a particular statement shared by William Faulkner, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” So what do we do with our past? We respond through our collective actions, some may call it guilt while others depict it as radical movements. Our monuments, art and actions provide a collection of reminders of what is real and inhumane. In a way, also illustrating our capability to represent our humanity by portraying the past as the present, and possibly avoiding the foretelling future.

Today, I reunited with my German housemates to continue our last conversation over an outdoor meal in the sunlight. This time I took more pleasure in hearing their opinions to my recent German experiences and their own telling of their country’s past rather than my consumption. They have all asked their grandparents about their experiences, some got answers, some didn’t. After dinner, which I vaguely remember what was had between the exchange of words and ideas, we all agreed on one perspective: cultures need to evolve and national pride is trivial when discussing global issues. So we ended our meal with words to process, taken directly from the Berlin Wall: “He who wants the world to remain as it is, doesn’t want it to remain at all.” We all want to change the next generation, whether it’s by sharing a modest meal or simply representing humanity in other cultures.

On-line Floricanto for Earliest June
In the shadow of carijama By Avotcja
To Unbind ~ By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

by Avotcja

for Connie Williams, Jackie Artman, The African Queens,
Malonga Cascalourde, Jacque Barnes, D’Midas,
Carlos Aceituno/Regina Calloway & Fogo Na Ropa,
Sistas-Wit-Style, MasMakers Massive, Val Serrant,
The Bay Area Blues Society, United Sisters, All-Ah-We,
Diamano Coura, DJ Miller The Killer, & Avotcja

I was there
Standing in the shadows
Of a revelry denied
I was invisible
Pushed to the side
Like yesterday’s Bacchanal
And the slavery we danced in spite of
I was invisible
Unseen like the pain we sang in the face of
Nobody saw me
Lost in the shambles
Just another invisible nonentity
An embodied phantom
Standing alone
In between the naked homelessness
Of the Ghosts of Carijama
And another trampled on dream
In a now fenced in Park
In a passionless neighborhood
I left unnoticed
Swam all the way home
Wrapped in an ocean of sadness
Swimming in tears
A bitter tasting travesty
A sea of furious, foul tasting tears
By hundreds of years of unstoppable pride
Just waiting for the right time to be reborn
But you better know
Though I may have been invisible
I was never alone
And I was always there

To Unbind ~
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

A Kwansaba for freedom

to flourish from root sometimes takes pains
of walking the flames of immense ignorance
veils of control, disguised as shields - protection
entangles us in blind beliefs. to challenge
what's outside the authority of our own
threatens to help unbind and unmask us
tips the balance, between innocence and freedom


Avotcja (pronounced Avacha) is a card carrying New York born Music fanatic/sound junkie & popular Bay Area Radio DeeJay & member of the award winning group Avotcja & Modúpue (The Bay Area Blues Society’s Jazz Group Of The Year in 2005 & 2010). She’s a lifelong Musician/Writer/Educator/Storyteller & is on a shamelessly Spirit driven melodic mission to heal herself. Avotcja talks to the Trees & listens to the Wind against the concrete & when they answer it usually winds up in a Poem or Short Story.
Avotcja has been published in English & Spanish in the USA, Mexico & Europe. She’s an award winning Poet & multi-instrumentalist. Avotcja teaches Creative Writing & Drama & is a an ASCAP recording artist. Her latest Book is “With Every Step I Take” (Taurean Horn Press 2013 available on www.Amazon.com )

Odilia Galván Rodríguez 


durioste said...

Agen1stJust recently found out that famed Chicano writer Miguel Méndez-M. ("Tata Casehua" (1968), Peregrinos de Aztlán (1974), Los criaderos humanos (1975), Tata Casehua y otros cuentos (1980), among many other works) died last Thursday, May 30, 2013. Born in Bisbee, Arizona on 15 June 1930, Miguel Méndez was one of the great ICONS of Chicano literature. ¡Qué en paz descanse! el gran señor.

Avotcja said...

I am always grateful to be included in this awesome Poetry Blog! www.Avotcja.org