"The First Lawyer," from Comisario Jaguar

 

Church in the Mè’phàà community of La Montaña de Guerrero. Photo: Anya De León.

I

Mba’iin àngiàn’ ló’ 
nìjañúú numuu xkujndu rí nìríga,
phú ninìì ngínáán ló’
numuu rí tsí máña gú’thàn ló’ ajngúùn, 
asndo ná nuxkamaà jùmà rí ná’thán rí muriguìí jùbà’ ló’,
nùtheèn:  
—Rí muní’ñáàn ló’
iya iduu Xtóaya’ gàjmàá 
júbà ná na’gòò dùùn. 

Inuu ìyì’ ná nùsgájma tsinuu akuan  
nà’thán rí xkua’nii mà’nè me’.
Xo má ikháán nìkhìín ído xkua’nii nìríga, 
ikajngó nìthaàn’ buanu rí mìdxù’ màtànè gajmaà, 
nìdríyeè ìxí i’ní, 
guma xígu gàjmàá ìdú tsídu awùún ama xàwí,
Nìthaàn’: —Àtangàán táà,
ído màtiyàá xo ja’nìì rí ngí nakhúú xtángoo.  

 

I

The problem came with its dead,
lots of abuse for not speaking the language.
There was always a reason 
to strip our mountain from us piece by piece,
they said:
“We ought to leave the eye of Xtóaya’,1
and the ridge where clouds are ripened.”

The document was covered in chicken scratches
I was aware of that.
You were old enough to leave,
they filled your crab sack
with cornmeal,
fried tortillas and rock salt,
they said to you: “Come back
when you’ve learned their laws.”

 

II

Wakí rí nìdxá’núù
xúgíín xàbò nijngììn, 
nìrádiìn xèdè 
tsí nigúdìín ná i’wá xuajen rí ná’thán ñájun xuajian ló’, 
nùtheèn: 
— Nìthangáà à’diá ló’ rá, 
nìthangáà xàbò tsí nda’yoo xtángoo rá. 
Rí mbuyà gàmàkuà’ rá’khá ìyì’ jàyuu mà’thán, 
skìñùún rú’kuè gí’maa rí mà’nè gàmakuíín. 

Asndo xúgè’ mágumà mbànií
xkujndu drígoò jùbà’,
nìgi’dòò numùú xúgíín xàbò
tsí nijáñúún gajmàá numuu nè,
ikhiín tsí nìthiin ná boò rí mùru’waá ìtsí. 

 

II

The evening you came back
everyone drank,
they killed cattle, herded them
in from another town with whips 
saying:
—Our son has arrived,
the first to graduate from college.
You were crowned not by the degree
but the support they gave you.

The old problem of the land was going to be fixed,
they were worth it, all those dead
cast into the ravines
to sprout roots beneath the stones.

 

III

Xúgè’ rí mbuyáà 
ì’wá xuajen skiyà’ ló’, 
mboo rènè mugíwan mìjná gajmàá agu ndéla ló’ rá.
Numuu rú’kuè, 
mbro’on rí nìthangàà,
xugíín gò’ò nijúwaàn gàjnú rí ìwá mitsáán,
jamí xùgíín xàbèka nènè jà’wù xtédìún 
jamí nìriyáà rawùn txídìín 
numuu rí maxátiyaà inìì
rí màgíwàn’ akíàn’ rí ikhaàn ñàjuan’ àdè xuajin. 

 

III

Neighboring peoples
will know our strength,
the flame of our candles
will set the bar for the na savi.2
At night
the women wore colorful dresses,
men dusted off their hats
and sharpened their machetes
so you would be proud
and know that you, are us.

 

IV

Nènè mbàà àkuìin, 
numuu rí níyò’ mìgú’ ná awúun xanáá,
numuu rí niyo’ mbañuún xàbò tsí tra’a xtíin inuùn
nùprà’àá daan jmí mbatsùn, 
ídò nàtù’ùun ná gù’wáá 
jamíí nàgo jùdiin rundiá ló’. 

Nìjumù’ rí nìmbá mì’tsú nàxádxawùn 
a’wó ngàmí rí nà’tsu ro’ò awúun’,
jamí naxatrigàmìnà’ xuwiù 
inuu tsuwan ídò nàgáyu’ ná awúun xaná. 

Ikajngó mbro’on rí nìdxá’nú nìgìnbúùn bìtún
gajmíí èjèn tsí xo má’ ikhúún ja’ñúù,
nixnaà xó’ xugíí bìtú tsú’kuè rí ma’ne mbita’a jambàá
numuu rí nìdxá’nú ná xuajian ló’. 

 

IV

My longing grew stronger,
sick of sleeping in the brush
sick of hooded men 
barging in, kicking over pots,
stirring up the fire
and stealing the turkeys.

I thought I’d never again hear
fear biting at me
and my skin catching on the thorns, wounded
during the escape.

That night
I brought you a bunch of fireflies
that others like me, we
gathered for your return.

 

V

Ídò watse,
nìgúyáá xàbò buanu
numuu rí bríyà’ xóó gà’khò
drigòò xkujndu inuu xuajiàn ló’,
nangwá ndiyaá matríwùún, 
asndo nangwá ndiyaá matiàxè
ná kuijììn wa’thààn ná rawuun xkruga.

Tikhuun buanu nithàn,
nijngaà wiñaà mé’, 
numuu rí phú mbàà dxàà niniì,
nithiñúùn wá nè’nè,
ikajngó nìwa’thiìn xóó
asndo rí màtrigùùn,
xkua’nii nìnujngóò mbi’i,  
nanguá lá’ iyaá màtrigùùn,
nàtruguaà rawuun xkruga
asndo nijnìí idxùún rí nàtiyúùn ná jàmbaà.

 

V

The elders 
went to see you
about the old problem,
you refused to speak with them, 
did not even come to the doorway
where they were waiting.

They said: it’s the hangover.
Maybe they’d gone too far at the party,
and they were sorry about that,
waited another week,
but you were unchanged,
plowed right through them
as if you did not share the same path.

 

VI

Nijumùún
rí numuu weñò rí nìthanè gajmaà
ikanjgó gí’maa rí mònè numáà,
numuu rí ndàà mbukùún
nixnáá xdú, xtíla jamí tsotòn,
rí giniin jayuu niwèjè akiàn’,
 nìrathán rí màtrigùún 
ndawáa nìthangaà akiàn’ mbujú’. 

Buanu, 
xó má’ akuiín ná jùbàá
túniì tsìndí mijneè,
nitheèn rí gíñá xkawè nìkhà jayòó nìmià’, 
numuu rú’kue nigo judeé ndéla ná inuu júbà, 
ná rawuun màthà,
jamí ná awúun daan nìndxá’wa àkiàn’
rí nìwànuu ná jàmbaà gàjmáá gíñá xkè’. 

 

VI

School must have cost you so much, they thought
and they ought to repay you somehow.
They brought eggs, chickens and goats;
at first you said yes, you would settle everything 
but then you did not.

Being of this land,
your people
did not give up, 
they believed a spirit had taken over your body,
they prayed to the mountains, to the rivers,
and drumming the cántaro
they called out to your soul
lost along its way.

 

VII

Nìwàtàdxa’ún buanu
rí mutheèn ná rí nìthàgí’nií,
ná numuu rí nanguá i’goò ajngáa inuu júbà
jamí rondò rí nìgumà tsákhurámaá i’di inuu
rí màyáxii àkiàn’,
mbá xì’ñá ló’ ni’thán:
 — Ràmajàn àkuìin dxáma tsú’kuè, 
numuu rí gixaà nìkhà jayoó nè. 

Xkua’nii mbujú nè’nè tsindìì akiàn’ xò’
ansdo rí nìganú imbaà dxáma tsí nìga’nè gàjmaà,
nìnújngoo mbi’i ju’, 
xo má’ nìthanè ikhààn
xkua’nii má’ nè’nè tsú’kuè mangàa,
xkua’nii nènè i’wìín tsí nìguwá tsudúùn.

Xo má’ xkujndu rá, xó mà ikhaa nè, 
ikajngó nìthán xì’ñá ló’:
 — Xúgè’ rí nimbàá màxá’ga rá,
numuu rí phú nàxtiku àkuìin
jamí nanguá iñùú juyáà ló’. 
Numuu rù’kuè, 
tsáa èjèn ñajuàn xò,
nanguà nindoo mù’nguá gònè gàjmaà xó, 
tsí ninjgoo nìganuù,
wajiúú mbi’i ngriguún tsínguà’,
nanguá lá’ è’nè àkuìín màtangíìn ná xuajiuún.

 

VII

The elders were summoned
to figure out what was wrong,
because not even the hills
nor the ocote pines covered in blood
could bring back your soul,
one said:
“Our son is lost,
the devil took him.”

We lost hope again,
until another left.
In time, he did the same
and even more followed.
 
Nothing about the old problem changed.
They said, “No one else shall go,
because they change and no longer care about us.
So, we could not leave for school.
The ones who did,
they’ve been gone a long time
and just don’t come back.

Translated by Whitney DeVos

 

Notes

1Mè’phàà water skin deity.

2People of the rain (Mixtecos). 

 

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Fogwill in LALT
Number 15

In our August 2020 issue, we celebrate the work of women writers and translators in honor of Women in Translation Month, highlighting the work of Victoria de Stefano, Krina Ber, Rowena Hill, and Margara Russotto—four women united by the coincidence of emigrating to Venezuela and becoming renowned writers in Spanish. We also pay homage to a giant of Latin American letters, Rodolfo Enrique Fogwill, on the tenth anniversary of his passing, and we highlight the work of Mé’pháá writer Hubert Matiúwàa in our Indigenous Literature section. This #WITMonth issue is rounded out with exclusive previews of upcoming books from women translators and an interview with translator Annie McDermott, plus poetry, fiction, interviews, and reviews of fascinating new releases from across Latin America.

Cover Photo: Grupo Mondongo

Table of Contents

Editor's Note

Featured Author: Fogwill

Four Venezuelan Women Writers

Fiction

Poetry

Essays

Chronicle

Interviews

Indigenous Literature

Translation Previews and New Releases

On Translation

Nota Bene