Why do this?

My father, José Luis Villamizar Melo, passed away in my home town of Cúcuta, Colombia, in August last year. The law and economics were Dad's profession, but literature, history and academia his passion. He wrote and published several books, articles and book chapters. The thing is that so many people have missed out on his work, particularly on his beautiful poetry, which he wrote in Spanish prior to the world wide web. So I thought, what a better way to keep Dad's legacy alive than to bring his writing beyond his world and share it with mine. That is why I am translating over 250 of my Dad's poems to English and publishing them here, one a day, Monday to Friday during 2011 (Dad, a family man, always believed that you shouldn't work on weekends).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Elementary Motherland – To Cúcuta (Patria elemental – A Cúcuta)

The poems I will blog over the next few weeks were published in my father’s book Elementary motherland (Patria elemental), which he wrote for a vast minority. In each line, each word, he shares a little about his City. Nevertheless, each poem, written with plenty of feeling, will have no meaning to those who do not know about the history of Cúcuta. So I urge you to just sit back and enjoy as Dad recommends:

“If, when reading a word, a utterance, a verse,
the reader feels some sort of emotion inside,
without being able to relate this
to the object that inspired it,
unknown to him, the poem is doing its job.
After all, in each town there is a street,
a tragedy in its history, a thief, a hero, a saint
and many walls covered with memories.”

From my Dad’s book Elementary motherland (Patria elemental).

Elementary Motherland – To Cúcuta (Patria elemental – A Cúcuta)

The awful memory of the times of the Spanish Conquest
 is scattered with the breeze, through the rivers,
the stubbles, hills and valleys. And it climbs
to the mountain ranges, apparently inaccessible.

GUAIMARAL and ZULIA border the mountain
of heroism with threads of love and courage.

Beyond the lines of the horizon
CINERA lays decapitated.

It would be appropriate to mention in this poem,
in minor tones, Labatecas,
Motilones, Chinatos, Guanes, Cáchiras,
whose nameless commanders
fertilised the rebellious ground.

The memory of these brave and noble generations,
our ancestors, gets lost
between legend and history.

They lived the horror of their empires.
It would not be possible to reconstruct
the accuracy of their minutes
in expressions of time and space.

The tribe’s Chief CÚCUTA left the bequest  
of his family name to the people of the valley,
elementary motherland,
built among Cují trees of sparse shade,
on the banks of a poor and raucous river.

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