Only Veracruz is beautiful, and the beauty resides, I think, in its people.
Eduardo Pavón http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomateverde/
There is an old saying in Spanish that goes something like this " no one is a poet in his or her own land". I am here to tell you that my experience has been just the opposite. I am not a poet, no, but my beloved land, Veracruz, has embraced my writing with much joy and warmth, which is typical of the Veracruzanos. Perhaps my dearJarochos undestrand that despite my voluntary exile, I still carry Veracruz in my soul. In fact, when someone asks me what country I come from, I never say that I am from Mexico. No. I proudly announce, instead, that I am aJarocha, born and raised in the Port of Veracruz. Yes. I am of the sea and the palm trees, of coffee and sugar cane, of danzón and marimba. My song is the song of the good poet Lara "I come from that little corner of the world where the waves of the sea build their nest".
I went to Veracruz to present my second novel, Más allá de la justicia. My plan was to have a small gathering at someone's garden, hopefully a place with a little bit if shade, and not too many mosquitoes. More than anything, I was looking for an excuse to be with friends and family who had been asking for a copy of my book.
Without my asking, one of my many nieces, Judith, offered to organize the reading. That's just the way she is. Judith is generous and kind, which is why she is so successful in her dental practice. Patients fight over her to get their teeth fixed. (If you happen to be in Veracruz and you have a toothache, make sure to give her a call and she'll be happy to help, unless, of course, she is surfing, which is her true calling.) Judith decided to seek the advice of Patricia Carranza, the Secretary of Tourism, regarding the venue. Ms. Carranza quickly suggested the city's museum. Heeding her suggestion, Judith went to the museum and filled out the application. Much to our surprise, Mr. Héctor Noguera Trujillo, director and author of more than 17 books, agreed to host the presentation in this sacred forum.
Maria with Martha Durazzo and Jose Romero
As you can imagine, I was thrilled AND flattered. Then I panicked. The reading was scarcely in three weeks' time and I didn't have a clue who may be available to present the novel. The book had not reached the shelves of the bookstores in Veracruz, and therefore, only a few people had read it. Then I remembered the Association of Veracruz Writers and decided to approach its president, Martha Elza Durazzo. I had been chatting with Martha via Facebook for some time but I had never met her in person. This was a good opportunity to finally meet her and perhaps affiliate with the Association. Just in case, I also wrote my childhood friend, Patricia Andrade del Cid, a professor at the Universidad de Veracruz, Xalapa. After thirty-four years of not seeing each other, we had recently reconnected, again, via Facebook. I knew she had read the novel and besides, I wanted to share this special moment with her.
Jose Romero presenting the novel.
Ms. Durazzo gracefully agreed to present the novel and much to my delight, she also recruited Mr. José Manuel Romero, distinguished author and cinematographer, to provide a literary critique. My dear friend Patricia also accepted, so I had the honor of having three extraordinary presenters. Here you have Mr. Romero's critique and Patricia Andrade del Cid's remarks for your own (Spanish) reading pleasure.
Then there was the issue of publicity. How would we let the public know about this free event? This time my brother Manolo came to our rescue. (Again, if you happen to be in Veracruz and want to go diving, I highly recommend his services as a dive master with Dorado Divers – he is definitely the best diver instructor Veracruz!) He made arrangements and the event was announced in XEU radio. My cousin, Leopoldo Domínguez Armengual also came to the rescue and secured an interview with Firma magazine; this is how I had the great pleasure of meeting Leticia Castillas Cruz, a wonderful editor and a savy interviewer who subtly retrieved my most intimate secrets.
Other nieces took care of the food and also took the stage to impersonate my characters during the reading . My husband and nephew took over the sale of the books. My nephew is a a math whiz and I am certain that someday he will lift us all out of poverty.
During the presentation, I received another surprise. The city's mayor, Carolina Gudiño Coro presented me with a beautiful plaque, which I have on my Wall right next to the photo of my sisters and me in New York, remember I blogged about our adventure?
Presenting my novel in my beloved Port of Veracruz reaffirmed my conviction that the true treasure to be found in this literary adventure is the love and kindness I receive along the way. That night, I had my best audience, my great-nieces and great-nephews who, by the way, asked the most substantial questions I have heard up to date. Questions like: aren't you afraid of criticizing the judicial system of the United States? And, what a gift it was to reconnect with my elementary school friends whom I had not seen in over three decades! I now know, unequivocally, that true friendships stand the test of time.
Sandra Vazquez from AMMJET
he reception went on beyond that night. The next morning, the Women In Buisiness Association (AMMJE) invited me to a traditional Veracruz brunch. I was served delicious gorditas and picadas (If you have never tasted them you are really missing out). The president of the Association, Sandra Vázquez Castillo, presented me with a plaque, naming me an Honorary Member of AMMJE. I can't tell you how privileged I feel to be welcomed by such powerful and important organization. Its maxim Alone Invisible, Together Invincible, inspires me to stand in solidarity with my gender.
Receiving a Plaque
And now you see, dear reader, why I believe that a poet CAN be celebrated and appreciated in their land. Granted, perhaps for this to be true one must be from Veracruz. My beloved city has always recognized its authors and composers – one that comes to mind is my favorite composer is from Orizaba, Francisco Gabilondo Soler, also known as Cri-Cri. Likewise, and with the same deference, they have sheltered authors in exile, like Cuba's José Martí, whose bronze statue enhances the city's pavilions. My family
So here is an invite to my fellow authors: if you feel that you have been given the cold shoulder in your own native town, think about bringing your work to Veracruz, Mexico's most beautiful port. I am not sure how many books you will sell (if that is your goal, I suggest you try Amazon), but I can guarantee you will enjoy a jam-packed event with the best audience ever: my Jarochos.