Letter from the Editor by Betsy Sussler

BOMB 70 Winter 2000
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This Americas Issue was first suggested to me by our contributing editor in poetry and my friend, Daniel Flores y Ascencio. I owe him a great debt of gratitude: manifested as it is in this issue, it’s a luminous revelation, one that’s long overdue, if that can be said of a revelation. Latin American cultures, which have by this time become vested in the United States, are so rich and full, invigorating and spirited, moving and profound that it’s a shame so many of its practitioners are not better known in this country. It would be folly to think that one issue can do any more than reveal a sampling, however extraordinary the sampling. This Americas issue opens BOMB’s pages to the art and literature of our neighbors, one that will stay open.

I learned much editing these pages. The courage and fortitude displayed by many of the artists and writers in the face of civil wars and dictatorships resulting in the loss of family, friends and forced exile has brought me to my knees in admiration. It’s no coincidence then that the work and interviews filling these pages unabashedly discuss the metaphysical—God and the soul—and the redressing of social injustice. Brazilian poet Adélia Prado: “The terrain of faith is the same as poetry. Faith can’t refuse what poetry accepts, because there is no contradiction between faith and poetry. It’s the same territory.” And Nicaragua’s Claribel Alegría: “We belong to this beautiful cosmic race and it is the cosmic race that is going to reign in this next century.” And finally Mexican artist, Francisco Toledo: “Lower income people think cultural places are for people with money, people who are well dressed. We are trying to destroy or at least diminish the attitude that only the few, the educated, can enter.”

This search for spirit and justice does not negate pleasure; irony and humor walk hand in hand with the Latin American soul. The Cuban writer Cabrera Infante: “The best of the South American writers was and still is Borges, who instead of a baroque who went for broke became a classic in fact.” Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto: “I was with a girl and we were watching TV. I saw a spool of string on the table, and I started to wrap it around my face. The girl that I was with got scared. I went to the mirror to see what was scaring her, but to me it looked beautiful. I was like a mummy in a cocoon.”

And each heritage has fed its recipients with a love of their land, their people and their folklore Peruvian singer Susana Baca: “By the time our research was done, we had boxes full of recordings. In Piura, for example, in the north, up close to Ecuador, there’s a radio station owned by some Spanish priests dedicated to gathering and saving recordings of Afro-Peruvian music. They let me in their archive to search and record whatever I wanted.” And novelist Mayra Montero, “My husband and I stop at a point where you can see the two seas: to the left the Caribbean, perfectly smooth, and to the right, the Atlantic, all rough and choppy. At those moments, with the two seas strangely bathed by the same light, that unique perpendicular light that you find only in the Antilles, tell me, where else would you want to be? What sight could surpass that wonder?”

It has been a great honor editing this issue, many people helped: their names appear in the magazine as artists, writers, musicians, interviewers and translators; those on our masthead—our staff, our contributing editors, our Board of Directors and Board of Advisors—their enthusiasm and commitment made it possible. There are, as well, those who worked behind the scenes and they include: Esther Allen, Zoe Anglesey, Carmen Balcells and Carina Pons, Carmen Balcells Agencia Literaria; Thomas Colchie; Barbara Epler, New Directions; Petuuche Gilbert; Francisco Goldman; Juan García de Oteyza, Executive Director of The Mexican Cultural Institute of New York; Elizabeth Hinckley, Atlantic Records; Jeffrey Kaye, Luakabop; David Krasnow; George Negroponte; Ethan Nosowsky, FSG; Ambassador José Pinto, Mexican Consul General, New York; Michael Schmidt and Joyce Nield, Carcanet; Daniel Shapiro, The Americas Society; Emilio Steinberger, Association of American Artists; Alexander Taylor and Bob Smith, Curbstone Press; and Catherine de Zegher, The Drawing Center.

 

Thank you all.

—Betsy Sussler

Originally published in

BOMB 70, Winter 2000

Featuring interviews with Ruben Ortiz, Juan Manuel Echavarria, Susan Baca, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Jose Cura, Adelia Prado, Ernesto Neto, Mayra Montero, Claribel Alegria, Francisco Toledo, and Juan Formell. 

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