When the editors and I began to think about the contents of this issue, we agreed to focus on artists and writers who deal with the permeability of borders, in their lives and in their work. A broad theme, considering the fact that we live in an age of geographical mobility and electronic communication, but a useful subtext that grounded our thoughts. Naturally, as soon as we began the long process of selection, we forgot all about our theme and simply included those artists and writers we all agreed were the very best in their fields. Yet, at the end of this process, here it is, the permeability of borders—intellectual, physical, national—and of course: this is the divine human experience.
I discovered pre-Columbian art in the emotional sense, in the same way as someone who says, “I finally understood Mozart or Bach.” … This could sound ridiculous because my mother was German and my father Hungarian. What did I have to do with pre-Columbian art? I can’t explain it: I felt that I had something in common with the artists who had created these objects. And I also told myself, I live in Mexico and up to this moment I have been creating a sort of European Surrealist art … Why don’t I make something that belongs to this country?
—Gunther Gerzso, Painter
Latin Americans are out an ethnicity. Like the United States, we represent a conglomerate of immigrants … Spanish, French, English, German, Italian … plus what resulted from the mix of newcomers with the original inhabitants of our countries, mestizaje… . We are all Americans. I don’t have t leave my place of birth to become an American. I am an American from Nicaragua… . I refuse to accept that my experience sets me apart. l am not going to folklorize my experience. It is part of the totality of human experience.
—Gioconda Belli, Poet and Novelist
I’m interested in subjective borders, the limits that you impose on yourself and how illusionary they are. I’ve also been dealing with ideas of reflection and distortion, how you think things are and how you see them, and what gets distorted between those two perceptions. For instance … each time I look at myself in the mirror, I can’t recognize myself because what I see reflected is not exactly who I think l am. I thought perhaps there was a similar fluctuation of perception in the Tijuana/ San Diego area. People who live very close to one another think of themselves and one another in particular ways, but in reality, distort and reflect one another simultaneously.
—Valeska Soares, Sculptor
When a man like Maqroll reads Chateaubriand’s Mémoires d’oijtre-tombe, or the memoirs of the Cardinal de Retz, he puts himself in their places and asks himself what he would have done if … his curiosity about the past helps him to live the present. And why? Because the present becomes not something that just crashes over you, but rather when he hears about the terrible things happening in Kosovo he says. “Hold on, this same thing happened in Spain, in Granada, at the end of the Reconquista.”
—Alvaro Mutis, Poet and Novelist
What if we all knew each other a little better, and in knowing each other, came to understand the lessons of history, of storytelling, of philosophies as they have been reflected and refracted through cultures and time? This issue contains voices from all over Latin America, many of whom now reside in the United States, and what I have learned is that this is not the Latin American issue, it’s the American issue. An issue that could not have been put together without the collaboration of many people, from the editors, to the translators to the contributors themselves, as well as our patrons who help cover the costs of producing these issues. Your names are scattered throughout this issue and you all have my deep gratitude and respect.
—Betsy Sussler, Editor-in-chief