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Anyone who saw the May 30 entry entitled “A Place to Call One’s Own” might have wondered, “Why in the world is she posting pictures of a bare upstairs room?”  Even on that day in late March when the engineer came to conduct the inspection and the home did not yet belong to me, I began to use the “room of my own” as a place of contemplation. My husband and I ended up sleeping in that room this weekend when we hosted four Spanish speaking poets who are residents of Toronto. Ramón insisted that they use our bedroom, the futon in the family room and the living room sofas, and that we would be comfortable upstairs.

This visit was part of literary exchange Fronterizos Sin Mapa (Border-Dwellers Without a Map). Some poets from Rochester, New York had gone to Toronto in March to participate in a  reading, but I could not attend. Still, when the call was put out for Rochester-based poets who could give the out-of-town guests a night’s lodging, I volunteered. I had not met any of them before the night of the June 1 poetry exchange. My tribute to my adopted home, the Dominican Republic, helped turn acquaintances into friends by the end of the evening.

 

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Rodolfo Molina, Salvadoran-born poet and resident of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Edy Toribio Sanzo, Rochester-based Panamanian dancer, poet (and expert photographer!)

One voice in particular, which belongs to Rodolfo Molina, reminded me just how diametrically opposed my cultural and poetic journey is to that of several of my Latino counterparts. From a position of luxury and privilege, I have had the freedom to decide to “become Dominican.” He, on the other hand, is part of the Salvadoran diaspora. Rodolfo cites “Mother Dorothy” (Dorothy Kazel, one of three North American nuns who were massacred nine months after the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero) as his spiritual guide.

I was fourteen years old in 1980, and I was more concerned about the shooting of musician John Lennon in December of that year. In fact, I was not aware of the murder of Kazel and the others a week earlier. I vaguely recall watching what appeared to be a dramatization of the brutality suffered by the three nuns and one lay worker in my Latin American History class. Then when I taught English Composition in a Religious Studies learning community in 2006, one of my students picked Archbishop Romero for his report on a religious figure. I remember saying,”You know, I learned about him in college, but I had forgotten all about him. Thank you for bringing him to life again for me.”

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I am pictured here with Hector Aviles, Rodolfo Molina, Jose (Nacho) Cartagena, and Carlos Angulo.

Photo taken by Dominican-born Ramón Nolasco, amateur photographer who likes to entertain guests.

Was I doomed to thirty-three years of intermittent forgetfulness, or had I chosen instead to concentrate so much on my personal journey that I nearly excluded everyone else’s? Thanks to the visit of Rodolfo Molina and his friends, I will return to the upstairs room with a new goal: that of writing poetry that takes other people’s struggles into account.

 

 

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