Literature in the Native Tounges of the Americas

Words Without Borders has a special issue on literature in the native languages of the Americas. Here’s a excerpt from Marcos Matías Alonso’s “Dreams and Memories of a Common Man”, originally written in Náhuatl.

Over there, in “The Disenchantment,” it was said about the great city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan that, in addition to its beauty, one earns a lot of money there. It was said that there was more than enough work and since it was rarely hot, one could become a little fairer. No longer dark, no longer appearing so Indian. It also had big movie theaters. Some people even presumed to know Rigo Tovar and had shaken hands with El Santo, there in the Blanquita Theater. We were very moved when we heard the conversations of our countrymen, who now wore disposable electric watches, used disposable clothing, and sometimes even disposable women. Knowing the city of great lights was very impressive to my wife and especially to me, I even started to dream of returning to my village with a car and a lot of money.

One afternoon we came to a decision. We would leave “The Disenchantment.” Since then, we have lived for fifteen years here in the big city. Two of our children were born here, one in the district called “The Future,” and the other in the neighborhood called “Fate.” The other three children were born in “The Disenchantment,” the city of our birth, where our parents, grandparents, my wife and I were all born.