How to reconvert the pain of exile

Brand new winner of the Málaga essay prize for Herida fecunda Sandra Lorenzano stops in Barcelona and chats with La Vanguardia about her work.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
29 March 2024 Friday 22:25
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How to reconvert the pain of exile

Brand new winner of the Málaga essay prize for Herida fecunda Sandra Lorenzano stops in Barcelona and chats with La Vanguardia about her work. The essayist, narrator and poet is a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), from which she has a doctorate in Letters.

But Lorenzano is not completely Mexican because, although she has lived in Mexico since 1976, she was born in Argentina in 1960. And she does not feel completely Argentine either, which is why she uses the mixed name argenmex, common among Argentine citizens who exiled to Mexico due to the military dictatorship.

The author confesses that there is a topic that obsesses her: “The way political and social history traverses our particular and intimate history.” And from there Herida fecunda is born, “a poetic and literary reflection.” “I start from my story of exile, but only as a starting point, since it is similar to many other exiles and migrations. There are some that are closer to stories from Spain, since I studied with Spanish republican exiles, at the Madrid school in Mexico. The first class was from the daughter of some exiles and was about the generation of '27. I was surprised that it was a very open and permissive school, unlike the education I had received in Argentina."

In her long career, Lorenzano has investigated discrimination, which is why one of her references is María Zambrano, the Spanish philosopher who was exiled in Mexico and whose work was not recognized until the last years of her life. “María Zambrano has dedicated herself to talking about exile, because her own colleagues did not let her be in Mexico City because she was young and female. What could she know about philosophy?

Just as Zambrano “is a woman of many literary stories,” Lorenzano's life “is intertwined with other stories of exile, up to the current migration; For this reason we created the name argenmex”.

The essayist continues offering data and reflections on migratory movements: “According to the UN, six out of ten women who cross Mexico to reach the United States are raped.” She reflects: “Unlike now, our exile of privilege was very well received; But that privilege does not take away the pain that migration entails.” The title of the essay, Fertile Wound, inspired by Clarice Lispector, seeks to turn that pain into something beneficial.

“The Argentine dictatorship ends in 1983 and therefore the exile too, but I choose to continue in Mexico,” says the essayist. I am very Latin American: my two homelands are my two motherlands, as Zambrano said.” And she reflects: “Exile makes me ashamed: do I have the right to talk about exile? There is also the modesty of being the outsider, because I wanted to be the same as everyone and that is why I made a great effort to speak with a Mexican accent and hide my Argentine accent.”

Lorenzano explains the two talismans of her life that sustain her: “One is poetry, the poetic word. The other, as Cristina Peri Rossi says: from all catastrophes, including exile, our libido saves us. For me, the moment of falling in love, of eroticism, is a moment of reterritorialization.”

“Identity is not something solid and homogeneous; In the end, I'm not from anywhere. Literature has to arise from a challenge to the voice of authority, that is why, when they force me to define myself, I write a book,” she concludes.