Interview with Rita Indiana (EFE)

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[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this information to our attention.] Here is an interview with Rita Indiana entitled “En América Latina hay mucho que hacer por la mujer” [“In Latin America there is still much more to do for women”] by Carmen Siguenza (EFE). The link includes a 3-minute video. See additional related links below.

Dominican writer Rita Indiana took advantage of the fact that her country of origin is this year’s guest country at the Madrid Book Fair to visit the city, where she will surely go to visit the tomb of Goya, one of her major [literary] references, to cleanse herself with tobacco “as santeros do,” she points out to Efeminista.

Transgressive writer, singer and songwriter

Hecho en Saturno (Periférica), the last book by this transgressive writer, singer, and composer—and one of the most influential figures on the Caribbean scene—hovers over Goya’s work “Saturn devouring his son,” as a cruel metaphor of those parents who made the Revolution and the consequences on their children—a very visual story about the art world in Cuba.

Q.- What does it mean for your country to be present at the Book Fair?

A.- I think it’s a marvel, especially, because I say that, as a Latin American cultural entity we have been behind a kind of banana wall, which is not very visible, and more so in the literary arena, which is so limited because we are not a country with many publishers, or many writers either. Although we have very good writers. These are editorial opportunities, which is what any writer and good literature needs. For any writer to come to Madrid in this context, it is a gift.

  1. – What do you think about the push for feminism? What do you think of this revolution?

A.- It is wonderful, because I am also part of it. It is happening at all levels, and I think that, speaking of writers, the more we are in positions of power, the further we go. Now, there are many more publishers. Before, everything regarding the publishing industry—the agencies, the publishing houses…—was run by men, and now, many of us [women] we are in a different situation and we can support one another to mobilize within the different industries to which we belong. I believe that the idea of an individual contribution is super important, the collective effort is important, but also the idea of self-determination and saying “I have to move forward, as a woman and as a human being, and get to where my mother or my great-great-grandmother could not arrive.” This is a thriving thing [mechanism] that will never end; because I believe that revolutions do not have an end, but rather that they are in progress, as well as feminism is in progress.

  1. – How about in Latin America, what is the situation for women?

A.- I can talk a little more deeply about what I know, which is the Caribbean, my country, and Puerto Rico, where I live, which are a little different. Santo Domingo is a very conservative country. I do not know if you can say that it is the most chauvinistic country in the Caribbean, but it is a very chauvinist country in which, despite this, there is a very strong feminist movement since the 60s and 70s. People like Magaly Pineda, who died two years ago, a true leader and a great figure of Dominican feminism whom I admire very much, women who—despite dictatorship and repression of all kinds—have kept working for our rights. However, there is much, much more work to be done. There are many differences between Latin America and Europe.

And, in my view, patriarchy affects all of us, not only those of us born as women, but rather all of us. We are all affected. It is a structure of repression that constricts our essence and our freedom as human beings.

Hecho en Saturno: art, politics, and revolutionary parents

Q.- In your book Hecho en Saturno there is a phrase that says: “Those children, marked by the ideological passion of their parents, who were they now?”—which is pretty much the backbone of this volume, where there are revolutionaries, art, or the relationship between parents and children. Is this the case?

A.- My generation is the X-generation, the sandwich generation. We are between the ‘Baby Boomers’, who changed the world in some way or at least give themselves the credit for looking at the world like that, and I think they did; and the ‘millennials’, who have sought it out or ‘currado’, as you say, in a slightly more interesting way. So, my generation has a hymn “’I’ am a loser” [soy un perdedor]. It is complicated, because we are the descendants of these people who had the audacity to create all those micro-revolutions, which we are still talking about today.

I come from a family, a bit of the…, I wouldn’t say extreme right, but quite conservative on both sides. And when I was in school, in my teens, I started having friends with strange names, and I started exploring: “Hey, why are you called Troy, and another Fabriccio, or Lenin,” and they all started telling me a story that I did not know about my country, because it is not in the history books. These include the 12 years of Balaguer, which is the unknown dictatorship of the Dominican Republic. Then, stemming from those names, I begin to understand that part of the history of the 70s in the Dominican Republic and to be interested in it, in its clandestine nature, in the international revolutionary movement that took place in those years. And from there, a little Hecho en Saturno was born.

Q.- And here, is Goya’s Saturn also the father who devours his children?

A.- Yes, it is a bit, like what I said, that mythical thing that those days are for me, always magical. Most of my friends are age 60 and over. I am very interested in the experience they had at that time, on both sides. But, above all, those who participated in clandestine movements, in urban guerrilla warfare. I like Greek mythology, and it’s kind of the same: there are heroes and gods fighting there. It is a bit like the way that era is a mythical thing for me, always magical.

It is also the courage that our generation did not have, those now struggling for the environment or the continuity of feminism, but everything is a continuity of what these people “exploded” in the 60s. My strongest reference is those struggles that took place in the 60’s.

“Goya is the artist who inaugurated contemporary art”

Q.- What does Goya mean to you?

A.- For me, I dare say that Goya is the artist who inaugurated contemporary art. He stands apart from the artists who worked only for the Church or the King. He divorces himself from that and begins to create a critical art, an art that does not depend on what he will be paid for this or that painting, but rather, he is looking for a personal and independent exploration. I cannot summarize in a word what Goya means to me, but I like him very much.

Q.- At one point, you have said that Trujillo (the Dominican dictator) created an entire literary genre.

A.- Yes, that’s where my interest in writing about what happened after Trujillo begins. It’s what I was saying: the unknown dictatorship (because not many people outside of the Dominican Republic know it) that were the 12 years under Balaguer, who was the one who wrote speeches for Trujillo, that small Machiavellian figure that ends up inheriting the country. During his first twelve years, there was a terrible repression and the murder of hundreds and hundreds of people—students, journalists, people who walked with a book in their hand. A repression of the intelligentsia and of a thought that going to inherit the country.

[Interview translated by Ivette Romero. See the original interview at https://www.efeminista.com/rita-indiana-libro-dominicana. Photo above: screenshot from the EFE video https://www.efeminista.com/rita-indiana-libro-dominicana/]

Of related interest: “Rita Indiana participa en la Feria del Libro de Madrid” MetroRD, June 12, 2019 https://www.metrord.do/do/entretencion/2019/06/12/rita-indiana-participa-la-feria-del-libro-madrid.html

“Chispeante participación de Rita Indiana en la Feria del Libro de Madrid” Diário Digital RD, June 10, 2019 https://diariodigital.com.do/2019/06/10/chispeante-participacion-de-rita-indiana-en-la-feria-del-libro-de-madrid.html

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