Thunderweavers / Tejedoras de rayos

Thunderweavers / Tejedoras de rayos

by Juan Felipe Herrera
     
 

The highlands of Chiapas are smoldering with death.

In the winter of 1997, paramilitary agents ambushed and killed many Mayan villagers in Acteal, Chiapas. Gifted writer Juan Felipe Herrera has composed a stirring poem sequence—published in a bilingual format—written in response and homage to those who died, as well as to all those who call for

Overview

The highlands of Chiapas are smoldering with death.

In the winter of 1997, paramilitary agents ambushed and killed many Mayan villagers in Acteal, Chiapas. Gifted writer Juan Felipe Herrera has composed a stirring poem sequence—published in a bilingual format—written in response and homage to those who died, as well as to all those who call for peace and justice in the Mexican highlands and throughout the Americas.

Thunderweavers is a story of violent displacements in the lives of the most impoverished residents of southern Mexico, the Tzotzil Tzeltal campesinos. It deals with the destruction of a people and all evidence of their lives:

Why am I Tzotzil?
Why was I born in this land of so many storms?
I plant corn and yet I reap gunpowder
I plant coffee and yet I reap mad spirits
I plant my house and yet I reap the viscera
of this fallen earth.

The sections are written in the voices of four women from a family in Chiapas: Xunka, a lost twelve-year-old girl; Pascuala, the mother; grandmother Maruch; and Makal, an older daughter who is pregnant. Each voice weaves into the others and speaks for still other members of the larger Mayan and Native American family.

Herrera, a major Chicano poet known for his expansive, surreal writing, here takes on a spare and lyrical style in the tradition of Rosario Castellanos, recalling as well the canto legacy of Pablo Neruda and the testimonial call of Ernesto Cardenal. Thunderweavers is a poetic account of transcendence and continuity in the midst of chaos, suffering, and war—a Mayan cycle of personal, physical, and spiritual struggles that Indian women have been continuously engaged in for the past five hundred years.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fierce, anguished lyrics. . . . Herrera handles complex, wrenching material with a chilling tone that is at once furiously resistant, unsentimental and deeply wounded. The back-to-back English and Spanish allows the reader a fluid read in either language." —Publishers Weekly

"Juan Felipe Herrera has done a commendable job of bringing the horror of this time to poetry." —Foreword

"The simple, enduring ebb and flow of village life . . . is shattered forever by man's unnatural acts; the fields are drenched in blood and the people murdered. That Thunderweavers is a hard book to read is a tribute to the power of Herrera's elegiac verses." —MultiCultural Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Blood travels past the kitchens/ the television and an altar of maize fade./ Travels along the wound of Mexico/ an X in the center of its heart." The voices and psyches of four related indigenous women from the devastated village of Acteal, Chiapas, are hauntingly channeled by Herrera in this bilingual collection of fierce, anguished lyrics. Herrera (Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream; Crashboomlove; etc. ), who often performs with a theater troupe and has authored two children's books, deftly handles each of his four characters without condescension, as they are scattered in the wake of a paramilitary assault on their hometown: "you are the wise one, your flag upon the residences/ of cholera and dissolved bones under puddles, stars/ shredded in the pits." A mother, grandmother, lost 12-year old daughter, and her pregnant 17-year-old sister wander separately through a surreal landscape of burning cornfields, ribbons of fabric and flesh, and "that tiny girl democracy." Images repeat through the book's four sections (one per character), slowly transformed by the stark perceptions of each character's mind and senses into Mayan symbols for five hundred years of oppression. Herrera handles complex, wrenching material with a chilling tone that is at once furiously resistant, unsentimental and deeply wounded. (The back-to-back English and Spanish allows the reader a fluid read in either language.) Conceived as part homage to the area's people and part testimonial, the book, Herrera's 12th, strengthens Arizona's impressive and vital list of poetry by major Chicano writers. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816519866
Publisher:
University of Arizona Press
Publication date:
02/01/2000
Series:
Camino del Sol Series
Edition description:
Bilingual Edition
Pages:
150
Sales rank:
605,995
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

What People are saying about this

Ray Gonzales
The poems in Thunderweavers make for a brutal elegance-the force necessary to understand the situation in Chiapas. Juan Felipe Herrera is the first poet of the new century. His wisdom, his embrace of the world we live and die in, and the way he finds redemption through poetry, will be the things we learn from when we open our eyes in the new millennium.
— (Ray Gonzales, author of Memory Fever)
Martin Espada
In this poet's voice we hear the distant thunder of Chiapas growing closer--the churchbells and the gunfire-as a Mayan family fights to survive. A terrible and beautiful storm of poetry.
— (Martin Espada, author of Zapata's Disciple)

Meet the Author

Poet and performance artist Juan Felipe Herrera is the author of many books of poetry and prose, as well as two bilingual books for children. He is the twenty-first Poet Laureate of the United States.

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