Introduction, selection and translation from Spanish by Andrea Echeverría
David Aniñir (Santiago, 1971) is a Mapuche poet and initiator of the Mapurbe aesthetic, a poetic vision that explores the heterogeneous perspective experienced by some migrant Mapuche in the city. In effect, this poet proposes a ground-breaking discourse that communicates the experiences of the Mapuche who live in the city of Santiago today, while resisting their invisibility. He has published three collections of poems, Mapurbe. Venganza a raíz (2005, 2009), Haycuche (2008), and Guilitranalwe (2014) and currently lives in Santiago. Recreating elements of Mapuche orality, Aniñir participates in poetic recitals making use of performative resources.
This poet encourages a mobile ethnic identity that is urban, rebellious and anti-systemic, so there is no doubt that his poems move away from the traditional representation of a rural Mapuche identity associated primarily with the natural environment of forests in southern Chile and the ancestral community.. Yet, the gap between these two different spaces of ethnic representation, the traditional and the urban, is not as wide as one might think initially. Aniñir incorporates elements from the Mapuche ritual tradition in his poems, such as yeyipun (prayer), pewma (dreams), werken (messenger), ngenpin (ritual speaker), and machi (spiritual authority and shaman), but he does this from a critical and innovative perspective.
In his poetry he elaborates a conception of an ethnic self that refuses to merely reproduce stereotypes of indigenous identity to talk about his own process of ethnic identification. Instead, elements of the native tradition are integrated problematically in poems that reflect and question indigenous identity in an urban context, an identity that is located at the crossroads between the attraction of the city and the vital need of admapu or set of Mapuche social and legal norms and customs, and between the difficulty of expressing traditional Mapuche concepts in Spanish and the inability to read or write in Mapuzungun. The following poems show how Aniñir includes important elements of the admapu in his writing and the paradoxes and contradictions that emerge from the (dis) location of these elements in the city.
(With a glossary below)
Poetry to what I write Loneliness is also a tribute to the one who’s near (A.H.) One I say, I write and I repeat this is a commission of past times legacy by the nature of life and the cosmic plans of my ancestors this unaccustomed occupation with no more tools than anger and something similar to what in soap operas they call love (in these neoliberal days), this large trace of leaves and heavy chested reflections I offer with my moldy hands and my cloudy soul from facing my own shadow so much. In my verses I sing in my lines there is rhythm and they fly. Sponsored by myself brought from the peripheral umbilical cord, that gives life to the goats that listen to my poems, I raise this poetic universe, from the Mapocho river down on crystalline turds that sail to the sea. Sometimes I have trouble lying orally and I write. That way my deception is beautiful and the falseness doesn’t hurt. This Mapuche dressed in jeans and T-shirts from American universities confuse my inhabitant a mix of northameraucano and mapu-urban. What I don’t say is freed in my verse for the problem of self-habitation in writing exacerbates itself in speech and the spittle is diluted. Two Inche ta Mapurbe tuwin chew tañi lefpeyen kurra I'm from a shitopolis where the asphalt burns. Native to death and life Aniñir like a lying fox sitting in the shade, on the sidewalk, testimony of muddy steps. Güili as a life challenge for my dogged old woman with nails full of blue ink to write poems or some curious movement of lights, traro to fly over the land, its neon meadows and its peripheral valleys far away from the noise. I don't read so much for self-motivation thick books close on their own when I reach for my cigarettes or when I'm scratching myself, I scratch and scratch myself to bleed, to die a tinted nail sinks into my flesh and buries itself. And I scratch myself to the bone, to the marrow liters of blood come off like guts like an animal slaughtered on good friday liters of blood and poetry wet the streets, the sidewalks and the earth ñiachi rennets hang with my meat blood with mud stop my steps, I slide over already wounded poetries falling at the gate of my house which is a book ajar, waiting. Turns out I'm from an ancient world where the stars burned with light in the sky like flames eroding volcanoes kissed the clouds with their fire, when it rained the light and fire made the flowers grow and the earth was a garden. Three Apparently I'm not the one who writes poetry is who does it for me, it comes looking for me wrapped in night and dreams, cruelly it shakes my soul I wake up with beautiful doubts it is poetry who comes to me babbling beautiful sarcasms of dead Mapuche who want to laugh and weep for me in verse. Now I'm in front of you defying the void and the broadband technology that distances now, high poetry let's fight a duel on the battlefield of the blank sheet let's see who dies first come challenge me I have an ink dagger that cuts across my blood you have the toll on the imagination love and hate come let us bleed in silence.
Pewma of the backside world Being you is evolution itself being in you means suffocating with dreams suffering in torture and not being diluted in your dream where you build sphinxes and prehistoric jugs there where the snake played with you in life to be yourself is to be in you and love myself, for you are in me and it is the same. It's to PENE-trate a world that's only for two it’s to imagine that reality is imaginary it’s to believe that I believe in you and you in me it’s to walk through ancestral lands and speak the language of immortals. We are from an ancient world where revolutions were not necessary you washed your face in the river of truth and I surrounded our animal brothers because we lived with them. That is how it was there in the place where our bodies were other bodies we were the dark race of so many nights. That is how it was there naked of spirit naked of poetry naked of sadnisses. That is how it was there here I am only a dealer of psychotropic lines I am the werken of your pewmas.
Perimontu A machi in hardcore attitude A daring good-looking punk 2.0 Unleashing her yeyipunk to the rhythm of the sun In moon code In star key With comets riff A machi in power metal attitude with Newendy Stirring her trance in the mosh Jumping earth below, to the pit Inland, to red, to where it all comes together A machi of the slum A drunk beautiful-muse mapunky Euphorikally Marichiwaniando Because you are just marichiwaneando With your brew of acid and sulfurik muday Drunk of kuymi Dulcinea of the cosmogonic terraqueous fable A machi mapurbe with a surprised attitude With Kalku fiber by the bloody torrent Ascending to high voltage Rewe And the thunder of voltages in the rainy night With the spiral of the Slam through foye A Guakolda from the corner Totally Tough
admapu– Mapuche tradition and customs foye– the Mapuche’s most sacred tree machi– Mapuche shaman who has the task of healing the sick by using remedies, teas, prayers, songs and dances kalku– a type of machi that creates evil spells muday– fermented drink made from wheat, corn and a type of pinenut mapuzungun– the language Mapuche speak ngenpin–ritual orator perimontu– machi’s vision in a trance state pewma– dream or oneiric state through which Mapuche can access the Wenu Mapu and communicate with their ancestors ngenpin– ritual speaker rewe or rehue– altar formed by a trunk, tree or set of trees around which the nguillatun ceremony is performed werken–messenger
For more about David Aniñir
- David Aniñir in Retrato Literario Project
About the translator
Andrea Echeverría is an assistant professor at Wake Forest University and she received her doctorate in Latin American Literature and Cultural Studies from Georgetown University. She is the author of El despertar de los awquis: migración y utopía en la poesía de Boris Espezúa y Gloria Mendoza (2016) and Yeyipún en la ciudad: representación ritual y memoria en la poesía mapuche (forthcoming). She co-edited an issue of the journal Diálogo (De Paul University) dedicated to cinema, literature and art that denounces extractivism in Latin America (2019) and she has published articles in journals such as Bulletin of Latin American Research, Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, Latin American Research Review, and Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos.