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Monday, September 9, 2013

My Heroes Have [Not] Always Been Cowboys - iii

Heard the story several times since my high school years.
Once, a few years past, from a comedian in one of those late-night TV shows.
The latest just a few days ago, as part of the answer in this year’s Jeopardy Teen Tournament.
As most of you are probably aware [Roman Catholics know this very well] the Vatican has a patron saint for just about anything you can think of.
This webpage tells us about Lawrence, one of seven deacons charged with helping the poor and the needy in Rome, sometime around A.D. 258.
Tyndale's English translation of the Bible, from wikipedia commons
To make the Word known to all
As you’ll read there in more detail, Lawrence was martyred following his refusal to turn over to the Roman civilian ruler the fortune he was supposed to be hiding.
He was, the webpage says, condemned “to a slow, cruel death. The saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but Lawrence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked. ‘Turn me over,’ he said to the judge. ‘I'm done on this side!’ And just before he died, he said, ‘It's cooked enough now.’ "
Apparently, such stoicism was enough to make him the patron saint for cooks, a fact that the comedian referenced above considered quite jocular [Lawrence is also invoked as patron by archivists, librarians and tanners].
Practically the same information can be found in Wikipedia, where his patronage of “cooks and chefs” is also listed — though archivists, librarians and tanners are omitted — and a cautionary note has been added.
Historians, says the cyberpedia, note that the manner of Lawrence's martyrdom contrasts with the decapitation by which deacons were supposed to be executed.
It also adds this other historian’s theory about how such tradition was created: “He postulates that it was the result of a mistaken transcription, the accidental omission of the letter ‘p’ – ‘by which the customary and solemn formula for announcing the death of a martyr – passus est [‘he suffered,’ that is, was martyred] – was made to read assus est [he was roasted].”
[Incidentally, given that we are talking about patron saints, this would probably be a good time to remember what happened around St. Chad , also a Roman Catholic saint that news stories back in 2000 touted as “patron saint of elections”. There is no such thing, says the webpage: “Due to the somewhat confused nature of Chad's appointment and the continued references to 'chads' — small pieces of ballot papers punched out by voters using voting machines — in the 2000 US Presidential Election it has been jocularly suggested that Chad is the patron saint of botched elections. In fact there is no official patron saint of elections, though Thomas More is the one of politicians.”]
I haven’t mentioned Lawrence of Rome [OK, OK, Saint Lawrence if you insist!] because of any particular interest in making fun of the tradition about the way he was executed. Neither do I consider him hero, even if [without the sainthood bit, since that’s not how my belief goes] I have no problem in believing him a martyr.
You have to admit though that one could do either, depending on whether you are a cynic or count yourself among the Roman Catholic faithful.
Not a cowboy but a hero. That’s how I wanted to title this introductory post about William Tyndale, whose biography will also inform you about how he became a martyr.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Your [Literary] Christmas Gift Arrived

Your Christmas present is here.
Truth is it arrived just about a year ago.
 It is one of the most complete works about the history and current status of literary creation in El Salvador and as far as I know, “Literatura: Análisis de situación de la expresión artística en El Salvador” [Literatura: A situational analysis of artistic expression in El Salvador] — authored by Tania Pleitez Vela under the auspices of Fundación AccesArte —  is only available in Spanish.
The literary fabric diagnosed
The literary fabric diagnosed

Since it’s downloadable at no charge at several URLs, like the one hyperlinked above as well as this other one, it would probably be advisable to get it now. And I mean, right away, before somebody starts thinking about blocking the free access.
A donation or whatever type of support you might want to offer the author [yes, there is a link on her website for that purpose] or the
Fundación would be my suggestion about the way to go, case you feel some kind of unease about the freebie. 
The 400-plus pages book has been available in CD [and online] since about September 2012 and summarizes the research conducted by Pleitez Vela in the 24-plus months lapsed before its publication.
The first part of the book, some 95 pages, summarizes what Pleitez Vela calls an “Outline for a Salvadoran literary historiography.” The rest [excluding, of course, those pages for acknowledgments, etc.] deals with the “status” of the subject of literature in El Salvador, a very detailed and thorough analysis of literary creation in El Salvador from 1980 to 2011.
The dates are important to bear in mind: One of the bloodiest internal wars in Latin American history was fought during the first 12 of those 32 years, with the divisions still raw and quite visible up to the present day.
Violence, not political in origin as during the armed conflict but simply criminal in nature, still permeates the whole nation.
The study’s main purpose, says the author, is to diagnose the interaction between the Salvadoran writers and their environment over the last three decades. Its theoretical base is a “deconstruction” so that a diagnosis of what the author calls the “literary fabric” of El Salvador can be performed.
Perhaps not unexpectedly, Pleitez Vela prefaces the study by quoting one of the most trite expressions ever heard in the Central American country:  “Nobody cares about literature in El Salvador.” Stereotypical, of course, and definitely non-scientifically based, as it is also the case with some of the other frequent sayings one hears or sees around the subject.
At the beginning of her Findings [Pg. 319], Pleitez Vela tells also about the graffiti sprayed on the walls of the cultural center in downtown San Salvador: “Cultura para qué, si el pueblo tiene hambre” [Who the hell needs culture, when people go hungry.]
What’s unexpected [at least by the evidence that I have collected so far] is the apparently scarce repercussion of Pleitez Vela’s outstanding work.
It’s very likely that it may have been already debated or analyzed in public forums in El Salvador and quite probable too that, locally, there may have been news stories about the publication.
Online, the evidence of people talking about the work is pretty thin, at least in Spanish.
Other than the author’s own stories and the Fundación’s announcements on the Internet, there appear to be only three main articles about the work.
One of those was a post that Rafael Francisco Góchez published in his blog in October 2012 [full disclosure here: the writer happens to be my nephew and is also one of the writers interviewed and quoted by Pleitez Vela.]
Two other stories, one by my writer friend Miguel Huezo Mixco and the other by his wife, María Tenorio, figure prominently in the results of a Google search. Miguel, however, also happens to be one of the sources for the study — and quoted at length, we might add — and both him and his companion are part of the Fundación’s team working on the project.
Which is not to say [that goes for the three of them] that their posts or op-ed articles in online media or Salvadoran newspapers are lacking in credibility. If anything, their knowledge should give more weight to their opinion. So I believe.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My Heroes Have [Not] Always Been Cowboys - ii

Not a singing cowboy
Not a singing cowboy
“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”
As you probably remember so says Dr. Emmet L. Brown [the character played by Christopher Lloyd] in the closing scene of Part One of the Back to the Future trilogy.
Brown’s replying to the warning from Marty McFly [Michael J. Fox] that there may not be a road long enough ahead of them for the modified DeLorean to reach the required 88-mph speed that will launch them on a fourth-dimensional leap to the year 2015. [Were all this other than a science-fiction movie, their landing should be just a bit over 24 months away.]
Readying to leap back to the past
Readying to leap back... to the past this time.

Though neither one — McFly or Brown — satisfies the requirements of the traditional or classical version of the hero, I think we all agree that they can be considered good examples of the “modern fictional hero.”
And as far as their own relationship in the fictional world of Hill Valley, it would probably be a safe bet to say that for Marty McFly, the scientist had become somebody to look up to... in other words, a hero-like figure.
That’s descriptive, it does not mean that at any time have I ever regarded them as “heroes” of mine.
Seeing Michael J. Fox all dressed up in “cowboy” attire in the beginning scenes of BTTF III made me immediately remember the family portrait that my parents had taken with me and my two younger brothers back in the mid 50s.
Those of you who have read previous posts will remember that I used the crop for this remembrance of my father — Payito was my hero, I said in that series.
In the BTTF III screenshot McFly is getting ready to leap to 1885, so as to rescue Doc Brown [the 1985 Doc Brown, that is, not the one from 1955 with him at the drive-in movie theater] from a certain death.
I chuckled in seeing McFly's attire because that is exactly how we wanted to dress up. We were responding to what the singing cowboy movies portrayed as reality and donning such colorful getup sent us on our way to fantasy-land — no need for roads, dude!
In time, of course, the majority of us all start doing away with heroes. It doesn’t matter when or how it happens, our admiration vanishes. We no longer wish to be the guy in the white hat or the superhero in the comics.
We begin to discern.
David is no more the heroic slayer of a gigantic warrior with just a sling and a stone for weapons. His words, his faith are still worthy of recognition though he is now a flawed human being, plotting for murder so that his victim’s spouse can become his.
In real, contemporary life, the spiritual advisor lauding marriage from the pulpit does his best to destroy one — it doesn’t have to touch us and one doesn’t have to witness such things in person to know and realize that this is not ancient history, it happens all the time.
Now, let me tell you about a hero.