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Poetry needs social commitment: Poet Manuel Espinosa Sainos

Among the writers in indigenous languages, the Poblano Manuel Espinosa Sainos He has dedicated himself to spreading the Totonac language through his poetry. His work is characterized by its intrinsic relationship with the identity of his roots.

Totonac translator, producer, broadcaster and poet, the native of the municipality of Ixtepec he is one of the most prolific in his mother tongue; He estimates that he has written more than 600 poems and has published three books in his 20-year literary career.

His texts cover a range of genres and reflect periods of his process. In « Voices of Totonacapan », the first book he published in 1999, addresses everyday life, but also denunciation and violence against women, as well as what happens to children.

In « The Totonacos sing », his second work, talks about his roots, the Totonac gods, the duality of the earth, the ritual of sowing and birth.

In his third book, « The tree of navels », ventures into erotic poetry, but clarifies that a large part of his work has love poetry in the indigenous language.

« Ultimately, love is a universal theme and indigenous peoples are not the exception of the act of love, we are the product of the act of love in fact. »

He anticipates that his latest creations have more to do with him social commitment where it seeks to identify with the people, “Because if you don’t have that commitment there is no point in making poetry. I think it is important in some way to be the voice of the people. I have been writing poetry that has to do with the violence that women experience, with this aggression that they are experiencing with femicides. I am writing poems to talk about this problem, to make it visible and also with the dispossession that indigenous communities experience by large mining and hydroelectric companies. There has been a movement both in the country and in the region of indigenous peoples who defend their territory ”.

Another issue he addresses is death, « because it is a universal issue and from our perspective, the indigenous vision. »

Contact with poetry

Espinoza Sainos evokes that he had his first contact with poetry in elementary school, “When they put the children to declaim and I got choral poetry with a poem by Pablo Neruda (‘The enemies’). I liked it a lot, but it was something like a passenger, then I went to high school and I liked to declaim in contests. He stood out and I liked him ”.

He remembers that to continue with his academic training he had to leave his homeland when entering high school, an action that allowed him to meet the poet Juan Tiburcio, who opened the panorama of what he wanted and is in life.

« He presented a book and was also working with the indigenous identity, with spirituality, with traditional medicine, with the mother tongue, with many organizational processes. »

He indicates that this approach allowed him to strengthen his indigenous identity and, « on the other hand, I felt motivated by the presence of the poet. »

In the same way, it opened a fantastic world for him since he discovered that in his mother tongue you could write, “Do theater, poetry, novels, you could make stories, you could do any literary text. Now I know. That was how he encouraged me and I started writing ”.

His first poems, he remembers, were for his friends. He highlights that at the same time he had to take on the task of learning to read and write in his mother tongue, since « in our country indigenous children are educated in a language that is not theirs, which is Spanish. Nor did I know how to read and write in my language, I learned it when I was growing up and that is how I began to write my first poems (in Totonac).

Manuel Espinosa Sainos expresses that did not have an academic background in literature, so his poetry is “from the community. I learned through a lot of effort along the way. It took me a lot of effort to understand the word metaphor because in schools they don’t teach you to write poetry, they don’t teach you to write literature, they don’t even teach you to consume because they don’t teach you to read books, it’s a review of what they give you ”.

It also narrates that was monolingual until 7 years of age when he entered elementary school, where in addition to his language, he was also stripped of his traditional clothing.

“In a parade on May 5, a teacher told us that all the children had to wear pants and leave our traditional clothes and that’s how I also got to know another world, because there were many words that I didn’t understand because the classes were in Spanish and I was monolingual in Totonac ”.

Finally, it says that the word he likes the most in his dialect is « arrive »: “In Spanish when I arrive in the city of Puebla I say, ‘I arrived in the city of Puebla at six in the afternoon’; In Totonac we say arrive: klapulh, which means the plants germinated on my face; So, if I came to the city of Puebla, it is: ‘at six in the afternoon in the city of Puebla the plants germinated on my face.’

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