The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
A Leaf in the Wind
The family of the poet Eduardo Mitre migrated from Palestine to the Bolivian altiplano in the 1930s. Mitre was born in Oruro in 1943 and grew up in Cochabamba. During the Hugo Banzer Suárez and Luis García Meza dictatorships, he went abroad, studying and living in Europe and the United States. His rich body of work is marked by its intimate subjective perspectives and its elegant, distilled expression.
In 2004, Mitre published his volume of poems The Manhattan Umbrella, a tribute to the spaces and people of New York City. As the Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina put it, the book captures “that strange thing about New York, that quality of returning people to their origins, to their most distant memories, bringing to them the presence and the accent of their lost country. Manhattan as the foremost encyclopedia of the world.” 1
In his plainspoken poem “In Río-Mar” from that volume, Mitre gives voice to an ordinary working woman who has migrated from the city of Montero, in the region of Santa Cruz, to New York City, where she works as a waitress. Río-Mar (River-Sea) was a Spanish bar-restaurant in the meatpacking district of Manhattan. It was a down-to-earth drinking spot with good and abundant food and a clientele that ranged from meat workers to sex workers. Resonant with the poet’s own nostalgia for his homeland, the voice reflects not the migrant’s dream of the future, but her dream of what she has left behind.
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