“We took the opportunity to follow our hearts”

These words were sent to us by Erin Howard, on behalf of the incredible community of people who came together to translate “Love Letta to de Worl'” in Spanish.

“We are all like little worlds / Somos todos como munditos.

Yes, the world is a vast, gorgeous, and powerful place that expands beyond the limitations of our experiences and the confines of the human-made borders within which we live; yet, each of us occupies a “world” that is made rich by community, loved ones, and specific places that we long for when we are away and that we celebrate when we return. Valuing the natural world is made much more purpose-filled when we value the humanity that fills our own little worlds / munditos.

When the opportunity presented itself to translate “Love Letta to de Worl’” in Spanish, we embraced the task in community. No one in our group is a professional translator, but having grown up bilingually, we knew that the only true way to translate a love letter to the world would be to include as many voices from the Spanish-speaking world as possible.

Spanish is the official language of 21 countries and is spoken world-wide by over 500 million people. Choosing the “right” words, honoring the poem’s original meaning, and carefully considering the current realities facing the diverse and expansive Spanish-speaking community were tasks that our group felt inadequate to complete perfectly.  So, the poem was read, translated, edited, and then edited again and again by Spanish speakers from different educational backgrounds, immigrant experiences, and countries of origin, including Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the United States.

The core group that keep track of the edits and the discussion of the poem’s meanings included Genoveva Segura, Mizari Suarez Gallo, Laura Bohorquez, Gaby Baca, and Erin Howard. The process was a metaphor for how we view the world—alive, fluid, contentious, contradictory, beautiful, powerful, destructive, and abundant.

We debated for a long time about which word to use in the last lines. The word “migrante” or migrant evokes a powerful image of the many people in the world who, despite being extremely connected to their land, have to immigrate, migrate, or move for survival, for sustenance, and for work. It also calls up the image of migrant workers who pick our food and break their backs for long hours under the sun in order to feed the world, but who are almost entirely invisible. It connects back to the indigenous peoples and communities all over the Americas and the world whose relationship with the natural world is based on respect for its power, provision, and beauty. We all recalled an important Mayan concept of “In lak’ech,” in which I value you because “tu eres mi otro yo / you are the other me.”

However, it was not lost on us that Latin American and Spanish-speaking communities are not immune to racism. Latin American countries like the United States have their own complicated histories with racism and systematic discrimination against racial and ethnic groups. To eliminate or replace “negro” (Spanish word for “black”) would be reckless. And so we took the opportunity to follow our hearts by using two powerful phrases. We who love the world black know just as we who love the world migrant know that anything we do to you we also do to ourselves because  tu eres mi otro yo.

We are thankful for this opportunity.”

-click here to listen to the poem in Spanish-

Joshua Allen

Joshua Allen’s “Y sin embargo” (image courtesy of Joshua Allen)