The Reed Seats of Galaroza: Sillas de Anea.

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A typical Sevillana chair with a seat made of “anea” or “nea”, manufactured in Galaroza, Sierra de Huelva. This is one of the chairs at Picadero La Suerte. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

After the Hostal Venecia, on the Seville/Portugal road, closed its doors to its last guests, I had to look for a house to rent for my visits to Galaroza, in the Sierra de Huelva. I took a house in Calle San Sebastián, in the upper part of the town, and on my adopted street there were neighbours further up, who made and repaired the seats of Sillas Sevillanas, the typical Sevillian chairs that are not only popular in the province of Seville but also here in Huelva. In the Picadero where my horse, Chaparro, is stabled, they have both red and green personalised tables and chairs, so I was familiar with them but hadn’t seen how the seat part was made till I stayed in that street. I would see the van from the carpenter’s workshop come to deliver chairs and the anea, which was tied to the roof of the vehicle. Anea or nea, as it’s known locally, is a kind of bulrush/reedmace (Typha) that grows on the banks of the Guadalquivir River.

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Chairs on the Calle San Sebastián, Galaroza. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Over the last year or so a boy called Ale has been coming to help with out with the horses at Picadero La Suerte. He loves horses and has a grey Andalusian filly, Lluvia (Rain), of whom he is very proud and plans to bring on for riding. I took some photos of Ale and his little mare to make a drawing of him. After his mum had seen the photos she stopped me on the outskirts of the village to say how nice they were. I finally made the connection that my old neighbours, the women who made the seats of the chairs, were Ale’s mum, aunt and granny.  (Seems I am still joining the dots even after ten years).

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Ale with his filly, Lluvia. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

In January I asked Ale if he thought it would be alright to visit the women of his family the next time they were weaving seats. It was, so I popped up to see them one sunny but cold afternoon. The room they work in has large double doors which open out onto the Calle San Sebastián and there was a small electric heater which I don’t think did much to combat the bitter, cold air.

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Rosario, veteran of anea seat making, Galaroza. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

Rosario, Ale’s granny, is retired from making the seats but can’t resist giving a hand. She started making the seats when she was only 9 years of age. Often after a day’s work doing something else, Rosario would come home and start weaving the seats and keep working on them into the night.

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Rosario with her two daughters. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

It’s now Rosario’s daughters who carry on this work; Fali, Ale’s mum and her sister Mari Loli. They started helping out when they were 13 or 14 years old. It was fascinating to finally get a proper chance to watch them more closely as they worked. They explained that now that the carpenter’s workshop that made the chairs has closed down, they tend to just do repairs for people. The chairs they were working on while I was there were from a client in Valverde del Camino.The seats can take anything from 1- 4 hours to make. The anea material, a kind of papyrus, comes from Coria del Rio in Seville province and costs about 20 euros a bunch.

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Fali keeping the seat making tradition alive. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Mari Loli keeping the seat making tradition alive. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Most houses in Galaroza have the ubiquitous sillas de anea. As they say, the chairs are “de toda la vida”. Sometimes these are painted and decorated with flowers and pastoral scenes but many are just plain solid colours or simply left unpainted. The chairs come in different sizes, from babies’ high chairs, childrens’ seats, low armless chairs or grander highly decorated and carved chairs. These are the seats of the country towns and villages of Andalusia, the furniture of the casetas of Seville’s April Fair and the chairs favoured by flamenco singers and guitarists.

The flat I rent now when I’m Galaroza is situated in the Avenida de los Carpinteros. Even in the ten years I’ve been coming to this town I have seen a marked decline in the number of carpenters working in this special street. When I first came walking here many years ago with my husband, Paul, we were reminded of the streets of country towns in Guatemala; a long row of practical, low, rustic buildings made from stone and adobe, the walls limewashed, with clay tiled roofs and great chestnut wooden doors.

Although Galaroza is a picturesque serrano town, it has always depended on agriculture and the manufacturing of furniture. That’s changing. Now as Ikea has opened it’s doors in Seville, the doors of the carpenters’ workshops have closed and the surrounding huertas or kitchen gardens tend to be looked after by the older people of the village while more and more people shop at Mercadona and Lidl in Aracena.

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Iluminado Tristancho of Picadero La Suerte tending his huerta. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Marco Antonio Gómez Molina

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Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Marco Antonio Gómez Molina. Digital Art: Jan Nimmo©

Marco Antonio is from Tixtla in Guerrero. His nickname is Tuntún and he was 20 years old at the time of his disappearance last September. His fellow students at the Normalista school “Raúl Isidro Burgos” in Ayotzinapa describe how he loves rock music and how one of his favorites is the Spanish rock band Saratoga. I have used the lyrics from one of their songs, Manos Unidas/Joined Hands, for this digital collage. Seven months have passed and we still don’t know the whereabouts of Marco Antonio and the other 42 Normalista students who were disappeared in Iguala on the night of the 26th of September 2014. The theme of Normalista students being targets in the series of portraits is a recurrent one.

No hay olvido.

Manos Unidas

Azul un mar azul
Tan intenso como esa luz fugaz
Que hay en tu cara
No hay nada mejor
Que sentir tu aire fresco resbalar
Por mis heridas
Sueño con un final
Me hundo en la oscuridad
Y le pido a Dios
Verte una vez más
Sin trampa ni cartón
Como el gesto de aquel niño que un día fui
Y sigo siendo
El tiempo confirmó
Que mi vida sólo importa si estás tú
Siempre conmigo
Horas de soledad
Generan esta ansiedad
Como el girasol
Muere si no estás
Las manos unidas
Sentir tu calor
Juntos para caminar
Juntos para soportar
Juntos para comenzar
Mil aventuras
Vivos para compartir
Vivos para discutir
Vivos para construir
Locos por vivir
Sólo una cosa más
Quiero manifestar
Que gracias a ti
Pude ser quién soy

[Letra y música: Jerónimo Ramiro]

Joined Hands

Blue, a blue sea
Intense like that fleeting light
On your face
There’s nothing better
Than feeling your cool air slip
Over my wounds
I dream of the end
I sink in the darkness
I  ask of God
That I will see you again
The real you
Like the gesture of that child I once was
And still am
And time confirms
That my life only matters if you are around
Always with me
Hours of solitude
Cause this anxiety
Like a sunflower
I die if you’re not around
Our hands joined
Feeling your warmth
Walking together
Coping together
Starting together
A thousand adventures
Living to share
Living to disagree
Living to build
Mad for life
There’s only one more thing
I want to say
That thanks to you
I could be who I am.

[Lyrics: Jerónimo Ramiro]

José Luis Luna Torres

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Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Jose Luis Luna Torres. Digital Art: Jan Nimmo©

José Luis Torres is from a small indigenous town, Amilcingo, in the Mexican State of Morelos, close to the border with Puebla. José Luis was unable to study locally so he matriculated at the Escuela Normal “Raúl Isidro Burgos” in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

His mother, Macedonia, describes herself as both mother and father to her children, as she is a widow with 7 children. She makes ends meet by roasting and selling peanuts and elotes (sweetcorn).

Before José Luis was forcibly disappeared along with 42 fellow students in Iguala, on the 26th Sept 2014, he’d help his mother out roasting peanuts, amongst other chores. He worked on the land or as a builder’s mate. The family struggles to get by. His brother, Sósimo describes how his José Luis wants to get an education so that he’ll be in a better position to help the family out. He and his brother are just like two peas in a pod.

Jose Luis is one of six Moralenses that went to study in Ayotzinapa. Two of his fellow students, Carlos and Armando, were present on the night when police attacked the students. Carlos says that at first he thought the bullets were rubber bullets. They recall the chaos; everyone running to escape and not one but two balaceras (shootings). Armando wonders aloud about where is his classmates are, what has happened to them, his voice trembles as he speaks.

Jose Luis’s sister, Marisol, describes his disappearance and the feeling of not knowing his whereabouts as being like “dying little by little”.

Making this portrait has coincided with the death of Uruguayan writer, Eduardo Galeano, from whom I learned so much about Latin America. I have included some lines from his poem “Los Nadies” – “The Nobodies” (at the bottom of this post). José Luis is someone, not nobody. A name not a number.

On the 4th of December 2014 Galeano wrote in La Jornada about Ayotzinapa:

I read and I share.

The orphans of the Ayotzinapa tragedy aren’t alone in the persistent search for their loved ones, lost in the chaos of the burning rubbish dumps and graves full of human remains.

They are accompanied by the voices of solidarity and their warming presence across the whole map of Mexico and further afield, including the football stadia where players celebrate their goals drawing the number 43 with their fingers in the air, in homage to the 43 disappeared.

Meanwhile, the President, Peña Nieto, recently returned from China, warns, in a threatening tone, that he hopes that he won’t have to use force.

Moreover, the President condemns “the violence and other abominable acts carried out by those who have no respect for law and order”, although he didn’t clarify that these delinquents could be useful in making up menacing speeches.

The President and his wife, la Gaviota, to give her stage name, are deaf to anything they do not want to hear and live in solitary splendour.

The unequivocal ruling of the Permanent Tribunal of the People declared at the end of three years of hearings and thousands of testimonies: “In this world of impunity there are murders with murderers, torture without torturers and sexual violence without abusers.

In the same vein, the statement from the representatives of Mexican culture warned: “The rulers have lost control of the fear; the rage they have unleashed is turning back against them’.

From San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the EZLN (National Zapatista Liberation Army) summed it up: “It is both terrible and marvellous that the poor who aspire to be teachers have become the best educators, who, with the power of their pain transformed into a dignified anger, so that Mexico and the world wake up, question and ask for answers”.

Original article in La Jornada

Los Nadies

Sueñan las pulgas con comprarse un perro
y sueñan los nadies con salir de pobres,
que algún mágico día
llueva de pronto la buena suerte,
que llueva a cántaros la buena suerte;
pero la buena suerte no llueve ayer, ni hoy,
ni mañana, ni nunca,
ni en lloviznita cae del cielo la buena suerte,
por mucho que los nadies la llamen
y aunque les pique la mano izquierda,
o se levanten con el pie derecho,
o empiecen el año cambiando de escoba.

Los nadies: los hijos de nadie,
los dueños de nada.
Los nadies: los ningunos, los ninguneados,
corriendo la liebre, muriendo la vida, jodidos,
rejodidos:

Que no son, aunque sean.
Que no hablan idiomas, sino dialectos.
Que no profesan religiones,
sino supersticiones.
Que no hacen arte, sino artesanía.
Que no practican cultura, sino folklore.
Que no son seres humanos,
sino recursos humanos.
Que no tienen cara, sino brazos.
Que no tienen nombre, sino número.
Que no figuran en la historia universal,
sino en la crónica roja de la prensa local.
Los nadies,
que cuestan menos
que la bala que los mata.

The Nobodies

Fleas dream of buying a dog
and the nobodies dream of getting out of their poverty,
that some magic day
suddenly good luck will rain upon them
that it will downpour bucket-fulls of good luck.
But good luck doesn’t rain today
or tomorrow, or ever,
not even a little drizzle falls from the sky.
No matter how much the nobodies cry for it
and even when their left hand itches
or they get up on the right foot,
or when they start the year with a new broom

the nobodies: the sons of nobody
the owners of nothings
the nobodies: nothings
chasing after the hare,
dying all their lives
Fucked and double fucked
Who don’t speak languages, but dialects.

Who don’t practice religions,
but superstitions.

Who don’t do make art, but crafts.
Who don’t practice culture,but folklore.
Who are not human,but human resources.
Who have no face but have arms,
who have no name, but a number.
Who don’t appear in the universal history books,
but in the police pages of the local press.
The nobodies,
who are not worth the bullet that kills them.

Eduardo Galeano

Serrano broad beans and extremeño garlic thriving on Plot 16, Glasgow.

Three years ago a friend from Galaroza in the Sierra de Huelva, Southern Spain, gave me a big bag of broad beans that he’d dried and saved from the previous growing season. Manolo has a lovely plot just on the outskirts of town where he grows his veg, keeps chickens and stores his harness, because before he retired, Manolo worked as a muleteer or arriero. He still looks after his ancient mule, Curro, once one of a pair, in a neighbouring paddock. Manolo also cultivates his son-in-law’s plot on the other side on the town, on the path that leads to Valdelarco. I am the happy beneficiary of dried herbs; oregano, wild echinacea, spearmint and tila (dried lime flowers that are good for calming the nerves). During the growing season I often ride home with gifts of vegetables (tomatoes don’t travel well on horseback!) and Chaparro, my horse, has become accustomed to bags and watermelons dangling from the pommel of the vaquera saddle.

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Manolo’s broad beans at his huerta in Galaroza, Sierra de Aracena. Photo: Jan Nimmo©

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Manolo and his mule, Curro. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

Back home in Glasgow, on my allotment at Hamiltonhill, I often remember, with envy, the fecund kitchen gardens of the Sierra de Huelva. On our plot we struggle with an inclement climate, poor soil, occasional vandalism, biblical plagues of slugs and snails and have to make a sojourn to south Ayrshire where our friends keep three black Clydesdales, to gather up bags of horse manure to try to improve our soil and to import worms to what used to be a completely worm free zone. Whilst we may not have the sun, fertile earth and on-hand horsey “Brown Gold”, we love our plot because not only does it sustain us around the year with seasonal vegetables and fruit, it is also our all year “No Straight Lines” haven, a green space which makes tenement dwelling bearable and which eases the stresses of long hours spent working at a computer, or al least indoors away from sunlight or cloud.

Plot 16, Hamiltonhill, Urban Haven. Photo:  Jan Nimmo©

Plot 16, Hamiltonhill Allotment, Glasgow, Urban Haven. Photo: Jan Nimmo©

This year's broad beans hardening off at Plot 16. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

This year’s broad beans hardening off at Plot 16. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Broad beans form Plot 16, Hamiltonhill Allotment, Glasgow. Photo: Jan Nimmo

Broad beans form Plot 16, Hamiltonhill Allotment, Glasgow. Photo: Jan Nimmo

One of our joys has been to successfully grow good healthy crops of broad beans from the beans that Manolo gave me. (This is our third year growing them). We intercrop them with Marigolds and enjoy preparing dishes with them: cooked with jamón serrano and a quails’ eggs or just tossing them into stir fries. My Auntie Carmen from Jaén told me that her aunts used to prepare whole habas or broad beans, pod and all, for her when she was young. We’ve tried this too but they have to be young and tender to prepare them this way.

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Allotment tourists: Uncle Archie and Auntie Carmen, Plot 16, Hamiltonhill Allotments, Glasgow. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

This summer, when our beans are ready to harvest, I am planning to try out a typical recipe from the Sierra de Huelva:

Habas enzapatadas. (Broad beans in slippers).

  • 1 kilos of large broad beans
  • Spearmint
  • Mint (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Lemon

Method:

Peel the broad beans, the bigger the better, and wash them.

Put the water in a large pot and when it’s almost boiling add salt.

When the water is boiling add slices of lemon, the mint and peeled garlic and let that simmer for a minute.

Lower the heat and leave for a minute then add the broad beans for 15 – 20 minutes but ensure that they don’t get overcooked.

This is a recipe from the Sierra but there is a variation from Moguer and Palos de la Frontera, on the coast, which substitutes the mint with coriander so I think I may give that that a go too. In Huelva you’d wash this down with a cold Cruzcampo but we’ll be in Scotland so it might have to be a Williams Brothers Grozet.

The broad beans aren’t the only crop of Spanish origin that does fine on Plot 16. Every year in January I buy garlic at the Wednesday market in Galaroza. There is a man who comes down from Badajoz Province every fortnight and has a stall with plants, trees, seeds and flowers. The garlic he sells is the excellent ajo castaño; the head is covered with white skin, flecked with purple and inside the cloves are covered with shiny purple skin. It is strong and flavourful. Once you have tried this no garlic will do. Our garlic doesn’t thrive quite so well as it does in the huertas of Galaroza but the favour is the same. So with exception of lemons I think we can get all the ingredients to make this when summer comes.

Spanish Garlic/Ajo Castaño, Hamiltonhill Allotment, Glasgow. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Spanish Garlic/Ajo Castaño, Hamiltonhill Allotment, Glasgow. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Jan Nimmo 15th April 2015 ©

José Ángel Navarrete González

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Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está José Ángel Navarrete González. Digital Collage: Jan Nimmo ©

Emiliano Navarrete Victoriano was working away in the US when his son, José Ángel Navarrete González was born. He remembers the phone call from his wife back in Mexico. He describes the birth of his son as the best day of his life.

José Ángel, or “Pepe” likes playing football but his dad instilled in him that it was important to study too. His parents didn’t have money to send him to a private school so their only option was to get him a place in a Normalista School so he went to study in Ayotzinapa.

His father recalls an exchange with his son, two days before he disappeared, “I gave him a big hug and told him that I loved him. I said – I’m so proud of you son, I like the way you conduct yourself. Wherever you are I will always be there for you. I have no idea I why I said that to him when I did. Believe me when I say that what has happened hurts so much but I’m going to find him and one day I’ll bring him back”.

From an interview on TeleSur 17/03/15

I don’t have to add anything to this, do I?

Jan Nimmo 10th April 2015

Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarias

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Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarias. Digital Collage: Jan Nimmo ©

I made this portrait of Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarias today (part of the series of the 43 students who were studying in Ayotzinapa), with some urgency as I have been invited to collaborate with an event in Eugene, Oregon, USA on the 11th April 2015, as part of the Caravana 43 tour of the USA. The event will have contributions from two parents of the disappeared students, Blanca Luz Nava Vélez, mother of Jorge Alvarez Nava, y Estanislao Mendoza Chocolate, father of Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarias. They will be speaking to raise awareness of their situation and that of the other parents and families of the disappeared Normalista students.

Margarita remembers Miguel Ángel as a good, much loved boy. He is quiet and well liked by the townsfolk in his native Apango, Mártir de Cuilapa. He enjoyed playing basketball and he took a course in the local church so that he could become a barber.
His mother recalls that the week before the students were victims of the attack in which her son disappeared, he left his house to cut hair so that he could earn money to buy books for his studies. Before becoming a student at the Normalista School “Raúl Isidro Burgos” in Ayotzinapa, he had gone to study medicine at Universidad Autónoma Latinoamericana Caribeña de Ciencias y Artes but was unable to continue due to a change in government policy. Margarita says that he loves to study but that he also helps out on his father’s land.

Miguel Ángel is known locally by a couple of nicknames, “El Miclo” because when he was little he broke his right foot and he has a metal plate inserted, He is also known as “Botita” because his brother is nicknamed El Bota.

He is well liked and being older than many of the other students in Ayotzinapa, looked out for the younger ones and gave them advice. A fellow student describes him as a good guy and recalls the night of the 26th September 2014, “We were travelling on the same seat on the bus  and we had agreed not to wake each other up but then the bullets started coming we got off the bus and I ran one way and he ran the other I got back on the bus  but he was arrested by the Iguala police, I escaped and since then I have been searching for him”.

Miguel Ángel’s dad now has to harvest his maize alone, without the help of his son. His mother, who makes and sells atole, a hearty pre-hispanic drink of ground maize, cane sugar and flavoured with cinnamon, just wants her son back at home so that she can make him some. Hi niece, Estrella, who adores Miguel Ángel, misses him very much and struggles to come to terms with the fact that he is no longer around.

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow,Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Jorge Alvarez Nava. Digital Collage: © Jan Nimmo

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow,Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Jorge Alvarez Nava. Digital Collage: © Jan Nimmo

Abelardo Vázquez Peniten

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Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Abelardo Vázquez Peniten. Digital Collage: Jan Nimmo ©

Like many small towns in Guerrero that you might Google, you’ll find photos of landscapes, the town square, the church and amazing images of the local fiestas with the tlacololeros ready to do battle with jaguars. But these pictures are regularly punctuated with awful images that are difficult for the viewer; of cadavers, the victims of violence, sometimes sprawled on the ground, alone, or sometimes surrounded by a semi-circle of speechless townsfolk. I don’t pretend to know much of the circumstances of these random images that haunt me but I know that it is the context in which many ordinary campesino families live; indigenous campesino people whose life is a struggle to survive from day one. They are people who will no doubt dream of their children’s lot being better than theirs. So this is why the Normalista Rural Schools are so important. They are training young people from these small towns who will then, in turn, go back to teach in their own communities. Often they will become bilingual teachers. As educators these students are a threat to corrupt authorities, the police and insidious violent criminal gangs, like Guerreros Unidos, who have influence over the authorities. It is of no interest to any of these parties, or politicians further up the pecking order, to have the poor and the marginalised gaining more power over their lives.

Abelardo Vázquez Peniten, from Atliaca, is one of the Normalista students who dreams of making things better for his community. But he has been missing since the 26th Sept. 14, along with 42 of his fellow students from the Rural School in Ayotzinapa, who were forcibly disappeared by police and gangsters.

Abelardo, “El Abe”, is described by his fellow students as quiet, respectful and serious. He loves books and football. He is bilingual.

He used to help his Dad, who is a builder. His dad says he hopes that Abelardo is ok, that he’ll be home soon, but that the family are tired, sad, desperate, angry and still waiting for answers.

I have used some text in this portrait of Abelardo, from a song called Memories of Atliaca by Héctor Cárdenas Bello. This is a song about homesickness for Altliaca. (My English translation of the excerpt in the collage follows the Spanish). Wherever Abelardo is I’m sure he is missing his family and Atliaca, as his family and hometown miss him.

Recuerdos de Atliaca *

Ese lugarcito que se llama Atliaca,

reposa tranquilo, quietud sin igual,

me gusta es bonito, recuerdos de Atliaca

la paz de su iglesia que huele a copal

Sus calles derechas de viejo empedrado

evocan la historia que la vio nacer,

con casas de adobe, de palma y tejado,

recuerdos de Atliaca, quisiera volver

De mis ojos brota como manantial

el llanto que moja, tristeza es mi mal,

música de viento, canciones de Atliaca,

que triste me siento, quiero retornar

En mi pensamiento tus fiestas tus danzas,

tus viejas costumbres que me hacen llorar,

Pozo de Oztotempan la fe de tu pueblo

milagro de lluvia, ofrenda al creador

Deja que yo sienta el calor de tu suelo,

será mi consuelo cantarte mi amor,

recuerdos de Atliaca, dialecto canción

a la indita guapa de buen corazón

Tus nobles mujeres, todas de rebozo,

fieles al esposo al que saben amar

tus hombres valientes, a veces pacientes

saben defenderse, saben respetar

Esas tejerías de suelo tan rojo,

que mi llanto moja, ya no voy a ver

tus amaneceres que pinta la aurora,

es mi alma que llora que quiere volver

Caminos veredas, adiós ya me voy,

que lejos te quedas, mi canto te doy,

otle many villa, otle ya mi voy

ni mis caliva teva-ye vino canción

* Canción inédita de Héctor Cárdenas Bello

Memories of Atliaca  (extract)

My wet tears gush from my eyes like a spring

I am sad to the core,

Music of the wind, songs of Atliaca,

How sad I am, I want to go back

In my mind I see your fiestas and your dances

your ancient customs, and it brings me to tears

The well  at Oztotempan, the faith of your people

Miracle of rain, shrine to the Creator.

Let me feel the warmth of your soil

It will console me to sing to you, my love.

* Canción inédita de Héctor Cárdenas Bello

Jan Nimmo 9th of April 2015