Today, when the second issue of Latin American Literature Today (LALT) is published, nothing will have changed in Venezuela. The political crisis of the Maduro regime has been measurable by death count for some time, owing to police repression, the incessant criminal activity that is overwhelming the country’s morgues, and the crippling scarcity of food and medicine against which millions of people must struggle day by day in the country with the highest inflation in the world. All this, without mentioning the thousands of Venezuelans who have been forced to abandon their homeland due to this interminable and agonizing crisis.
A month ago, the people took to the streets to protest against the Maduro regime, and there have already been nearly thirty deaths. Among them are several university students who have been victims of the excessive use of repressive police force. This is horrifying and shameful. All the more shameful when we consider that it is taking place in a Latin America that has shirked its duty to condemn Venezuela’s dictatorial regime for too long, a Latin America that is perhaps too in love with its revolutions.
We cannot avert our eyes and decide to see nothing, to say nothing. Much less when, in this second issue, one of the dossiers is dedicated to writer and activist Pedro Lemebel, who was without a doubt a staunch opponent of the dictatorship of General Pinochet. This issue is not dedicated to Venezuela or to political literature, nor to diaspora and exile. It does not even seek to open a debate; it’s about a frame of mind. We finish this year at the University of Oklahoma mourning the deaths of several university students in Venezuela. And not without cause. Two of the members of LALT’s editorial team are Venezuelans who have found opportunity at the University of Oklahoma in the face of their country’s crisis: our Media Manager, Claudia Cavallín, and our Associate Editor and Book Reviews Editor, Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza. And this is not the first time: also taking refuge at this institution of learning in Norman, Oklahoma, between 1953 and 1954, was the renowned writer and former president of Venezuela, Rómulo Gallegos, who had been a victim of the 1948 military coup that brought Marcos Pérez Jiménez to power. For those of us who come from the Southern Cone, what is happening today in Venezuela brings dark memories.
Perhaps we have not come as far as we thought.
Put simply, we did not want to look the other way while we completed this new issue of LALT.
I mentioned Pedro Lemebel. In this issue, we publish two chronicles by the Chilean writer that have never before been translated to English. We believe in Lemebel’s work. For its quality and for its importance within Chilean queer literature, his writing should be better known in the English-speaking world. Through these translations, of course, we only take an initial step toward this goal, helped along by the excellent work of translator Gwen Harper. We also highlight the work of Mexican narrator Yuri Herrera, author of such exceptional novels as Kingdom Cons and Signs Preceding the End of the World. Cuban literature occupies an important space in this issue, with a special selection of poetry, works by writers including Raúl Flores Iriarte, Norge Espinosa, and Carlos Pintado, as well as an interview of José Kozer and a speech by Leonardo Padura Fuentes. We also hope to remind readers of the work of the great Peruvian poet José Watanabe (1945-2007), publishing a few of his poems as well as an essay on his work. We also offer our readers a selection of poems by the Mexican writer Adolfo Castañón, a short story by Venezuelan narrator Gisela Kozak, and an interview of Puerto Rican novelist Marta Aponte Alsina. As you can see, the authors in this issue are varied, and many of them are also present in this issue’s fourteen book reviews, dedicated to books published in various countries across Latin America.
Thus comes the second issue of LALT, full of new and previously unpublished material.
I write without closing my eyes.
LALT returns to cyberspace with a new issue of Latin American literature, hoping that the new winds of democracy will soon disperse the tear gas and smoke that now darken Venezuela’s skies.
Editor in Chief
Translated by Arthur Dixon