Nicolás Guillén and the SwitchbladeWednesday, March 01, 2006
In 1967 my very Argentine but very communist aunt, Sara Lopes Colodrero de Irureta Goyena gave me three parting gifts when I left Buenos Aires. I shoved off in an ELMA (Empresa Lineas Maritimas Argentinas) Victory Ship called the Rio Aguapey. She told me that on board a long voyage stopping at many Brazilian ports anything could happen. "You will need this sevillana (switchblade)and so that it will open swiftly I am giving you this little bottle of whale oil. Whale oil is the best. And finally you will have plenty of time to read. I am giving you my copy of Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén's (1902-1989) Sóngoro Cosongo." I lost touch with Tia Sarita and the whale oil is long gone. But I still have the sevillana and I often read Tú no sabe inglé which is one of my favourite poems. I never had to use the switchblade on board the Rio Aguapey. I wasn't to know until 2000 that she had been built in North Vancouver.