Posted by: starnosedmole | September 3, 2009

Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair


Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.

Escribir, por ejemplo: “La noche esta estrellada,

y tiritan, azules, los astros, a lo lejos”…

If Spanish-speakers around the world were asked to name a love poem written in their native tongue, the beautiful Poem 20 from Pablo Neruda’s “Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada” would probably be the most universally cited.

Neruda will not only be remembered for the beautiful erotism of his poetry, though. About seventy years ago, in his capacity as special  Chilean consul in Paris, he helped organize the shipping of over 2000 Spanish republican refugees living in French camps to Chile. They arrived in Valparaíso on board the Winnipeg on 3 September 1939 with the hands full of hope for a better life. Today, President Bachelet paid tribute to those who made it possible and remembered the contribution made by the Spanish refugees to Chilean society.

At a time when Spanish shores are being increasingly aimed at by both immigrants and asylum-seekers looking for a second chance, and a resettlement programme proposal is expected to be discussed at the EU, the Winnipeg stands as a powerful reminder of how easily the tables turn in the playful hands of history. It also suggests the existence of an inter-generational debt that goes beyond borders, official policies and quotas. After all, it is about songs of despair.


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