En Chimbarongo, en Chile, hace tiempo

Pablo Neruda, the great Chilean poet wrote about many themes in his lifetine of output. His love poems are very well-known, as are his reflections on deep-rooted Latin American history and culture. He also wrote engaged, hard-hitting, political poetry. Today I have chosen one of these poems, taken from his great Canto General collection. The poem describes election day in Chimbarongo, in Chile. The subject could have been taken from Dickens, who describes a similar scene in England in “Sketches by Boz”. But I strongly suspect that the scene described still has relevance in too many places

Elección en Chimbarongo.
 (DE CANTO GENERAL – 1950)

En Chimbarongo, en Chile, hace tiempo
fui a una elección senatorial.
Vi cómo eran elegidos
los pedestales de la patria.
A las once de la mañana
llegaron del campo las carretas
atiborradas de inquilinos.
Era en invierno, mojados,
sucios, hambrientos, descalzos,
los siervos de Chimbarongo
descienden de las carretas.
Torvos, tostados, harapientos,
son apiñados, conducidos
con una boleta en la mano,
vigilados y apretujados
vuelven a cobrar la paga,
y otra vez hacia las carretas
enfilados como caballos
los han conducido.
Más tarde
les han tirado carne y vino
hasta dejarlos bestialmente
envilecidos y olvidados.
Escuché más tarde el discurso,
del senador así elegido:
«Nosotros, patriotas cristianos,
nosotros, defensores del orden,
nosotros, hijos del espíritu.»
Y estremecía su barriga
su voz de vaca aguardentosa
que parecía tropezar
como una trompa de mamuth
en las bóvedas tenebrosas
de la silbante prehistoria.

From <http://chimbarongomio.blogspot.com/2013/03/neruda-y-chimbarongo.html&gt;

It is election day, and Neruda describers voters being brought into town in carts to cast their vote for the candidate who has provided the transport , who will feed them, and give them wine and a small amount of money. The voters are poor, ill-clothed, hungry, unkempt, barefoot and uneducated. The candidate in contrast is well-fed, prosperous, and cares nothing for the people whose votes he has paid for, except to keep them in their state of misery so h can easily buy their votes again next time.

The contrast is stark, and the candidate’s speech is full of meaningless, elevated language with no relevance to the lives of the people. It is a striking message about political cynicism and opportunism, and probably applies more broadly, even if more subtly even in advanced democracies. The 1% anyone?

Wouldn’t it be great if more voices like Neruda’s could be heard.

 

 

The Poetry Dude

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