[Lead photo: author Carlos Barón; photos by Alexis Terrazas]
The democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende had just fallen. And a 25-year-old Carlos Barón, alongside a group of Chilean theater students, weren’t going to stay silent.
They had agreed to defend their country’s first Socialist government.
But the September 11, 1973 Coup d’état that ousted and killed Allende and installed the torturous reign of Pinochet — one that was supported by the United States — had quickly militarized Chile’s presidential Palacio de La Moneda and its surrounding streets of Santiago. Soldiers were shooting and taking civilians prisoner. And Barón and his classmates found themselves walking past a military barracks, guarded by three soldiers armed with machine guns.
Amid that tension, ugliness and uncertainty, Barón noticed a woman, beautiful and angry, walking towards him and the armed guards.
“One look at his woman and you can tell that she is furious,” Barón remembered. The woman, fist clenched, kept walking until she was directly in front of the soldiers. “Shoot me motherfuckers, kill me if you dare!” yelled the woman at the soldiers, ripping open her shirt and exposing her breasts in defiance.
The soldiers didn’t shoot.
“[The soldiers] were people too, they were working class, they were poor. Maybe that night they would become torturers … but one thing they were not going to do was shoot this woman,” Barón said.
Seeing a moment where they could escape the soldiers, Barón and the students approached the woman, urging her to keep moving. Awaking from her trance, she covered herself, smiled and said, “Venceremos,” We shall win, before walking away.
“And that became a poem,” Barón said. “But it was more than a poem. It was hope.”
That moment, among others, is captured in Barón’s “Semiurgent Poems – Poemario Semiurgente,” a handcrafted bilingual book of poetry and art, which was released just last month. The work, which is Barón’s first published book, features seven original bilingual poems, each published in English and Spanish. They are a collection of what Barón calls “found poems,” literary tributes to some of the fleeting yet unforgettable moments that Barón, now 75, has written down over the years. They are moments that are unscripted and unplanned. And memorable perhaps for that reason.
The book, in that same spontaneous spirit, was born out of chance while Barón was vacationing with his wife, Diana Azucena, in Veracruz this past summer. It was there that he met silkscreen artist Manuel Tapia, of the art studio “Tapia Ediciones” in Veracruz. Among Tapia’s many talents is crafting books by hand. After some brief introductions and small talk, Barón revealed that he had a collection of poems, none of which had been published. Tapia jumped at the chance to publish them. And so the international literary collaboration was born.
Accompanying the seven bilingual poems are original art illustrations by Bruno Ferreira and Itzel Cruz. Each poem and illustration was meticulously screen printed onto each page, and bound into what is truly a unique work of art.
The illustration that graces the book’s cover is one done by Cruz and was likewise inspired by another of Baron’s poems. That poem, “Confesión de fin de año” (End of Year Confession), walks us through Barón’s assassination — and subsequent guilt — of an Opossums that broke into his house two nights in a row. Caught in his trap, the opossum bared its teeth and growled.
“Out of sheer ignorance and fear, they go hand in hand, I killed this opossum…and I was guilty for about a year,” confessed Barón.
So to process that guilt, Barón wrote an ode to the fallen mammal on the last day of the year, hence the title of the poem. And it was that poem, or confession, that Barón read for the first time in Veracruz. Itzel Cruz was in the crowd that night, who had an opossum as a pet.
“She reacted to what she heard, and she did an amazing image,” Barón said.
Indeed. There are other images, too. All powerful and beautiful in their own right. But two that stand out — one illustrated by Cruz and the other by the award-winning Mexican cartoonist Ferreira — are the ones paired alongside Barón’s epic poem to Martín Getsemany Sánchez García, one of the forcibly disappeared Ayotzinapa students.
“It fell in my lap the possibility of writing about it,” Barón said. A month after the forcible disappearance of the 43, Barón’s friend and journalist Chelitz Lopez invited him to write about one of the 43. The name Carlos received was Martin’s.
For that poem, which is based on factual findings of Martin’s life, Barón evoked poetic license for details he couldn’t find.
“As I was writing about him, all of sudden it became this epic poem. I couldn’t just write about him, but about the history of the school, how this became a symbol of disappeared people anywhere … how answers that should be provided are not provided, and how the poor are always the number one victim everywhere,” Barón said.
The 24th street community bookstore, Medicine for Nightmares, hosted Barón’s book launch on Dec. 11. The book was on sale, all while people ate, drank Chilean wine, and danced. The book, for which 70 copies were printed, is going for $100, a fair price for a unique and quality item.
To purchase a copy of Semiurgent Poems – Poemario Semiurgente, visit here.