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18 March 2009

Dear Dr. Partnoy,

I, a junior in college who has forgotten what Ms. DiPierro taught her in second grade about letter writing, write to you in this feeble attempt at epistolary. Pardon the missed indentations and bad spacing. I write to you in regards to a project my Chicana/o Studies course, Chicanas and Latinas in the US, is currently developing. As part of the course, each of us in the class was to research a particular Chicana/Latina artist, writer or activist for whom we would like to create a webpage. I have chosen you based on the admiration I have for you after the brief testimony you shared with me and the rest of your class last semester about your time as a prisoner of consciousness in Argentina. I had a hard time classifying you since you are both a writer and an activist. Ultimately, however, I decided to call you an activist since I think of your writing as the means through which you denounce injustice. The voice that speaks through your poetry is one of courage and beauty. I must say that it is, in and of itself, an act of revolution. It is about the bold grace of your writing and the inspiration you give when telling your story that I would like to speak in this web project.

Our work has been progressing nicely since the beginning of the semester and we have advanced significantly. Until now, we have all become familiar with Photoshop and we have begun to work with Dreamweaver. So far, I have been able to crop and resize the image of you that will appear on our homepage and another that will lead to the page dedicated to you and your struggle for equality and justice.

Our technological work has been backed by the reading of two very important monographs that speak of the Chicana/Latina reconceptualization of the world. Laura E. Pérez, in Chicana Art does a thorough investigation of the artistic work of a myriad of Chicanas/Latinas in the US. She explores how, via art, these women have been able to create spaces where the may denounce subjugation while creating an alternative view of the world, the religion and the society in which they live. We also read Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa, notable amongst Chicana feminist writers. Her writing has a way of meshing the Mexicano, Tejano, Chicano and American cultures together in a manner typifying the plethora of cultures and identities Chicanos live. Anzaldúa does not limit herself to one language. Rather, she jumps from English to Spanish to Tejano dialects to Spanglish and then back again. She explores what it means to live in between two worlds, in a perpetual state of Nepantla, where the place to fully belong does not exist.

I provide you such an introduction to the subjects that have been discussed in class so that you may be able to fully understand the purpose of my letter. I would like to do two things. First, I would like to explain the manner in which I believe your life and journey to the United States  reflects the concept of Land/ Tierra described in Laura E. Pérez’s Chicana Art. Second, I will tell you a bit about how I believe your writing and your experience with writing relates to Gloria Anzaldúa’s chapter, Tlilli,Tlapali: The Path of the Red and Black Ink, that describes the process and rewarding pain of writing.

In Chicana Art, the author explores the idea of belonging in a particular geographical location. She explains, however, that it is only if we feel connected socially in that land that we are able to feel home. The author says that the idea of knowing ones place and having a place are closely connected (Pérez, 146). That is to say, when one knows how to comport oneself within the norms of a particular society, then one can be said to be home. This can only happen, however, if we are in agreement with the politics and society of the community. When such is not the case, it follows that the deviant individual will be punished or ostracized. I feel this chapter in Chicana Art very much relates to your experience. 
Due to your beliefs and activism, you were forced to leave Argentina and come to the United States where you reunited with your daughter. I feel, however, that you might have felt in exile ever since the army took you from your home that day you were blindfolded and thrown into the back of a government-owned truck. This chapter questions how it is that we inhabit the places in which we dwell, speaking not only of geographical spaces but also of the bodies in which we live. How much questioning of the spaces in which you dwelled did you do? I can only imagine how many times you questioned Argentina. Do you question still?

Your journey to the United States after being liberated from prison reminds me of Juana Alicia’s artwork, Auto-Vision/Self-Portrait, 1987. In this piece, the artist paints the journey of hands “making their way across a parched, rocky wall” (192). From these hands stream many colors and from her right wrist, a bracelet with an eye communicates her intelligence. The human body seems to have become a part of nature in this piece of art. Her hands seem to be splitting space, trying to take hold of a land that belongs to them. The colors that stream from the woman’s fingertips convey creativity and promise success in the struggle of finding a place with which to identify. The path of the hands seems difficult. They are resolute, however and seem well on their way toward the success of their endeavour. Though I know not the particulars of your migration to the United States, I do not think it would be inaccurate for me to say that these hands stand as metaphors for yourself. You have demonstrated through your creative/political writings that you and your hands radiate with the same creativity as those painted by Juana Alicia.

I will now tell you a bit about how I feel your life and activism relate to Gloria Anzaldúa’s work. Anzaldúa says, “Nudge a Mexican and she or he will break out with a story” (87). In your case, I think we could as easily say, “Nudge an argentina and she will break out with a poem.” Like Anzaldúa, I think you breathe verse, bleed imagery. I had the opportunity of reading your book, The Little School, a few months back and was struck by the cadence and beauty of your work. It is beauty born from struggle and pain. Undoubtedly, it is your experience and courage that has allowed you to write such captivatingly real work. I remember that in one of the last sections of The Little School, you tell of the poetry readings you held while captive in Argentina. You described it as an act of revolution, as something dangerous that, nonetheless, fed your soul while you gave hope and courage to the other friends and allies who were in the cell with you. You used to whisper.

It seems that Gloria Anzaldúa and you both had words as contraband. Anzaldúa reminisces, “When I was seven, eight, nine, fifteen, sixteen years old, I would read in bed with a flashlight under the covers, hiding my self-imposed insomnia from my mother (87). She had to hide her reading from her mother while you had to hide your writing from the guards outside your cell door, those men whom you could barely see from underneath your blindfold. As an amateur poet, I can most definitely relate to the healing power of words and can only imagine what those instances of verse must have done for you. Writing is always catharsis. But I wonder how hard it is for you to write, especially when it comes to capturing the reality of your experience as a prisoner of conscience. I know that when I write, I constantly come up against a wall of lexicon and struggle with the taste of words, connect myself to their texture. I have always said that those who say writing is easy just do not know how to write. Gloria Anzaldúa seems to feel the same way:
Writing produces anxiety. Looking inside myself and my experience, looking at my
conflicts, engenders anxiety in me. Being a writer feels very much like being Chicana, or
queer--- a lot of squirming, coming up against all sorts of walls. Or its opposite: nothing
defined or definite, a boundless, floating sate of limbo where I kick my heels, brood
percolate, hibernate and wait for something to happen. (94)

I am wondering how much anxiety you experiment when writing. Are you like Gloria Anzaldúa? Is writing a blessed curse? Is it a necessity that drains? I am sure you, like all remarkable authors, have struggled with words. Anzaldúa says that writing is like “carving bone” (95) and that it is like having a “cactus needle embedded in the flesh” (95). Is that what happens to you? Does it hurt to write about what you lived? Does it hurt to remember? I think it must. And yet, I also think you might need to write in order to heal from the emotional wounds those years in prison must have left you.  
In your class, I realized you teach more than literature. I learned courage from you. I have never told you how much I admire you. I have thought of telling you many times but can not seem to verbalize the butterflies I feel in my stomach when in the presence of such an extraordinary woman. It is an honor to have you as my professor. Through your poetry you inspired many blindfolded revolutionaries in Argentina and gave them the strength to continue the struggle. Today, through your activism, writing and teaching you inspire the next generation of leaders. If I would have known you back then, I think I might have even been in the bunk beds with you, blindfolded, eating the bread crumbs you would have fed me with your feet.

Most sincerely yours,

Luz  Minerva Jiménez Ruvalcaba