‘We, the Qom, always carry the mountains in our souls’Posted: November 5, 2013
Versión en castellano aquí
The young poet from Chaco Rolando Edgar Sánchez works spreading Qom culture door-to-door in the city of Rosario. We want to share his story, published in Elciudadanoweb, with you:
The young poet started writing when he was eight. He remembers that one afternoon his dad gave him a piece of paper and a pencil, and when he came back home asked him what he had done. ‘I told him that I had done nothing, because I couldn’t read nor write. Then, he showed me the piece of paper and said that even if it was empty, it was actually full, since paper is like people and us, the Qoms, we carry the mountains in our souls. He meant that the piece of paper was full of the mountains, that it had our stories’, he explains.
You can read our translation of the article here:
‘We, the Qom, always carry the mountains in our souls’
By Graciana Petrone – Rolando Edgar Sánchez is commited to spread the native languages among his neighbors in Los Pumitas, in the northern area of the city. He arrived to Rosario three years ago, and every day he Works in his door-to-door spreading.
Less than a block from the Faculty of Medicine, among the noise of the car horns and the comings and goings of the students with folders under their arms, Rosando Edgar Sánchez waits for The Citizen. Almost no one knows him by his name – everybody calls him Vilo. He’s 23 years old, he’s short, with black thick hair and with dark and chapped skin. An emerging beard draws a mark in his chin, and he wears old jeans and a red indigenous shirt. With a soft voice and no more words than needed, he tells us about his job of spreading of the Qom culture in the Toba neighborhood of Los Pumitas, in Empalme Graneros.
Vilo is a poet from the mountains. He arrived three years ago from El Colchón, Chaco. Since then, he’s dedicated to spread the native tongues among his equals in the neighborhood where he also lives. He learnt Spanish only when he left his province and, however, he speaks it perfectly. Precisely, the first thing he explains is how not being able to communicate brought him his firsts disenchantments. ‘It is said what was it, but not who did it’, he warns us, right before explaining how a few months after moving to Rosario, some documentary filmmakers went to the settlement in the north-west area to film a documentary about the community. ‘But they did something they shouldn’t have done, they used my writings and took them as their own, they signed them as their own’, he says, staring at some point, very serious and unable to find the adequate word for plagiarism.
The divulgation task Vilo carries on is hand-to-hand. Every day, the poet walks the place and tries to keep Qom traditions alive, especially among the youngest. ‘Sometimes we organize special lessons at school and some others I knock at the doors house after house’, he says. He’s convinced that the rhythm of life in the city can end up winning over people’s roots, and then he repeats that ‘we must do all we can so this doesn’t happen’. On the table of the café, the writer talks about his experiences with the kids and is amazed on how fast they understand and assimilate concepts: ‘I tell them, I explain, that even if they live in the city the tradition of our ancestors is always inside every one of them’.
The little prince
The young poet started writing when he was eight. He remembers that one afternoon his dad gave him a piece of paper and a pencil, and when he came back home asked him what he had done. ‘I told him that I had done nothing, because I couldn’t read nor write. Then, he showed me the piece of paper and said that even if it was empty, it was actually full, since paper is like people and us, the Qoms, we carry the mountains in our souls. He meant that the piece of paper was full of the mountains, that it had our stories’, he explains. When he learnt, the first thing he did was writing about an old man in his community who lived in the chaqueño hill. He titled it ‘The sadness of the cigarette for Aníbal’. During the interview, he recited some of its verses: ‘He spent his life yearning for something wonderful to happen / And the only wonderful thing to happen was his life’.
Vilo went only to primary school, in El Colchón, but he says he would like to finish high school, go to university and study Social Communication. Some months ago, he recorded the voiceover in a short film in Qom language and subtitled in Spanish funded by the Secretary of Culture of the Nation. He carries several CDs with him. ‘This afternoon we went to a school in the center and we watched the film. It is about a hunter called Gerónimo who doesn’t have enough to eat, and thus he goes to the mountains to hunt animals for his family but learns that the mountains must be respected, because every one of us is the mountains’.
The young poet also participated, a few years ago, with several indigenous groups from Formosa, Santa Fe and Chaco in the translation of ‘The Little Prince’ to native languages. But the government of France, country of birth of Saint Exupéry, author of the emblematic work, didn’t accept Qom as a language. ‘It was something important, every community did a chapter while we were going over the provinces’, he says, sad, and repeats that he will try for them to do it again, ‘but this time, with more strength than before.’
Vilo explains that his job as a promoter isn’t payed, that he does it simply because he wants to and he feels that it’s his duty to maintain the customs and the language of his community untouched.