Visiting Translators Break Borders 

Jadyn L.
By Maya L. & Emily S.
December 17, 2018

On November 6th, five Mexican writers visited Westridge upperclassmen to talk about their bodies of work. The writers, Ana Fuente Montes de Oca, Nadia Lopez Garcia, Amaranta Caballero Prado, Martin Camps, and Christina Rascon came to Westridge in order to discuss their work with students studying Spanish. The writers, part of a yearly tour of contemporary authors from Mexico, reflected on how their experiences changed their views on the world as well as their relationships with their own Mexican culture.

Conversation quickly turned to border experiences and how such experiences of physical separation influence artistic expression.  Short fiction writer Ana Fuente Montes de Oca’s experiences on the border not only changed her views but also has had a tremendous effect on her writing. “I became [more] observant of my surroundings. I saw people who were thrown out and kept away, and I was able to gain a better understanding of my country and just how big the problem was.”

Nadia Lopez Garcia, a poet and translator, also recalled a change in her writing because of her border experience. Oftentimes, families living along the border consist of exclusively mothers and children, since the husbands had already immigrated to the United States. “I try to write in the voice of the women who remain in Mexico while the men go to work in America,” Garcia explained. She focuses on topics of women, migration, and empowerment, which all converge into the discussion of borders and how they come to be.

The writers use their multilingual experiences to examine the complexity of borders, particularly language as a linguistic border of sorts.  Author and illustrator Amaranta Caballero Prado approaches this issue with a more metaphorical image in mind. “Initial borders are really mental borders,” she said. “The first borders and limitation come from one’s society, and as you grow, the borders expand.” She believes that one way borders can be transformed is through art. Birds as symbols of freedom and transformation often appear in her work. In fact, Prado is currently working on a Ph.D. thesis called A Thousand Birds, just one of her many works that seek to re-envision borders.

Martin Camps, a professor of Spanish and Latin American Literature at the University of the Pacific, wonders how to transform borders in the country’s current political climate. “Cultures that live in isolation are destined to perish, and because of that, we need to open the borders in our minds.” Camps believes borders exist within everyone, and the more Americans try to build upon that border, the more likely this border will fail. He argues that immigrants create America, and by pushing out Mexican immigrants, Americans ignore their own history.

The visiting authors all agreed that borders stem from people’s mindsets, and many problems can be changed with the changing of perception. One way to do this, Cristina Rascon—writer, economist, and translator of Japanese poetry—points out, is to learn new languages. “When you learn another language, you learn how those people conduct feelings and emotions, and this can help to develop a less critical view on the world.” By conveying their unique perspectives through language, art, poetry, and politics, the five writers believe they have the potential to inspire others to rethink and reshape the borders that separate them.