One Sunday a man arrived
to sell black water
that glistened like a riverstone.
A lady bought some
‘It’s as sweet as heaven’s water must be.’
They called it iya maskoria – water of mercy.
To consecrate their tongues,
some asked for a barter.
It wasn’t possible.
They asked why,
‘It’s called Pepsi Cola,’ said the man.
We started to drink
from that death, which shrivels up our skin and makes our blood toothsome.
Now not even doctors’ water can heal us
Notes on this poem
Hubert Matiúwàa is one of the most distinctive and urgent voices currently working in Mexican poetry. For him, choosing to write in the Mè’phàà language is an act of political resistance: ‘We need to tell the story of the time we are living in, to bear witness and create knowledge for those who are to come.’ Nestled in the mountains of Guerrero, one of the most violent states in Mexico, his people live under the constant threat of drug-related and military violence, people trafficking, and land dispossession from foreign mining companies. He writes to expose, from the perspective of his culture’s world view, the violent reality of his place of origin, which reflects the rampant inequality of the entire country. ‘In Mexico we are 68 indigenous nations and it is unjust for us to be excluded,’ he says. ‘In the mountain regions there is no access to health or education. You don’t get taught to read your own language. These are the conditions that exclude our indigenous peoples.’ Translating his work has been fascinating and challenging process, because words have a completely different weight in English, with radically different, inbuilt sets of relationships of power, possession, and affect, which reveal a patriarchal-capitalist universe that is completely at odds with that of indigenous cultures. As Matiúwàa explains: ‘Mè’hpàà people say ‘we’ even when referring to others. There is no distinction. Part of the richness of our indigenous peoples is that instead of excluding, we integrate.’
– Juana Adcock