Prose from Poetry Magazine

On Three (Untitled) Poems from “Stolen Flower” by Irma Pineda

These three poems are from Guie’ ni zinebe/La Flor que se llevó (Pluralia, Mexico City, 2013), Irma Pineda’s sixth book of poetry, which delves into wrenching subjects: violence against women, anti-Indigenous racism, and militarization. Guie’ ni zinebe, or “Stolen Flower,” is a narrative-in-poems, inspired by actual events. In 2007, a group of Mexican soldiers raped and murdered a 73-year-old Indigenous Nahua woman, Ernestina Ascencio Rosario, who was working in her cornfield at the time of the assault. In spite of extensive evidence to the contrary—including testimony from a dozen people who saw Sra. Ascencio after the assault, in the hours before she died of her injuries—the Mexican courts ruled that Sra. Ascencio died of natural causes. When journalists began to investigate the case, they discovered several young girls (twelve to fourteen years old) in Sra. Ascencio’s community who were already mothers, likely because they had also been raped by soldiers. This case sparked an outcry from human rights organizations throughout Latin America, catalyzing conversations about violence against women and girls, violence against Indigenous communities, and military impunity.

Before translating the poems of Guie’ ni zinebe/La flor que se llevó, I compiled the extensive media coverage (more than 100 news articles from Mexico, the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere in Latin America) of Sra. Asencio’s death and the subsequent investigations. Early in my translation process, Pineda and I spent a week together at her home in Juchitán, Oaxaca, discussing the poems and the genesis of the book. Thanks to a fellowship from the Institute for Comparative Modernities at Cornell University, she and I were able to spend several more days together in September 2021, discussing the questions that arose as I created a first-draft translation of Guie’ ni zinebe. The book consists of forty-five untitled poems that shift among several points of view. One of the three poems published here is in the voice of that elder woman who was assaulted by the soldiers. The other two poems are in the collective voice of that woman’s village, as they grapple with the terror.

Editor's Note:

Read the poems and translations this note is about, “Cadi cayuuba di ra gucana’ya’,” “No duelen las heridas,” “No wound hurts,” “Bicaa lulu’ laadu,” “La guerra nos declaraste,” “You declared war on us,” “​​​​​Xtiidxe’ zanaa luguialu’,” “​​​​​​​Te pesará mi voz,” and “​​​​​​​My voice will weigh on you.”

Originally Published: July 6th, 2022

Wendy Call is a writer, editor, and translator. She teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program and lives in Seattle, Washington.

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