Surrounding the elevated statue of Simon Bolivar, the Great Liberator of South America, in the plaza at the center of Bolivia’s capitol city Sucre you will find a ring of golden words. Words. Powerful words which read: Sucre, Bolivia, the cradle of liberty.
The city holds the wonder of words which gave me the power of liberty. Our first months in Bolivia beginning in 2001 we forced our tongues to converse with the people in the language of the heart of this land. When the uncomfortable unfamiliarity traded places with familiar ownership we pushed past the easy into the mechanics of the language. By taking a trip almost exactly ten years ago I spent a few weeks in Sucre learning the rules of the Spanish language.
In the city where liberty meets law my tongue and brain submitted to language laws which gave me social liberty. I found a freedom to befriend Bolivians. I saw the reason behind the ramblings. In this cradle of liberty I felt like a child learning to speak, full of uninhibited vim.
A decade later I return with my husband. I carry in my bag a book I started reading a few weeks ago. I picked it up at a flee market in Cochabamba. During my time on this vacation I determined to finish reading this book.
How poetic that I would finish reading my first Spanish novel in the city where love for the language was born. I’ve read other non-fiction books out of duty or obligation. I am not too proud to mention I have also read a small mountain of children’s books in Spanish. I’ve also started, and re-started, reading the classic monstrosity ‘El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha‘. This one, ‘El Poder y la Gloria’ (The Power and the Glory) by Graham Greene, I choose for the sheer pleasure of the reading.
The story tells about a Mexican priest being pursued by a lieutenant during the polemic 1930s. The British author wrote the book in English. Knowing I read a translation from the original I felt like I lost some of the artistry of the work. Yet, being able to read the book in the primary tongue of most of the characters enriched the experience. I recommend the book (in whatever language you prefer).