Para Las Duras: Una Fenomenología Lesbiana–tatiana de la tierra’s Queer, Latina Love Offering

The following is an 899-word excerpt from Olga García Echeverría and Maylei Blackwell’s introduction, “Una mujer peligrosa,” to tatiana de la tierra’s recently published reprint For the Hard Ones: A Lesbian Phenomenology / Para las duras: Una fenomenología lesbiana, followed by two poems featured in the collection.

tatiana de la tierra was born in Villacicencio, Colombia and raised in Miami, Florida. tatiana was a bicultural writer, academic, and publisher whose work focused on identity, sexuality, and South American memory and reality. She completed an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso and a Masters of Library Science from University at Buffalo. tatiana was a founder, editor, and contributor to the Latina lesbian publications esto no tiene nombre and conmoción, in addition to authoring For the Hard Ones / Para las duras, academic articles, and a variety of chapbooks through her personal press. She passed away in California in 2012.

tatiana de la tierra was a dangerous woman. She loved smut and worshipped the cunt. She was wild, fat, free, and fearless. She wrote odes to unsavory bearded lesbians and celebrated fleshy women with violated vaginas and “fallen tits” who “fuck joyfully.”[1] This was her gift, to topple patriarchy and transform the world she wrote and lived in into a lyrical lesbian fuckfest where dykes, mermaids, goddess worshippers, and puta raps reigned supreme.

Born in Villavicencio, Colombia, tatiana de la tierra migrated to Miami, Florida with her family at the age of seven in 1968. In her autobiographical essay, “Wings,” she describes being torn away from the familiar, her grandmothers, great aunts, aunts, the Andean mountains, and the experience of living on a farm where eggs were collected and where arepas were made daily at the crack of dawn.[2]

In contrast, Miami was a place of seismic shifts, where landscape, culture, food, and particularly language were unstable for tatiana, as they often are for so many newly arrived immigrants. As one of only a few Spanish speakers at her elementary school, her sense of “otherness” as a newcomer and as an English learner pissed her off and propelled her forward. “I dreaded those public moments that highlighted the fact that I was a foreigner. Sometimes I sat at my desk, plotting my revenge. I would master the English language. I would infiltrate the gringo culture without letting on that I was a
traitor. I would battle in their tongue and make them stumble. I would cut out their souls and leave them on the shore to be pecked on by vultures.”[3]

tatiana began writing in English as a teenager, and while she learned to slay linguistic dragons with her pen, she often noted that her love of literature began much sooner. In a 2009 blog post, she shared, “My mom handed me over to a world of words when she read me poetry as a child. She read me children’s poems and prose by the brilliant Colombian author Rafael Pombo, and she also read me Neruda and Benedetti. She blasted music and sang along while doing housework, knitting and reading, introducing me to bambucos, boleros, and baladas, gifting me with music and melody.

I took it from there. I was a budding writer in junior high when I published my first haiku in the school’s literary newsletter. By high school I was writing feature articles and editing the school paper. I discovered the power of the word by listening, reading, and finally, writing.”[4]

In the 1980s, when she was in her twenties, tatiana came out as a lesbian and began writing with a Latina lesbian focus. She wrote in English, Spanish, and Spanglish. This polyamorous lingualism she considered, like her sexuality, entirely natural. tatiana was fascinated by translation. She translated an entire manuscript by her favorite poet Cristina Peri Rossi, Estrategias del deseo, with the permission of the author. She regularly created faithless translations of her own work (often with the help of her mother), caring more about meaning, style and the rhythm of words than being literal. She was not into the tedium of pampering monolingual audiences nor was she a fan of side-byside translations. The first publishing of For The Hard Ones / Para Las Duras (Calaca Press and Chibcha Press 2002) was a flip book where the Spanish and English existed as two separate mini-books bound into one. Side by side translations are also extremely rare in tatiana’s self-publishing endeavors. For the republishing of For The

Hard Ones, Sinister Wisdom proposed side-by-side translations for several practical reasons. We consulted tatiana’s runes and trust she has granted us her permission (if not, at least her forgiveness) for the side-by-side translations in this project. She was, after all, a firm believer in the art of juxtaposition and reviving creative work but not of rehashing it in the same exact way.

As a budding dyke in the 80s, tatiana began publishing her work mostly in fliers, magazines, and Latina lesbian anthologies. The publications to feature some of her earliest works were Compañeras; Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time; Visibilities; Ms.
; Latino Stuff Review; Lesbian Contradiction; and Sinister Wisdom. Still, limited visibility and publishing opportunities for Latina lesbians left her hungry for more. The mainstream literary world was predominately white, straight, and English-only. The alternative publishing worlds also left a lot to be desired. Despite
the hard fought gains of the Black/Brown/Red Power movements as well as the feminist and queer crusades of the 60s and 70s, the alternative publishing worlds, like the social movements that created them, often sought social justice in silos that created multiple exclusions for dykes of color. ¡Tortura!

Los otros, las otras y nosotras

los que inventan las leyes, los que controlan la prensa, los que
construyen las escaleras del éxito económico, los que determinan
los procedimientos permitidos con nuestros cuerpos, los que
penetran sin permiso, los que juzganéstos son los otros.

las que siguen todas las leyes, las que le dan la última palabra
a la prensa popular, las que se limitan a seguir los caminos que
limitan su economía, las que hacen con su cuerpo nada más que
lo que se les permite hacer, las que se dejan penetrar sin opinar,
las que se dejan juzgaréstas son las otras.

las que se inventan sus leyes, las que publican sus propias
palabras, las que salen del camino predeterminado para la
sobrevivencia, las que deciden qué hacer con su propio cuerpo,
las que penetran bienvenidas, las que no necesitan juezéstas
somos nosotras.

Us and Them: Laws of Desire

the ones who invent the laws, the ones who own the press,
who impose economic systems, who determine the procedures
allowed with our bodies, who penetrate without permission,
who judgethose are them.

the ones who follow every law, who have faith in the press, who
limit themselves to systems that limit their economy, who do
with their bodies only as allowed, who are passively penetrated,
who let themselves be judgedthose are them.

the ones who write their own laws, who publish their own words,
who create their own way to economic survival, who do with
their bodies as they wish, who choose to welcome penetration
and to penetrate, who need no judgethose are us.

El arte de mariposear

las lesbianas somos un arte. en algún momento somos las que
aparentamos serestudiantes, anarquistas, amas de casa,
poetasy en otro somos un reinvento que no tiene nada que
ver con lo que éramos. nos hacemos mecánicas, paganas,
bibliotecarias, lesbianas.

las transformaciones son cada vez más bellas. somos mujeres

el arte lleva a los espectadores a una dimensión que, antes del
arte, no se conocía por los que no admiran el mundo más allá
del blanco y el negro. lo que parecía ser la realidad se deshace:
el ataúd es una cueva de placer, la manzana es una bomba, el
globo del ojo es una mandala.

la deconstrucción de los significados comunes y corrientes
le abre camino al cambio. si el ataúd es una cueva de placer
¿no será bienvenida la muerte? si una manzana es una bomba
¿debería consumir una en el desayuno? si el ojo es una mandala
¿será que la paz interna se encuentra en los centros de los ojos?

este cambio es lo que conduce a la evolución. el ama de casa se
convierte en una lesbiana radical separatista, y ésta se vuelve
pacifista, luego se hace madre, se reinvente artista, deviene
en alcohólica, se torna camionera, se vuelve padre, se rehace
feminista, se hace quien sea que quiera hasta que ella decide,
algún día, hacerse mariposa.

para el arte lesbiano no se requieren pinturas ni pinceles ni
marcos ni telas. la ruptura con identidades que parecían eternas
es suficiente para mariposear. con re-nombrar lo que fue y será,
se acaba con lo que era y hubiera sido.

las transformaciones son cada día más bellas. somos mujeres

The Art of Butterflying

lesbianism is an art form. one moment we are who we seem to
bea student, an anarchist, a housewife, a poetand then we
create that which seems to have nothing to do with who we are.
we become mechanics, pagans, librarians, lesbians.
the transformations are more beautiful every time. we are but
butterflied women.

art brings a dimension to its spectators that, before art, was
not experienced by those who do not admire the world beyond
black and white. what appears to be reality is broken: the coffin
is a pleasure cove; the apple a bomb; the eyeball, a mandala.

the deconstruction of common meanings opens the path to
change. if the coffin is a pleasure cove, is death not welcome?
if an apple is a bomb, should I have one for breakfast? if the
eyeball is a mandala, does inner peace reside in the centers of
our eyes?

change leads to evolution. the housewife becomes a radical
lesbian separatist who becomes a pacifist, who becomes a
mother, who becomes a housewife, who becomes an artist,
who becomes an alcoholic, who becomes a truck driver, who
becomes a father, who becomes a feminist, who becomes
whoever else she wants to, until she decides, one day, to
become a butterfly.

lesbian art requires no paint brushes on canvas. the rupture
with identities that seemed forever real and true is sufficient for
butterflying. by re-creating who we were and re-naming who
we are, we let go of what would have been and become another
invention of ourselves.

the transformations are more beautiful every time. we are
butterflied women.

[1] The phrases “a dangerous woman,” “fallen tits,” and “fuck joyfully” are taken from de la tierra’s poem “Paint Me a Dangerous Woman,” which originally appeared in Spanish in her chapbook by the same name (Buffalo, Nueva York: Chibcha Press, 2004). The English version of the poem later appeared in Tierra 2010: poems, songs, & a little blood (Long Beach, California: Chibcha, Press, 2010). [2] tatiana de la tierra, “Wings.” In Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class. Ed. Michelle Tea (Emeryville: Seal Press, 2004): 91-96. Republished in La Bloga
on July 30, 2017. [3] Ibid. [4] “Guest Colomunist: Olga Garcia, tatiana de la tierra, Liz Vega.” July 26, 2009. La Bloga.

Read More