09 November 2012

Bellas Artes

This afternoon in an area of Santiago called Bellas Artes I was thrilled to find a piece of home. Bouncing from bookstore to bookstore in search of English translations of Latin American novels, I spotted a Spanish translation of Miguel Syjuco's Ilustrado. It was buried under a stack of Allendes, Nerudas, and Fuguets. 

The name of the bookstore carrying the Syjuco is Metales Pesados (Heavy Metals). It's on Jose Miguel de La Barra, reportedly Santiago's version of Castro Street. I was cruising—cruising for books—and it thus pleased me to encounter, for the first time since coming to Chile, something veritably Filipino, something unforeign. The memory of a story I'd read and reread, reasserting itself eleven thousand miles later. There is otherwise nothing here that can be described as being from home or of home: there is not a single Filipino restaurant, a single Filipino work of art, a single Filipino anything. More than once I have wondered if I may as well be living in another planet. 

After asking the clerk the usual question of whether or not they sold novels in English (and getting the usual reply that no, he was sorry, they didn't), I made a point of showing him the Syjuco. “A novel by a Filipino,” I said (in my sorry Spanish), beaming with pride. “You and your customers ought to read it.” I placed the book on top of the stack, took a picture, and felt suddenly less transplanted than I had been these last few months. 


  1. Wonderful. That cover, too, is very Latino.

  2. Mig. You are the writer. I can notice that right now because i’m having quite a job to find the right words and sentences to depict things… what a nice thing that you had came to Santiago… If you only take it as to build a methaphore, that you had been here seeing and writing, can produce an infinite net of crossroads that go from Magellan to the student movement. If I’d be able to see things the way u did, i’d be a better photographer. No doubt about it.

    I do regret in a way you couldn´t stay longer. Maybe I’m not the most prolific reader, and perhaps I’m ignoring other people if I say that your perception of Santiago is something I’ve never read before, at least not that i know of. I wish i could find other stories, i wish i could reconize more colors on your words. If you can do that just taking a few sights of your stay while you were working in Santiago and having part of your life busy with it, i can’t avoid asking what if you had been here longer, able to reach more people or just having more time at your disposal.

    It was a pleasure to meet you and it will always be to keep reading you.