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Juan Gregorio Regino


Since the late 1970s Juan Gregorio Regino has been a leading figure in the movement — throughout Latin America — aimed at the creation of new literatures using native languages alongside the dominant Spanish. A Mazatec by birth and upbringing, Regino was a co-founder and president of the Comité Directivo de Escritores en Lenguas Indígenas (Association of Indigenous Writers). His poetry and other writings have appeared in his own Mazatec and Spanish versions, and in 1996 he received the Netzalhualcóyotl Prize for Indigenous Literature. The remarks that follow were made in response to this award, an example of the continuities between the Mazatec past and a present shared with oral poets like María Sabina.


K’e tjien fucho ena.         Up to here my voice can be heard.

K’e tjien fucho ndana.         Up to here my spirit extends.

Kui ndi’ya xi tsja tjik’ien.         In this house that gives shade.

Kui ndi’ya xi tsja isien.         In this house that refreshes

Our writing was interrupted many years ago, and yet we have learned by means of orality to preserve our memory. From the people of wisdom in my land I have learned to value and to cultivate the word. For my people the word is truth, feeling, memory, symbol of struggle, of resistance, of identity. To possess it and to re-create it is a way of knowledge, a form of communion with the sacred, a pact with nature, a romance with the universe. In the dense vegetation of our mountains, it is not only the poet who speaks; the mountain sings also, the duendes of the ceiba also raise their voices, the duendes of the blue cascades, the duendes of the deep ravines. The countryside is also poetry; woman is also.

To make indigeonous literature is neither folklore nor a passing fashion; it is a dialogue of identities, of civilizations, of languages, of millenarian voices and perennial spirits.

It is fellowship, it is respect for difference, it is the knowledge of one for the other.

The indigenous languages are a patrimony of our country that should not go on developing in hiding and subordination. They are living languages whose contact with Spanish brings a mutual enrichment, because there are no pure languages and no superior or inferior ones.

Our peoples have not remained static, they construct their truth every day; today we can say that we sing in two voices, we whistle in two tongues. We believe in the language of the earth we have cultivated, we believe in the language that arrived from the other side of the ocean, we believe in the universal language of the sun. Languages are our treasures as our identity is the eagle and the serpent, the crowns and the laurels.

We have survived ethnocide, we have learned to write and to cultivate our minds with foreign books. Today we are recovering the tradition of the tlacuilos, blanketed beneath a single concept: Mexico. Today is a time of unity, of peace and of work.

I am ending my presentation with a fragment of the words of a great Mazatec woman: María Sabina.

Ngat’e xujun Né.         Because they are the papers of the judge,

K’ui xujun kjuakjintakun.         it is the book of your law,

K’ui xujun xtitjun.         it is the book of your government.

Ngat’e mana chjajo ‘an jaa         Because I can speak with your eagle.

Ngaté béjne ngasundie.         Because the world knows us.

Ngat’e béjne Néna.         Because God knows us.

(Translation from Spanish by Jerome Rothenberg)

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