S. E. Hermanoczki: Down la Avenida Pueyrredón

S.E. Hermanoczki reading ‘Down la Avenida Pueyrredón’

(para mi hermana y Ken)

In every tienda on la avenida or so it seems, the music is on one continuous latin dance party loop, Ricky, Fonsi, Jesse y Joy, Enrique, Shakira, repeat the up-beat. One-two-three, uno-dos-tres, one-two-three, uno-dos-tres. The bright over-lit strip lighting of the shops’ interiores seem to disguise el exterior, la realidad of the hot ciudad out there with its dirt and noise, of coches y colectivos, of legit blue radio taxis and the black unnamed ones that hike up their precios and take you far from where you want to go. Step outside el apartamento, avoid the dog shit as you cross the street to the chino shop, and the woman who shouts and swears en Putonghua, who takes your guita while not looking at you in the face, past the local vendedor de fruta who everyday wants to know more than where you’re from, and turn left at la esquina avoiding more mierda to where the cop cars line the streets and where the barricadas are left waiting, ready for another lock down. Down town is where you are and will return many horas later after walking back down from visiting Eva Perón’s grave en el cementerio de la Recoleta. You’ll notice the smooth sidewalks slowly cracking on the way back to the bad lands, to the bad part of town, to the Jewish quarter where once una bomba went off, back to el barrio immigrante de Once where un grupo de manteros rioted only the week before. You are staying down there? Strangers ask. ¿Allí? Walking back down la avenida Pueyrredón balancing on broken bits of vereda, stepping on cracks and almost breaking your back tripping on pot holes. Walking back, you pass a homeless man just lying down on el pavimento. It’s not yet night, yet his day is clearly over. ¡Basta! He cries. I’ve had enough. Enough of this city and its Buenos Aires. ¡Ay Dios! ¡Por favor! ¡Basta!

Pronunciation Guide, Glossary, and Notes

tienda \ tēˈendə \ shop,

avenida\  a β̞ e n i ð̞ a\ avenue

uno \ ũ n o\one, dos \ d o s\ two, tres\ t ɾ e s\ three

interiores\ i n̪ t e ɾ j o ɾ e s̮\ inside

el exterior \ e l e k s t e ɾ j o ɾ\ the outside

la realidad\ l a r e a l ið̞ a ð̞\ the reality

cuidad\ k w i ð̞ a ð̞\ city

coches\ k o ͡ʧ e s\ cars

colectivos\k o l e g t i β̞ o s̮\ buses

precios \ p ɾ e θ j o s\ prices

apartamento\a p a ɾ t a m ẽ n̪ t o\apartment

chino ͡\ʧ i n o\ Chinese

Putonghua\ ˌpo͞oˌtôNGˈhwä\ Mandarin

guita\ gɪˈtɑ\ money

vendedor de fruta\ β̞ e n̪ de ð̞ oɾ ð̞ e f ɾ ut a\ fruit seller or greengrocer

la esquina\ l a e s k i n a \corner

mierda \ m j e ɾ ð̞ a\ (dog) shit

barricadas\b a r i k a ð̞ a s\ barricades

horas\ o ɾ a s\ hours

el cementerio de la Recoleta\ e l̪̟  θ e m ẽ n̪ t e ɾ j o ð̞ e l a r e k o l e t a\ the cemetery in Recoleta

una bomba\ ũ n a β̞ o m b a \ a bomb

el barrio immigrante\ el  β̞ a r j o  i mː i ɣ̞ ɾ a n̪ t e  ð̞ e o n̪̟ θ e \ suburb

un grupo de manteros\ ũ nˠ g ɾ u p o ð̞ e m ã n̪ t e ɾ o s \ a group of market sellers

¿Allí?\ a ʝ i \ (over) there?

la avenida Pueyrredón\ l a β̞ e n i ð̞ a p w e i̯ r e ð̞ o n\ Pueyrredon Avenue

vereda\ b e ɾ e ð̞ a\the gutter

el pavimento\ e l  pa β̞i m ẽ n̪ t o \the pavement or footpath or sidewalk

¡Basta! \b a s t a\ (I’ve had) enough

Buenos Aires\ b w e n o s̮  a i̯ ɾ e s\

¡Ay Dios! \a i̯ ð̞ j o s\ Dear God

¡Por favor! \ p o ɾ f a β̞ o ɾ\  Please

About the poem: In ‘Down la Avenida Pueyrredón’, I wanted to capture the difficulties and hardness of Buenos Aires and to reflect how I code-switch from English into Spanish—which is how I tend to speak and think. Though (Argentinean) Spanish was originally my mother tongue, over the years, English has slowly replaced it as the language I predominantly use and write in, so now, when I speak it, I sound like a gringa (I find it hard to roll my ‘r’s). The poem was inspired by a recent trip back to Argentina. My first time there, I was just a child and only have fragmented memories of the people and place. On this trip, however, I was greeted at the airport by a friend who said, ‘Welcome to my country’; this set the tone and an immediate distancing and the perspective to a place I had always considered my mother’s and my ‘home’.

S. E. Hermanoczki is a writer and teacher of creative writing. Her writing on death and photography, trauma and the immigrant journey, memory and postmemories, code-switching and bi-cultural identity, have been published in local and international publications. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne, where she teaches.

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