Ecuador: The Passing of Writer Jorge Enrique Adoum

It is not often when the media and bloggers write about the same topic of national interest in Ecuador. That recently happened with the passing of a man often considered to be one of the greatest poets in Latin America. Ecuadorians are mourning the death of Jorge Enrique Adoum, who at age 19 had the privilege of being the personal secretary of the recognized poet, Pablo Neruda. Adoum also worked at the United Nations and the International Labor Organization as a translator, and won the prestigious Xavier Villaurrutia Award [es], issued only for Mexican residents.

Blogger Alfredo Vera makes a point to remind us of how Adoum was called among his friends and relatives. They used to call him, “Jorgenrique” or simply “Turquito.”

One of his most famous works was created in collaboration with two other writers Jorge Carrera Andrade [es], Hugo Alemán [es], and painter Jaime Valencia [es]. They created what is often considered to be the cultural anthem of Ecuadorians, the Vasija de Barro [es] (The Mud Vessel). Here one can see the audio and video interpreted by duet Benitez and Valencia. The following is the final verse of this composition:

De ti nací y a ti vuelvo
arcilla vaso de barro
con mi muerte vuelvo a ti
a tu polvo enamorado.

I was born from you and I return to you
clay vessel of mud
with my death I return to you
in love to your dust

We won't refer to all of Adoum's many contribution to Ecuadorian literature, for that information you just have to Google his name. We will refer to some of the extracts of one of his top writings: Entre Marx y Una Mujer Desnuda (Between Marx and a Nude Woman) which is said to be created on the history of the Ecuadorian Communist Party [es] and one of the most important novels in Ecuador, according to writer Bruno Sáenz [es]. The editor of Lunas Azules [es] had the opportunity to meet Adoum, and she says that he will live on every time she picks up one of his books. She also relates some of the most important episodes from Entre Marx y Una Mujer Desnuda.

Ruben Darío Buitron [es] is a journalist by trade and had the opportunity to interview Adoum last year. He presents a very humanistic, bold, and clear profile of the writer. Adoum told how by being an ‘Ambateño’ (originating from the Ecuadorian city of Ambato), that he fell in love with the capital Quito, and its way of life, its people and all of his experiences during his time as student. Even though he spent half of his life living between France, Chile, and his own country, he always held a special place in his heart for Quito. Here is what ‘Jorgenrique’ thought of his fellow Ecuadorians:

Los ecuatorianos estrechamos la mano del ser superior, casi temblando, casi temerosos, cómo nos agachamos ante el extranjero, cómo damos rodeos para decir sí o no, cómo bajamos la mirada cuando alguien nos conmina o desafía. Y entonces cuando intentamos sacarnos la camisa de ese complejo nos volvemos agresivos, arrogantes, violentos. No, nada de eso es ser quiteño.

We Ecuadorans shake hands with the one we think is superior, almost trembling, almost fearful, how we lower ourselves facing foreigners, how we are indecisive, how we to look down to someone who warns or challenges us. And then when we tried to remove ourselves from that complex, we become aggressive, arrogant, and violent. No, none of this is to be from Quito.

Adoum was already in poor health before his sad passing. While his last poetic anthology, Claudicación Intermitente [es] was being presented in the Benjamin Carrión House in Quito, he said: “I should criticize and regret myself of having believed that I have few friends. That almost everyone who is hear filling the room has touched me deeply. I promise not to say that I have few friends”.

People in Ecuador learned about him while attending school, many teachers required their students to read any of his writings. That's how he earned respect, even when some recognized not to have ever read one of his books. Raul Farias [es] , for example, thinks he likes Adoum because he dreamed of a better country and fought to promote cultural values, especially in the arts. Farias says that Adoum also fought to eliminate discrimination and inequities, trying always to answer the question: “What is an Ecuadorian?”

As mentioned earlier, it is rare when many bloggers want to comment on the same particular topic. Rafael Mendez [es] makes a good selection of YouTube videos where Jorge Enrique reads his own poems and writings. Maria Paula Romo republishes a beautiful poem from the author, I Believe in my Country [es] and for those interested in social networks there is also a Facebook page where one can read commentaries about Jorge Enrique Adoum's passing.

Thumbnail by Jody Art

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