- An Interview with Victoria Santa Cruz*
Can you tell us a bit about your past?
I was born in Lima, in the Victory district. I was born there, in a big house. Nowadays, it's a small school. When my father was six, he left with somebody for the United States and returned when he was thirty-five. He married my mother.
Your mother was born here?
Yes. She didn't speak English. She spoke Spanish. My father knew how to express himself very well and was very graceful. She danced. Have you heard of the marinera? Well, she danced marinera. She was a queen. She had long hair. And my father spoke exquisite English, and I learned Shakespeare in English. He was a very interesting person and had all these recordings. All of them were operas of Wagner or Puccini. We grew up listening to all that music.
I had a little group of friends, and I was the only black one. One day there was a little girl among them with blond hair. And she immediately said, "If the little black girl wants to play with us, I'll leave." And I thought, "Who is she?" She had just arrived and was already dictating the law. What a surprise it was when my friends told me, "You can leave, Victoria." I said, "What?" It was to suffer something very important. I have written a small book in Spanish and English in which I say that suffering hides the door. The secret is not to leave, but to go through it. I was little, and when I saw that my friends rejected me, I left. But I never forgot. I never forgot the importance of suffering. The point is not to be a victim. I asked myself, "Who suffers? And why?" And other feelings began to emerge. I never told my father or my mother. It was something that I had to taste and discover for myself. That girl stimulated something in me without knowing so. And I came to discover what it means to stand on your feet without looking for someone to blame, suffering but discovering things. I began to discover life. The enemy lives at home. And nowadays it's difficult for someone to insult me, because of the things life has taught me.
I danced the Charleston since I was young, and little by little I began to discover the meaning of dance, the importance of dance and of African things. Human beings don't know their origin. How is it that they criticize and despise one another so much? Whites [End Page 304] despise blacks. Blacks despise blacks. And Indians despise Indians. So what does it mean? Human beings don't know what they are. So when you start to understand, to discover it, you see. You say, "What am I doing? What is it to be black? What is it to be white? What is it to be blond?" And we begin to discover life, and we start to understand many, many important things and to see that human beings don't know where they are.
It's terribly important to know that there is no revolution without evolution. And at this point, I know who I am. I know who we are, and we have to do something to be free and do this or that other thing to show others that "I am superior." We shouldn't be stupid.
When your father went to the United States, was it common for a black man to leave and live abroad for so many years and return?
Of course not. But it's just that he was a child that was going with a family.
With his own family?
What else do you remember about your childhood?
His English was stupendous. Opera, classical music fascinated him. We have listened to Wagner, to Puccini, and we knew them by heart. And my mother had a contralto voice and sang beautifully the regional songs. Later, when she was doing...