- Straddling Worlds, Bringing Your Whole Self
This conversation was delayed, because on the day it was to begin, Margaret was on a plane, flying to Cuba, which was the perfect symbolic start to our exchange. Both of us have spent many years engaged with the revolutionary movements of Latin America, living between worlds in many different ways. Margaret was going to Havana to be a judge for the Casa de las Americas literary prizes, and Casa de las Americas, founded by Cuban revolutionary Haydee Santamaría, has played a pivotal role in the leftist cultural life of Latin America throughout Aurora's career as a Latin American writer. Both of us have found hope, inspiration and frustration in our chosen arenas of struggle, as feminists, as Jews, as writers, as bridge builders. This straddling of worlds and building of bridges has been the subject of our conversation.
Aurora began with the following questions:
What worlds do you straddle, and how do you keep your balance? What are the greatest gifts and hardships they offer?
Is there a relationship between your Jewishness and your connections to Latin America, and if so, what? What made you turn to Latin America as a focus, instead of the Middle East or other arenas? [End Page 44]
I grew up in a family engaged with Latin American revolutionary movements, and with a strong relationship to Cuba, and first went there at the age of 14. In my early twenties I was very active in Chile and Central America solidarity work. One of the most painful things in my political life has been the contradiction between my love for those movements, and the hope they represent, and the destructiveness of the sexism I encountered. How have you dealt with that in your own political and personal relationships?
First of all, I think I must address my condition as a Jewish woman. I do claim that identity in terms of my origins. Both my parents were from Jewish families, although neither was religious. My mother especially was quite anti-Semitic, and my father more or less always followed her example. They changed our surname when I was a small child, from Reinthal to Randall. Their self-hatred as Jews was always a source of tension in the family. I questioned them often, and rarely received answers that satisfied me. So, although culturally I identify as a Jew, I really have no Jewish experience. And since I am not religious, I have not sought this out.
That said, I feel as if I am always straddling worlds: between my Jewish roots and non-Jewish upbringing, between Latin America and the U.S., between the magic of language and the din of modernity, between off-limits spaces such as Cuba and spaces inhabited by everyone... and the list goes on and on.
Perhaps this is why I have long thought of myself as a bridge: first as a bridge who lived experiences such as those in Mexico, Cuba, and Sandinista Nicaragua, which I felt the imperative to translate for U.S. readerships and/ or audiences. Then a bridge between socialism and feminism. And most recently a bridge between those whose reductionist perceptions prevent them from seeing the interconnectedness of all beings and things and those who make the necessary connections.
Perhaps I am wrong, but I don't generally think of a large Jewish presence in Puerto Rico. How has that bridge played itself out in your life?
You ask about balance. That's such an important question. I think it's hard, in today's world, to keep any sense of balance. We are so constantly bombarded with the irritating, the horrendous, the commercial, the useless. As I grow older, I find that balance is easier to come by. Maybe that's because at 74 I have learned to say no when necessary, and am managing to keep my focus on the issues and activities that mean the most to me. Still, there are moments when it's really hard. One challenge for me, for example, is to try to keep a balance between spending time with my children...