Rosalía asks: Why am I here?
My name is Rosalía. Well, actually it’s María Rita Rosalía de Castro, but around here they often just call me by my first name, Rosalía. I was born on February 24, 1837. I don’t know when I died, so maybe I haven’t, at least not yet. For all I know, I could be immortal. Or I could be the first Bionic Woman.
That's just an excuse for feeling like I do.
At the risk of sounding arrogant, I have to confess that I have my own secret belief in my own abilities. By that I mean that I hope I am intelligent, independent, hard-working, committed to women’s causes, and creative. I am not boasting, not saying how superior I am. I wasn’t born for that sort of bloated self-thinking. It’s just that a little self-confidence never hurts, it seems.
I wish I had some.
In describing what I am like, I am simply and hopefully referring to what every woman aspires to,. Aren't these the concepts that are valued by the majority of women? Who doesn't crave intelligence, independence, strength, having commitment to a cause, and creativity?
I shouldn't be saying these things. This is the nineteenth century after all.
I thought I had found a way to focus on those four things and it entailed speaking with different types of people, forming part of a functional community, offering and receiving. Most of us want to be a part of something, and I'm from a part of the world where so much is happening, so much is being said, written, painted, and sung. The subtly curved hills and frighteningly green valleys, the patches of high-necked cabbages or couves looking like they're auditioning for the best umbrella contest. Who would ever want to live any place else? This is home, or should be.
There are words for everything that one can find in this place, lots of them. There isn't just a single way to describe the covering that grows spiky and dangerous, then pops open to reveal the gleam of a chestnut eye. Oh no, there are a dozen. There are words for the various stages of the leaves that form on the grelos plants in every rural garden. Those words vary from village to village. More words for the slinky salamanders that leap across rocks, words for the small strip of grass that runs along a path in a village. Even words for when a person drinks too much of the local moonshine.
This land never gives up all its words, like it does with the harvests of flax, wheat, potatoes, nettles, and blackberries. I mean, a walk down a country lane provides enough nourishment for a week, and you end up with well-fed eyes, so happy to be here and nowhere else. That's what I meant to say: the beauty here is abundant, almost more than the heart can hold. The fields may not be equally distributed, so some here can't harvest enough for their families, but that is true almost everywhere. We make do.
I also meant to say... well, I don’t really know what I meant to say. Feeling like the proverbial square peg in a round triangle... or however the geometry goes... it’s no fun. I inherited this paradise, but we don't always speak the same language, you might say. I am lost in my own thoughts, it seems.
Maybe I’m just dumb. Or inept at dealing with people. Maybe it would be better to just speak, but to say nothing when I do.
You see, I just don’t fit in here. The harder I try, the more out of place I feel. Sometimes I go for a walk, trying to understand the others who live here, trying to talk to them, and we short-circuit. Or I do, at least. Then I realize the response is everywhere, choking me, leaving me gasping for breath, eyes watery and grim. What do I do with this wall?
I want so much to be a part of this. Dicen que no hablan las plantas, that plants don't speak, but I don't believe it because they do. Can't anybody else hear them? They insist nobody's out in the villages listening to the words. They say ni las fuentes, ni los pájaros, nothing communicates out in the country, not the springs that gurgle forth, not even the birds. It is so frustrating to hear people say that. Are they ashamed of this place?
Ni el onda con sus rumores, ni con su brillo los astros. The lapping waters on the shore, the shining stars piercing the evening blackness, they deny them voices as well. I am literally dumbfounded, because surely the syllables are all around us when we weave our way through the tall grasses, stopping to look upward. Are they right in saying there is nothing but silence?
What, then, is causing all these sounds to race through my mind? Do I even have a mind or just an immense imagination?
Lo dicen, pero no es cierto, that is my position, and I can't seem to think any other way. They say it, say there are no words out here, but it's not true. That is my feeling. It's not an easy one to have, because pues siempre cuando yo paso, whenever I walk by I get this strange feeling. De mí murmuran y exclaman, I know they are whispering and shouting about me, these flowers and weeds and trees, and I know what they are saying: Ahí va la loca soñando. There goes that mad lady, dragging her dreams behind her.
Am I losing my mind?
It all hurts so much to realize that those who don't understand this world also don't understand me. Would I give this all up, try to find another place to live? To love? No, because this is where I want to belong, different as I am, and if my heart is going to be broken, let it be here, in my beloved Galicia. Only here can I survive the pain of not feeling like I fit, of knowing my secrets and those of many others. I can live with the pain, I guess. I remember how unha vez tiven un cravo cravado no corazón, and that deep spike in my heart would not come out, despite all my efforts. I thought I would die; it was an agony that made me want to be a robot with nothing human that could ache.
This all sounds like so much outdated Romanticism. That's not me at all.
That feeling of intense pain was a while back, however, i eu non me acordo xa se era aquel cravo de ouro, de ferro ou de amor. I really can't, can't remember if the spike was made of gold, iron, or love. It hurt too much to be able to understand its true nature. It was natural to want it gone, don't you think? Gone, but now...
It wasn't that easy. Soio sei que me fixo un mal tan fondo, que tanto me atormentóu, it was so painful, so gut-wrenching, such a horrible torment, que eu día e noite sin cesar choraba. I cried day and night. Cried wickedly, desperately, like Mary Magdalen when she saw that Christ was resurrected. I cried like she probably did, cal choróu Madalena na Pasión. Joy and pain mingling, staining one another, surviving.
Maybe people are right. Maybe I am mad. After all, I know the language of the plants and the flowers, and speak it to them.
I should be more like that character in the Wizard of Oz who needed a heart. I think it was the Tin Woodsman, who was made up entirely of metal. That's the way I feel. Fortunately for him, he had no heart, until he met Oz. If I ever ran into Mr. Wizard, Ii'd ask him to take my heart away, not to give me one. Mine is so damaged now. People don't understand me.
I feel so alone. I seem to be missing some of my female parts, as if they've become unbolted and clanked away, moaning. Este vaise y aquél vaise, e todos, todos se van. Yes, this one goes and that one goes, and they all are leaving now. These are parts of my earthen body: as the land loses its people, forced as they are to seek employment elsewhere, so I lose a part of this community. I feel the loss of persons I've never met, and especially the ones who always left with the idea that they would return.
Galícia, you're losing all the men who are needed to sow your fields, sin homes quedas que te poidan traballar. Tés, en cambio, orfos e orfas and these orphans you raise are growing up in solitude, in campos de soledad, e nais que non teñen fillos e fillos que non ten pais. Mothers whose children are missing and children whose parents are gone. Maybe even worse are the widows of the living, the viudas de vivos e mortos, the widows of the dead. The ones nobody will ever console.
Why am I trying so hard to fit in here?
Nobody seems to know who I am and nobody understands me, it's clear. All my efforts to show how much I wanted to be a part of this part of the world have done nothing but draw the curtain between the others and myself. I've become cut off and am furiously clutching at my darkness, hoping not to become lost, or at least no more lost than I already am.
When I think of how you left me, dark shadow, to live this petrifying panic at the vast, the emptied, cando penso que te fuches, negra sombra que me asombras, my desperation grows. Nobody here understands me, nobody knows my dark, where I found it and where I keep it. It is all I can do to keep going cando maxino que es ida, thinking about how you've gone. You, my shadow, you who embody it all.
This whole land, the one I talk with and sing to, walk through and with: this is a land of loss, yet it refuses to disappear. And you, you're everywhere, you seep into every bit, you even wormed your way into me, threatening to never leave. You frighten me with what you say and what you don't. En todo estás e ti es todo, pra min i en min mesma moras, nin me abandonarás nunca, sombra que sempre me asombras. You eating away at me, and I crave you.
Maybe I don't belong here after all. Maybe I am too different.
Or maybe it's not a heart I'm lacking, but courage and a brain.
As if a woman couldn't have all three.
The Narrator asks: How Did I Get Here?
This might be a good time for me to step in and clarify the situation that has presented itself. Far be it from me to claim extensive credentials, but I do have some experience. At the same time, it would seem prudent to spare you the details of my curriculum vitae.
In the first place, Rosalía can never hope to fit it because she has a heart, is very brave, and is exceptionally intelligent. With all of these characteristics, she has no choice but to feel out of place. She stands out precisely because of them. If it sounds like I'm talking in platitudes right now, I am, mostly because offering to psychoanalyze her at this stage is a bit beyond the scope of this story and that obliges me to simplify.
Rosalía could well be an android, because she is too much like what we think of as human. She looks and acts like the average person. Until she starts to speak, telling us things she herself has said women are not allowed to feel or know.
A real, thinking human being would approach the subject of gender equality in a more tactful fashion, but not Rosalía. She says what she thinks, condemns society for its treatment of women, then expects to fit in? No amount of poetry rooted in the land, with rivulets, hillsides, fountains, chestnuts, plowed patches of land is enough to make her fit in. She's alien to the community's idea that patience and praying will make things all right.
Who is she kidding? Rosalía doesn't really need to fit in and she knows why she never can.
I'm not accusing her of something she hasn't heard before. She herself wrote in a letter that she was feeling cranky one day, so she has actually owned up to that flaw. Still, we have to keep in mind that if Rosalía is indeed an android, or even a gynoid, she cannot really feel anything, That would mean all her poetry is an assortment of lies, created in order to feel she was part of the community that inspired it. What are we left with then? Just a few novels and short pieces, the latter being hard to classify as to literary genre.
At the start, you may recall that I asked how I had gotten here. The question referred to how I had acquired the role of narrator for this story about Rosalía, who is bemoaning her lack of ability to fit in. My role has been to clarify as well as possible that she neither can nor wants to fit in. That belonging to a community could require that she leave the words to the ones who know how to use them (mostly the men from the University) and learn to run a household.
But we know Rosalía doesn't want that. She doesn't want to be silenced.
Actually, Rosalía can't want (or need) anything at all, because she is a robot manufactured by humans. She is only programmed to act or - the opposite - to be inactive, as appropriate for each case of social interaction. She is well-made, it seems.
Everybody says: We Know the Story.
We do know it, sitting as we do close to two centuries since the real Rosalía was born, in Galicia. We know it to be the story of equality and inequality, of high and low, poor and rich, strong and weak. There are many pairs of that sort, are there not? If a person decides to speak of the disparities, there will be the haters as well as the lovers. The problem appears when everybody has to decide what to do with the words produced by a woman like her. The conversations with flowers are twisted into madness, the cries against justice fall on blind ears.
What can we do? Society asks this, but doesn't care whether there's an answer. It feels we can do nothing, usually, and that's enough to get by. So Rosalía might not have been an android after all, but she lived like one in many ways. Before man invented androids.
The square peg syndrome would be like the early box-shaped robots trying to fit their edges into the curved skin suit of a human. It must hurt, or itch, or lead to insanity.
We know a lot more about her story, which was described here as just that of a single woman whom the plants and flowers whispered among themselves when they saw her, certain she was crazy. We know so much that we could write a book on it, but perhaps we should stop and see if we can help her in her plight. Right now, right here. Here's what we ought to do:
Read everything she wrote again. If somebody doesn't like to read, they shouldn't be here reading this, so that's no reason not to do it.
(Google her name if you don't know what you should be reading. That's what technology is for.)
Pretend we don't know a thing about the person who wrote it, when she lived, where. Just go to the words and recreate what is in her pages. If we do not strip her bare, we might not be able to hear her, and we might be her best hope.
We need to do this.
It’s for Rosalía, after all.
For her, and all the rest of us who may or may not be hiding something.
This is our story, and if we are here thinking about this, then we are not androids, fembots, or anything else. We have a moral obligation to help Rosalía live a normal life, in her own country and language.