As soon as I open my mouth

No language is correct or incorrect. Languages are part of communities.

Have you ever been in a scenario where you are afraid to speak your language because you can be judged by your accent? Often we hear that just Standard English should be spoken among us. But wait, let’s stop here. Who has the right or audacity to decide this? I think there is no such thing. 

English is the most accessible language globally due to the mass influence of films, music, and the Internet. It is also mentioned that it is the most studied language and probably 20% of the world speaks it. 

Regardless of these figures, there are no such things that there is just one English language that everyone should speak.  

Last year, during the holidays I travelled to the United States of America to visit my family. One day while shopping and paying my bill, I was asked by the cashier: Where are you from? I said: Where do you think I am from? She replied: From Africa or Jamaica. So, I said, from both. Her expression said it all, confusion. I did not clarify it because it is not right that as a human being you always got to give an explanation. My answer was not rude since my ancestors are from both places as the cashier later acknowledged.

Yes, as soon as I open my mouth, that question is often asked. I do not get intimidated anymore because I think that language is part of our identity and culture. We are the ones who mold it according to our use and convenience. Lisa Delpit says “language plays an equally pivotal role determining who we are: it is The Skin that we Talk”.

I was born and grew up in an intercultural environment in the North Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, Central America, where two Afro ethnics and three Indigenous groups share territories, culture, language, literature, and more. I learned to speak my native language (English Creole) at home and my second (Spanish) at school, which is the official language.

During high school, Standard English was taught to us. I remember that in the classroom along with my friends we spoke “smoothly”, but once we were out for recess our Creole English or Spanish was back. I guess this can be called a mask of language, which is slipping from one language to another. This probably was the most normal thing for us. 

My second sister has a Bachelor’s in Art (BA) degree in Spanish with a minor in Latin-American Studies. She teaches at a school in upstate New York, to 8th and 9th grade students. In various conversations with her, she had confirmed that for these students it is not the same scenario, as my high school, to change the language mask. 

African American children can do it and understand both languages distinctly, but white kids just can cope with Standard English, not African American English. 

In the book, The Skin that we Speak, Lisa Delpit describes in one of the chaptershow she was blown away when she heard her eleven year daughter (black) speaking African American English since Standard English was her mother tongue. She was worried that people were going to judge her based on the words she speaks. However, her daughter was confident saying, “Well that’s their problem”. Then Lisa realized that her words came back to her, “It doesn’t matter what other people think about you; you have to be who you are”. 

Another lesson her daughter gave her was that it is important that you learn to “code switch” language according to the environment. I, personally, agree with this because it gives you the confidence and capacity to manage more than one language, and most importantly, not to be ashamed to speak your mother tongue.

I am proud to speak my Creole language, which has given me the opportunity to understand the syntactic of other languages and have a better approach to Standard English which is like my passport to communicate when I travel. 

No language is correct or incorrect. Languages are part of communities. “We do language,” as Toni Morrison said. Worldwide, thousands of languages have died, so why should we let one more die?

Claribel Alegría

Te invento

Te invento en el jardín

invento que me hablas

que me llamas

y en realidad me hablas

y a veces no comprendo

lo que dices

y me asombro de ti

de tu misterio

y finjo que comprendo

para que no te alejes.

Día a día te invento

y esa es mi manera

de enfrentarme a tu ausencia

porque de no inventarte

se esfumaría el gozo

de mis horas

y tú te esfumarías. (Saudade 1999)

Claribel Alegría fue poeta, traductora y ensayista centroamericana quien nació en Estelí, Nicaragua, en 1924. Años después se traslado a vivir a El Salvador junto con su familia. En 1943 se mudó a En Estados Unidos de América donde obtuvo el título de Filosofía y Letras en la Universidad George Washington.

Luego de casarse con Darwin Flakoll Alegría con quien procreo cuatro hijos viajo y residió en varios países, pero en 1985 regreso a Nicaragua para apoyar con la reconstrucción del país.

La trayectoria literaria de Alegría incluye la publicación de poesía, novela y cuentos para niños. En 1978 fue galardonada con el premio Casa de las Américas por su obra Sobrevivo y en el 2000 obtuvo el premio de Autores Independientes.

En el 2011 el Festival Internacional de Poesía de Granada, Nicaragua, fue homenajeado a Claribel Alegría, la única poeta viva a quien se había dedicado el festival. En noviembre del 2017 recibió el Premio Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana.

Entre sus obras tenemos: Anillo de Silencio, Vigilias, Umbrales, Fuga de Canto Grande, La Mujer del Río, Saudade, El desdén, Albúm Familiar, Pueblo de Dios y Mandinga y otros.

Conocí a Alegría por medio de su hijo Erick Flakoll quien es mi amigo. Los amigos de Erick eran también sus amigos. Recuerdo que en varias ocasiones que la visite nos sentamos a hablar en su terraza que era uno de sus lugares preferidos para terminar su día.

A su muerte en 2018 yo no estuve presente por no estar en Managua, sin embargo sé que alzó su vuelo como una de las grandes en el mundo literario.

Qué lástima

Qué lástimas que duermas

y se interrumpa el diálogo

y no sientas mi beso

en tus ojos cerrados.

Qué lástima tu infancia

así truncada,

ese tiempo sin tiempo

a medio abrir

por el que ya empezaba

a vislumbrarte.

Mañana todo habrá cambiado:

otra vez hablándonos

de lejos

desde nuestra esquivas


Qué lástima

los signos de mi amor,

mis apretados círculos

de miedo

que no sé si entendiste.

Learning another language

Do you speak more than one language?

Linguistics studies have demonstrated that the process of learning a language is easier at an early age. A child can learn a second language during the first 10 years. According to reports, a child can benefit in different ways by learning a second language: it helps simulate curiosity, cognitive development, and  being more receptive to other cultures. 

The  problem solving study done in 2004, by psychologists, Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee,  with monolingual and bilingual  preschoolers, revealed that bilingual children resolve the task (select objects by shape and colour) quicker. 

Worldwide, around 7,000 languages are spoken day by day. A language is a fundamental pillar of a culture and its society because it shapes our mind and the way we think.  The freedom fighter, Jawaharlal Nehru, said,language is something infinitely greater than grammar and philology. It is the poetic testament of the genius of a race and a culture, and the living embodiment of the thoughts and fancies that have moulded them”. 

Miskito and Finnish language

I was born and grew up in an intercultural environment.  At home, I learned my mother tongue, and a second at school (Spanish). I also understand Miskito (fairly), which is  one of the native indigenous languages in Nicaragua. 

Miskito is a Misulmapan language, which along with  Sumo and Matagalpan, comprises  this linguistic family. It is spoken by almost 150,000 people in the North and South Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua and the eastern coast  of Honduras, both Central American countries.  

Moreover, the Miskito language uses the five vowels, most of the consonants can be voiceless, nasal etc., It has present, past and future tenses, uses adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns. 

Furthermore, in a sentence a verb is regularly located at the end, and the subject, if a noun phrase, usually precedes objects and constituents, for example, Yang Honduras ra iwisna (I live in Honduras), Yang wan sna witin ra yabaia (I want to give it to him/her).

Impapakra Sturka/ Miskito story

Years ago, I flew over the Atlantic Ocean to start a new life. I moved to Finland and immediately attended a Finnish course. It was interesting to get in touch with a language completely different from the two languages I speak. It was a challenge to internalize pronunciation of long vowels, pronounce Y as J, learn some of the 16 cases that exist, and write double consonants. The ride had been bumpy, but I don’t regret the time and effort I  put into it. 

Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language, which includes Hungarian, Estonian, and Sami, spoken by indigenous people of  northern Finland, Sweden, Norway, and northwestern Russia.

This language spoken by over 5 million people has eight vowel sounds and thirteen consonant sounds. It also has a large number of diphthongs (2 vowels that belong to the same syllable), for example, aika (time), punainen (red) kirjain (letter) äiti (mother) etc. 

Moreover, it has no articles, no grammatical gender. It is  spelt nearly as how it is pronounced, and has no future tense. 

On my first week of class, the teacher made a short test, asking our name, address, age etc. I remember days after she gave the scores, I laughed because  I misspelled my address, I wrote kusi (pee) street and not kuusi (six). Stories like this were repeated over and over. I am sure that you also have some amazing experiences while you were learning a new language. 

According to the survey, the Finnish Language is one of the 10 most difficult languages in the world. So, now I guess you understand me. However, I feel proud to learn this language and use it. I think that also the Finnish people are shocked to hear a lot of immigrants speaking their language.

YLE radio/ Finnish news

A Swedish friend who lived in Bilwi, North Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, told me, “the Finish language sounds like Miskito”, and yes it does. It has a strong pronunciation and sounds like you are fighting with the other person you are speaking to. 

Same words-different meaning 










none, nothing





red mangrove


















Other similarities between both languages are that all of the months of the year end with the word moon. 

Finnish               Miskito                      English

Talmikuu           Siawkwa Kati              January

Helmikuu          Kuswa Kati                  February

Joulokuu            Trisu Kati                    December

Linguistics diversity plays an important role in shaping  our mind, so if you have the opportunity to learn a second or third language, I strongly recommend to do it, because you will learn not just the language, but also its culture. 

Una lista de algunas escritoras que deberías leer (3)

Este es la última entrega de la lista de escritoras negras. Sigamos leyendo y aportando a la literatura negra.

Traducido por Afroméminas

Muchos de nuestras escritoras son grandes editoras de libros, periódicos y ensayos. Veronica Chambers, nuestra autora anterior, fue editora en Newsweek, Glamour y The New Times Magazine, fue la primera mujer negra con ese título. Yvonne Vera (1964-2005), también editó varias antologías de escritoras africanas.

Nació en Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (África), estudió e impartió literatura inglesa en la escuela secundaria Njube. Años después, emigró a Canadá, donde completó sus estudios superiores y trabajó.

Mientras estudiaba publicó en la revista Toronto su primera colección de cuentos,Why Don´t you Carve other Animals (1992). Un año después se imprimió su novela Nehanda, seguida de Sin nombre,  Without a Name, Under the Tongue, Butterfly Burning, y The Stone Virgins. Su escritura incursiona en temas como el colonialismo, sexismo, racismo, guerra o la opresión.

Yvonne Vera

Muchas de sus obras fueron preseleccionadas y ganaron premios como el de la Commonwealth para África, el Premio Literario de Alemania, el Premio del Escritor Macmillan para África, el Pen Tucholsky de Suecia y otros.

Vera era la directora de la  National Gallery , una posición similar a la que Victoria Santa Cruz (1922-2014) tuvo en la Escuela Nacional de Folklore de Perú.

Esta poeta, coreógrafa, compositora y activista afroperuana tuvo 10 hermanos a quienes sus padres les enseñaron la cultura afroperuana quienes eran polifacéticos, pintores, bailarin, escritor y dramaturgos. Junto con su hermano menor, fundaron Cumanana, el primer teatro negro.

A una edad temprana, Victoria sufrió la mano del racismo. Esto le dio el coraje, la valentía y la creatividad para escribir su poema emblemático «Me gritaron Negra».

Recibió premios y honores de los gobiernos peruano y francés. Sus obras habían sido expuestas en museos y festivales en varios países. Su momento álgido fue en 1968, cuando su grupo Teatro y Danzas Negras del Perú actuó en los Juegos Olímpicos en la Ciudad de México. Sus piezas de arte se recogen en CD o plataformas web.

Santa Cruz utilizó letras y música como instrumentos para mostrar sus poemas. Igualmente, Elcina Valencia Córdoba (1963), utilizó estas mismas técnicas años más tarde en sus obras.

Es escritora y música de Buenaventura, Colombia. Aprendió su interés artístico de su madre, que era música. A los 17 años, escribió su primer poema para uno de sus maestros de secundaria.

Durante su carrera participó en varios eventos locales, nacionales e internacionales. En 1991, el Museo Roldanillo Rayo organizó un evento par para presentar su poesía. Esto causó una gran impresión en los directores del museo, por lo que decidieron publicar su primer libro titulado Todos somos culpables.
Otras obras suya son  Rutas de autonomía y caminos de identidad, Susurros de palmeras, Analogías y anhelos y Pentagrama de pasión.

Había recibido el premio Almanegra equivalente al Almamadre, otorgado a los escritores más prestigiosos y el Premio Nacional de Poesía Erótica. Recientemente fue incluida entre las mujeres más destacadas del Valle del Cauca.

Córdoba forma parte del comité de Buenaventura para preservar el folklore del Pacífico Sur. El mismo papel que desempeñó Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) para el folklore de EE. UU.

Nació en Eatonville, Florida (EE. UU.). Fue la quinta de ocho hijos de un matrimonio de un carpintero-predicador y una maestro de escuela. Asistió a la escuela a una edad tardía (13); sin embargo, obtuvo una licenciatura en antropología.

Fue una gran novelista, dramaturga e investigadora y una de las figuras del llamado Renacimiento de Harlem. De 1921 a 1935 publicó en revistas varias historias y ensayos, por ejemplo, John Redding Goes to Sea, Spunk, Muttsy, The Fire and the Cloud, The Great Day etc.

Zora Neale Hurston

En 1934, publicó su primera novela John’s Gourd Vine, que fue reconocida por los críticos. Los siguientes fueron Mules and MenTheir Eyes were Watching God, su obra maestra, Tell My HorseMoses, Man on the Mountain,Dusk Tracks on the Road Seraph on the Suwanee

Hurston ganó varios premios literarios y de alumnos durante su carrera. En 1956, recibió un premio por Educación y Relaciones Humanas en Bethune-Cookman College.

Durante su carrera, Hurston viajó a varios países para recopilar la historia de las comunidades negras. Angela Nzambi (1971), nacida en Lia, un distrito de Bata, Guinea Ecuatorial (África), también recopiló la historia oral de su comunidad para usarla en sus libros.

Esta escritora, feminista y luchadora por los derechos humanos que reside en Valencia, España, es activista activa de la comunidad negra y los migrantes.

El trabajo literario de Nzambi incluye a Nguisi, basado en una tradición oral de su pueblo e historias de su vida personal. Biyaare (Estrellas) describe diferentes personajes que se habían mostrado como estrellas. Su tercer libro Mayimbo ganó el Premio Internacional Justo Bolekia Boleká de Literatura Africana.

También participó en la producción en los libros colectivos de relatos Navidad dulce, Navidad y 23 Relatos sin Fronteras.

Jenyffer Nascimento/Foto de Elaine Campos

Muchos de las escritoras mencionadas anteriormente son consideradas feministas, como es el caso de nuestra última autora reconocida, que es un escritora enérgica y artista brasileña. Jenyffer Nascimento nació en 1984, en la ciudad de Paulista, Pernambuco. Es productora y apreciadora del arte. El deseo de escribir le vien muy joven. Es en la adolescencia que comienza a escribir con letras de Rap, la forma en que encontró para canalizar sus revueltas, angustias y esperanzas. 

Nascimento describe en sus poemas temas sociales, su relación con la tierra o la ciudad, el orgullo de ser mujer negra, sobre el amor, experiencias de mujeres negras, entre otros temas.

Su libro Terra Fértil es una colección de poemas que muestra las experiencias de las mujeres negras de las afueras de São Paulo. Sus poemas también se han publicado en Pretextos de Mulheres Negras, que recopila el trabajo de 22 escritoras negras contemporáneas.

Su personalidad como mujer sensible y cuestionadora impregna todo su trabajo, en el cual la experiencia con el mundo y su relación con la vivencia de las mujeres negras se convierte en poesía de lucha y afirmación, a través de un lenguaje cercano, a pesar de tratar temas relevantes de la sociedad contemporánea.

A list of some black female writers you should read (3)

III Part

A lot our writers are great editors of books, newspapers, and essays. Veronica Chambers, our previous author, was an editor at Newsweek, Glamour, and The New Times Magazine, been the first black woman with that title. Yvonne Vera (1964-2005), also edited several anthologies by African women writers.

She was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, studied and imparted English Literature at Njube High School. Years after, she immigrated to Canada where she completed her higher studies and worked. 

While she was studying her first collection of short stories Why Don´t you Carve other Animals (1992) was published in Toronto Magazine. A year later her novel Nehanda, was printed followed by Without a Name, Under the Tongue, Butterfly Burning, and The Stone Virgins. Her writing discloses topics of colonialism, sexism, racism, war, oppression, and others. 

Many of her works were shortlisted and won awards like Commonwealth Prize for Africa, Germany Literary Prize, Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa, the Swedish Pen Tucholsky Prize, and others.

Yvonne Vera

Vera was the director at the National Gallery, a similar position that Victoria Santa Cruz (1922-2014), had at the National Folklore School in Peru. 

This Afro-Peruvian poet, choreographer, composer, and activisthad 10 siblings who were taught the Afro-Peruvian culture by her parents who were a painter, dancer, writer, and playwright. Along with her younger brother, they cofounded Cumanana the first black theatre. 

At an early age, children rejected Victoria in her neighbourhood because of her colour skin; they shouted at her: “Black, Black”. This gave her the courage, braveness, and creativity to write her emblematic poem Me gritaron Negra (They called me Black) was dramatized. 

She received awards and honours from the Peruvian and French governments. Her works had been exhibited in museum and festivals in several countries. Her peak moment was in 1968, when her group Teatro y Danzas Negras del Perú performed at the Olympics in Mexico City. Her art pieces are collected on CD or web platforms. 

Santa Cruz used lyrics and music as instruments to declare her poems. Likewise, Elcina Valencia Córdoba (1963), used these same techniques years later in her works.

She is a writer and musician from Buenaventura, Colombia (South America), She learned her artistic interest from her mother who was a musician. At the age 17, she wrote her first poem for one of her high school teachers. 

During her career she participated in several local, national, and international events. In 1991, the Roldanillo Rayo Museo organized an even to present her poetry. This made a huge impression on the directors of the museum, so they decided to publish her first book entitled Todos somos culpaples (We Are all Guilty). 

Other literary works attributed to her are Rutas de autonomía y caminos de identidad, Susurros de palmeras, Analogías y anhelos, Pentagrama de pasión. 

She had received the Almanegra equivalent to Almamadre given to the most prestigious writers, National Prize of Erotic Poetry a recognition plaque; and recently she was listed between the most outstanding women of Valle de Cauca.

Córdoba is part of the committee of Buenaventura to preserve the folklore from the South Pacific same role Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), played for the USA folklore collection. 

She was inborn in Eatonville, Florida (USA), she was the fifth of eight children from a marriage of a carpenter-preacher and a schoolteacher. She attended school at a late age (13); however, she achieved a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology. 

She was a great novelist, playwright, and researcher. From 1921 to 1935 she published in magazines several stories and essays, for example, John Redding Goes to Sea, Spunk, Muttsy, The Fire and the Cloud, The Great Day etc.

In 1934, she published her first novel John’s Gourd Vine, which was acknowledged by the critics. Following were Mules and Men, Their Eyes were Watching God, her masterpiece, Tell My Horse, Moses, Man on the Mountain, Dusk Tracks on the Road and Seraph on the Suwanee

Hurston won several literary and alumni awards during her career. In 1956, she received an award for Education and Human Relations at Bethune-Cookman College. 

Zora Neale Hurston/BBC

During her career, Hurston traveled to several countries to compile the history of the black communities. Angela Nzambi (1971), born in Lia, a district in Bata, Equatorial Guinea (Africa), also collected oral history of her community to be used in her books.  

This writer, feminist and human activist who reside in Valencia, Spain is actively campaigner for the black community and migrants.

Nzambi literature work includes Nguisi, based on an oral tradition from her village and stories of her personal life. Biyaare (Stars) describes different characters that had shown like stars. Her third book Mayimbo (Wanderings) won the International Justo Bolekia Boleká Prize for African Literature.

She also participated in the production of a collective literature Navidad dulce, Navidad (Nativity, Sweet Nativity) and 23 Relatos sin Fronteras (23 Stories without Borders)

A lot of the authors listed before are considered feminists, so is the case of our last recognized author who is an energetic writer and art producer from Brazil. Jenyffer Nascimento’s (1993), born in Paulista, Pernambuco; desire to write started at an early age, but it wasn’t until she completed her teenage that she got to express her anger, anguish, and hopes true her rap lyrics. 

Nascimento describes in her poems social issues, relation with the land or city, black pride, love, black woman experiences, among other topics. 

Her book Terra Fértil (Fertile Land) is a collection of poems that demonstrates the experiences of black women from the outskirt of São Paulo. Her works have also been published in Pretextos de Mulheres Negras (Pretext of Black Women), which, compiles the work of 22 contemporary black writers.  

Jennyfer Nascimiento
Photo by Elaine Capmos