Journey into the Crossroads | Terence Tavares (third of three articles)

At a recent Massachusetts Alliance for Portuguese speakers event, I came across the work of Terence Tavares, a brilliant young artist from Roxbury whose three-piece series called “Journeys” called loud and direct from the crossroads.

In the first article, I wrote about Tavares’s illustration of three core stages of journey, themes that mirror other epic journeys through the crossroads. In the second article, I covered Tavares’s artistic influences, the theme of the crossroads and his multi-limbed traveling figure, and the importance that Tavares sees in giving back to the community. In this final article (‘final’ for now, that is, as I’m sure there will be more to share on this extremely talented artist), I want to include some aspects of Tavares’s artistic process which, to me, is a process that involves departures from multiple media and is a process that involves the translative.

Continue reading “Journey into the Crossroads | Terence Tavares (third of three articles)”


“Language, Memory, & the Borders of Saudade” Series | First of Nine Articles

In numerous ways I’ve been warned and reminded that the untranslatability of “saudade”—a word from the Portuguese language which evokes the deep, mournful, and yet sometimes beautiful longing for something or someone, an ability to live in memory, an all-encompassing feeling of nostalgia that is as tormented as it is restorative of our capacity to feel fully and expansively—is both fact and a matter of Brazilian cultural pride. Even the slightest, most indirect hinting at the word’s possible existence in another language should be approached with great caution, for the borders of saudade involve a depth of perception and a brave willingness to explore the limits of memory that may be unique to the collective conscious of Lusofonia, prepared for such journeys by the presence of the word itself.

Once, in Bahia, I watched a beautiful young woman push her French boyfriend out of her apartment, his garments spilling into the hallway, guilt and furrowed brow marking his search for a reason. Through the doorway, though the most descript of insults could have been applied to the lousy Parisian womanizer, the most brutal of them all was achieved just before the sound of the door slamming: ‘you and your fake French romanticism, you’ll never be able to feel saudade because it’s not even part of your language, and I won’t either because you’re nothing but a cachorro.” It is hard to capture the weight of the translated version without seeing her magnificent eyes cut deeper into her subject’s confined emotive world with each syllable, the smile of triumph that emerged when his lack of access to the heart of Brazil’s memory was solidified.

I wasn’t sure (and never will be) if the man turned devious dog understood the reach of that comment, one of the greatest denials of the capacity to feel and understand saudade I had heard, and as I crouched into the corner with my ears back (I the one semi-raised by dogs but certainly not a cachorro), the sweetest of sweet voices sounded after the emotions calmed: ‘ô, meu amigo, tu fala Português do coração, eu já te vi chorar da saudade que tu sente, você é da gente viu?’ Somehow the outbursts that I had always attributed to “el mistério” (those moments from the heart that people who know me just let pass because they are aware that there is no way to categorize them into language) translated into belonging through the shared wisdom of saudade, through the capacity to feel and lose yourself to that feeling of absence and of presence through absence. We were married within a year.

coco2.jpgOnce, when talking to my friend who sold coconut water along the coast, four perfect machete strikes creating my porthole to attaining peace in tropical Bahia, straw inserted into that delicious water, our traditional conversation, adapted and broadened through the most recent observations, on why women are the greatest beings on earth stopped suddenly. “Jacó,” machete paused mid-swing as well, forearm flexing to sustain the weight of the knife and the thought, “what are you going to do if you go back to the states? Nobody knows how to listen to the sound and rhythm of the coconut there, gauging its sweetness through the hollowness of sound… You learned the language of the coconut; I taught you. E agora? Olhe que vou lhe dizer uma coisa meu amigo, você vai sentir saudades de verdade, é muita saudade mesmo.’ A language developed from the coco, perhaps untranslatable, the land and coast had become part of me and my friend intuited its future haunting–the cool, sweet sound of Ijexá, wind through the coqueiros—the kind driving these words forward.


Written in English by Jacob Dyer Spiegel, this is the First of Nine Articles on “Language, Memory, & the Borders of Saudade.” There are many more articles on language, culture, and translation themes on the SiroccoBlue Facebook Page. Please check it out and “Like” it!

Sirocco Blue Services

While I develop this blog into a website, please email me at for all inquiries and pricing, please “Like” the SiroccoBlue facebook page, & ask any questions via my Facebook account, Sirocco Azul

Translations (English, Portuguese, Spanish): Translation of creative writing, documents that have cultural or historical significance, documents that have a social justice component, documents for mission-driven nonprofit organizations and NGOs. There is a team of Native-speakers in each language that reviews the translations.

Translation Strategy Consulting: Analysis and description of your organization’s  linguistic identity (what you are communicating as well as how, as a brand) so that the spirit of your communication is easily described to any translation team. Creation of  localized translation strategies in line with this core linguistic identity, management of translation projects, and development of methods to target localized markets with culturally-sensitive and culturally-relevant communications. This service allows you to articulate your organization’s messages in a way that resonates and persuades cross-culturally.

Teaching: University-level classes (talks) and full-length semester courses in Writing (creative and expository), World literatures in English, Caribbean literature, African diaspora studies, Translation theory & practice, Spanish & Portuguese language (conversation and upper-level), and Pre-Study abroad prep courses involving independent research projects.

Master’s and Ph.D. Application Support: Assistance with writing a persuasive, compelling Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement for admissions to Master’s and Ph.D.-level programs in the U.S. (for U.S. and international candidates). I help you “translate” and share your background, training, and interests into two key documents that can make or break your application for admission and for scholarship funding.

Study Abroad Program Development: Creation and development of high-impact study abroad programs for U.S. universities and study abroad companies, specializing in Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. This leaves your organization with a fully-functioning study center in a given country (space, courses, safety, network, professors, language program, and more) for short-term and semester-long programs as well.

Creative Reviews & Publicity: In English, Spanish, and Portuguese, I review businesses and organizations that directly or indirectly work with Sirocco aesthetics or cultural geographies. These writing pieces are customized to fit the needs of the organization, can be advertised to a specific, localized market, and are also posted on Yelp and TripAdvisor (in addition to the SiroccoBlue blog).

More information on me, Jacob Dyer Spiegel, can be found on the Sirocco Leadership page. To learn more about how these services fit into a concept of translation that I am working on, please check out the writing on the blog (much is related to translation as a metaphor) and a post on the Sirocco as a moving translation system.

SiroccoBlue Translation System

Thanks to great feedback from readers & recent posts on the crossroads–those spaces of contact that necessitate translation and that, in the Yoruba and Yoruba Atlantic cosmos are presided over by deities of communication and translation–I have decided to focus on the translative aspects of the Sirocco in the blog writing and also in terms of the services that I am offering.

The Sirocco wind system moves from the Sahara, carrying, literarily, sand and dry, hot air to Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, and beyond. As a metaphor, the Sirocco carries thoughts, ideas, cultural patterns and traditions, and a rich concept of cultures in contact across geographical regions. The Sirocco generates other wind and weather systems, as well, moving across the Atlantic to the Americas. That the Sirocco winds influenced architectural forms from Sicily to Persia serves as a visual reminder that we can build physical and theoretical ‘structures’ around the wind’s impact. That is one of the ways I aim to follow the wind system–to “use” it as a way to understand cultural continuities and cultural-linguistic practices of multiple diasporas, the crossing of boundaries (via scholarships, study abroad, language study), and the crossing of languages and cultures via translation as a process and as a practice that puts ideas in motion across the globe.

The name of the Sirocco winds ‘Sharq’ (Arabic), ‘Scirocco’ (Italian), Sirocco (Spanish), Xiroco (Portuguese) is, just at the level of the word, a reminder that this massive wind system is also a system of languages in contact, moving fluidly across land and water. The etymology of the word ‘Sirocco,’ then,  reminds me that in this wind system and its movement, we have another model for the process of translation and the impact of translation.

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Afro-Cuban Oral Traditions & Comparative Literary Mapping: Lecture Series by Dr. Ileana Sanz

Between 2002-2004 I did my Master’s degree with Dr. José Buscaglia and Dr. Ileana Sanz in Estudios Culturales de América Latina y el Caribe at Universidad de la Habana (Cuba) and the State Univ. of New York-Buffalo.

It was the first dual-enrolled, fully reciprocal graduate studies program between a U.S. and Cuban institution and it focused on comparative approaches that could unlock aspects of the shared aesthetic and cultural traditions across the Americas. A fully-bilingual program, Cuban nationals and professors even went to Buffalo to study and Artes y Letras at La Universidad de la Habana received those of us based out of the U.S. with open arms for 2-3 semesters of study.

My work followed the literary and visual arts of the African diaspora, particularly Cuba and Brazil, into the thriving Yoruba religious systems of Regla de Ocha, Candomblé, and Voudún. It was essentially an alternative cultural anthropology through the literary imagination across languages.

Dr. Ileana Sanz’s work on oral traditions and the presence of orality in written Caribbean texts in multiple languages (her work follows Kamau Brathwaite’s “Nation Languages,” and includes texts of all types in English, Krèyol, French, Spanish, Papiamentu, Portuguese), her dedication to studying the Caribbean and African diaspora comparatively and not bound to the European metropoles was at the core of many of our projects.

Continue reading “Afro-Cuban Oral Traditions & Comparative Literary Mapping: Lecture Series by Dr. Ileana Sanz”