A conversation with Carmen Rodriguez, from Manifesting Resistance 2018.
Born in Chile, bilingual writer Carmen Rodríguez came to Canada as a political exile in 1974. She is the award-winning author of Guerra Prolongada/Protracted War, a bilingual volume of poetry; and a body to remember with/De cuerpo entero, a collection of short stories; and Retribution, a novel. Currently she is working on Atacama, a second novel. Rodríguez has worked extensively as an educator across a range of disciplines and in a variety of settings – from literature and cultural studies to adult literacy, languages and creative writing. Most recently, she taught in the Faculty of Education and the Latin American Studies Program of Simon Fraser University and was Writer in Residence and Adjunct Professor in the French, Hispanic and Italian Studies Department of the University of British Columbia. As well, she was a founding member and member of the editorial board of the bilingual quarterly Aquelarre, and Vancouver correspondent for the Spanish language section of Radio Canada International.
About Carmen’s memory work: I am a writer, educator and journalist. I am now retired from remunerated regular work (as an educator and journalist), which has allowed me to focus on my own writing. For me, writing and activism go hand in hand. Early on, through my readings and adult literacy work, I came to understand that language is not a neutral tool for communication, but rather a weapon loaded with power; that the oppressors have used it since time immemorial to keep large sectors of the population subdued and to explain and justify their heinous actions. But I also understood that the oppressed and their allies can and have used language as a tool for liberation: to name the world, reflect upon it, exchange stories and ideas, and articulate actions of resistance and rebellion. Hence, to write is to protest, to propose, to remember, to bear witness, to denounce, to provoke; it is to use language in the pursuit of justice and truth.