Translator's notes

The Black Flower

By Natalia Toledo

One of the most difficult aspects of translating Natalia Toledo’s poetry is deciding how to express elements from the natural world in the Oaxacan Peninsula that do not exist in my culture. I want to convey the difference and beauty of plants and customs, for example, without exoticizing them. Sometimes I leave the name of a food item in Zapotec, more often in the Nahuatl (a larger indigenous language group that has influenced Spanish across Mexico and beyond). Whenever possible, I base my translations on the vivid strength of her own imagery. Natalia Toledo’s region has the unique position of being at a linguistic and economic crossroads on the continent. Through her poetry she struggles to preserve her Zapotec traditions while acknowledging how outside forces have shaped her culture.

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