On sidewalk 28 of sector 17 of the San Jacinto neighborhood, in Maracaibo, the year began flooded with colors and poetry. On January 3, the Lydda Franco Farías Reading Room was inaugurated. The date was not chosen randomly; It was the 79th birthday of the endearing Falconian poet who made Zulia her home and homeland. This new space for culture in the heart of Maracaibo serves the table and is an unavoidable excuse to reassess the author's legacy, bastion of Venezuelan women's literature, at the gates of her eight decades.
"This house knows my hobbies / my habit of reading at midnight / my bad habits and worst tricks / this house knows me by heart / This house is the oracle." This poem received those who visited the new house-library-museum for the first time, which seeks to have a permanent program and be a space for the meeting of a community where Lydda was an illustrious resident and left a perennial mark.
The inaugural event sought to repeat the festive evenings that the writer offered in her home every year on the occasion of her birth, where people of any origin entered with or without an invitation to read verses, sing a song, share a coffee or simply get drunk on the bohemian that the author had dragged with her to the populous sector.
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Lydda, a cult author in the panorama of contemporary Venezuelan poetry, has survived thanks to her work in a kind of dual reality that is common to the type of subversive character she embodies: on the one hand, with a legion of fervent followers devoted to spread her gospel, but in parallel being practically unknown by the general public due to a cocktail of characteristics (female, from the left, from the provinces, anti-academic...) that placed her in what could be called "the periphery", especially in times prior to the internet and social networks.
Her work, in line with other great female authors of her time in Latin America, had as its central theme the criticism of the role imposed on the female condition, especially within the home and from the perspective of the third world. Her place of enunciation was that, that of the woman who unequivocally said "no" to an overwhelming but apparently impossible to avoid destiny. Despite this, in life she renounced feminism and refused to identify herself as such. Contradictory or consistent with a challenging personality? Let's do a low flight through your universe.
This was (is) Lydda
She was born in 1943 in the Sierra de Falcón and died in 2004 in the capital of Zulia. She wrote eleven collections of poems, was an active cultural manager and made the University of Zulia her second home.
She began publishing in newspapers in Coro and Maracaibo when she was just a teenager, at the age of 14 (when she was also involved in clandestine struggles), her first book, Circumstantial Poems, was not published until 1965, when she was 23 years old.
With that collection of poems she won the Ateneo de Coro Poetry Prize, although she earned many enemies for the acid criticism embodied in her verses. In her defense came Ludovico Silva, who wrote about the book in El Nacional: “My observation is strictly literary, and only from the point of view of literature, it can be affirmed that there are political motivations in many verses of this book. But there are still philosophical, or simply human. Lida Franco faces life as a poet, in which she proceeds the other way around her critics, who face her poetry as politicians. Result? a denatured criticism, not to say malicious. And, of course, confusion in the public. Because it is logical that all those who reject a certain ideological trend, allow themselves to be fattened by critics who also reject it and who use an atrocious political advantage to destroy the books of poets, whose ideas are different. Unfortunately for those critics, more than 90 percent of our poets have other ideas.
Other collections of poems that followed were Las Armas Blancas (1969), Summarius (1985), Remembering the Sleeping (1994), Una (1998), Bolero a media luz (1994) and Aracné (2000). She was elusive to the big publishers, so most of her work saw the light thanks to public and university presses. Among other recognitions, in 1994 she obtained the Regional Award for Literature “Dr. Jesús Enrique Losada” mention poetry.
Maracaibo settled after having to leave Falcón due to political pressure. There, San Jacinto was her home and stronghold. In a house on the main avenue of sector 17, she raised two sons and a daughter with a husband who understood from the first moment that he had not married a woman of his time. He gave himself up to the domestic space and to parenting, while she devoted herself to the trade (martyrdom?) of stark and lacerating writing.
It was a home where books left no room for anything else—his son Milton Zavala remembers that they had to sacrifice part of the kitchen to turn it into more libraries because there was nowhere to find space—and Scrable tournaments were the nightly routine.
In her intimate daily life, her friends remember, she only went to the kitchen to prepare coffee, which was always boiling to offer unexpected visits that were routine in that house. Also that her most earthly pleasure was eating —a lot and very rich— and for that her husband was always at the foot of the canyon, or rather, at the foot of the stove.
But her life was not only bohemian. Her darkest moment happened in 2000, after the Elías David Curiel Biennial, in Coro. A traffic accident on her return to Maracaibo blinded the life of his daughter Mirna Zavala and all her other companions, who were her friends. She was the only survivor of the tragic event, from which she left very affected and had to endure a very hard time of painful trauma therapies that she overcame thanks to the cathartic craft of writing.
In 2002, Monte Ávila Editores published an anthology of her work. Cósimo Mandrillo writes in the prologue of this book: “Lydda endured the worst part of the war: the difficult urban clandestinity, the inevitable marginalization that it produces and the most dignified of poverty. This war, Lydda's, did not end with the so-called pacification, she only changed her tone and scenery, she moved to her poetry. I doubt that there is such a brave poetry, as feisty as his. Her work was political until the last verse, written, surely, hours or minutes before her death”.
And precisely, she died two years later, in 2002, due to cardiac arrest. In 2005, in a solemn ceremony at the Baralt Theater in Maracaibo, she was posthumously awarded the title of Doctor honoris causa by the University of Zulia.
Morelys Gonzalo, journalist, writer and friend of Lydda, who served as mistress of ceremonies at the inauguration of her house, said: "I met Lydda in the 70s, we were MAS militants, and we became friends in the political dimension, more than literary. Later she left him for literature”.
She spoke about the criticism that Lydda made of the feminism of her time for considering it more than vindictive, an "anti-men" issue, despite the fact that today the writer is considered a muse of the movement in the country. She also valued the lexical richness and metaphorical capacity of her work.
“She has been compared to Alfonsina Storny, to Teresa de la Parra and to María Calcaño, but it is something else, because Lydda manages to make poetry out of everyday life. That's the first big gift she doesn't give. And she also makes women the center of her poetic work, but not in an anti-feminine vision but from her condition as a woman with economic problems, as a mother who had to go through those of Cain … ”, she stressed her.
This is Lydda's new house
The infrastructure that now honors Lydda Franco Farías was intervened inch by inch by the Cuban-Venezuelan artist William Estany, who developed a concept in the image and likeness of Lydda, for her a kind of adoptive mother. Thus, her favorite colors predominate in the house, the shelves are made with building blocks, just like the ones she had in life, and portraits of Alí Primera, José Martí and Simón Bolívar appear between each library. In the garden there is a great protagonist: a leafy mango tree that offers generous shade and flaps without shame in the afternoon breeze inviting people to pass by.
It is not the original house where Lydda saw her family grow, but it is a few meters away and reproduces almost the architecture of that home since it is a house that reproduces the original model of the emblematic citadel full of internal gardens, inaugurated in 1973 by Rafael Caldera to provide popular residences to the working class population of northern Maracaibo.
It is a one hundred percent independent initiative promoted mainly by the poet's family, with the support of the surrounding community and the friends who survive her. Eighteen years after her disappearance, the devotion to Lydda is greening again and with this space to pay tribute to her memory, we seek to bring the legacy of her rebellious word to new generations.
This is how her son Milton told it: “We wanted to capture that relationship that she had (with San Jacinto) because what was done in my house was this. The house was not a public space, but practically it was because there they held gatherings, they woke up reading, there was always a reason for reading and that is what we want to achieve with this house, that the dream of reading can be carried away, and primarily to young people".
Three poems by Lydda
with the body of wax
with the eve doing pirouettes
with dark circles that reveal the twists of love
Una knows she has prejudices
and perfects them
A is a-political
ONE does not get into the shirt of eleven yards
A stamps the curricular kiss
he leaves with his pretensions
with its ontological sufficiency
UNA appears in children's court
and give in to the tyranny of the children
ONE has a duty to be beautiful
because among other things for that there is ONE
and to buy what they sell us
and to suffer for the girl from the soap opera
who is so miserable (the girl and the soap opera)
and to cry with happiness because in the end
the toad becomes a tycoon and marries
una is so sentimental
UNA is so faithful, so doggy faithful
how disgustingly faithful is UNA
UNA looks in the mirror and checks what is not
you know what face you're going to make
what silence is going to bring
what domesticity pill will you have to
what contraceptive is a
ONE is lying
to reappear the next day
asking for revenge
Are you listening bed the edict of my sloth?
I'm going to have breakfast the skylight in the morning
I'm going to choke newspaper with your chronicles
I will have news of the world until the intake
wide open windows
show me what wakes up without me
shake off filthy clothes the folds
banishes the gloom with bleach
relieve yourself iron
crushes in one slip the perfidious wrinkles
to fly broom without witch, to breathe the dust
dance furniture to the rhythm that throws them
polish the floor in redemption of not tarnished mirror
burn without peace hell's kitchen
cover yourself impudent pot
cook to seasoning then evaporate
sound covered in mute stampede
to wash dishes their time has come
the letter please
I want to taste the will
howl at the moon
I'm not in the mood to deal with monsters
no love, no the lady today decided to be indisposed
The lady today decided to be willing
While I slept I grew wings
At first I didn't even believe it myself
I made calculations on the advantages and disadvantages
of this unexpected event
I decided to try a short flight
I bumped into the window panes
I didn't give up
I got to dragonfly
I was one or another bird
bird of prey
my ambition had no borders
I was climbing hierarchies until exhausting them all
now i'm an angel
and I get bored