Meet Yolanda Matías, the blind poetess

A woman who overcame her blindness through poetry in Nahuatl
Yolanda Matías – Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
17/02/2018
12:56
Chilpancingo, Guerrero
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First and foremost, Yolanda Matías visualizes each and every stanza by starring at the emptiness and the darkness that has accompanied her for seven years, then she recites her creation in Nahuatl. Promptly, her son writes in a notebook as a series of stanzas follow in a language that sings all by itself.

Yolanda moves her hands and her body with each rhyme both in Nahuatl and Spanish, enjoying her creations twice.

Writing poetry in Nahuatl has led her to Venezuela, Italy, and Nicaragua to recite her unique creations and even to publish Tonalxochimej (Sun Flowers), her first poetry book gathering 45 poems both in Nahuatl and Spanish.

Yet, long before becoming a poet and dedicating herself to cultural diffusion, Yolanda was an elementary school teacher. She used to teach both Nahuatl and Spanish in Copalillo, Guerrero.

It should be noted that there are approximately 600,000 indigenous people living in Guerrero divided into four towns and speaking 4 different languages in each of them: Mixtecs, Amuzgo people, Tlapanec people, and Nahuas. Nahuatl being the indigenous language with the largest number of speakers in Mexico amounting to 40% of the indigenous population in Guerrero alone.

Yolanda's first language was Spanish as the school she attended was not bilingual despite being located in Guerrero, but her father taught her the language at a very young age.

Yolanda wrote her first lines, each of them portraying nature in a particular way when she was a child, yet all of her poems, about 60 or 70, were written in Spanish.

As Yolanda grew older, she taught the astonishing language of her parents and she even hosted "Nahuatl in culture," a bilingual radio program which gained such a popularity that the audience requested Nahuatl workshops.

But one day, darkness arose when she lost her sight during a medical procedure when she was 42 years old. "I woke up in the dark and the first thing I thought was that I wanted to die. I left the radio program and the workshops. I felt very bad and I was depressed," yet "poetry saved me." She learned by heart every poem and began to recite. Now, her son Lenin plays the guitar as she recites her poems.

Last December, Yolanda and other colleagues formed the cultural group of Writers in Original Languages of the State of Guerrero, a group that was dedicated to cultural diffusion but it led their members to publish stories and poetry in their language in both anthologies and local magazines seeking to preserve the original languages.

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