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Alba Eiragi Duarte
Alba Eiragi Duarte

Buen Gusto

The Truth is Justice: An Interview with Alba Eiragi Duarte

March 2021
Alba Eiragi Duarte is an indigenous Paraguayan poet who belongs to the Avá-Guaraní community, though she has Aché blood within her. She’s a trilingual teacher, farmer, widow, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She is also the first indigenous woman to be a part of the Writer’s Society in Paraguay. This interview explores with her the word of women, nature, and the future of our youth.
What is the role of women in our society? 
We, women, value life a lot. We value our being, since we are the ones who bring forth families. And we also value language. Because it’s through language that we communicate, love, and laugh with each other. We have to value the word itself, because it’s what flows in our lives and our minds and stems from our own very hearts. As a poet, that’s how I write: with my mind and my heart. But we, women, also suffer a lot discrimination, abuse, and racism. And I think a moment arrived now, as part of a global movement, where we said enough. United we decided to raise our voice and push forward. Together we made this firm decision for our lives and for our families. Women are very honest and direct. When I see something, I say things up front: this is wrong, and that’s how it is. Of course, racism is still here, discrimination is still here. But we don’t stay silent anymore. The truth is justice. 

How did the pandemic affect your community? 
In everything, really. The fear . . . the panic . . . . But as our Grandmothers and Grandfathers who pray at the ceremonial home say, don’t worry. This disease does not affect the spirit. Personally, however, quarantine was very difficult for me since my husband passed away in February and I had to stay for four months locked inside in the capital. I suffered so much. But thankfully, due to my spirituality and my people’s spirituality, I endured and survived. I came to my community as soon as I could, as if I was escaping, and I’ve been very calm here. 

And how did the pandemic affect your art? 
We couldn’t do book fairs anymore. I need to be able to sell my books, but for the time being, you can’t do anything in Paraguay. But I have faith this will pass. I’m writing a lot about my life, about this malign illness, about my family and my husband. I have to write for him, thanking him for everything he gave to me in the 42 years we shared together, for always showing good values. 

How does your culture influence your writing? 
I have the sacred stories of the Avá-Guaraní people. I speak with our grandfathers, and they don’t speak of here, of Earth. They speak about the great beyond. And you have to focus with all of your respect and your heart in order to receive that. And these stories, they’re not made up. They’re true stories, sacred stories from every community. If I hadn’t known my grandfathers and grandmothers, if I hadn’t been part of the culture, I don’t know what would become of me. 

Which do you think will be the biggest adversities we will have to face in the coming decade? 
We will lose a lot of our culture. Acculturation . . . we are not used to living with that heavy and laden culture; we are not used to living like white people. Everything can be a tool, but when misused, it affects you physically, mentally, and spiritually. That’s what worries me. But we will fight in order to leave our mark within books. And hopefully one day the youth will be able to read and discover the words of their grandparents. There’s very few of them left, and if they cease to be, who will tell us the word? Who will pray?  Who will sing?

What would you say to young women interested in poetry and the arts? 
To love themselves very much. And respect each other—everyone! Women and men, boys and girls, adolescents . . . and above all, respect and value the words of your grandparents. Listen to them. And write. If you’re going to be a poet, you need to read and write a lot, so much, learn so many things. And from that knowledge you will find something to write about. Love your culture, your people, love nature. Because if one doesn’t know their culture, then they’re a very empty person. And I tell the whole youth that I also love you very much, even though I don’t know you, with all of my soul. 


Translated from Spanish by Nohan Meza

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