Translating a play based on a tragic era in a Mexican border town required a close working partnership between Professor Iani del Rosario Moreno and senior Kristen Adams as they grappled with preserving the meaning and the poetry of the drama Lomas de Poleo (To Die with Clipped Wings).
The play, which the two translated from Spanish to English, investigates the many hundreds of femicides in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, over more than two decades and questions the social reasons for such injustices and impunity. The realist drama shocks its audiences by presenting a fantasy world where the victims of brutal rape and murder confront their perpetrators and come to terms with their traumatic ends.
Lomas de Poleo, written by Edeberto “Pilo” Galindo and directed by Suffolk alumna Colleen Rua, will be performed at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, at Suffolk’s Modern Theatre.
Moreno and Adams began translating Lomas de Poleo in April 2015, and it took them seven months and more than 140 hours to complete the project. Their success stemmed from their ability to work in unison each step of the way.
“It is very unusual to find the perfect match between a professor and a student/research assistant, but I found that with Kristen,” said Moreno, associate professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies. “My favorite part of the translation process has been the rich academic and artistic collaboration working closely with her.”
Acting out scenes to gain understanding
“By reading the translation and through acting out the scenes, Professor Moreno and I were forced to place ourselves into the roles of two gang members that had just brutally raped and murdered a young woman,” said Adams, who is majoring in accounting with a minor in Spanish. “Understanding the characters as well as the context allowed us to select more appropriate vocabulary, although it was often vulgar and difficult language to write.”
Challenges of intense subject matter
The language used by the characters in some scenes is raw and violent, which presented a perplexing situation for both professor and student.
“This was a challenge, as we had to present shocking passages with vulgar language that we are not used to using,” noted Moreno.
Another challenging part of the translating experience was staying true to the author’s original work.
“I frequently found myself wanting to add lines in order to emphasize or clarify certain aspects of the play, when that’s not the true job of a translator,” said Adams. “The line between translating colloquial sayings and altering the author’s original intention can be extremely blurry.”
Translator & performer
Adams, who will play one of the characters in the play, found tremendous value in the complex thought process required by the translation effort.
“The educational experience has helped me become more comfortable with navigating the unknown,” she said. “Translation is not a perfect science, and I had to rewrite certain scenes multiple times. The ability to be comfortable with being wrong is definitely the greatest takeaway.”
Lomas de Poleo is sponsored by Suffolk’s Women and Gender Studies program, the Spanish Program, and the Spanish Club.