Reflections on Translating “The Bread Maker”
By Javier Rodríguez
Translating “The Bread-Maker” by Fabiola Mejia was an enriching and bonding experience for me as a writer, translator, and Latino. I chose these adjectives to describe my experience of translating this story because through this process I confirmed my desire to become a translator, and hopefully in the long term, a writer too. Also, I reconnected with my roots, my traditions and mysticism. This translation process enriched my life.
“The Bread-Maker,” La panadera in Spanish, is a short story written by Salem State Student Fabiola Mejia. Fabiola is of Mexican descent. Her parents were born in Mexico and immigrated many years ago to this country. In this story, Fabiola narrates her mother’s tradition of making bread, pan de muerto, during the entire month of October to commemorate El Día de los Muertos, November 1st. Fabiola’s mother talks about her life back in Mexico and how the Day of the Dead is celebrated in that country.
I am from Guatemala. Guatemalan culture shares multiple similarities with Mexican culture and traditions. El Día de los Muertos is one of those. Translating this story re-bonded me with the spirit of Latin America. It re-bonded me with the souls of my deceased loved ones. Recalling of my own Día de los Muertos through Fabiola’s writing evoked feelings of nostalgia in me. I remembered how this festivity is celebrated in a dichotomous way in my homeland. Some people observe it with the greatest devotion and sacredness, while others celebrate with fervor and jubilation. But no matter how people choose to live this day, El Día de los Muertos is an essential piece of our Latin American culture. It is the day when we can coexist with the spirits. It is the day when we can share food, drinks and offerings with our dead.
This whole translation will always be memorable for me, but I have chosen a paragraph in particular that I find significant and representative of my feelings towards El Día de los Muertos:
“Its November 1st. Tomorrow is El Día de los Muertos in Mexico, so my mother is making bread in celebration. She has made it a custom over the years to bake bread the whole month of October, leading up to the Day of the Dead. It has been a tradition that my siblings and I cherished as we grew up. It was exciting to know that we were about to eat the sweetest bread on earth accompanied with cold glass bottles of Coke, which were only bought on this occasion. We’d crowd around the table to watch my mother sculpt crazy shapes and designs out of dough, but she was careful that we didn’t get in the way or frustrate her. She always said that anger was the worst component in making food. The bread was likely to burn or remain flat.” (Mejia 1)
“Hoy es el primero de noviembre. Mañana será el Día de los Muertos en México, así que mi madre está haciendo pan en celebración. Ella ha vuelto el hacer pan durante todo el mes de octubre una costumbre a través de los años que nos prepara para el Día de los Muertos. Ha sido una tradición que mis hermanos y yo apreciábamos con mucho cariño mientras crecíamos. Era muy emocionante saber que íbamos a comer el pan más dulce sobre la tierra, acompañado con Coca-Cola en friísimas botellas de vidrio, las cuales solamente eran compradas en esta ocasión. A veces, nos reuníamos alrededor de la mesa para ver a mi madre esculpir figuras y diseños locos con la masa, pero ella ponía mucho cuidado de que no llegáramos a frustrarla. Ella decía siempre que el coraje era el peor componente al cocinar. El pan podría quemarse o desinflarse.” (Mejia 9)
This paragraph depicts the intimacy and sacredness of this festivity. It shows how Latinos keep their culture alive through simple things such as making bread or sharing stories of the homeland with their families on days like El Día de los Muertos. I believe that telling our stories passes on the values and traditions that we learned and that make our culture so diverse and colorful.
I learned valuable lessons from Fabiola’s story that helped me be a better person and translator. I learned about how Latinos keep their culture alive through storytelling and living their traditions. This inspired me to start telling my stories as well through writing. I had the opportunity of doing a translation at a professional level and confirm my area of specialization in translation, literature. I learned about Mexican culture and also about their vernacular words. This story enriched my life.-
References: Mejia, Fabiola. “The Bread-Maker.” Salem State University. Salem, MA. 2016. Print.