I Fell Victim To Your Tyranny

200PesosMexicanos
Current 200 Peso Mexican Bank Note with Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
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1983 1000 Peso Mexican Bank Note with Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

Detente, sombra de mi bien esquivo,
imagen del hechizo que más quiero,
bella ilusión por quien alegre muero,
dulce ficción por quien penosa vivo.

Si al imán de tus gracias, atractivo,
sirve mi pecho de obediente acero,
¿para qué me enamoras lisonjero
si has de burlarme luego fugitivo?

Mas blasonar no puedes, satisfecho,
de que triunfa de mí tu tiranía
que aunque dejas burlado el lazo estrecho

que tu forma fantástica ceñía,
poco importa burlar brazos y pecho
si te labra prisión mi fantasía.

Sonnet 165

by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651 – 1695)

Stay, shadow of contentment too short-lived,
illusion of enchantment I most prize,
fair image for whom I happily die,
sweet fiction for whom I painfully live.
If to your sweet charms attracted I submit,
obedient, like steel to magnet fly,
by what logic do you flatter and entice,
only to flee, a taunting fugitive?
‘Tis no triumph that you so smugly boast
that I fell victim to your tyranny;
though from encircling bonds that held you fast
your elusive form too readily slipped free,
and though to my arms you are forever lost,
you are a prisoner in my fantasy.


I was in San Miguel de Yendes, Mexico last week on business.   I had the good fortune to be traveling and working alongside several local soil scientists discussing the needs for better crop nutrition in Mexico.  The diversity of crops and cropping systems in Mexico are remarkable. I was very impressed with the professionalism, deep knowledge and passion of the agronomists, crop consultants and farmers that I met during my trip.

Although my focus for the short trip was business, I hope to return when I have more time to soak up the incredible culture, cuisine and heritage of the two colonial cities I saw briefly. Guanajuato and San Miguel are both UNESCO world heritage sites and amazing places to visit.

I was struck by a simple contrast between the culture of Mexico and the culture of the United States when I exchanged some money for the trip after landing in Leon.  A 200 peso note is equivalent approximately to a 10 dollar bill in value and common in circulation.  The United States bank notes feature a long line of dead presidents; the ten dollar bill specifically Thomas Jefferson.  The Mexican 200 peso note has Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz; a poet, nun, feminist, playwright and one of the most iconic writers of colonial Mexico during the Golden Age of Spanish literature in the 1500 and 1600’s.

This simple contrast illustrates one of the differences in our societies. Mexican culture values the arts and uses their 200 peso banknote to honor their rich cultural history, while the United States showcases a racist slave owner on its ten-dollar bill. Thomas Jefferson may have been an abolitionist from the beginning of the republic, but central to his promotion of ending slavery was the idea of emancipation for all blacks back to Africa, as he did not believe whites and blacks could live peacefully together in the newly formed United States.

Why does the United States only feature dead white ex-presidents, most of whom no longer represent the values of our diverse culture?  Other countries change their bank notes with great regularity and use that opportunity to stay abreast of the changing norms and attitudes of their current society.   The United States should rethink the images on its currency and the messages they convey,  when we cling to outdated political leaders as the only people worthy to be printed on our currency.   Maybe it is time Americans take a page from many other countries around the world and showcase poets, painters and cultural icons on their national currency, not just dead, narrow-minded, wealthy, white male politicians.

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Israel’s 20 shekel note with Rachel Bluwstein, equivalent to about $5.50 American dollars.

Perhaps 

by Rachel Bluwstein (1890 – 1931)

Perhaps it was never so.
Perhaps
I never woke early and went to the fields
To labor in the sweat of my brow

Nor in the long blazing days
Of harvest
On top of the wagon laden with sheaves,
Made my voice ring with song

Nor bathed myself clean in the calm
Blue water
Of my Kinneret. O, my Kinneret,
Were you there or did I only dream?

Published by

T. A. Fry

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations.

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