Latin American Writers

a window on their lives and work

Anacristina Rossi presents Afro-Costa Rican writer Charles Nation

[es] The earliest Afro-Costa Rican written literature can be found in the English newspapers published by and for the Afro-Antilleans living in Limón, Costa Rica, during the first half of the twentieth century. Despite the fact that almost everyone who wrote this literature was of British Antillean nationality, all were Costa Rican residents, some of them were naturalized Costa Ricans, and they died in Costa Rica. Furthermore, Costa Rican life influenced their writing, and their texts remained in Costa Rica and ought to be considered part of the Costa Rican cultural patrimony.

My study of English-language newspapers published by and for Afro descendants in Limón between 1910 and 1942 turned up more than a thousand journalistic essays and a few dozen poems. This is not a literature that originates out of the blue, or by chance. It derives from a complex Afro-Antillean cultural web, more specifically Jamaican. It is a product of the breath of West Africa and of so many symbolic and vital intersections, especially with Victorian Britain, but always adapted to the particular reality of Limón.This literature was an essential part of the daily life of the community. Since it was published in the newspapers, it was read by most people. It was part of a society that produced other forms of art: plays, music, oratory, short stories.

It is time to make peace with the fact that Costa Rica (and Central America) is a plurilingual territory, and that Afro-Costa Rican literature was, and in great part continues being, in English. Indeed, contemporary authors such as Quicen Duncan, Shirley Campbell, Eulalia Bernard, have part of their literary work in English. And that does not make it less Costa Rican – and Central American.

The best example of this literature in the first half of the twentieth century is that of the journalist Samuel Charles Nation, a fine and prolific writer who became editor of The Atlantic Voice in 1935 and published the following essay there in March 8, 1936. — Anacristina Rossi, San Jose, Costa Rica, author of Limón Blues and other novels (this introduction translated from the Spanish by Paloma Fernández Sánchez and Carol Polsgrove), October 10, 2015

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The Horse, Still an Impression

by Samuel Charles Nation

As we note the splendour, the beauty of the animals being cared and trained for the Races at Cahuita on Easter Monday, we experience the gladsome conviction that despite his most dangerous competitors of the present age – the motorized vehicle and the mechanical device – the Horse yet holds his own and stoutly refuses the idea that his day of usefulness has forever departed.

For more than three score years we have been hearing that the days of the Horse were numbered. At the advent of the bicycle, we were told the stirrup would be superseded by the pedal.

At the coming of the automobile with its inflated tyres which inflicted less damage to our roadways, we realized that the splendidly matched pair of attractive trotters would no longer be kings of the public highway. By the appearance of the Tractor, we saw there would no longer be a need for the fine pair of heavily built plow animals, while the introduction of the Truck or Camión induced the belief that the utility of the intelligent, docile, faithful Cart Horse had departed para siempre (sic).

The bombing aircraft relegated into oblivion the glories of the Cavalry which had for eons been the mainstay of the armies of the world, and robbed the cavalier of that glory and admiration possessed by him from the age of Chivalry. Even the pleasing scene of the Lord of the manor attired in his costly coat of red, his knee breeches and his shining top boots astride his favourite mount, gets rarer and rarer; yet despite all these, as we observe our Racers proudly pacing around us, we feel a surge of pride that the Horse is still with us, still holding his own; that he is here for work, here for sport, here to stay.

Though once he only shared with the ox and the ass the privilege of bearing his master’s burden, and has now to do so with the many mechanical devices whose only claim of affinity with the animal kingdom may lie in their much boasted “horse power”, we hold the opinion that instead of disappearing, the usefulness of our equine friend is gradually being restored.

The race track, which brought credit to man’s ingenuity by the production of a lighter, swifter creature than the originally given us by nature, still increases in favour, despite the censuring of the Sweepstake and the Bet, with the Thoroughbred steadily gaining in appreciation and proving himself the Lord of the animal kingdom, the while his thrilling displays in speed and endurance become the King of Sports and the Sport of Kings. Hence he is with us to stay.

He is still the same as that which bore Wellington to welcome Blucher on the field of Waterloo, the same as that which accompanied King Richard the First throughout his Caladinic warfare on behalf of Christianity and gave England her “Coeur de Lion”. London yet boasts of her Horse Guards, and the British Sovereign still uses the Great Coach of State, drawn by its noted equipment of horses.

For the Polo Fields, we find new ponies being specially bred with which our Teams cross the oceans to do battle for the upkeep of the game. The Britisher meets the West Indian in the Isle of Springs, the lords of the prairies of Argentina and Brazil pit their skill against that of the North American on these proud mounts. But of far greater import are those who specialize in the Horse for pure love of the animal, and who, when seated on such horses partaking of the healthy exercise, feel themselves veritable Gods of Creation.

Yes, whether as a necessity for work or as an aid to manly sport, the Horse has been in the forefront for thousands of years before Pharoah’s murderous charioteers perished in the Red Sea; and even though the present day material for the preservation of peace or the prosecution of war, for facilitating national transportation or assisting agricultural production has to be immensely metallic, the Horse is still a big business; there still remains a thrill in the mount of a gay animal which only true horsemen or horsewomen can experience. Horse and Pomp, Chivalry and Pageantry have ever been associated and will ever be, despite what rivalry may be encountered in the great and swift movements of an ever changing world.

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