In 1922 the Chilean poet and future winner of the Nobel Prize for
Literature (1945) Gabriela Mistral arrived in Mexico. For the next
two years she traveled widely working with rural teachers, observing
ceramic workers in Puebla and fishermen on Lake Pátzcuaro, and
developing a literature curriculum for the public schools. When she
left Mexico in 1924, she published the following poem.1
“Little Box from Olinalá” “Cajita de Olinalá”
My little box Cajita mía
from Olinalá de Olinalá
is rosewood palo-rosa
and jacaranda jacaranda.
When opened Cuando la abro
it strikes me with de golpe da
its Queen- of- Sheba su olor de Reina
fragrance. de Sabá.
Oh, tropical ¡Ay, bocanada
whiff of cloves, tropical
mahogany clavo, caoba
and copal! y el copal!
I place it here La pongo aquí
I leave it there, la dejo allá
down corridors por corredores
it comes and goes. viene y va.
It boils from Grecian frets* Hierve de grecas*
like a land of como un país
*Olinaltecan lacquer often had border decorations of Grecian frets.
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