Sources used have been identified by the following abbreviations.
dmc José Sánchez-Boudy, Diccionario Mayor de Cubanismos (Miami: Ediciones Uni-
versal, 1999).
hpc Argelio Santiesteban, El habla popular cubana de hoy (La Habana: Editorial de
Ciencias Sociales, 1997).
title, epigraph, introduction
pp. iii and vii The Initials of the Earth: The title and epigraph of the novel are taken from
Pablo Neruda’s Canto general (1955), a classic work of Latin American poetry that narrates a
sweeping history of the continent from 1400 forward. The lines of the epigraph are found
in the second stanza of the first section of the poem, ‘‘Amor América (1400),’’ which o√ers
a description of indigenous men before the arrival of European conquerors. This transla-
tion is taken from Canto General, translated by Jack Schmitt (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1991). The entire stanza reads: ‘‘Man was dust, earthen vase, an eyelid / of
tremulous loam, the shape of clay— / he was Carib jug, Chibcha stone, / imperial cup or
Araucanian silica. / Tender and bloody was he, but on the grip / of his weapon of moist
flint, / the initials of the earth were / written’’ (13). La tierra in Spanish also means ‘‘the
land,’’ with political and/or patriotic connotations of ‘‘country’’ or the Cuban patria
(motherland, also fatherland or homeland) that is integral to Díaz’s novel. But in Neruda’s
poem la tierra is unambiguously ‘‘the earth,’’ physical in both the elemental and planetary
p. 3 Tellmeyourstory: Carlos calls the bureaucratic form or questionnaire a cuén-
tametuvida, literally ‘‘tell me your life’’, or more loosely translated, ‘‘tell me all about it’’ or
‘‘what’s going on with you.’’
p. 3 Zafra: The sugarcane harvest, la zafra, became synonymous with revolutionary
Cuba’s will to economic survival, especially in the 1960s and early 1970s when it attracted
Previous Page Next Page