Los Missiones – Posadas, Argentina, South America
The Last Guayni
A drunk Indian sits next to me on the bus and yells, "Where are you from?"
"Canada," I say. I figure, why look for a fight? But it doesn't help.
"Where?" He doesn't appear temporarily drunk. "Where?" he yells louder.
"Oh, can-a-DA. Do they have Guayni there?"
"No," I say.
"Here neither. There used to be Guayni – but not anymore."
A Famous Writer – an exile
A famous writer lived here in San Ignacio. I know this because there are signs all over town that say, The way to the house of Horacio Quiroga, famous writer. My book says he wrote a short story called, The Exile. So I follow the signs past the ruined mission, which is closed.
I walk past the town itself, past its two streets of well-built houses. It's twilight and the sun is setting beautifully. Strangely, the dogs here, in front of these well-built homes, are the most vicious I've ever seen. Twilight doesn't seem as beautiful anymore, it just seems dark.
I go past the military school, by far the largest building, I turn right as the signs tell me to do. This famous writer really wanted to be alone. The earth is a deep red clay and the plants are as lush as in any jungle. I walk all the way down to the river and look at the house – shack really – of this famous writer; it's closed also, of course, I open my book. The first wife of this famous writer, who I never heard of, killed herself in this house. Twenty years later, the famous writer killed himself also, but not here; he left first. I'll come back tomorrow to find out more.
Americans and other aliens pay four times the price to see the ruins. I did, I went into the ruins. There are big shade trees that didn't exist when the Jesuits converted the Guayni, in the 1630's – breaking their nomadic lives, using their peacefullness against them. These shade trees were just beginning to sprout in the 1760's when the Jesuits abandoned them.
Fifty years after that, in the 1810's, these trees offered some protection, not enough, when the Argentine armies came and massacred these converted, unarmed people.
If you don't mind, I'm going to enter the story, as a person rather than as a character. I'm going to do that because this is where "The Voice of America" blares in my head. Unfortunately, it sounds a lot like my mother who says, "Why do you have to be so critical? Maybe they were happy – doing whatever it is they did. "You mean after they were converted but before they were gunned down?"
Horatio Quiroga's 10 rules for writers, written in 1910
1. Believe in a master – Poe, Maupassant, Kipling. Checkov was a God.
2. Believe your art is an impossible dream. You, yourself, don't kow how it works.
3. Don't imitate, but let yourself be influenced by other writers.
4. Have blind faith, not in your capacity to triumph, but in the ardor of your desires. Love your art like a lover, with all your heart.
5. Don't begin to write without knowing the first word. In a good story, the first three lines have the same importance as the last three.
6. If you want to say, The water is cold, then say it. Don't add consonants.
7. Or adjectives.
8. Take your characters by the hand. Don't worry about things that wouldn't interest them. Don't talk for them.
9. Don't write when overcome with emotion – let it fade first – meet it half way.
10.Don't think your friends get the same story as you. Everyone sees different details. Listen to everyone – that's the only way to get the real story.