EMILIA

MATRIARCH OF PROGRESO, BELIZE
 

by

 

 

VÍCTOR MANUEL DURÁN

(University of South Carolina Aiken, USA)

 

 

 

 

Photos of a young then old 'Emilia'

ISBN: 978-1-937030-64-3
2019

         PROLOGUE
 

          Sometimes in literature an atypical character can be emblematic of a whole country. It was certainly true with Jean Valjean, unforgettable hero of French Victor Hugo’s novel, The Miserables, as well as with José Arcadio Buendía, Macondo patriarch of Colombian Gabriel García Márquez’s novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude; or with the title character of North American Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Emilia Olivera, a real and humble woman, a native of the Central American country of Belize, becomes, thanks to Víctor Manuel Durán’s literary talent, the true embodiment of the Belizean woman, a proud unbreakable spirit, a demanding mother and a loyal spouse, who is able, with grace and determination, to face both joyful events and harsh tragedies during her long life in Progreso, a village in the Corozal District in the country of Belize.

          Beyond the struggles for survival of an individual and her family thru several generations, Víctor Manuel Durán, with the mastery endemic of a social Historian, depicts the progressive birth of a State from the Caste War of Yucatán (1847-1901), the bloody revolt of native Mayan people against the European-descended population, the so-called Yucatecos, on to the colonial order of British Honduras (1862-1981) till Belize finally reaches independence and international recognition on September 21, 1981.

          Emilia Olivera, mother of Víctor Manuel Durán and seven other children, reaches, thru her enduring and endearing existence, the symbolic status of mother of her young and noble homeland, Belize. Beloved by family members and relatives, who cheered her till her one hundred and first birthday, admired by her fellow citizens, she earned the right to rest in peace in the small cemetery in the village of Progreso. Her soul, though, will inhabit forever the wooded banks of the large and beautiful fresh-water lagoon she enjoyed so much throughout all her life.

Alain Saint-Saëns
Historian and Literary Critic,
Corresponding Member
 of the Academy of Letters,
Bahia, Brazil

 

   

EMILIA'S RESTING PLACE IN THE CEMETERY
OF THE VILLAGE OF PROGRESO, BELIZE
THE LARGE AND BEAUTIFUL FRESH-WATER PROGRESO LAGOON
 THAT EMILIA ENJOYED CONTEMPLATING

 

The Caste War of Yucatán which began in 1850 provides a realistic setting for this historical biography, written in the form of a novel, which describes the actual economic, social and cultural effects of this war on the North of the country of Belize.  The effects of this war are seen through the life of Emilia, who is a direct descendant of the refugees of this Caste War and who is the staunch matriarch of the Durán family in the Village of Progreso in the North of this beautiful but attractively primitive country.  Emilia’s life is poignantly detailed and her struggles, emotional, social and economic, are clearly and heartrendingly depicted and as well, are representative of the universality of feminist struggles and sacrifices, particularly in so-called third world and underdeveloped countries. Emilia is a realistic, flesh and blood figure who died in 2015 and who was well-known in the Village of Progreso, not only because of her generosity and strength of character but also because, as a single parent of eight children, she sacrificed herself to formally educate her children who are now professors, teachers and executives in private corporations.

This book also provides realistic descriptions of and information about Mayan culture through vivid descriptions of the traditions and practices of the Mayas, especially of those living in the North of the country of Belize.  As seen through the life of Emilia, the rites of Mayan courtships and marriages, family traditions and Mayan beliefs are showcased, accurately, in this novel.   This novel enhances the canon of Latin American Literature and places the Literature of Belize in a position of prominence in the sphere of world literature.

 

 

Víctor Manuel Durán is a native of the country of Belize where he grew up in the village of Progreso in the North of the country.   After attending High School, Junior College and Teacher's College in Belize, he traveled first to Montreal, Canada where he received his B. Ed. Degree from McGill University and then to the United States of America where he received his M.A. and Ph.D.  Degrees in Romance Languages from the University of Misssouri, Columbia.  Dr. Durán has taught the gamut of Spanish courses, from Basic Spanish courses to courses in Latin American Literature and Culture at various universities in the USA.  In addition, he has developed and taught  upper-level courses in Latin American Literature and Culture and Spanish for the Professions.

Víctor Manuel Durán has published three books on Latin American Literature, the latest being a comprehensive anthology of the Literature of Belize.  In addition, he has published many academic articles in prestigious journals in the USA and internationally, in Spanish and in English, on the Literature and Culture of both Latin America and Peninsular Spain.  He recently retired as Professor of Spanish and Chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University of South Carolina Aiken.

    

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