12 March 2009

Ladino poetry

In 17th century Philippines, Fernando Bagongbanta (a pseudonym) wrote poems with Tagalog and Spanish lines alternating. Here is a sample stanza:

Salamat nang walang hanga
gracias se den sempiternas,
sa nagpasilang ng tala
al que hizo salir la estrella:
macapagpanao nang dilim
que destierre las tinieblas
sa lahat na bayan natin
de toda esta nuestra tierra.

The Tagalog lines, unlike in European Macaronic verse, are simply translations of the Spanish lines. This is an example of what is known as ladino poetry, an early (in the Philippines) instance of code-switching or bilingual poetry. Ladino here is related but not identical to its present definition (i.e., Spanish-based creole language).

I am sure there are many countries where a similar literary phenomenon occurred. If you can share information about the history of bilingual literature in your country, that would increase awareness of the need for a literary critic to have more than one language.

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