“Mira Que Larga Tienes La Cola: Magical Realism in Latin America” reflected onto the screen on Friday, December 3, facing the full seats of Kemper Auditorium. Directly translating to “look how long your tail is,” Emiliano Cáceres Manzano ’22 opened, explaining the figurative title. He delivered an hour-long interactive presentation, inviting some of the audience up to the stage at times to perform brief skits demonstrating the topic and to read excerpts from magical realist literature.
According to Cáceres Manzano, magical realism is the concept of mystical experiences being morphed into realistic ones. He called two students to the stage to act out a play depicting magical realism, in which a woman did not experience time.
“Magical realism, like we talked about, depends on the unreal happening as part of reality. So in magical realism, we have fantastical things… coexisting in what is otherwise a pretty realistic story… a key part of [magical realism] is its metamorphosis in perception, in other words, an important part of magical realism is its tone. That means that magical realism values the real and the fantastical side by side and equally, and when a magical realist writer is speaking to us, we can’t really tell what really happened, and it doesn’t matter… it feels true,” said Cáceres Manzano.
Many attendees were new to the term “magical realism.” Camila McGinley ’23 attended the event, despite not being familiar with the concept. According to McGinley, Cáceres Manzano’s initial anecdote regarding his mom’s use of the phrase, “mira que larga tienes la cola” helped clarify the term. According to Cáceres-Manzano, this phrase adequately captures magical realism, as it links the two terms together in a genre of literature.
“I really liked when he shared the anecdote of what his mom would tell him. I thought that was really sweet and a good way to introduce the topic. I was a bit confused… so I was like ‘oh I wonder if I’ll understand what [magical realism] is” and when I went I really understood because of Emiliano,'” said McGinley.
When Juliana Reyes ’24 saw Cáceres Manzano’s name on the CaMD presentation flyer, she knew she had to attend his talk. Although she went because of a familiar face, Reyes gained a much deeper appreciation and understanding for her friend’s topic than she initially anticipated.
“I attended because I knew Emiliano was doing it and I really look up to Emiliano so I wanted to be there to support him and also I think talking about magical realism and colonial trauma is important.”
Reyes continued, “It [fulfilled my expectations] because it was so amazing, but it didn’t because it actually surpassed them because I didn’t know what to expect and all of his talking and slides made me understand what he was talking about,” said Reyes.
Melanie Garcia ’22, attendee and CaMD scholar for the 2021-2022 school year, reflected on how Cáceres Manzano’s work will help her to prepare her own presentation. Garcia plans on presenting this coming February.
“First, I am aware I have big shoes to fill because he did an excellent job. Second, just seeing him speak and seeing how he interwove his thoughts made me think of ways for me to do the same,” said Garcia.
Inspired by his own heritage, Cáceres Manzano focused on Latin American literature, offering new and unfamiliar information to many of the audience members. Specifically, the CaMD scholar explored the power of perspective when researching and engaging with one’s history.
“I think that it’s important to expose people to world literature. Well, I felt responsible for Latin America because that’s where I’m from. But more than that I think it’s really important that people understand the concept of engaging with history and the many different ways that you can do that… In my presentation, I chose to [research] history through a very particular lens which is something to grapple with in terms of influences, in terms of trauma and how to put it into writing, but I think the overall concept of what do you do with your history whether if it’s positive or negative how do you tell it, how do you bring it to light responsibly, with love [and] with care,” said Cáceres Manzano.
Although he introduced the concept of magical realism and its cultural significance to much of the audience, Cáceres Manzano also intended to provide a space of recognition and comfort for those more familiar with Latin American culture.
“I had two kinds of like target audiences: my first is I really wanted to make sure that the Latin-American students in the audience felt seen, felt represented, felt like it added something to their sense of identity to how they viewed themselves and their culture and I think that it’s great if it expanded beyond Latin-American students but I wanted specifically to make sure that those students kind of felt like they had a place… I also really wanted to reach out to all the artists in the audience and… encourage them to pursue their art through the reminder that they have an impact, that art is a really, really powerful force in shaping culture,” said Cáceres Manzano.