Author Wendy Guerra Depicts Havana in Native Tongue

Listening to Wendy Guerra speak was like watching a city being built in an hour—Havana, Cuba, to be exact. 

On Wednesday, Feb. 24, iconic Cuban writer Wendy Guerra, author of the novel Todos se Van, which translates to Everybody Leaves, gave a talk at Claremont McKenna College. An accomplished novelist, Guerra has had her novel translated into 13 languages. With her visit sponsored by the Mellon Foundation Global Visiting Scholar Grant and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, she also spent the week on campus working with students in class. 

Guerra’s talk captured the nuances of a country beginning to heal. She referred to Havana in her talk as a “collage”—a collage of diverse people and varied experiences. Her love for her country and city was evident in the words she spoke. 

“I enjoyed the talk. Ms. Guerra was able to bring a fresh perspective on a place that most of us know little to nothing about,” Katie Carillo CM '19 said. Indeed, through her passionate discourse, Guerra brought attention to the tumultuous history and rich culture of Havana. She described the use of cityscapes in literary works, also pointing out the way she represented her own native Havana in her work. 

One unusual aspect of Guerra's talk was that she spoke entirely in Spanish. Speaking about Havana in her native language was undoubtedly significant, serving to intensify the power of her message. These were her words, spoken from the heart—her way of understanding and vocalizing the Havana she knows.

 “We need to have more bilingual, cultural talks at the 5Cs,” Carillo said. Having open discourses that include people and opinions different than our own offers a welcome challenge. As liberal arts college students, we should be encouraged to open ourselves up to a variety of human experiences. 

What makes Guerra's work so admirable is her ability to bring a city to life with carefully constructed words and sentences. Attending Guerra’s talk was like being transported to a new land—a city defined by its enduring spirit.

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