The Oral History Project

Recovering Voices From
the Distant Past

Oral History Excerpts

Oral History Collections

Stigma, Identity and Human Rights
Conference on Robben Island

Oral History Guidelines


Books Written by People Who
Have Had Leprosy

Contact Information

Recovering Voices From the Distant Past
Let me relate to you
The sorrow that oppresses me,
And sprinkle the night with my tears
For my beloved Asunción.

I recall the women selling produce
With bare feet and blue eyes,
My bosom is burdened with anguish
And is choked with my crying.

Only the music can relieve
With its sweet notes my sadness,
And under a full moon will I declare
The love that I feel for you, Asunción.

-- Excerpt from Paraguaýpe by Manuel Ortiz Guerrero

Sprinkle the Night With My Tears

Manuel Ortiz Guerrero
Poet, Paraguay

Manuel Ortiz Guerrero
Manuel Ortiz Guerrero was born in Paraguay on July 16, 1894.  He died in Asunción on May 8, 1933.  He is credited with being one of the most popular and prolific writers in Paraguay.  His poems are immersed in the literary currents of the modern era and reflect the profound difficulties of his life, which apparently included having leprosy and being isolated from society.

Manuel Ortiz Guerrero found in Guarani (an indigenous and official language of Paraguay) a genuine way of expressing intense beauty in his poems.  His works include:  “Eirete” (1921), “Surgente” (1922), “El Crimen da Tintalila” (1922), “La Conquista” (1926), “Nubes del Este” (1928), “Pepitas” (1930).  Poetry written in his native language included “Panambi vera”, “Nde rendape ayu” and “India”.  “Complete Plays”, which included poetry and theater in verse, was edited in 1952 and 1959, after his death.  “Arenillas de mi Tierra” (“Sand from My Country”) was printed in 1969.  Some of his poems were set to music by his good friend and one of Paraguay’s most noted musicians, Jose Asunción Flores, and are still sung today.  This includes “India”, which was declared an official song of the country in 1944.  Jose Asunción Flores said of his friend:  “Manuel’s best work is his life.”