Of Water and Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman

Spanish version available in Teo Cotidiana.


The following analytical book review is about Malidoma Somé’s Of Water and Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman. Brief summary about the book, author’s background and his main intended purpose: to make the West aware of the benefits of shamanism. Analysis of different definitions for evaluating the following phenomena: African animism, shamanistic worldview, Western ideology, historical and social context, social bias and culture, among others. Review of many religious and mythological passages through a scientific lens. Final recommendation of a book that can expand our understanding about shamanism and spiritual healing.


Shamanism; Africa; spiritual healing; religion; animism.

1.      Book Review

The book Of Water and Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman is arguably one of the best guides about African shamanism. The author, Malidoma Patrice Somé, has a comprehensive Western education and shows a great deal of respect towards his own culture. Therefore, the purpose of his book is not merely a list of initiation steps for accomplishing a religious goal, but a call to expand and propagate African culture as a spiritual worldview. Essentially, Somé is in the process of completing such an objective. Even though Christianity, Islam, and Judaism dominate the Western tradition, Somé has a considerable audience, and he is adding to a religious branch tagged as the New Age movement.

Malidoma was born in Burkina Faso in 1956. He was forced to learn Western ways after being kidnapped by a Jesuit missionary. When he turned twenty, he escaped to get back to his family, tribe, and roots.[1] Received as an outsider in his own culture, he had to struggle his way in and even risk his life to learn traditional Dagara practices. Malidoma obtained three major skills after his initiation: “enlargement of one’s ability to see, destabilization of the body’s habit of being bound to a single plane of existence, and the ability to voyage trans-dimensionally and return.”[2] Through his process of initiation, which resemble Saint Teresa of Ávila’s mystical experiences, Malidoma reestablished a broken bond with his ancestors while suppressing doubts, despair, and adding purpose to his life.[3]

Malidoma offers an account about his background to commit the reader to his work and strengthen his credibility. His conversion into shamanism through the process of re-birth, his Christian background, and his studies at the Centre d’Études Supérieures and Brandeis University all contributed to the comprehensiveness of his message for reaching a wider audience. While completing his studies, Somé was influenced by strong feeling of anti-colonialism, the renouncement of a “temperamental God,”[4] and experienced the auto-destructive, disrespectful, and ambitious nature of Western society. Therefore, he decided to open minds and de-evangelize a world that faces a spiritual crisis. He rebukes the paradigms of modern societies because of their uncontrollable need for consumption, mean nature, and extreme individualism. Somé claims that the Dagara tribe, on the other hand, accepts ritual, communal, and spiritual healing as the three pivotal foundations for building a more ethical and honest society.[5]

Malidoma Patrice Somé will face many obstacles in his attempt to change the Western mindset. Firstly, the Western world has dominated and colonized the African continent for over six centuries. Many Europeans and Americans disregard the African culture as being morally inferior, technologically limited, and even less sophisticated. Why, many westerners might ask, should we listen to someone who embodies such a world? Somé considers different approaches for dealing with those issues. Firstly, he clearly establishes an ascending hierarchy among himself, the Dagara tribe, Burkina Faso, and the African continent. For the most part, we interpret African cultures and religious practices as being monochromatic and homogenous, when nothing can be farther from the truth. Secondly, Somé understands the gap between the Dagara tribe and Western societies by taking into account the role of supernatural events, the added importance of ancestral customs, and the effectiveness, power, and usability of accepting and worshiping his particular religion. Within the Dagara tribe, each individual’s name refers to his/her fate or purpose during his/her life. Therefore, the name Malidoma (“to be friends with the stranger/enemy”)[6] could be rephrased as: an African shaman trying to be friends with an alienated Western culture.

Of Water and Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman is a very interesting story and opens the door to a new world, which is largely unknown for Western society. The book seems more a piece of literature or an appealing narrative than an analytical or even prophetic account. How can anyone believe the supernatural realm as a real dimension without proper investigation? The Dagara tribe as a whole and Malidoma Somé as an individual, both accept the concept of Yielbongura as a given: “To a Dagara man or woman, the material is just the spiritual taking on form.”[7] Moreover, imagination and reality are strongly interrelated as the power of the mind exerts a strong influence over physical events.

What is the danger of religion or, in this case, of believing in supernatural claims? As Malidoma himself asserts, the process of his initiation almost killed him, and he could cheat his way out of school later on due to his acquired skills. There are two important elements at play that should not to be missed. Firstly, shamanism upholds spiritual, supernatural, and unproven phenomena to the detriment of physical needs or even survival instincts. Secondly, religion diminishes human capacities, abilities, and accomplishments; replacing them with ghostly appeals to secret or hidden ethereal skills. No one should be willing to die or cheat for such subjective conceptions: “The walking dead, visiting the underworld, defying gravity; these things just do not happen in the ‘real world.’”[8] Malidoma Somé is right when he claims that the West faces self-destruction and suffers spiritual sickness, but progress has its own price and drawbacks. Malidoma obviously assumes a defensive stand towards colonialism and towards a civilization which teachings he uses for providing for his family. The author pays too much attention to the damage caused by colonialism and disregards African responsibility in the matter. Shamanism has not taken humanity up to its current standing, science has. However, Malidoma is brave enough for giving meaning to his life by propagating a message he considers liberating and altruistic: “We must undergo initiation to discover what our gift is and how to share it.”[9]

2. Definitions

2.1. Dagara tribal view regarding «cleanliness is not next to godliness»

The concept that defines how “cleanliness is not next to godliness,” from the Dagara tribe worldview, refers to a theoretical dichotomy between appearance and morality. Such a concept is very similar to the Christian principle that defines how only God’s grace determines the believer’s salvation in despise of good deeds, almsgiving, or proper conduct: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”[10] In few words, being clean is worldly but reaching godliness is divine: such is the state the shaman attains.[11]

2.2. Yielbongura

The concept of Yielbongura is similar to what Otto referred to as the mysterium tremendum.[12] In other words, the “thing that knowledge cannot eat” or Yielbongura, is a concept too abstract for human understanding.[13] The Dagara tribe follows an animistic approach in which natural and supernatural events occur indistinctively. Such views resemble Spinoza’s understanding of the world as an extension of God’s thought.[14] Moreover, Pascal has a phrase that synthesizes the relatedness between two seemingly opposite realms: “Nature has perfections, in order to show that she is the image of God; and defects, to show that she is only his image.”[15]

According to Patrice Somé, the occult is not only fascinating but sacred. The supernatural realm is accessible through our improvement and development as spiritual beings.[16] Such an interpretation is contradictory because, if the natural and supernatural realms are interrelated, what is the need for “expanding our horizons and revealing a concealed secret?”

2.3. Lobir/lobie and wizard wars

Lobir is “an invisible projectile known to warriors from secret societies,”[17] and consists of throwing an object or curse against a person. The wizards responsible for those actions have usually “gone private”[18] and are commonly present at funerals. Evil spirits that control the wizard are the ones often carrying on with such a wicked conduct. Shamanistic healing is the permanent struggle between the shaman and evil spirits. Therefore, human sickness is not merely a physical problem but also a spiritual and psychological one. Finally, a “lobirproof vest”[19] can protect the person who carries it while deflecting projectiles back to their senders.

2.4. The green lady

Isapí was an Indian princess, found in a Herminio Almendros’s fictional story, who transformed into a tree.[20] Daphne was a nymph who, according to Greek mythology, decided to become a laurel tree to escape from Apollo.[21] Such allusions shed light into the transformation from tree into green lady that Malidoma witnessed. The process of transmutation, which is when an element changes into a new one, is recurrent in many religions around the world. In Malidoma’s account, it symbolizes the link between nature and human beings, and supports the animistic perspective that claims that spirits fill nature. Moreover, the lady who embraces Malidoma contributes to his magical initiation and allows him to access the mysterious and invisible “other world,” surrounded by supernatural events.[22] In fact, such awakening experience expanded Malidoma’s mindset as it gave him alternative tools for experiencing reality.[23]

2.5. Between two worlds

After Somé escaped from the Jesuit seminary, he found an alien culture and language that merged with his forcefully acquired ideology. The Dagara tribe believed in communal cooperation,[24] while Western tradition upheld individualism and personal ambitions.[25] Two different worlds clashed inside Malidoma’s mind.[26] Western Christianity and monotheistic practices allied against Dagara culture, which defended shamanistic and animistic traditions. Such divergences reached a climax when Somé started his initiation ritual (or process of re-birth) for becoming a shaman. However, Malidoma used his knowledge about the West for carrying on an important message about the Dagara culture and for “taking revenge” against a world that was abusive and hostile towards him.

3. Works Cited

Authors, Multiple. The Bible – New International Version. n.d. 10 August 2011.

Barnard, Mary E. “The myth of Apollo and Daphne from Ovid to Quevedo: love, agon, and the grotesque.” Duke University Press Books – Vol. 8 (1987).

Benítez Moreno, Francisco Javier, Juan Martín Bastidas Rosero, and Sonia Betancourth Zambrano. “Incidencia del pensamiento creativo en la convivencia escolar.” Tesis Psicológica 8.1 (2013).

Bliss, Shepherd. An Initiated African Tribesman Cries Out to the West. 1994. 10 August 2011.

Brussat, Frederic and Mary Ann. Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman – Book Review. 2009. 10 August 2011.

Crofton, Emilie. Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman – Book Review. n.d. 14 July 2011.

Goodman, Leslee. Between Two Worlds – Malidoma Somé on Rites of Passage. 2010. 10 August 2011.

Hampshire, Stuart. Spinoza. Manchester University Press, 1953. Vol. 253.

Otto, Rudolf. The idea of the holy. Oxford University Press, 1958. Vol. 14.

Raffelt, Albert (e.d.) and Blaise Pascal. Pensées. Freiburg: Herder, 1993.

Somé, Malidoma Patrice. Of Water and Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman. New York: Penguin Group, 1994.

Vitebsky, Piers. “Shamanism.” Singapore: University of Oklahoma Press (2001): 91-93.

Wisner, Geoff. Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman – Book Review. 1995. 10 August 2011.

[1] (Wisner)

[2] (Bliss)

[3] (Brussat and Ann)

[4] (Somé)

[5] (Brussat and Ann)

[6] (Somé)

[7] (Somé)

[8] (Crofton)

[9] (Goodman)

[10] (Authors), Romans 3:23-24

[11] (Vitebsky)

[12] (Otto)

[13] (Somé)

[14] (Hampshire)

[15] (Raffelt y Pascal)

[16] (Brussat and Ann)

[17] (Somé)

[18] (Somé)

[19] (Somé)

[20] (Benítez Moreno)

[21] (Barnard)

[22] (Bliss)

[23] (Brussat and Ann)

[24] (Brussat and Ann)

[25] (Bliss)

[26] (Crofton)

The Religious Subordination of Women

Spanish version available in Homo Homini Sacra Res.

Fertility and motherhood —two vital but ordinary activities for any living organism— are the most important causes of the devaluation and degradation of women. In different cultures, women can only acquire a social status by marrying or having children. Social and moral codes regulate biological functions. The Judeo-Christian religion condemns menstruation and sexual intercourse before marriage. In addition, several religions have oppressed femineity, reaffirming androcentric and patriarchal attitudes. Such is the current case of Afghan women who have lost hope due to the return of the Taliban to political power, accustomed in their history to a bloody regime of stoning’s, beheadings, and the absence of opportunities for education and job offers.

Marriage and motherhood are the main reasons that allow female exploitation. For example, every Hindu woman must get married and become a mother. These acts are considered crucial initiation rites in women’s lives [1] to achieve a determined social status and maintain honor in their families. Hindu wives practice protection rituals and devotional acts for their husbands (pativratya) [2]. Additionally, Ramayana —one of the most important works of Ancient India— has imposed Sitam, the main character, as the archetype of a loyal wife [3] due to her demonstrations of submission to Rama. A clear example of this was the Sati ceremonies, held in India by the beginning of the 19th century, in which it was evident how a woman’s worth decreased in the absence of her partner. Other actions like the establishment of a dowry, in contrast to the wife’s price, are proof of the conception of women as an economic burden and nuisance to the husband’s family.

Likewise, androcentrism and patriarchy guarantee men’s high positions in the hierarchy. In fact, men are the principal receptors of their wives’ worship [2]. Although Islam condemned “female infanticide” [3] in most cultures, there is still a preference for a male son. The majority of cultures in history, except Navajo, Apache, and a few others, are patrilineal [4]. The most significant deities in most cultures are male: Zeus, Odin, Allah, Marduk, and Vishnu, occupying roles linked to royalty, the sky (Uranus), and superior kingdoms. Meanwhile, goddesses like Hera, Frigg, Zarpanitu, and Lakshmi were relegated to secondary roles linked to fertility, the earth (Gaia), and lower realms.

Even Buddhism and Christianism, religions regarded as pacific, show a grade of contempt towards women. Buddha himself was not very pleased with the idea of creating a female Sangha, given that it could limit the impact and lifespan of his teachings [5]. There is, in biblical terms, a Christian analogy: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16) [6]. In essence, women have to be controlled by patriarchal patterns, mainly in sexual terms. Also, it is a common belief that they are more sinful than men. Thus, they require masculine supervision.

However, women have been praised intermittently through history: The Virgin Mary, Joan of Arc, and England’s Queen Elizabeth I. According to biblical foundations, men and women were created in the image and likeness of God, being the same. Many ancient traditions and movements in the new age move towards the adoration of nature and the representation of ancestral goddesses. Now more than ever, women have access to better education, salary, and political functions. Nevertheless, equalitarianism is far from being achieved. If religion has always had an excuse to downgrade femininity, secularism and feminism seem like the solution to years of exploitation [7].

Cited works

[1] Gudorf, C. “Women in Hinduism.” FIU, 2012. Slide Program. 22 Jul 2012.

[2] Falk, N. and Gross R. “Unspoken Worlds: Women’s Religious Lives.” Third Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2001. Print.

[3] Gudorf, C. “Women in Islam: Reclaiming the Tradition.” FIU, 2012. Slide Program. 22 Jul 2012.

[4] Elkind, D. “Apache-A-Go-Go: Arigon Starr Went from Matlock to Alternapop Star in Indian Country.” Alice, Jan. 31, 2000: 18–. Ethnic NewsWatch. Web. 22 July 2012.

[5] Gudorf, C. “Women in Buddhism.” FIU, 2012. Slide Program. 22 Jul 2012.

[6] Multiple Authors. “Genesis 3:16.” Bible Gateway, New International Version, 2012. Web. 22 Jul 2012. 3:16&version=NIV. [7] Reilly, N. “Rethinking the Interplay of Feminism and Secularism in a Neo-Secular Age.” Feminist Review 97 (2011): 5 – 31. GenderWatch. Web. 22 July 2012.

Cryptographic Methods and Computer Security

Spanish version available in Parcela Digital.

The Enigma Machine –created by the Nazis- was capable of reading any text message and transform it into an encrypted message, with the purpose of covering their military strategies during the Second World War, in what was known as the battle of the Atlantic, allowing it to send coded instructions to the German submarines that blew up the convoys sent from North America with material support for England. The Enigma’s operators could change the settings of the device freely through a system of small wheels and cylinders, in such a way that every iteration could lead to new encrypted messages. Alan Turing (London, 1912 – Wilmslow, United Kingdom, 1954), the mathematic genius who worked for the Government Code & Cypher School (GC&CS), from the British Intelligence Service, managed to decipher the unbreakable Enigma’s code in a few weeks, helping to intercept confidential information about The Nazis’ operations. The device depended on the usage of a key, but it had many security flaws that led to understanding its behavior, contributing to the ultimate victory over The Axis Powers, thus saving hundreds of innocent lives.

Thereby, Turing also improved computational theories and methodologies, the methods of memory allocation, the strategies of heuristic searching and the field of artificial intelligence. Alan Turing granted major importance to how efficient a given process was, rather than the reliability of the device designed. His ideas concerning human brain simulation through the usage of electronic devices promoted the creation of multiprocessing machines, known nowadays as personal computers. Finally, The Turing Test has the purpose to determine if a machine is capable of showing an intelligent behavior.

Since Ancient Greece, the art of war required secret mechanisms of information for its operations, in order to protect the hidden tactical plans from the enemies. Among them we can mention the Spartan scytale: a rudimentary cryptographic method based on a transposition of elemental arrays of rows and columns transcribed in a leather strip rolled up in a cane. Since ancient times, cryptography depended much more on mathematic operations than on computational power, a subsequent invention; this being proven in 1997, by the Rivest Group of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), that put the RSA (Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman) into operation, a system that uses a public key and trusts entirely on factorization techniques. Currently, the basic concepts that support computer security depend on RSA, certifying the reliability of the said algorithm.

However, as new technologies have emerged, the system has shown its limitations. RSA- just as any other cryptographic- is not infallible.  Inverse engineering techniques and cyber-attacks come together to weaken even more the achievements of encryption algorithms. Cryptography and cyber-attacks go hand in hand and are co-dependent, like vaccines and diseases. Consequently, encryption algorithms guarantee the user’s anonymity, the reliability of passwords, the confidentiality of data and offer many other advantages, always under probabilistic parameters.

This way we confirm how cryptographic methods are pioneers since the Spartan scytale to Turing’s discoveries resulted essential for the development of today’s computer world, ensuring reliability in financial transactions and data transfer through public networks in a secure way, protecting sensitive information that now allows safeguarding not only trade secrets but to structure human functions within the realm of global computer security.

Cited works

[1] Rivest, Ronald. “The Growth of Cryptography.” The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) World. Web. 02-02-2012. <;.

[2] Copeland, B. J. “Alan Turing: Codebreaker and AI Pioneer.” The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) World. Web. 02-02-2012. <;.

La Traviata: Love Trumps All

Spanish version available in Bicidue.

La Traviata, an opera in three acts, was premiered last Friday, 10/27/2017 at the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in the AT&T Performing Arts Center, located in 2403 Flora Street, Dallas, Texas, 75201; returning to the Dallas Opera for a ninth time. The music was composed by Giuseppe Verdi and it’s based on a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. The plot follows two sources: a play entitled La Dame aux Camélias from 1852 and Alexandre Dumas Jr.’s most famous novel with the same name: Lady of the Camellias. The performance was sung in Italian with English subtitles.

Violetta Valéry, a courtesan, is really Marguerite Gautier in the novel; whereas Alfredo Germont, a young bourgeois, is Armand Duval. The female lead, a soprano, is sung by Georgia Jarman. The male lead, a tenor, is sung by René Barbera, who came in as a substitute for Zach Borichevsky. The opera was conducted by Carlo Montanaro.

The play contrasts a pleasurable, epicurean, libertine life versus a meaningful one tied to love, proving how love can be painful and not always pleasant. The opera, however, places love above everything else.

Even though God might forgive you for your sins, society will not. Simply renouncing to your past to build a better future is not always an option. Nineteenth century Italy, like England, embodied Victorian values. Censorship forced Verdi to adapt his plot to several generations in the past, separating it from Italian contemporary customs.

La Traviata, which means the “fallen” or “strayed” one, is a tale of love, an impossible love between a true romantic man and a more modern version of a reformed Thaïs. Violetta’s disease symbolizes, in a karmic sense, her atonement for her sins during his past, frivolous life. It is possible that Verdi composed this opera trying to redeem his lover, the operatic soprano Giuseppina Strepponi, a woman who had left her bastard children, whom she have had with different fathers.

Most people can recognize the Brindisi song, carried on early during the first act, which represents a true accomplishment in Verdi’s repertoire and a classic tune that still survives at opera’s pinnacle. A link to the song appears here: The performance also has many praiseworthy arias and duets, none of them more heartfelt and breathtaking than the one toward the third act’s conclusion, entitled Parigi, o cara (We will leave Paris).

Staging was an absolute success. One of its most obvious triumphs was including Valéry’s alter ego or shadow in several strong scenes. Such a character was a nice touch and served as a point of clarification for those opera-goers who have not yet read Alexandre Dumas Jr.’s book. This “shadow” looked exactly like Jarman and wore a white dress, appearing during important scenes, becoming less and less active as the opera progressed. Toward the second act’s resolution, she started walking very carefully, as if she was trying to keep her balance on top of a tight rope, representing Violetta’s struggle between life and death. In the third act, this character changes her dress from white to black, symbolizing that Valéry life has ended. During the third act, being Mardi Gras outside, the opera draws a very clear dichotomy between an inner, painful, true love and an external, lighthearted, fake fun.

XXIX Premio de Ensayo Becerro de Bengoa

El pasado martes, 12 de diciembre de 2017, se entregaron los Premios Literarios de la Diputación Foral de Álava, en la Sala Amárica, Vitoria-Gasteiz, País Vasco, España.

El evento fue presidido por el Diputado General de Álava, Ramiro González, y la Diputada Foral de Euskera, Cultura y Deporte, Igone Martínez de Luna, entre las 19:00 y 21:00, hora local. Los autores premiados aparecen a continuación:

Nombre del Concurso Idioma Número de Obras Presentadas Autor Premiado, localidad Obra Premiada
XLVI Certamen de Cuentos Ignacio Aldecoa Castellano 417 Fernando Molero, Córdoba, España El efecto dominó
XLVI Certamen de Cuentos Ignacio Aldecoa Euskera 36 Xabier Etxeberria, Guipúzcoa, España 1982
XXIX Premio de Ensayo Becerro de Bengoa Castellano 14 Raúl Quintana Selleras, Camagüey, Cuba Filosofía fragmentada. 137 pensamientos para el tercer milenio
XXIX Premio de Ensayo Becerro de Bengoa Euskera 6 Juan Luis Sudupe Ateismoaren aldarrikapena
XXXVIII Certamen de Poesía Ernestina de Champourcín Castellano 86 Imanol Ulacia Bar Kabi
XXXVIII Certamen de Poesía Ernestina de Champourcín Euskera 6 Manu López, Vitoria-Gasteiz, España Aldi Baterako. La colección ‘Para un Lado’


Medios de comunicación:


Ver más fotos del evento.

Dibujos de Ángel López de Luzuriaga (Ardiluzu).

Fragmento de la obra Filosofía Fragmentada.

Discurso de aceptación del premio Becerro de Bengoa en su vigésimo-novena edición.

Samson et Dalila: not even God could have saved this opera’s limitations

Spanish version.

Samson et Dalila: not even God could have saved this opera’s limitations
A story of betrayal and unfulfilled expectations: romantically, religiously, and musically.

The opera Samson and Delilah premiered last Friday, 10/20/2017 at 8:00 pm at the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in the AT&T Performing Arts Center, located in 2403 Flora Street, Dallas, Texas, 75201. The opera, in three-acts, was created by the French romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns, and was returning to Dallas for a third time, after previous presentations in 1964 and 1971. The performance featured Olga Borodina as Delilah and Clifton Forbis as Samson, with the conduction of Emmanuel Villaume.

Operas containing biblical stories were taboo in XIX century France, so Samson and Delilah was first played in Germany, becoming relatively popular since then.

The plot outlines the turbulent relationship between Samson –a Jew- and Delilah –a philistine-, the infamous couple from the Old Testament. They do not resemble the type of love embodied by Romeo and Juliet, being members from enemy castes that fall in love, a recurrent theme since Purgatory’s Canto VI depiction of the Montecchi and the Cappelletti.

The opera couldn’t really maintain all the expectations laid down during the overture, which welcomes such an intensity and passion that makes it hard for the rest of the opera to keep up, hence falling short in comparison. Most of the opera does not reach the height of other works, such as Danse Macabre, from Saint-Saëns.

As outlined previously, the opera does not recover after its emphatic introduction. However, it has some praiseworthy tunes, such as a bacchanale, and a couple of commendable arias, among which Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix (Softly awakes my heart) resulted particularly appealing to the audience.

Toward the opera’s resolution, particularly during the third act, most of the scenes are filled with recurrent, almost recursive, tunes, as if Saint-Saëns had ran out of inspiration by then. At this juncture, we have more dancing than singing and the opera becomes a symphony, which takes away from the dramatic overtone the plot was building up to.

Conversely, the scenography and visual effects were handled masterfully. The opera’s climax, the falling of the temple, was able to elicit shocking responses and genuine reactions within the audience. Also, the third act presented a few scenes in where Samson sings while the rest of the cast stands idly, thus making him a greater focus of attention. This technique was not only a clever of enhancing the plot’s message but it was an absolute visual success. Most of such scenes were so perfectly executed that they seemed Renaissance paintings, a true photographic achievement and an impressive job by choreographer Nycole Ray, make-up designer Dawn Rivard, costume designer Carrie Robbins, and set designer Peter Dean Beck.

Even though the opera was originally written in French by Ferdinand Lemaire, as it was presented to an American audience, it featured English subtitles. Such subtitles made sure to capitalize any references to God, either in name or through personal pronouns; making him the great, albeit hidden, protagonist. Nonetheless, this opera wasn’t really about Samson, Dagon, love, or God for that matter, but about Delilah, a persuasive and pragmatic woman.

Samson’s most impressive biblical actions get omitted in the opera. And the performance makes clear how extraordinary masculine strength, such as in the cases of Samson and Hercules, can only be tamed by feminine seductiveness.

Sophocles’s Electra

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

AT&T Performing Arts Center, 2403 Flora Street, Suite 500, Dallas, Texas, 75201

Spanish version available in Bicidue.


Electra takes place in Argos a few years after the Trojan War. Even though the work showcases Electra as the main character, Orestes and Clytemnestra are in fact at the center of the plot.

The play was directed by Kevin Moriarty and displayed on Annette Strauss Square by the Dallas Theater Center. This adaptation was an interesting take on a classical play, especially because it used experimental techniques in a successful fashion. The actors and the audience interacted constantly and the screenplay was very dynamic and fluid, with no interruptions such as life itself. Most of the time, the audience experienced the actors talking directly to them, as if they were the cameramen in a film.

The play sides with a very patriarchal and androgenic (male-centered) worldviews. Indeed, King Agamemnon’s crimes are mostly ignored. Agamemnon is portrayed as a victim when he was never so. Let us remember how he sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to allow the Greek fleet reach Trojan soil safely, just as Jephthah did in the Bible.

Electra displays brotherly bonds and familial stress and disagreements masterfully. This is especially a work about revenge and its cyclical nature but also about forgiveness (or the lack thereof) and earthly justice.

Electra presents the world as a continuous sequence of causal events. We see how every action has a reaction (Newton’s third law), and every crime has a punishment (from now on, we should probably refer to Sophocles before we refer to Dostoyevsky). For instance, let us explore how the following events were interrelated:

  1. Paris chooses Aphrodite (who promises Paris the love of most beautiful woman in the world) in despite of Hera and Athena (Apple of Discord event).
  2. Paris snatches Helen from Sparta and takes her to Troy, even though she was married to Menelaus.
  3. Trying to rescue Helen, the Greeks declare war on Troy.
  4. The Greek fleet gets delayed in Aulis and Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to please Artemis.
  5. Clytemnestra takes Aegisthus as her lover and kills Agamemnon. Aegisthus becomes king.
  6. Electra allows Orestes to escape and he returns years later to kill his mother and her lover Aegisthus.
  7. Orestes gets persecuted by the Erinyes or Furies because of his crime.

I disliked the fact that Pylades does not appear in the plot and is instead replaced by an old pedagogue, who assimilates his part. Furthermore, Agamemnon assumes the chorus’s role at times and operates as Orestes’s conscience. The Electra complex from Jung’s Neo-Freudian psychology describes how daughters compete with their mothers for the attention of the fatherly figure. You can definitely see how Electra gets more drawn to his father, albeit in a non-sexual way (it is extremely common to see the psychosexual approach misinterpreted and misrepresented).

The play ends with the best possible scenario and both Orestes and Iphigenia (she surprisingly survived her sacrifice, such as Isaac did in the Bible) get reunited after Orestes is finally forgiven by the Gods: only a divine intervention can prevent future bloodshed and end the cyclical nature of revenge. It is very common for Greek myths to have different versions, especially based on the historical period in which they were written on. Also, Electra proves how violence cannot go on forever and, as Gandhi said: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Madame Butterfly — Opera by Giacomo Puccini

Thursday, March 23, 2017
The Dallas Opera, 2403 Flora Street, Suite 500, Dallas, Texas 75201

Spanish version available in Relatos Sin Contrato.

Having wings doesn’t mean you can fly. This is especially true about Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, which is staged on 1904’s Nagasaki and has three acts. The libretto was originally written in Italian by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. The plot is based on a short story by John Luther Long.

The opera’s main character is Cio-Cio San (Madame Butterfly), a 15-year old Japanese girl who gets engaged to B. F. Pinkerton, a US Navy lieutenant stationed in Japan. The plot revolves around freedom and draws an analogy to Rousseau’s maxim: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” Butterfly can break away from her duties and customs, but not from her feelings, which would end up destroying her.

Pinkerton owns the house as he owns the wife, and yet cancelling both contracts would come very easy to him. An analogy can be drawn to the ninth commandment (“Thou shalt not covet thy neighour’s wife”) as if females and property were one and the same.

Pinkerton is obviously not in love with Cio-Cio San but longs to get back to America to remarry. Butterfly proves her love once and again fighting against familial pressures (represented by his uncle Bonze), renouncing her ancestral religion, nationality, and family, embracing Christianity, bearing Pinkerton’s son, rebuking her maid Suzuki’s advices, and rejecting Prince Yamadori’s proposal after Pinkerton leaves to America.

After being inconsolable for several years, Cio-Cio San gets a glimpse of hope when she learns that Pinkerton is returning to Japan. She commits suicide when she finally realizes that her feelings are not simply not reciprocated but intended for someone else: Kate Pinkerton. Pinkerton gets temporarily taken aback once he understands how much Butterfly really loves him but one couldn’t help but think that Pinkerton was not genuine or moved by emotion but by regret, remorse, and guilt.

Madame Butterfly is more a clash of feelings than it is a clash of cultures. Puccini is the Bel canto (beautiful singing) composer who never labeled himself so. His aria “Un Bel Di Vedremo (On Fine Day We Shall See)” would be enough to prove it. Puccini inserts a wide number of popular tunes within his operas, such as Tosca’s E Lucevan Le Estelle and Turandot’s Nessun Dorma.

¿Cuánto cuesta escribir un libro?

Nota preliminar: en el siguiente artículo no considero a escritores fantasmas, antologías, o trabajos literarios por encargo. Las cifras incluidas aquí han sido estimadas y no reflejarán a todos los escritores.

“Yo no pago para verme publicado” es una frase que hemos oído hasta el cansancio y que me parece debemos poner a prueba.

La literatura no es un canje comercial. Los escritores, entre los cuales me incluyo, escribimos para llenarnos, para mejorarnos, para compartir con el mundo la inspiración que emana de nuestras almas.

Nuestras obras intelectuales no tienen precio desde un punto de vista artístico. Sin embargo, invertimos -no gastamos- nuestro dinero y nuestro tiempo para hacerlas realidad.

Gasto #1 (tiempo):

Supongamos que escribir un libro nos tomaría dos años trabajando cinco días a la semana y dos horas al día. El total sería 1.040 horas (2 * 52 * 5 * 2). El salario promedio en los Estados Unidos es de $20,00 por hora, pero no podemos usar nuestro salario de una forma lineal, sino que tenemos que adaptarlo a la temática de nuestra obra y al enfoque de nuestro trabajo:

1.1. Cuando trabajamos en un tema que resulta mucho más complicado que nuestro trabajo. Por ejemplo, una novela romántica ambientada en la Segunda Guerra Mundial no es necesariamente más complicada que el trabajo de una oficina de patentes, ya que resultaría imposible establecer una comparación. Sin embargo, un libro sobre algoritmos en criptografía que analiza los métodos de Alan Turing es mucho más engorroso que trabajar como programador de sistemas. Si la obra en cuestión es en efecto más rigurosa que nuestro trabajo, entonces el costo por hora aumentaría en un 33% y se traduciría en $26,60.

1.2. Si el libro que estamos escribiendo resulta extremadamente similar a nuestro trabajo, entonces el pago sería menor porque usualmente escribimos fuera del horario laboral, por lo cual nuestra cotización no tendría el mismo valor. Si descontamos un 33%, el valor sería $13,40. Cuando nos pagan para que escribamos, como en el caso de los periodistas, el valor del tiempo invertido permanece constante.

1.3. Si escribimos un libro que aborda un tema que nada tiene que ver con nuestra profesión o con nuestra preparación educacional o vocación profesional, el salario por hora sería menor. En el caso de trabajos muy especializados que no se relacionen en absoluto con la literatura, yo sugeriría usar un costo 50% menor ($10,00). El salario sería aún menor si estamos desempleados o somos estudiantes, pero nuestro tiempo siempre tendría algún valor.

Finalmente, consideremos siempre el salario que ganábamos mientras escribíamos el libro. Si escribimos el libro cuando teníamos 20 años y ganábamos $10,00 por hora, entonces no podemos considerar nuestro salario actual, ahora que cumplimos 30 años y ganamos $150,00 por hora.

Gasto #2 (edición):

La mayoría de los escritores invierten en edición/corrección. Existen dos grandes grupos de editores, quienes mejoran la trama, estructura y estilo y quienes trabajan la precisión léxica y los detalles orto-tipográficos.

Toda obra debería ser editada por dos correctores. Si nuestro libro tiene 50.000 palabras, estimando que nos cobrarán $0,01 por palabra, podemos estimar un gasto de $1.000,00.

Mientras más prestigio tenga el editor o la editora más aumentaría el precio de la corrección. Aunque publiquemos a través de una editorial tradicional siempre es una buena idea entregar nuestro manuscrito corregido (por el autor y al menos un editor profesional).

Gasto #3 (materiales):

Otros gastos incluyen energía eléctrica si utilizamos una computadora, gastos de tinta para impresora, papel, etcétera.

A veces incurrimos en gastos de envío cuando mandamos nuestros manuscritos a la prensa, casas editoriales, o concursos.

Gasto #4 (promoción):

Consideremos también gastos de promoción a través de redes sociales como Facebook y Twitter y anuncios radiales y televisivos.

Otras consideraciones

Hasta aquí llegan los gastos de la publicación tradicional, para la autopublicación tendríamos que incluir gastos de maquetación, diseño de portada, entre otros.

He ignorado cualquier gasto adicional de traducción, ya que éste es opcional. Los gastos de promoción reflejan un plan muy básico y una estrategia de promoción limitada.

Gastos totales

Escritura Edición Materiales Promoción
$3.000,00 $1.000,00 $500,00 $500,00

Calculando gastos

Entonces, ¿vale la pena?

Una vez que terminamos nuestra obra, ¿cuánto tendríamos que ganar para simplemente recuperar nuestra inversión inicial? Consideremos que hayamos gastado un total de $5.000,00 (incluyendo tiempo y recursos), cifra que en mi opinión es extremadamente baja y muy optimista. Supongamos que nuestra editorial venda el libro a $10,00 en formato papel y a $1,00 en formato electrónico. Generalmente los autores cobran un 10% por copia vendida en papel y un 25% por copia vendida en formato electrónico, lo cual se traduciría a $1,00 en papel y a $0,25 en libro electrónico. En pocas palabras, tendríamos que vender más de 5.000 libros para recuperar la inversión inicial en formato papel o más de 20.000 libros electrónicos. Ambas son cifras extremadamente altas para cualquier autor.

¿Vale la pena ser un escritor con fines comerciales? No. ¿Vale la pena ser un escritor con fines artísticos? Sí.

Amazon Fire for free II! Amazon Fire gratis II!

You could win an Amazon Fire by following the instructions below.

¡Podrías ganarte un Amazon Fire si sigues las instrucciones a continuación.


  • This event is not sponsored by any social network. You accept all bases by participating.
  • The contest will officially begin on DATE DELAYED and will end on DATE DELAYED (updated).


  • The winner will be randomly selected (through a draw) from the full list of participants.
  • Each participant must complete at least one of the following steps:
  1. Enter a comment to this post with your favorite quote. Only comments included in the blog will be considered and no comments sent by email, Facebook, Twitter, among others, will be accepted. Comments will only be accepted in Spanish, English, or Latin.
  2. Do a Like to the following Facebook page:
  3. Follow this Twitter account:
  4. Share this post in any or all of your social networks.
  • Each completed step will count toward the raffle. For instance, a participant who completes all steps will have four times as many chances of winning over someone who only completes a single step.
  • If we fail to contact the winner within five days or the winner refuses to accept the prize, we will choose a new winner.


  • The prize will consist of a Fire Tablet with Alexa 7” 8 GB in black, blue, pink, or orange.
  • The prize includes shipping costs to any part of the world.
  • The winner will need to provide a physical address (not a PO Box) to receive his/her prize.

Rights and Restrictions: replicated from


  • Ninguna red social patrocina este evento. Al participar, aceptas todas las bases.
  • El concurso comenzará oficialmente en FECHA POR DECIDIR y terminará en FECHA POR DECIDIR (actualizado).


  • El ganador será seleccionado de manera aleatoria (a través de un sorteo) de entre la lista total de participantes.
  • Cada participante debe completar al menos uno de los siguientes pasos:
  1. Entrar un comentario a continuación con tu frase favorita. Sólo se considerarán los comentarios incluidos en el blog y no comentarios enviados por correo electrónico, Facebook, Twitter, etcetera. Los comentarios sólo se aceptarán en español, inglés o latín.
  2. Hacer un Like a la siguiente página de Facebook:
  3. Seguir la siguiente cuenta de Twitter:
  4. Compartir este artículo en todas tus redes sociales.
  • Por cada paso completado, el participante entrará en el sorteo. Por ejemplo, un participante que complete todos los pasos tendrá cuatro veces más posibilidades de ganar que alguien que sólo complete un paso.
  • Si no logramos contactar con el ganador en un plazo de cinco días o el ganador se rehúsa a aceptar el premio, elegiremos a un nuevo ganador.


  • El premio consistirá en un Fire Tablet con Alexa 7” 8 GB en color negro, azul, rosado o naranja.
  • El premio incluye gastos de envío a cualquier parte del mundo.
  • El ganador tendrá que suministrar una dirección física (no un PO Box) para recibir su premio.

Derechos y Restricciones: tomado de