Minitopography of Santa Isabel


Santa Isabel is the former name of Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.

Santa Isabel is the former name of the capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo. The Wikipedia entry for Malabo says, 'During his "reign of terror", [President] MacĂ­as Nguema led a near-genocide of the country's Bubi minority, which formed the majority on Bioko Island, and brought many of his own tribespeople, the Fang, to Malabo. In the final years of his rule, when Equatorial Guinea was sometimes known as the "Auschwitz of Africa", much of the city's population fled as, indeed, did about one-third of the country's population. Malabo has yet to recover from the scars of that period.'

We can assume from the date given to 'Point Cristina and Point Fernanda' (1967) that Marcelo wrote this poem when he was living in Spain training to be a priest, the year before Equatorial Guinea's independence from Spain.

The first three sections of the poem are an affectionate and delicate celebration of Santa Isabel. 'Market' appears to be written from the perspective of a child 'running among skirts'. But following the lyrical and very beautiful section about the two points of the bay enclosing the city, the final part, 'Elegy in Stone', is much darker, perhaps articulating the poet's fears for his country and its imminent descent into political chaos.

Parts of the poem were difficult to translate, especially where it becomes very abstract. 'Elegy in Stone' was hard to master because of the ambiguity in the original Spanish of who was being addressed.

It's interesting comparing this poem with the work of Corsino Fortes from Cape Verde, some of whose poems, like 'Minitopography', were written in exile just before his small country gained independence from Portugal.