December 14, 2001

Poet Elizabeth Cazessús, a woman living in a man's world returns to her roots

By Pablo De Sainz

A few years ago, Tijuana poet Elizabeth Cazessús went out on a quest with Indigenous groups in southern Mexico.

"The woman searches inward," Cazessús says. "Her body is her nation. That's why I was out on a quest, the search of myself."

It was a difficult time in my life. In Tijuana I felt I was drowning. This experience made me understand myself."

Cazessús not only understood herself as a human being, but as a woman and a writer, a profession that's not easy in a society ruled by men.

"Like all professional wo-men, female writers also have to compete in men's social spaces," she says. "Women have to fight with ourselves so that the poet we have inside can come out. It's a type of female liberation."

That liberation, according to Cazessús, was a long process for her.

"When I was young, I was very afraid to show my poems," she says. "I was very discreet."

But in the last few years, Cazessús hasn't been discrete anymore. She has published several poetry collections, including her most recent books, "Huella en el agua" and "Mujer de sal." She also does performances of her poetry with music, photography, and video.

What stands out in Cazessús's poetry are her Indigenous roots, the return to the origins.

"When I write about my roots, I write about universal roots," she says.

For her, her poetry is much more than a quest, more than anything that can be easily defined.

"I still don't have a definition for my poetry," she says. "Each book is a definition."

Daughter of a family of musicians and poets from central Mexico, Cazessús carries art in her blood. Her parents immigrated to Tijuana at the mid of the last century. In was in Tijuana where she was born, grew up, and developed as a woman and a poet.

"Tijuana has given me everything, but I still feel as a foreigner in my city," she says. "I still don't know the whole city. We haven't assimilated it yet."

And for Cazessús, Tijuana is a city that can hardly be captured in the pages of a book.

"Tijuana isn't easy," she says. "It's a great city, but without morals."

Even though she was born and grew up here, she doesn't try to glorify Tijuana, and defines it as she sees it.

"Tijuana is a very pathetic city when it comes to culture, it's very commercial," she says. "It's light, what it reflects isn't very defined. Tijuana is an outsider of the rest of the country's culture. Tijuana is like a foreign country."

But when one reads Cazessús poetry, there are no direct references to Tijuana or to the border. Her poetry focuses on the intimate, on the body, on the past.

"The border is just but one of the themes," she says. "People who are not from Tijuana think that because we're writers and we live in Tijuana, we're going to write about the border.

"Us Tijuana writers have a broader perspective. We have the opportunity to live in the border, but our theme is not always the border.

"The writer has many borders."

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