Las Mariposas

  • Ilan Stavans


Not long ago, I heard Julia Alvarez call attention to an intriguing linguistic tic in her native Dominican culture: When you ask somebody what’s up and no easy reply can be found, people are likely to say, Entre Lucas y Juan Mejía. “Between the devil and the deep blue sea” isn’t the right equivalent in English, Alvarez added, “because you aren’t describing the sensation of being caught between a pair of bad alternatives.”

“So-so” isn’t the meaning either, because the Dominican expression isn’t at all meant to suggest bland stasis, mediocrity. It’s much more intriguing than that. “How are you doing?” “I’m between Lucas and Juan Mejía.” And who are these guys? … The very story that inspired the saying is gone. So … you have to go on and tell the tale of why you feel the way you do. What are the forces you’re caught between? How did you get there? And how does it feel to be there?


Dominican Republic Dominican Expression Cuban Revolution Magic Realist Dominican Woman 
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© Ilan Stavans 1996

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  • Ilan Stavans

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