Thin and rickety, Don Quijote de la Mancha stands in the corner of the room in his paper mâché form, basking in the glow of a red mosaic lamp. I like the fact that he is made of paper, the place where he was born. Because, let’s face it, while Miguel de Cervantes conceived the caballero in his brain, he gave birth to him on paper when paper was how paper used to be — the most common form of travel, at least for citizens of the imagination and wayfarers in print. This fragile statuette of mine overlooks a ragged copy of his story from 1890. With its broken spine and yellowed, dog-eared pages, the copy is a relic, a survivor, like the hero it has carried. And then, above them both, resides a picture, a gold-leaf etching of the knight alongside faithful servant, Sancho Panza. These three things which came to me at different times in different places, sit there in a trio like silent sages in the classroom.
If characters can be teachers, then Don Quijote has been one of mine, in all his perceived madness, a true purveyor of wisdom. Don Quijote, whether for lunacy, wishful thinking or sheer imagination, sees what is “not” and therefore what might have been, what could be still or maybe, on a soulful-psycho level, what truly is. And when he caters to his perception, a perception others render an illusion, he is wiser, kinder, more humane than everyone around him. Don Quijote has a way of finding light in darkness; and once it’s detected and addressed, it shines right back. He teaches us to interact with the potential, to feed the dream, to walk a mile in bigger shoes even if we’re little.
Under Don Quijote’s watchful eye, I hear my students speaking fluent Spanish, I see my audience slowly growing wider. I see what could have been and what can be. Under his watchful eye, I try to move toward that, especially on those days when I’m more like Sancho Panza. And when there’s struggle — and there’s always struggle — he winks at me from the corner of the room and whispers, «Ay, Rosa. Confía en el tiempo, que suele dar dulces salidas a muchas amargas dificultades.» Trust in time which has a way of giving sweet exits from many bitter difficulties.
I want to close this post with a Youtube clip from Los Premios Platino 2015 in which Spanish actor Antonio Banderas addresses the audience in regards to the negative propaganda surrounding Latin American immigrants in the U.S. Once again,in his indelible way, Don Quijote comes through with his beautiful wisdom.