100 Refutations: Day 67

Retelling of the Flood Caused by the Mapocho River in the City of Santiago de Chile

“On June 16, 1783 the effects of torrential rains caused the river Mapocho in Santiago, Chile to flood its banks. At the time the small community of Carmelite nuns resided in their cloistered convent next to the river. The rains started in May, but became a deluge in early June and by the time of the great flood, it had poured for 209 hours straight. The nuns would have drowned, had it not been for some neighbors who broke a hole in one of the walls, leading twenty-eight women to safety. Sor Tadea de San Joaquín, a nun from the Carmelite Convent of San Rafael, retells their story in a 516-versed romance [ballad], wherein Sor Tadea affirms that it was God’s will that the nuns be saved by the three men (she does not leave out the ironic detail that they had to be sobornados (bribed).”

– Sarah E. Owens,
Travels, Natural Disasters, and the Texts of Cloistered Nuns:
A Case from Colonial Chile


What confusing labyrinth!
What Babylon of effects,
what sea of sorrow!
What torrent of torment
combats my heart,
longing in my chest,
new arena for grief,
new stage for agony,
when I tell the tale,
so sad and raw,
mentioned so before
and writ in time’s annals too.


But that God of piety,
who upon the Mountain placed Isaac
to test his resolve,
refraining from the final blow,
the sacrifice he found sufficient;
ordered he then also, that the three
men we bribed,
with money
and with compassion,
did not assess in full the risk
and threw themselves into the waters,
ploughing seas of ice
their strokes joining the beat of the storm


Misfortune never lacking,
if ever it could be,
this the work of the just;
but one more thing I wish to say,
we continue in the crucible,
in the test of our great Lord,
for, […] it rained still…”


Sor Tadea de San Joaquín

Sor Tadea de San Joaquín (1750-1827) was a Catholic nun and writer during the Chilean colonial period. She is regarded as the first woman poet of Chile.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V. earned MFAs in creative nonfiction writing and literary translation from The University of Iowa. She is the author of Drown Sever Sing from Anomalous Press and Don’t Come Back from Mad River Books, as well as editor, with Sarah Viren, of the forthcoming anthology Essaying the Americas. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translation work has been featured in journals including Bellingham ReviewChicago ReviewFourth GenreBrevityPoets & Writers, and The Sunday Rumpus, among others. She won Best of the Net and Iron Horse Review’s Discovered Voices Award, has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and is a Rona Jaffe fellow. She moved from Colombia to China to Columbus, Ohio to Richmond, Virginia, where she works as an assistant professor for Virginia Commonwealth University. Visit www.linawritesessays.com.

English translation copyright (c) Lina M. Ferreira C.-V., 2018.