The Good Star. Stories Woven on a Trip through America

By Josefina Garzillo


Leonardo Rodriguez


About the book: 

In a small notebook, Josefina sketches the stories, dreams and colors she gathers on her dreamlike journey, midway between chronicle and fiction. She writes in city and long distance buses, in occasional rooms and remote hamlets, on windy beaches, in rugged mountain ranges or rough rivers. She records what she sees, feels and is told. Stories become cooking recipes and accounts of the daily life and the resistance of the peoples; a compass to not lose the love for the land and its simple life. As in a map made of a deck of cards to shuffle and deal again, in La buena estrella the geography of the American continent is detached from travel postcards and assembled on an atlas without borders. Josefina says that what we attract to us is in accordance with how we vibrate. It is the intention of these chronicles to narrate the affection, the attachment, the solidarity, the obstinacy, the strength, in short, of the good life that beats in the depths of Abya Yala.


People transactions

The sun is setting at the border. Several people find out that “a stamp is missing” in their passports and that the only solution is to pay a fine of between 200 and 300 Bolivianos. The art of swindling the inattentive. Outside, two men are strategically seated in front of the migration queues with a sign: they offer currency exchange at a very bad rate and are the only option halfway between Copacabana and Puno. If you argue with the police, nothing is cheaper. On the edge of nowhere, they have too much power, they know it; they take advantage of it, they enjoy it. The scene is the same on the Peruvian side. We are a number on the boundary between two nations. The borders between States, a particular form of modern confinement, are the big business of those who control them; that is what I’m thinking while the line inches forward.

After a month of discontinuous rehearsals, Flor and I go out to sing. We will perform a copla and a candombe. From the balcony, we observe the streets of Cusco. From now on they will be our stage.

“Are you nervous?”

“Yes, as it happens, I am.”

“You are a goddess with that djembe. Let’s just enjoy it. With no other purpose. Let’s do something before we go out— cut my hair while we hum, I have some make-up, this is like stepping into the ring, but without boxing gloves.” Flor laughs while fumbling for the scissors in her backpack.

“Is cutting your hair going to be our ritual?”

“Of course not! We can’t do this every time we sing.”

We’ll have to find other rituals.

We get to the neighborhood square. From a corner, we hear water pouring down the central fountain. My friend pans the potential audience. A family sitting on a bench, two boys walking dogs and a group of gentlemen chatting in a semicircle, their coats up to their necks. I bring my palms to my mouth and breathe on them to warm them, then rub them on my thermal tights. Flor tries out the percussion and I start singing softly to her, looking into her eyes.

It’s just the two of us, enjoying the first song. The first treble catches someone’s attention and then Flor spins and hits the djembe energetically. We begin to sing, circling around the small square, approaching people who offer coins, applause, smiles.

After the second round, Flor takes a deep breath, expanding her chest; she says her hands are hot and “she has to keep playing”. In the distance, we see a cafeteria. We walk in to the sound of a candombe. “The important thing is to smile, to give something to people,” I was once told. The lady in the kitchen leaves her pots and pans, walks through the thin cloth curtain that separates that space from the tables, and approaches. I like to see Flor smile while she plays, I like the connection we create when we look at each other. It’s like a protective cape.

The dinner we pay with those songs has a new flavor.

I still remember the green and white checkered oilcloth tablecloth, the laughter of the man who heard us from a table and who left money in our cap, the hot soup, and the extra portion of bananas with cheese that they sent from the kitchen, on the house.

We went out to walk around Cusco’s nightlife area. On a corner, on one of the many dead-end streets (characteristic of this city of colonial architecture), the loudspeakers of five stores resound like amorphous masses simultaneously. We smoke on a small cobblestone street, leaning on the stones of a facade, while we watch club promoters pass by in disguise, as they promise the best night of our lives with 2 x 1 vouchers. We enjoy what’s left of the fernet with lemon in our thermos and flee.

We continue down the street. In a small bar, a group of musicians play salsa. Tucumán, Lima and Buenos Aires dance to the rhythm of Cali.

On the way back to the hostel, we cross narrow roads of dizzy lights and thick wooden beams supporting a demolished front. Something about our way of speaking blends with others of the continent and then I remember what Flor often says: “Latin America is a single fist.” As we move along the spine of South America, what we are is transforming. Fractions of geographies, idioms and encounters, adhering to our skin.