Flor Romero:  Myth Shaper

Part I

 

 Flor Romero at Home

 

“Women were like violets in the garden, all hidden away,” declared Flor Romero as an opening to our conversation about her work of over five decades.  When Bogota Brilliance met with Romero at her home we entered a world that is a true reflection of an experiential life, one where every object carries meaning –a story– and nothing is superfluous.  Paintings by Colombian artists are hung close to antique Turkish coffee urns, pre-Columbian sculptures commune with large crystals, and various portraits of Romero (some photographs, others paintings), her striking features dominating each scene, are placed throughout.  A large antique camera governs one corner of the living room as a reminder that Romero is constantly capturing the essence of life’s rituals.  

 

A chronicler of the triumphs and tribulations of Colombian women, Flor Romero could well be the subject of her own work.   Considered one of Colombia’s foremost intellectuals and historians, Romero is the author of 44 books, a three-time Nobel Prize nominee and a sought-after speaker at conferences discussing topics as varied as the heroines of Colombian Independence and Mexican filmmaking.  Other people who have reached the heights that Romero has might relate to others in a distant, perhaps aloof, manner.  The opposite is true of Romero, who welcomes her visitors with a warm heart and sincerely interested mind.  The same comportment can be seen when she sits on a panel; giving her fellow panelists wide breadth, and engaging the audience in stimulating discourse.

 

It could be said that Romero’s primary passion has been acting as a conduit for the countless women who have buttressed Colombian society, beginning with the pre-Columbian period.  In Diosas de Tempestad, a seminal work of scholarly research, Romero has assembled an impressive collection of images that compliment her text reconstructing the life of women in pre-Columbian culture.   The book transports the reader to a world that is frozen in its time, but is not so distant as it would seem.  Published in 2001 after 35 years of investigation, Diosas de Tempestad brings readers back to a theme that continually arises in Romero’s narrative: the integral contributions of indigenous communities, and most especially indigenous women, in founding the societal structure of the Americas.  Romero honors these women by stripping away the myths about who they were and allows the real women of power, spirituality, traditions, eroticism, love and humanity to rise and reclaim their place in history.         

 

Betty Ford and Flor Romero at the White House

 

However, Romero is a mythologist who has been working in the genre since 1950.  Although she has published books on many different subjects, it is myth that Romero has circled back to time and again with titles such as El obligo de la Luna y otros cuentos míticos mexicanos (Editores Diana México 1989); Mitos Ritos y Leyendas contados por Flor Romero (Editores Plaza y Janés 1992); El día que Condoresa extravió su plumaje (Caja Agraria Bogotá 1998); La cueva de los ocho encantamientos (Editores UNEDA 2000) and Andrea descubriendo el mundo (Editores UNEDA 2000). 

 

Romero’s ardor for the important role that myth plays in forming us as human beings has driven her to create a mitoteca, or specialized myth library.  Recounting myths from throughout the Americas, each of the 13 books in the library includes 15 stories with beautifully evocative cover art created by Colombian artist David Nohra (who is also Romero’s son).  “These are myths for children aged 7 to 77!”  Romero exclaimed as she lovingly displayed the wonderful volumes.  It is her hope that these books will be read, cherished and passed down through generations as are the most well-known fairy tales. 

 

While honing her literary craft, Romero, a graduate of the journalism program at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, was a correspondent for eight years at El Espectador, one of Colombia’s oldest daily newspapers.  It was here that she became associates and friends with novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who was also beginning his writing career. 

 

See Part II

 

Romero on a panel at Prologo Books