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47 - Fantastic Latin America

The author Rafael Barrett tells us the story of a poet who is visited by Death. But she has come with a different intention than the usual, that of giving herself to this man.

In the comments we talk about other tales of popular folklore where death is the central character; we present today's voice, Adam Booth, then I talk about the latest news of the program and end with another story and the biography of Rafael Barrett.

This episode was produced with the support of PRX and the Google Podcast Creator Program.

Dreams (Extract)

"If life is a dream, then dreaming is life. It is then a hidden source from where sad and superstitious souls drink. Sleep, son of fatigue and night, an image of death, has perhaps secrets similar to those that death holds. And when the sour lyre of the unfriendly Quevedo explains this matter, it plays sweet and serious tunes.

"According to the lore of the people, dreams speak of what has worried us most during the day. But what concerns us is not always what matters most to us, and using its fine wits, dreaming resurrects forgotten ideas.

"Thus,” Jacques Dechartre, a passionate character in the play Madonna Lily by Anatole France, says: “We see at night the wretched remains of what we have omitted in our vigil. Sleep is usually the place of vengeance for all despised things, the reproach of all abandoned beings. Hence the dream is unexpected and melancholic at times.'

"Also, whether or not we admit the theories on dreaming by the doctor Rabl-Ruckhard and the father of neuroscience Santiago Ramon y Cajal (1852 – 1934), we cannot deny that the dream puts us in contact with new realities."

Source: Extract from El Dolor Paraguayo. (The paraguayan sorrow) Obras completas de Rafael Barret. Editorial La Protesta, 1909. URL:



Hello! Dear listeners of Tres Cuentos, the bilingual podcast dedicated to the literary, historical, and traditional narratives of Latin America. I'm Carolina Quiroga-Stultz, and today we welcome the Spanish Paraguayan author, Rafael Barrett.

The fragment we heard is part of the essay "Sueños" (Dreams), written by Rafael Barrett in his book El Dolor Paraguayo (The Paraguayan Sorrow).

*I have left the link to download the book in the transcript.

Of the four anthologies I read to put together the season "Fantastic Latin America," none told me a story by Rafael Barret. So how did I find it? Well, it happens that I am a bit stubborn, and it got into my head that I wanted to present an author from Uruguay or Paraguay. So, I looked, and after a couple of days, I found the elusive writer Rafael Barrett.

I remember almost giving up. Although I found articles that spoke very well of the writer, none indicated where to find a collection of his stories. Until finally, the search led me to download a pdf of his cuentos.

After reading the first stories, my curiosity increased. I laughed with a couple of his narrations, but I still couldn't find something that was part of the fantasy genre until halfway through the book, I came across today's story. I confess that often when I find what I am looking for, I stop reading, but the simplicity and frankness of Rafael Barrett made me read until the end.

Today's cuento "The visit" can be found in the book Cuentos Breves (Short stories) published in 1919. For those who want to download it and read it in Spanish, I will leave the link in the transcript. This story, written in the form of a prose poem, was translated by Alexa Jeffress and it comes to us in the voice of the storyteller Adam Booth, and I will tell you more about him in the comments.

A poet is visited by Mrs. Death, who has come with a different intention than the usual, to offer herself to this man.

The Visit

By Rafael Barrett (1876-1910)

Translated by Alexa Jeffress

Narrated by Adam Booth

One foggy night under a pale moon, the poet left his house and strolled through the garden. The trees, in the softly illuminated mist, looked like ghosts of trees.

Everything was humid, mysterious, and sad. It seemed as though the ground and plants had wept of cold, or perhaps loneliness.

Across the street on the other side of the path, there was a man standing still among the thicket. The poet could make out his black pants and white shirt, but his head was missing. The decapitated man looked intently at the poet, who returned to his house after a while.

A ray of light shone from the poet's beloved nest. It was his house, but although he wanted to enter, he could not.

For several long and agonizing minutes, he thought that he had been shut out from it forever and his impotent spirit, glued to the windows, contemplated his lost happiness.

Another night, he heard a noise. He arose and peered outside. A large black dog with his feet against the door pushed with his front paws.

The poet shooed him away, but the animal returned twice more.

One afternoon, with his forehead supported by the glass window, the poet amused himself thinking. A woman, dressed in mourning, silently and suddenly entered and sat. The veil that covered her face fell to the floor.

The poet had seen the vague reflection of the intruder in the glass, and he turned around smiling at her.

"My child," said the woman in mourning, "your fever is too high. My arms are cool and pure like the shade."

"I know," he said," and I yearn for them. I sincerely want you. It is not suffering but life, oh consoler! that brings me to you. If I were stronger, younger, I would desire you more. You hold the keys to the night, the sea, and dreams."

"Come with me."

In the twilight shadow, the dark and flowing volutes of the woman's clothing descended to the obscurity of the earth, where they buried themselves like the roots of a secular trunk, and the waves of her hair were those of a trembling river.

Something concave and winged beat in the air. Through the veil and the twilight, the woman's impenetrable eyes shone sweetly.

"Come with me. There are stars in my night. My sea faints into beaches of gold. You can dream in my dream. Come with me."

The poet shivered softly.

"Must I follow you?" – he asked.

"You know that I do not give my own orders. I am a messenger. I transport men from one shore to another. I am the boatwoman, and I tend to the voice that calls from the border that cannot be seen. Today I did not come for you. You have not yet been summoned. I am here to seek you, to offer myself. It is true that I obey destiny, and sometimes, against my pious will, I fill weak souls with fear. But I also obey men. Ask for me, take me, I am yours.

In the neighboring room, kisses and stammering laughs of a child or an angel were heard.

"I would go with you," the poet murmured. "I approach you and a sacred vertigo intoxicates me; a glacial and delightful wind lulls my blood to sleep. I would go with you. But nonetheless, today, like all days, I want to turn on my lamp. The page is not finished."

"Nothing finishes; nothing begins."

"My child laughs; he still does not speak. I want to hear him speak."

"Speaking is lying."

"I am fond of humble, vulgar, almost ugly things. I want to say goodbye, caress them, have a few hours. I love you; you are the only one, the supreme one; other than you there are but phantoms. Phantoms of doubt, phantoms of pain, of happiness, of hope. Phantoms: I, when you are not touching me, am no more than a phantom. You are the only reality. To give myself to you is to be born. I am ready to depart to the marvelous and eternal region, I think about the dusty rocks in the wasteland, the poor herbs, the thirsty blackberry bramble, and I feel that they are still my heart's companions. Forgive me, oh mother! I do not know what is right; I do not know what I should do. I place myself in your hands. Carry me with you…

The poet fell into a fleeting and profound stupor. When he awoke, a mortal silence dominated the house.

Frightened, the man ran to the neighboring room…

He breathed. The child was there, in his mother's invincible arms.



Very well, let us return to the place where death does not announce herself with familiarity. If you remember, in the fall of 2020, we published an episode dedicated to the Mexican celebration of "Day of the Dead." If you want to review episode 34 – Day of the Dead, its history, traditions, and influences, I will leave you the link in the transcript.

I don't remember if I've told you before, but I've been fascinated with the concept of death and the afterlife from a very young age. So much so that the second profession I wanted to study when I was very young was forensic anthropology. I watched the detective show Bones and followed documentaries on the History and Discovery Channel related to archaeological discoveries for many years! And of course, my dream was to dig up bones and other relics, put the puzzle together, and tell the story.

But well, as you can see, I end up telling other peoples stories. Among my first readings where death is a character is the book, Death with Interruptions, by the Portuguese author José Saramago. I like this author so much that I have read almost all of his work, and I plan to reread it soon. I mention this book because it is so worth reading it and it is hilarious. It's about a country that death decides not to visit again. At first, people consider this a blessing, but they soon realize how wrong they are.

So, are you still not convinced that this book is worth reading​? In that case, I will leave you the link to an episode of the podcast Contratapas, where Yamid and Florencia, the hosts of the program, invited me to talk about the book. Warning, the episode is in Spanish.

The truth is that I have always found it very interesting that in popular folklore, Death and the Devil are these treacherous characters, with human characteristics susceptible to being deceived. For example, among the short stories that the Brothers Grimm collected, there was one where death meets a man and asks him to be the godmother of one of his sons. The story goes that death favors his godson by making a pact with him. It gives him an herb that heals the sick but warns him that the herb cannot be given to everyone. However, fame makes the young man ambitious, and one day, he tries to deceive his godmother, which gets him into serious trouble.

If you want to listen to the story told by a classmate and I when we were in college, I will leave you the link to a video:

But it is time to present today's voice, Adam Booth.

I met Adam a couple of years ago at a festival and must say that he has a unique way of telling stories.

Adam Booth's original stories blend traditional mountain folklore, music, and an awareness of contemporary Appalachia. A nationally touring artist, his professional appearances include premiere storytelling events across the United States, such as the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, the International Storytelling Center, the National Storytelling Festival, the Appalachian Studies Association Conference, the National Storytelling Conference, the National Academy of Medicine, and as a Spoken Word Resident at the Banff Centre (Alberta, Canada). He is a member of the Recording Academy, and his recordings have received a Parents' Choice Gold Award, two Parents' Choice Silver Honors, and four Storytelling World Awards and Honors. He is a four-time champion of the West Virginia Liars' Contest. Adam is the inaugural Storyteller-In-Residence at Shepherd University.

I highly recommend you check out Adam's website where you will find some amazing videos of him enchanting his audiences with his mastery of storytelling.

Also, you can download his CDs of creepy stories, and what could be a better time than today!

Once you have become a fan of his work, you can follow him on Instagram as @wvteller



It's time for the announcements and news of the day. Recently I received two more books for the contest "The Literary Basket" that we will be promoting starting next week.

The first book is Contemporary Colombian Poetry. This beautiful bilingual anthology, translated by Alexa Jeffress and Caroline Whitcomb, opens a window to US readers to get to know one of the most beautiful countries in the world, Colombia, but this time from its poetry and not from the news or television series.

The second book was donated by Melanie Márquez Adams, and is called Mariposas Negras, Black Butterflies. This book, written in Spanish, was the 2018 North Texas Book Festival prize winner. It is a book of stories that evoke fragility, that fine line between sanity and madness.

Well, now you know that in the first week of November, we will be announcing the contest rules through our newsletter and our social media, Facebook and Instagram.

Finally, remember that this Sunday, October 31 at 2 p.m ET, I will participate in Debut, a program where three narrators show a new story (probably suspense) and receive training from the storyteller Kevin Cordi. For those who wish to come and see us telling a story and playing with it, I will leave the link in the transcript:


Very well, it is time to talk about today's author. This short biography was written in collaboration with Esther Evelyn Bastidas.

Rafael Ángel Jorge Julián Barrett y Álvarez de Toledo, was born on January 7, 1876, in Torrelavega, Cantabria, Spain. His parents were George Barrett Clarke, an English subject in charge of different British Crown affairs, and María del Carmen Álvarez de Toledo y Toraó, a Spanish woman related to the Duke of Alba.

Barret's childhood and adolescence were provided by the economic abundance of his parents, which allowed the young man to travel through different countries in Europe. While traveling, Rafael developed his intellect, learned to play the piano, and mastered Spanish, English, and French.

In 1896, Rafael began his career in Civil Engineering in Madrid, Spain. However, during his studies, the young Barrett forgot about high-born status and manners, and like many other young people, gave himself to living la vida loca. He spent his time in casinos, flirting with ladies, and frequented important literary salons, cafes, and theaters in Paris and Spain.

But the bohemian life to which the writer had become accustomed, sooner or later was going to require him to pay the dues. It happened that, in the year of 1902, Rafael challenged the gentleman José María Azopardo Camrodón to a duel for slandering his good name. Azopardo presented the case before the court of honor, claiming that he was scandalized by how the young Barret lived his life and accused him of being homosexual and unworthy of belonging to the prestigious Circle of the Great Peña of Spain.

Before our listeners take sides, it should be clarified that those were times when gossiping of this sort was common. If you’d like to refresh your memory about this period in Spain, you can listen again to the comments on episode 40 that we dedicated to the Spanish writer Miguel de Unamuno.

The fact is that the president of the Court of Honor, The Duke of Arion, a friend of the accuser ruled in favor of Arzopado. This assured that Rafael, only 26 years of age, was not worthy enough to participate in a duel of gentlemen. The skirmish would have ended there had not young Rafael felt the ruling was unfair. He was so offended that, at the gala of the circus of Paris, Barret found the Duke of Arion and punched him in the face.

The scandal forced Barret to start a new life in Argentina as a journalist. In 1904, he was sent as a correspondent to cover the Liberal Revolution in Paraguay for the Argentine newspaper El Tiempo. In Paraguay, the author felt at ease due to the friendships he made with the intellectuals and politicians of that country. In addition, it was there where he developed his full literary talent.

By 1905, Barrett had begun to notice symptoms of tuberculosis, but he did not pay much attention to it. Two years later, he married Francisca Solana López Maíz, in Asunción, Paraguay, with whom he had a son named Alex Barrett.

In 1908, Barrett was arrested by the Paraguayan military authorities for aiding the wounded from the riots of the military coup led by Albino Jara in his attempt to overthrow President Benigno Ferreira. To this charge was added another one, one of instigating violence. This was a result of Barrett’s reporting the abuses and tortures committed in the riots in his biweekly newspaper El Germinal.

Rafael was becoming an advocate for social justice. He began to talk to the workers who were exploited in the yerbales de mate (the mate plantations). In 1908, he published a series of 20 articles on the subject. This cost him the friendship of many people in high society of Paraguay.

In 1910, Barrett began his struggle with tuberculosis. He had to undergo treatments in several hospitals in Paraguay, with no improvement. Seeking relief from his illness, Barret left for France on September 1st, 1910. From a hospital bed, the author continued to write valuable articles evincing a reality that nobody wanted to acknowledge.

Rafael Barrett died of tuberculosis on December 17, 1910, at the age of 34 in Arcachon, France. The following year, his book, El Dolor Paraguayo, (The Paraguayan Sorrow) was published. It was a collection of articles exposing the deep socio-political wounds of Paraguay. It tells the reality of orphaned and homeless children, of brave single-mothers, the "eternal agony of the worker", the hopeless elderly, the abuse of nature, the cruelty to animals, and the lack of respect the government demonstrated to the rights of citizens.

Well, you see now that Rafael Barrett, after his crazy youth, ended up using his energy and ingenuity to become the voice of the neediest in Paraguay.

For those who are curious about this book, I am going to leave the PDF in the transcript:


To conclude today's program, I will share with you the first part of another of Barrett's stories.


"It was like a huge dance of people and things. Figures from all centuries passed by calmly or rashly spinning. Fantastic beasts and unnamed objects mingled with the thousand specters of a delirious carnival. The infinite space seemed illuminated by a fever. There was no floor or ceiling. The night awaited beyond the light.

"I moved from one point to another effortlessly. Nothing resisted or hindered anything. We floated in an environment soft as the dust of butterflies. The world was empty of matter and full of life.

"From a cluster of agitated beings, a gentleman dressed in frac broke off and came towards me. He came in such a hurry that he pierced through the body of a melancholic bride in his race. When he arrived next to me, I observed the anguish of his contracted face.

"-What happened to you, Mr. Professor? I asked.

"-The chimpanzee has gone crazy. You know he was my best servant. He even smoked my cigarettes. Such an admirable monkey able to speak and superior to man. He perfectly imitated my movements and learned anything we taught him. Do you remember my last lecture on anthropoid apes? He inspired it. But well, yesterday, I entertained myself by playing target in the garden in front of the monkey. I should never have done it! Just now, I wanted to get back into the house since it was getting late. And will you believe that the damn chimpanzee has welcomed me with shots, mistaking my breastplate for the target? He nearly got me. Oh my God! How am I going to get into my house now?

"Pink petals rained down from the top of the sky."

Source: Fragment of the story “Soñando” (Dreaming). Cuentos Breves. Rafael Barret. Biblioteca Andrés Bello. Editorial América, Madrid. 1919. URL:


And that's it for today. In our next episode, the very controversial Peruvian author Clemente Palma tells us a story of how witches, demons, and other creatures that live in our nightmares welcome a young man who dares to follow a black cat with a very long tail. Until the next story, adios, adios.


Tres Cuentos Podcast is produced with support from PRX and the Google Podcasts creator program.

Tres Cuentos is an exercise of creative writing, researching, and retelling.

Special thanks to ….

Remember that you can listen to Tres Cuentos in any podcast app, Google Podcast, iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, iVoox, or wherever you find us listed. Also, check our website

Last if you enjoy the podcast, consider subscribing to our newsletter through our website and sharing the episodes with your friends.

The music and sound effects were downloaded from the YouTube audio library and

The list of credits per song can be found in the transcript.

Thanks for listening, adios, adios.


Fragmento del cuento “Soñando”. Cuentos Breves. Rafael Barret. Biblioteca Andrés Bello. Editorial América, Madrid. 1919. URL:

El Dolor Paraguayo. Obras completas de Rafael Barret. Editorial La Protesta, 1909. URL:

Web: “Rafael Barrett”. URL:

Web: Sobre la Anarquía y otros temas, vida y obra de “Rafael Barret”. 18 de diciembre del 2019. URL:

Web: “Rafael Barrett, el escritor bohemio y anarquista con una nieta guerrillera”. Por: Eduardo Bravo. URL:

Web: “Albino Jara Benegas”, por Jun Vallejos. 12 de enero 2010. URL:

Web: “El dolor Paraguayo”, por Jorge Rubiani. 31 de agosto de 2017. URL:

Web: “Rafael Barret, El hombre y su obra”, por Francisco Corral Sánchez. URL:,%20El%20Hombre%20Y%20Su%20Obra.htm


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