My first recollection of tatiana de la tierra (she always insisted on lower case) was at a Guadalajara Book Fair gathering. The rubenesque, gitana-attired colombiana, with funky bright colored glasses and red lipstick came straight at me, from the other side of the room. “I want to get to know you,” she said almost in a seductive kind of way!
That’s the kind of person tatiana was – direct, at times abrupt, others aguerrida. But always committed to her writing, her work, her way of living. “My office looks like Frida’s house,” she said to me once while having coffee in Madrid, probably at the Berkana book shop in Chueca, the gay enclave of the Spanish capital. For her debut performance the night before, she was introduced by a well-known local gay writer who started by singing: “tatiana, tatiana, I’ve just met a girl named tatiana…” and up the stairs, from the basement, came the colombiana salerosa, colorfully dressed as ever. Aguerrida como ella misma (why would things be different in Spain?), she managed to insult one of the males in the audience who questioned her anti-men attitude. “That’s okay, you have my permission to be in the front row,” she told him.
The colombiana was also adventurous. One year in Barcelona she almost had to sleep in the lobby of my hotel because the B&B she had booked was not even a one-star hotel, but she had managed to get a cash refund: aventurera…y aguerrida como ella misma!
Another time, while in Buenos Aires for the book fair, we embarked on another adventure. Imagine the taxi drivers facing a group of librarians in search of Belleza y Felicidad, the gallery where the early cartoneros showcased their work. During that porteño trip she had also contacted a women’s collective and had arranged to read for her book (Para las duras/For the Hard Ones) in a mysterious basement location where some sort of password had to be given to be allowed in.
The last time I saw her, she had come to San Francisco and we met for lunch. She had lost some weight (but not her afán de vida) and showed me some of the bruises on her arm from the constant hospital stays. She probably knew already she would not have much time left, but her risa contagiosa filled the room like any place where that colombiana de las duras always went.
Today, Tatiana Suerte Sirena, her Facebook nom de plume, has embarked on another adventure. I can envision her, with bright red lipstick, funky colored glasses, surrounded by choirs of gypsy-dressed sirenas, serenely but guardedly watching over her journey, así en la tierra como en los mares. Safe travels, colombiana rubenesca, colombiana salerosa!