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That Latin fire

Polyglot, teacher, photographer, and jewellery designer, Mimi Maruri keeps the Latino flag flying high



Mimi Maruri: life, language, and the arts — Photos: Sampath Kumar G.P.

THERE'S SOMETHING about the Latinos. An amiable disarray. A certain embrace. Caring a damn about what they are. It's really some energy about them — unorthodox and intense — that draws you. At least, this is what we would like to make of them especially when you think of people like Marquez and Maradona. Mimi Maruri is not in the league (she'll tell you that), but she qualifies for the aura because she is Latino and maybe because she also comes from very close to La Boca — that is where the man with the "hand of God" learnt the magic of the leg. But, of course, she does some interesting things, here and there.

Mimi is from Buenos Aires. She came to Bangalore as a tourist and as chance would have it, liked Javed, a businessman who has to do with gems and jewellery. She decided she had to do something if she were to settle in Bangalore. Well, she has been here for some years now, teaching Spanish at the Indus School, Garden City College, the Tourism Department, and to IT professionals at her institute, Centro Latino. You wonder what people here would do learning Spanish when French seems more appropriate. "But the second language in the U.S. is Spanish and there are hundreds of IT professionals going there. Call centres are increasing in India and there could be people from Latin America who have immigrated into the U.S. in large numbers calling here," says Mimi.

She now offers a Level One course in Spanish and plans to extend it to level two. She is working on a proposal for a degree certificate from the University of Buenos Aires for those passing the examination at her institute. "Teaching Spanish is not only about language but culture too. I introduce the culture and writings of Latin America to students. I will communicate to the University of Buenos Aires that students here do a wonderful job of projects on culture — like profiling important Latin American personalities, preparing reports on music and pictures of the countries. We plan then to validate our examinations from the University of Buenos Aires."

Before coming to India, Mimi was a translator and teacher in the commercial section of the Indian Embassy in Argentina. She taught Spanish to the embassy staff and translated local economic and cultural material relevant to the embassy. How did she become a translator? Well, Argentina is a land of immigrants, mostly from Europe, and some, now, from India, especially in the '90s. "All of them needed to be integrated — from the Baltics, Yugoslavia, Poland, Albania, Croatia, Russia, and some from Korea, and they all needed to learn Spanish. That is when I landed a job as teacher and translator at the Indian embassy."

Mimi is also a postgraduate in fine arts and a freelance photographer. She paints landscapes. This, along with her oil paintings on handmade paper dramatise solitude. She taught fine arts and English in Buenos Aires, English also because the locals and the immigrant population needed to know the language. And she knows Russian, French, Portuguese, and Italian. How is she comfortable with so many languages? "Well, I have always somehow picked up languages. Also, I find the structure is the same, no matter which language. I have studied languages all my life."


If she is not teaching English or Spanish, she is either painting or taking photographs, and she has nine exhibitions to her credit. If one thinks all these activities were more than enough to make someone interesting, she has one more: she designs some fine silver, stone-studded jewellery with tremendous character and presence, much like what you believe the Latinos are. And Mimi loves stones. "The stone comes first, jewellery next. I like to make jewellery out of stone."

She has held exhibitions of her jewellery, Latina, inspired by Etruscan and Mexican art. "Ladakhi jewellery stands out and that is the jewellery I like. In India, women are full of gold. I sometimes think this lacks particularity. It is amazing, but some jewellery shops here have asked me where and how I make my jewellery. I feel very good about that."

Mimi also likes the fact that Indians take a lot of interest in Latin American life. "I find that they know plenty of our literature, movies and personalities, cultural and political (life). I try to get my students here to do projects on these areas."

She has been moving between Buenos Aires and Bangalore from 1991. And for this teacher-photographer-artist-designer, her Spanish teaching keeps her going. You wonder if she does not miss people back home. "It's a high price. I miss my mother, my place, my friends, my smells. Everything."

PRASHANTH G.N.

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