Week before last, the vivacious and quick-witted Aura Estrada died very suddenly after a swimming accident while on vacation with her husband, the novelist Francisco Goldman.
I met her only once, the night of the Bolaño tribute, but her insights and stories and odd, lovely laugh have stayed with me since. Please read “Mi Aura,” a reminiscence Goldman wrote for the Hunter College site; Estrada was pursuing an MFA in creative writing at the school.
About six years ago, in a bar in Brooklyn, I met a pretty Mexican girl, with shining black eyes, the sweetest smile and an adorable gap in her front teeth. She was standing at the bar with an acquaintance of mine, declaiming from memory a long poem by the 17th century English poet, George Herbert. (“I struck the board and cried, No more, I will abroad. What? Shall I ever sigh and pine? My lines and life are free….”) As if finding a young mexicana reciting George Herbert in a New York bar was not unusual enough, I was struck by her unique, yet oddly familiar, pronunciation: most of the women from Mexico City I know speak English with a soft, almost British-sounding lilt, but AuraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s voice was exuberant, robust, with a slight thrumming raspiness Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the voice of a spirited and wise old Mexican woman, or even of your smartest, most irreverent old Jewish aunt. I even asked her, “How come you speak English like a New York Jew?” And she laughed and said it was because as a young girl, left home alone in the afternoons while her mother worked, she’d taught herself English by watching the Seinfeld show on television.