Skip to content
Give readers a window on the world. Click to donate.

Q & A with Alberto Salcedo Ramos

By Jethro Soutar

Alberto Salcedo Ramos is a Colombian writer and one of the most celebrated crónica (literary journalism) writers in Latin America. Here he tells Words Without Borders about his work and influences, and about "Queens Football," a crónica featured in this month’s Queer issue and part of The Football Crónicas, a collection of soccer-themed writing from Latin America, published by Ragpicker Press.

Jethro Soutar: How did you find out about Las Regias and when did you realize you wanted to write a crónica about them?

Alberto Salcedo Ramos: I found out about them through a journalist friend. As soon as he told me about them, I knew there was a story worth telling. The Hungarian writer Stephen Vizinczey once said “whatever it is that I can't stop thinking about—that’s my subject.” I go by the same maxim.

JS: What was it about Las Regias that made you think they’d make a good subject for a crónica?

ASR: First, because it was a chance to make visible a community that is ignored by the mainstream press. I also thought they’d make good subject matter because I could show their conflicts while speaking of the great intolerance that exists in my country.

JS: What is a crónica? Are there any rules?

ASR: The crónica is a genre that informs through narration and interpretation. Stylistically, it uses fiction’s tools (in terms of form), but what it recounts (the content) must be rigorously verifiable.

JS: There is talk of a Latam boom in crónica writing, a second boom to follow the boom of magic realism. Both genres blend fact and fiction, in a continent where fact is often stranger than fiction. Are crónicas particularly well suited to Latin America?

ASR: It’s a very Latin American genre. It’s perfect for documenting our social problems, which are very similar across the continent.

JS: Who are the writers that have influenced you?

ASR: Gay Talese, Truman Capote, Joan Didion, García Márquez, Hemingway, Camus.

JS: You’ve written several crónicas about soccer: "Queens Football," but also "The Referee Who Sent Off Pele" (published this month by Granta) and "Portrait of a Loser," among others. Even when soccer is not the main subject, it frequently crops up in the background: soldiers play soccer at their mountain camp in "Midnight Eagles," villagers are executed on the soccer field in "The Village that Survived a Massacre." Why does soccer appeal to you so much as a writer?

ASR: Albert Camus said he learned more about the human condition on the soccer field than he did anywhere else. I think the soccer field is sometimes a theater stage, sometimes Freud’s couch, sometimes a war trench. It therefore allows us to get to know human beings from a different perspective.

JS: Who’s going to win the World Cup?

ASR: I don’t know who, but I predict it’ll be a team from the Americas.

Published Jun 24, 2014   Copyright 2014 Jethro Soutar

Leave Your Comment

comments powered by Disqus
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.