This project is part of  HS3004 Translating Business, Culture and Society in the Hispanic World in University College Cork. I am Anton Boyd, a 21 year old student from Country Cork. For my project I decided to translate  Act II from Paraguayan author Augusto Roa Bastos’s novel Pancha Garmendia y Elisa Lynch: ópera en cinco actos. 

Original text




Galeano, Eduardo. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973. Print.

Menéndez, Pidal R, and Ezquerra M. Alvar. Vox, Diccionario General Ilustrado De La Lengua Española. Barcelona: Biblograf, 1993. Print.

Orellana, Marina, and Marina Orellana. Glosario Internacional Para El Traductor =: Glossary of Selected Terms Used in International Organizations. Santiago de Chile: publisher not identified, 1990. Print.

Pavis, P. Problems of Translating for The Stage: intercultural and post-modern theatre, The play out of context: transferring plays from culture to culture, edited by: Hana Scolnicov and peter Holland, Cambridge, Cambridge university press. 1976.

Function of text

My objective for this translation was to contribute to existing material on Eliza Lynch in the English. Translating the second act gives a sample of the novel and may inspire someone, or motivate myself to finish it further, to hopefully be used in an English adaption. While it is just a sample of the entire novel, keeping the performability of the novel intact was still an objective. This meant making it accessible to both readers and actors. Roa Bastos intended the novel to be used in an operatic performance, theatre, film and even television.  I thought it was best to produce a version more on the basic side at times in order to allow easier interpretability in converting the novel into either an opera or theatre performance. The opera would focus more on the rhyme and rhythm of the dialogue while theatre more on the general flow.

Translation Process


Bastos’s novel is structured like a play. This makes the translating process a bit more difficult. While it is important to convey the author’s overall original message and themes it is also important to keep in mind that that it has to be read and be performed by actors. It is important to make sure that the dialogue is correct on many different levels. A direct translation of words might not sound right coming out of an actor’s mouth, either because it doesn’t match something that the character would say, disrupts the flow and rhythm of the dialogue or is not something said in English. It is the translator’s job to make the actor and directors interpretation as easy as possible while sticking close to the original. Sometimes this meant completely rephrasing parts to convey the same message and make sure the actor performs properly. Keeping word count down was also important, while this wouldn’t matter in a normal novel it is in an opera or theatre performance. Word count affects the run time of the performance, which sometime can be symbolic, contributing to the theme and message of the performance. The length of the characters dialogue is even part of the author’s vision, changing it can distort this vision. It is also important to not interrupt the writer’s style. When reading a translation of any of Gabriel Marquez’s novels there is still a heavy presence of Marquez’s writing style, the translations uphold the feeling that you are reading his work not as if it was filtered through someone else. Veering away from Roa Basto’s style would hallow out the novels artisitic originality, leaving behind only the general structure of the story.


The characters of the play are based on people that existed. Roa Bastos researched the characters to find out what they would say, how they spoke and what their personality was like. They are many different views and opinions of what kind of person Eliza Lynch was, some fabricated through British propaganda. The changing opinions on Solano Lopez and Eliza Lynch developed closely with acceptance and understanding have been an enlightening journey for the nation of Paraguay.  Evidence of Roa Bastos’s research can be seen in his novel El Fiscal. To make sure that I did not distort his intended character’s portrayal it was necessary to do mine own research on their history. While the novel is fictional it is constructed from the collective memory of the characters through oral history and written records like Richard Burton’s Letters from the battlefield of Paraguay. Bastos’s purpose of the writing about the historical characters is to pay tribute to Paraguayan women who suffered during the great war and the Paraguayan women of today who desperately seek identity, he does this through Pancha Garmendia and Elisa Lynch.  It was also necessary to do historical and socio-cultural research on Paraguay. Mistranslating how a character is supposed to be presented can disrupt the entire play. Eliza’s dialogue and the dialogue of the other characters is the projection of their personality, knowledge of the way they would say something and what they would say is important.

Language differences

An additional layer to consider is what era of English the translated text should be in. As it is set in the 19th century should the English translation be written in today’s English or 19th century English, should it be American, English or Irish dialect? One place where a difficulty in this identification arose was with the phrase used at one point “buenas noches” as a greeting rather than a goodbye as it is used only in English. This was interesting as in the 1800s good night was also used as a greeting in Ireland. This can be seen in James Joyce’s short story “The Dead”.

With Spanish being a romantic language and English more of a Germanic language. It was important not to over translate some parts and to keep in mind the register of the dialogue. What may seem like dressed up dialogue can actually be fairly normal in Spanish. In scene I of the second act a description for one of the guards is ‘El oficial las interpela’. The translation of interpelar in English is to interpellate, this is more commonly used in Spanish to mean to question. I had to decide if Bastos’s choice of this word was to describe the way in which the actor should portrays this character action. As interpellate is normally only used in highly specific topics in English like in Marxist theory or constitutive rhetoric. I chose to use the word interject as it kept with a specified way in which the officer confronted the characters without over flowering the language and keeping in line with the intended register. Careful and appropriate phrasing is important in order to not distort the author’s creative vision.

While the performability of the translation is important, even if the fluency and rhythm are uninterrupted the cultural meaning might get lost. It was important to look out for any cultural reference that was used in carefully selected words,  things like the idiom ‘nada entre dos platos’ which literally translates to nothing between two dishes would not be an appropriate transation as really the idiom is used to belittle the importance of something. While 87% of Paraguay speak Spanish, 90% speak Guaraní, the indigenous language of Paraguay. Watching out for idioms may be a rather simple task, looking out for codeswitching between these two languages however is not. Bastos was an avid user of putting Guaraní into his work, out in the open or blended into Spanish. It is an effective symbolic tool. While I did not find any Gauraní out in the open in the second act of the novel it was in other parts of the novel. For when it is in direct quotation on its own my intention would have been to leave it alone. For parts where it was blended into the Spanish however is a bit more difficult, while the flow may not be interrupted the cultural reference might be totally lost. It was also important to look out for any Jopara which is Spanish and Guaraní combined.  While such close examination would have taken more time I did try my hardest to keep the cultural side of the text intact without jeopardising functionality.

Smaller things that were necessary were things like military uniform refercned such as a Morrión helmet and such to find the proper English translation which was fairly straightforward.

Translation resources

Online dictionaries became a great resource along with printed copies. On the more complicated things encountered and specified items Diccionario General De La Lengua Española Vox gave me a straight forward answer that online resources got confused by. The main difference I found between using online versions versus printed was that the online allowed me to translate sentences, this however was a double sided sword as it was sometimes more confusing than helpful, sending me off in another direction. It would do its best to take in what was written before but would sometime get confused with pronouns or any historical or cultural reference, this is where more research in these specific things was needed. A thesaurus in both languages also served a useful purpose, it allowed me to find the similar word in Spanish to expand my understanding and to find the most appropriate word to use In English. For idioms and language used primarily in Paraguay online forums offered insight along with extensive conversation into the topic by natives.




New Year 1860

Act II

(The grand theater of the world)

Scene I


Night. Street in front of the illuminated house of Madame Lynch. Two women, covered in dark cloaks, are walking down the street. One of them carries a lantern. The other is wearing a mask. It shows that they are very nervous


A Squadron of Acá Vera guards bursts over them and surrounds them. The officer interjects: «Who goes there! …». «We are looking for a doctor …» -says one of the women with a tremulous voice-. «Have you not heard the curfew? Passage through this street is prohibited. Reveal yourselves …»

The women move the cloaks away their faces. It’s Panchita in the company of her aunt Angela. The officer tears the lantern from the old woman and lights the face of Panchita which is covered by the mask.

Madame Lynch has leaned out the window, attracted by the cry of the guards and the noise of weapons. She also wears a mask. She leaves the house, taking control of the street incident. She orders the officer to remove the guards and asks for the lantern.


The officer gives it to her. I adhere to his request and leaves with his privates. Their ornate uniforms and Morion helmet’s tufted with flowers produce the effect of carnival costumes.

Madame Lynch approaches Panchita, lighting her with the lantern. Their masks are exactly the same. They are like two twin sisters. Only the hair of the one is black; the other, a brilliant blonde.

With a kind tone, the hostess:


«Goodnight.» You are Miss Pancha Garmendia, are you not? «Panchita nods in affirmation.» I heard you’re looking for a doctor. «After a pause, hesitating, Panchita nods again.» Let me go. I’m in a hurry. «Madame Lynch:» I can send you to my doctor immediately. «Panchita, dryly:» No. Thank you. We have our own doctor … Come on … «Aunt Angela hesitates for a moment, but then follows her.

Madame Lynch, somewhat humiliated, watches reflectively as they disappear into the gloom of a bend. They are extraordinarily similar. Only the long dark hair, cascading down on her shoulders, contrasts with Madame Lynch’s blonde hair, almost platinum in the moonlight.

The chimes of the Cathedral ring the hour. Somewhere to sad melody emerges like a prayer song, awakening distant barks.

Scene II

Living room, Madame Lynch’s house. The painter Saturio Rivers paints the portrait of the hostess in a pose identical to that of the Maja Vestida. Madame Lynch contemplates, dreamily, in the painted reflection not her body as Maja Dressed but Panchita’s as Maja Nude.


Enter General Lopez. Distracted, she has not sensed his presence. He approaches her from behind the couch and gives her a kiss on her bare shoulder, which makes her jump a little in surprise.

Francisco (familiarly and cordially):

Hello, Saturio.


Saturio : Good evening, Your Excellence.

Francisco : (observing the canvas, with some misunderstanding) Excellent. But it remains inferior to the original.


Saturio: (winking at Ela) The original is inimitable.


Francisco: I mean Goya’s canvas.


Saturio: Goya is also inimitable, sir. If Madame had not asked me …


Ela: Francis, let our portrait artist work.


Francisco: As long as he does not paint you without clothes. In this society the nude is not yet popular. (Patting Saturio on the back) It’s just a joke.

Saturio: Thank you, your Excellency. My

family is waiting for me (Picks up brushes and palette). Farewell, Madame. Have a good night, your Excellency … (He leaves.)

Francisco gives her a long kiss on the lips, whispering the amorous nickname Ela, which is what he usually calls her in private.


Seeing him in such good humor, she too caresses him, as if about to tell him a secret she has kept to herself for a long time.

Ela: In view of the unsuccessful trip to Cythera, a monumental project has occurred to me. We will build an Opera Theater in Asunción similar to the one in Paris …


There is a brief dialogue in which Ela tells about the letters exchanged with Eugenia de Montijo, who promises to help carry out the project. Francisco tries to dissuade her. I have to finish forming his army in the face of the serious risks that threaten the country.

Ela does not give up on her charm offensive.


Ela: You will have the most powerful army and we will have the most beautiful and modern theater in South America. Our country will be known and respected throughout the world.


Ela’s intention is to throw a lavish party at which to announce the opening of an Opera House in Asuncion.


Francisco: (drinking his aperitif) Do not get infected by the delusions of your friend, the young Andalusian countess Eugenia de Montijo and her husband. Napoleon III wants to put an emperor in Mexico. You are not Charlotte, nor I Maximilian of Hapsburg. We are in our America. And the New World will never again fall into the hands of any empire on earth.


Ela: (sulking) Napoleon III is a democratic king. He was chosen by his people. Like you I do not think I want to subjugate any people on earth. Also, I have clearly held you in high regard. To the surprise of everyone, I’ve given you the command of the military parade in Paris. An unforgettable ceremony! … I need to take my rightful place here, too, to honor you and honor myself …

Francisco tells her that he understands her discomfort and struggle. The high society of Asuncion is outdated and closed, especially the ladies of the aristocracy, proud of their surnames but lacking in all culture and good manners, do not look kindly on the «beautiful foreign lady.» Madame Sans Merci, as the wife of the French consul calls her.


Ela: I’m just the President’s concubine … In my honor, lampoons and satirical songs circulate …


Francisco: I am the first to condemn this behavior. I’m going to make sure it changes. And I swear it will change.

Ela: They hate me …! Their rancour will last for centuries …!


Francisco: (trying to calm her down) Have a little patience. It is a society that is still too uncultivated. A mix of proud English descendants, innately uncultivated, still live close to the fruits of this land.


Ela: (mockingly): Sure, that’s why even the poshest women walk around barefoot. They are yet to clean their suns. Only cleaning themselves from the knees up …


She sits on a couch. Francisco embraces her with that certain dominant roughness characteristic of a true «Latin lover». A rather idyllic scene, parody of the period engravings in the magazines of Paris.


Ela: (she curls up in his arms, eagerly, but not wanting succumb to his persuasion, she insists) We have to build that theater, bring celebrities from abroad, bring our own expression of culture from outside our borders. This will be a way to make Paraguay known throughout the world. It’s what your father started doing. You must complete his work.


Francisco: Paraguay will be known for its feats. I do not believe in fantasy. What counts is what is done

Ela: You are making the history of your homeland. Like your father Don Carlos. As the Supreme Dictator France, before him. But your father opened the country to the world. You must follow his path.


Francisco: (proudly): I make my own way. They made theirs …


Ela: Right. But Paraguay is just one country. Let us represent the most significant events of its history through the miracle of art.


Francisco: (with emphasis) Our history is already ours, unquestionably.

Ela: We will be seeing and hearing as you build it into reality. We can anticipate it, remember it, predict it, through the miracle that is art.


Francisco: (without taking it seriously and laughing as if with a joke) But you want to put our history into something as fleeting as music …


Ela: We are already doing it in this Theater … without realisnig it.


Francisco: (not understanding her) Our music is martial and serves a national purpose.


Ela: This is the great opera, both real and fantastic, that Paraguay must create to believe in itself … to know what it is …


Francisco’s face is now sombre and serious.


Scene III

Loves’ labours lost.

Anteroom The same time. Ela mentions the meeting she had just had with Pancha Garmendia.


Ela: I’ve seen tonight the (with a certain twinkle) virtuous Pancha Garmendia …


Francisco: (falsely unmoved) I stopped seeing her years ago.


Ela: (with sincere envy) That girl is really beautiful … She could be queen of beauty anywhere on earth.


Francisco: (trying to change the subject) You are much more.

Ela: (closing her eyes) In the light of the lantern, she seemed an unreal vision. Her face was cruel and emotionless. It only reflected her hatred, her contempt for me …


Francisco: Why should she despise you?


Ela: Because between her and me there is you! She was your first girlfriend. And first love can sometimes be eternal.

Francisco: (evasive) It was no more than a fleeting idyll of youth.


Ela: That woman is still in love with you. She would cut off her tongue and hands if you asked her to. She will continue to love you until death cuts off her breath …

Oval lighting to the sides of the stage. Images of Panchita and Francisco emerge (this time without masks).


On the same couch where Ela and Francisco were sitting, I hold Panchita tightly. Panchita is half-naked and disheveled, as if Francisco had just ripped off her blouse and torn apart her bodice.


Francisco: (eager, as if to intimidate her). . . once and for all …


Panchita : (calm but inflexible, restraining her anger, she stands up, clasping her body) I will never be yours as a simple pastime. (With almost super-human strength, she rejects him and pushes him slowly but inexorably towards the door.) Go away. Everything is over between us.


Francisco mutters something, imploringly.

He does not listen to what she says.


Panchita : (cutting him off) Instead of forcing yourself on the women of your country like slaves, you should defend them and honor them. (She pushes him away from her door, closes the door behind him and leans back against it, seized with dull and convulsive sobs, she falls apart, falls to her knees and touches the floor with her forehead.) Her Mother in dismay

Mother: (between sobs) My daughter! … (She kneels next to her and hugs her.)


The scene fades.

Scene V

Francisco: No, my darling, that did not last, it ended a long time ago. Forget about that woman. She was not more than an adolescent romance to me …


Ela: That’s why she loves you and you ask.


Francisco: Completely, it did not mean anything …


Ela: That girl is a force of nature. And will not stop until she gets what she wants.

Francisco: What is it she wants from me, according to you?

Ela: (hopelessly) To see you dead.


Francisco: (empathetically) It is not a great triumph to see me dead. We’ll all be dead one day. She with a spear in the heart. Me, with another, in the belly. Nothing is required but time.


Ela: What difference do you think there is between the belly and the heart?


Francisco: Oh … a  big one! (Staring at her): Sometimes, they get mixed up.


Ela: (not hearing him, stubborn in her belief) That woman is the only one in this country who knows who she is … Oh, if only I could tear that mask from her face …!

Francisco: Do it. Invite her to your costume party. Unmask her in front of everyone.


Ela: (about herself) The resemblance between the two of us is extraordinary. At first, I was stunned. By some incomprehensible spell a twin figure materialized before me. The perfect double that every woman admires and fears!

Francisco: You belittle yourself by comparing yourself to that simple countrywoman.


Ela: (after a pause): She will be the only heroine in the memory of your people representing all others, ..

Francisco: (falsely jeer and annoying) You are like Father Corn in one of his sacred sermons.


Ela: (without hearing him) Did you know that the House of Poor Girls where she works as a director, has become a revolutionary stronghold?


Francisco: (complacently) If that were true, the police would already know.

Ela: I have my own spies.

Francisco: Be careful with them. They are the most treacherous of all. In any case, we will order the closure of that House.


Ela: (continues as before) After we are all dust, Pancha Garmendia will take a long time to die …

Francisco: Ah, what imagination! That’s a beautiful phrase for an aria. Put it in your opera.


Ela: Fate already has … That woman is also playing a part in this opera without knowing it and without knowing how it ends … (after a pause).


Francisco: (ending the matter and standing up): Let’s have dinner. I’m famished, Ela. The day has been very hard. But above all I hunger for you.


They pass to the antechamber where a young child sleeps in a luxurious crib. «I have to say hello to our son. I have not seen Mr. Panchito Lopez, future officer of our army, all day long.» They both read over the sleeping infant. Francisco kisses him tenderly on the forehead.



Scene VI


The oval spotlights illuminate the sides of the stage. Madame Lynch and a wet nurse stand before Father Corn, in the sacristy of the Cathedral. Allusive masks, unrealistic.


Madame Lynch: I pray to Your Reverence to set the time for the baptism.

P. Maiz: (slowly shaking his head): At home, yes, it can be whenever you want. But it can not be in the church.

Madame Lynch: I thought that you were Dean of the Cathedral, and that as an adviser and tutor to General Lopez, the father of the child, you could make it possible.

P. Maiz: (interlocking his fingers) I can do nothing. Your Excellency would be the first to censor me if I did.


Madama Lynch : Is it a law of the church?

P. Maiz: It is a law of the Nation. In addition, it is a law of sacrament. (With a slightly cynical smile) Unfortunately you are Madame Lynch … not Madame Lopez.


Madame Lynch: (indignant and furious) It’s okay. Stand by your standards, then, Lord Maiz …

The scene fades


Francisco: (with a scowl and striding through the room he takes up the previous conversation) That Maiz is the most enlightened man in Paraguay and the best sacred preacher in all of America. But ambition and pride make him idiotic. He believes that the secret of the universe is enclosed in his mind. He wants to be a bishop. It will not happen. Speak to Father Palacios, on my behalf. He is a priest in the parish of the Trinity. He is the stupidest man in the clergy. I will make him bishop.


Ela: The baptism of our will be at the price of the bishopric in Paraguay …


Francisco: The drunken simpleton will baptize our are with all the pomp that he has already attained. And before the main altar of the Cathedral …


Ela: (interrupts him with a sudden change of attitude and decision) Enough of that. Do not think that I’m going to baptize Panchito with the stupid member of the clergy. Let us leave the Church in peace even if it creates conflict in us. Panchito will be baptized at the party that I will soon throw in the National Club to announce the founding of the Opera House. Thus we will be at peace with God and with the devil, with the Church and with society.


Francisco: (energetic) You can not baptize Panchito in the National Club. It is a den where the lazy oligarchs celebrate their black masses …


Ela: (interrupting him) It is the secular temple of the most select society in Asunción. It is terrible to live with people who ignore its importance. One ends up knowing who oneself is. On the other hand, it is a security measure.


Francisco: For whom?


Ela: For you yourself. I have already sent out the invitations, indicating to each one, men and women, the costume that they will wear …


Francisco: (angered) But that’s crazy!


Ela: I have the list with the costume arrangements. I can identify who is hiding under a wig or under a vine leaf … Did not you tell me that the police have discovered some attacks against you?


Francisco: Yes, from the first day I was elected president of the Republic. But I’m not going to your party.


Ela: (complaining) You can not snub us, your son and me.


Francisco: (firmly): The baptism will be done in the Cathedral.


Ela: At the party you will see your future assassins disguised as warriors and Saracens, Dux of Venice, musketeers of Flanders, kings of Spain, princesses of the Sun King, infantas of Castile, peasants of Naples, zagalas of Portugal … And even illustrious Paraguayans. The police will have a copy of the list and will also know who is who under the clothes …


Francisco: (returning the mocking intention): I assume that you have assigned the least flattering costume for the physique and the age of each one of your guests …


Ela: (undeterred) The duty of every queen at a party is to excel over her vassals …



In Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America he  talks about the Paraguayan’s resistance and rejection to imperialism. The books exposes the history of the Spanish, British and US exploitation of Latin America’s mineral rich land and the forced labor of their nation’s people. From plain slavery to the evolved poorly veiled slavery in the form of Latifundios. Paraguay’s defiance to foreign meddling and self-sufficiency spiked my interest. Specifically the War of the Triple Alliance with its fascinating stories of women and children marching into battle with fake beards to appear as their already wiped out male compatriots. President Francisco Solano Lopez’s controversial aggressiveness and perseverance to the war intrigued me. His pride cost his people his utopia where every child could read and hunger was unheard of. Up until the war the country did not owe a penny to the British Empire unlike the surrounding Latin American countries. Researching Lopez further, I came across a woman who met in Paris and brought back to Asunción, Paraguay to be his concubine and thede facto First lady. That woman was Eliza Lynch also known as Elisa Alicia Lynch or Madame Lynch. While her past marriage prevented them from getting married in the realms of Catholicism this did not stop Eliza Lynch from having a huge influence on the country and its fate. I found out that the birthplace of Eliza Lynch’s was Charleville in County Cork, Ireland. This was a genuine shock and motivated me to research her more to find out how she came from a small town in Ireland to being the «Queen of Paraguay» as some have called her. I decided that I wanted to contribute to information on Eliza Lynch maybe translating a letter written by her in Spanish. On discovering that all his letters and transcribings had already been translated in Michael Lillis and Ronan Fanning’s book:The Lives of Eliza Lynch: Scandal and Courage I changed my course of action. Instead I looked for any untranslated fictions on Eliza Lynch. I happened upon the unpublished novel by Roa Bastos Pancha Garmendia and Elisa Lynch: opera in five acts.  I wanted to give English speaking fans of Eliza Lynch’s legacy more insight into her story. As the novel was intended to give identity to Paraguayan women I wanted to give Irish women, especially in Cork to sense of identity by offering them more material on Eliza Lynch, who can act as role model due to her incredible life, grown out of the blight of the Great Famine.