The genre of writing known as crónicas throughout the Spanish-speaking world has been described by Mexican novelist and cronista Juan Villoro as “the platypus of prose”. These short, column-length prose pieces published regularly in newspapers and magazines in Spanish America and in Spain may take the form of an essay, narrative, reportage or opinion piece or any combinations of these. Villoro’s comparison of the crónica with the odd looking, egg-laying, Australian monotreme underscores the hybrid nature of the genre, which, like the platypus, appears to be both one thing and another: both fact and fiction, real and imagined, serious and humorous, critical and, at times, whimsical. In making this analogy, however, the Mexican author was very likely unaware that, in fact, the Spanish-language crónica had in recent decades migrated successfully, if improbably, to the home of the platypus: Australia.
Literary work in Spanish is an important part of Australia’s multicultural heritage. With over 110,000 Australians speaking Spanish at home, it is not surprising that this linguistic community has its share of writers producing poetry and short stories, novels, plays, biographies and autobiographies. Translated work, however, represents a very small proportion of the Spanish-speaking community’s literary output. Significantly, crónicas written in Australia and published through a range of Australian newspapers and magazines have never been translated. This chapter aims to address this gap by bringing to attention the work of one of Australia’s cronistas and by arguing that crónicas represent a significant aspect of this migrant nation’s literary heritage. This chapter will provide an overview of crónicas in Australia, with a particular focus on the work of Michael Gamarra, who for over thirty years has been involved as editor and writer of Spanish-language publications in Sydney. It argues that his crónica-style columns from the 1980s, written under the pseudonym of Ernesto Balcells, provide a mediating space that allow the consequences and implications of “being translated”, in the sense of being “carried across” to new geographic, linguistic and cultural contexts, to be explored within a popular and familiar literary tradition.