Annotation by Tisha Reichle
This journey begins with the conquest, coffee, and Dia de los Muertos as Cayetana waits to give birth. Throughout the novel this same tension exists between the political, the natural, and the spiritual. Urrea tells a detailed family story infused with cultural history. I learned a great deal about the geography and people of various regions. I was also traumatized by the mother who abandons her child; however, that immediately gave the novel its universality. This is a phenomenon that plagues my own community across race and class. Unfortunately, it is also too often unacknowledged. While it may not have been Urrea’s intentions, he inspires social consciousness.
Using vivid imagery, Urrea paints Mexico as a land of adventure and political problems. Alternating between male and female protagonists, urea allows them both to have a voice. Teresita grows up on the trip and replaces Huila as curandera for their rancho. She expands her healing powers after her own resurrection. Huila dies.
Huila is my favorite character because of her knowledge and strength; she is feminine in a way not normally revered by men. Teresita’s father, Tomas, entertains readers with his womanizing, beekeeping, and skepticism. He provides Urrea the opportunity to infuse humor into his text. Complicating their lives are Tomas’s two sons: one the offspring of his wife Loreto and the other illegitimate like Teresita. All of the characters are unique and present a distinctly identifiable perspective throughout their travels.
Conflicts ensue when Teresita wants to read and her father (at first) discourages it. He is master and all (even the bees apparently) obey. That is until he is forced to confront Buenaventura and his son, Jose Francisco and he must acknowledge that Teresita is his daughter.
Women turn to god and faith in times of duress, but we see many of the male characters responding with violence. Urrea is making commentary about the state of Mexico’s society. He also offers contrasting perspectives on religion with the resurrection of Tereista, Cruz’s worship of her, her father’s denial, and Fr. Gastelum’s accusations. Readers are challenged to create their own impressions.
This novel is both love story and adventure tale. It is the kind of fiction I aspire to create; the kind that weaves familial reality with the cultural and political history of a nation.