Bordering Fires / the vintage book of contemporary Mexican and Chicano/a literature
It happens once in a blue moon. The feeling of sadness, like the end is unbearable and you pray that the next page will continue with another tale or poem of life, death, struggle, and Mexico only to find a blank stare of paper looking quietly back at you. This was how I felt after reading Bordering Fires.
This book is a hidden treasure, a miracle in need of becoming, a book that should’ve been part of my reading list in high school. With writers ranging in dates of birth from the late 1800’s to the early 1960’s, each teacher brings with him/her lessons, dreams, hopes, and curiosities from their time. Whether it is Major Aranda’s Hand by Alfonso Reyes and his melancholy ‘Poe’ style or ‘Kafka’ style descriptive tales, or Meditations on the South Valley: Poem IX by Jimmy Santiago Baca who casts a positive desolate spin on a beautiful reality that can sometimes be meaningful even if disapproving by American (Anglo) Standards. These stories and poems grab you while plunging deeper into a hidden truth or desire you are afraid to accept.
My three favorite tales (although I was touched and scorned by all) are:
B. Traven is alive and well in Cuernavaca by Rudolfo Anaya which gives way to endless days of wanting to reach for that one true thing in life knowing all along we are afraid to take a step into the unknown. But we still have our dreams.
Introduction from “Here’s to You, Jesusa!” by Elena Poniatowska which delves into the life of one soldaderas named Jesusa. Life isn’t pretty or rewarded for her part in fighting alongside men during wartime which is visible in her attitude; although unpleasant and full of mucho machismo at first glance, life means more than a few chickens and a small shack. I am excited to read the rest of this deeply saddened tale.
Excerpt from Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail by Rubén Martínez which speaks truthfully about a Mexico one doesn’t like to admit exists. About the homeless children, the growing separating family situations, and the border line whether invisible or an actual wall. I am also eager to read more on this tale of hopes that are crushed by violence and the habits of worn torn life and a place of hope that is given a grant in the form of ridiculous restrictions by the Kellogg Foundation.
This is a book that should be at the top of the list for reading assignments throughout high schools. Giving students the tools in the form of words and struggles, of learning beyond the fabricated truths set before them. It is in these stories where most teens will find solace or familiarity, where they will discover who they are and how important their culture and ideas are.