"Chicano writers from El Paso are the most progressive, open-minded, far-reaching, and inclusive writers of them all."

Octavio Romano

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Frontera Writer Update #1: Rosario Sanmiguel

Part of our series in updating you on writers from the El Paso/Cd.Juarez area since our last issue in 2007 (you don't get the issue on the blog, request it from me at rayerojas@gmail.com), here is some news on Rosario Sanmiguel:

In 2008 Arte Pulico Press put out a tranlation of one of Sanmiguel's books,

Under the Bridge/ Bajo el puente: Stories from the Border/ Relatos desde la frontera 

(Arte Publico Press; Bilingual edition ISBN-10: 1558855149)



"Suddenly I saw him appear in the train yard on the other side of the river, between the boxcars, Martin and a Migra, it looked like they were arguing, they lifted up their arms like they were gonna start wailing on each other, the Migra guy grabbed Martin by his shoulder and shook him, me and all the people on this side were watching close to see what was gonna happen..." 

In the title story of this short story collection set along the Texas-Mexico border, young Monica waits for her boyfriend Martin under the bridge next to the Rio Grande running between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.

Martin is a pasamojados, someone who smuggles people across the river. When he asks her if she wants to leave with him, she's afraid. Afraid to suffer the way her parents did when they went north, suffocating in heat and fear, unable to find a job. But in spite of her fears, she finds herself at the river bank, being pushed into the tire tube that serves as a raft, under the bridge.

Mexican writer Rosario Sanmiguel crafts intriguing narratives about solitary women in search of their place, caught between the past and the present. Set in the border region, this collection follows these women--some from privileged backgrounds and others from more desperate circumstances--through seedy bars, hotel rooms, and city streets. 

A woman who has escaped the night life, dancing on platforms in front of thousands of eyes; Francis, who finally finds the strength to leave her married lover; young Fatima, whose mother abandons her, leaving her to take her place as a maid in a wealthy El Paso family's mansion; Nicole, who has risen from dismal poverty to become an accomplished immigration attorney. 

Originally published in Mexico as Callejon Sucre y otros relatos (Ediciones del Azar, 1994), this edition contains a profound English translation by John Pluecker. The seven stories included in this collection interweave the opposing themes of solitude and connectedness, longing and privilege, fear and audacity, all of which are juxtaposed on the boundary of self-awareness. 

Below: From our 2007 Pluma Fronteriza issue (not on the blog, email rayerojas AT gmail.com for a copy):

Lost in Translation: Not Rosario Sanmiguel

Our own Rosario Sanmiguel has translated Quedando Bien / Fitting In (Paperback) by Bernardo Anilú (Author). Now available in a Spanish translation, this short story collection by popular young adult author, Anilu Bernardo, takes us from the soccer field to the seashore. Her spunky Cuban-American protagonists navigate the uncertain waters of adolescence in Miami. The stories' protagonists juggle the traditional burdens of middle school and high school coupled with the stresses of living those burdens in a foreign culture.

Bernardo crafts a panorama of intelligent and spirited young girls struggling to find a place for themselves. Like when Sari wants to talk about boys and school with her friends instead of babysitting for Grandma, who always asks her to translate the most embarrassing things . . . or when Clari stews in her room after she's grounded because the snippy old woman next door complained about Clari bending her stupid fence. . . or when Mari turns in a homemade diorama in a contest where her work must compete with all the store-bought iridescent paper and underwater photography that parents with money can buy...

Bernardo shows that it's tough enough to be caught between the two worlds of childhood and womanhood, but when a Cuban girl must cross the bridge between two cultures to fit into a foreign environment, she faces a league of other headaches as well. The young girls in this collection don't let the cultural challenges define them. Instead, with a little resourcefulness and strong spirit, they manage to, in the words of one character, "break out" of themselves and the limits that culture puts on them. Bernardo is the author of two award-winning novels: Jumping Off to Freedom (Piñata Books,1996) and Loves Me, Loves Me Not (Piñata Books, 1998), which was named to the American Library Association's 2000 YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults and The New York Public Library's 2000 Books for the Teen Age. She currently lives in Plantation, Florida with her family.

Sanmiguel is a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso.

Are some Chican@ writers excited about the AZ ethnic studies ban?
Read this blog this afternoon!


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