Before I jump into the review, a little backstory. It won’t be long. Promise. *crosses fingers behind back* 😉
Today is the start of Hispanic Heritage Month here in the U.S. It is also Guatemalan Independence Day!!! WHOO!!!
In honor of the motherland ❤ , I had planned to read a book by a Guatemalan author in my native tongue. Unfortunately, finding said book has proven to be more difficult than expected. Therefore, I went a different route. Today Mexico is celebrating its own holiday. Finding a book by a Mexican author and written in spanish proved easier. So, here we are 🙂
Tita is the youngest of 3 daughters living in Mexico during the revolution. At 16, Pedro (her sweetheart), proposes to her. But when he asks her mom, Mamá Elena, for Tita’s hand in marriage, he is refused. Because Tita is the youngest daughter, tradition states she cannot be married as her life is to be devoted to taking care of her mother for as long as she lives. Mamá Elena instead offers Rosaura, Tita’s middle sister, and Pedro accepts. This is not simply a story of Tita being caught in a love triangle with her sister. But a story of how she fights against tradition and gains a semblance of independence.
I’ve read this book multiple times. In English. It was actually required reading in high school. This is my first time reading it in spanish though. And I actually understood the narrative better. It’s not that it’s badly translated into English. It’s just the nuances of some words and idioms get lost in the translation. Reading it in its original language, I realized that there was a subtle difference in the way I experienced the book. For one, Mamá Elena is a lot more frightening than I previously thought. I felt way more sympathy for Tita’s actions with this reading.
The story itself is narrated by Tita’s Grandniece. The book is broken into 12 monthly chapters. But it actually covers an expanse of time. When the story begins (January), Tita is not quite 16. By the 12th chapter (December), she is 39.
There are elements of magical realism in the book. Something that is usually hit or miss with me because I tend to read books too literally. This is a hit! It adds a little something extra to Tita’s characterization. Which leads me to the food.
Oh my goodness! Each chapter begins with a different recipe that has some bearing on the story. Tita was raised in the kitchen, so these are her recipes. She cooks her feelings into her food. Which is where some of the magical realism appears. Pedro and Rosaura marry and Tita is the one tasked with making their wedding dinner. She is full of longing and disillusionment as she cooks. Which results in the wedding guests being filled with nostalgia and sadness. (She didn’t do it on purpose btw)! It’s all actually pretty interesting how this happens. It makes real the “it was cooked with love” sentiment.
A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON
As I mentioned, today Mexico is also celebrating. What is it celebrating? El Grito!
It commemorates the day that a Catholic priest, Hidalgo, rang the church bells (a battle cry) in Dolores (small town near Guanajuato), which marked the beginning of the Mexican War for Independence. Every year, the President (and other high-ranking officials) ring church bells and give a roaring cry to mark the occassion.
If you can, I suggest you watch it.
It begins tonight, September 15th and lasts through the night. This is how Mexican Independence Day (September 16th) is rung in. (I’m not Mexican so please correct me if I’m wrong)!
Now, I know how my homeland celebrates its independence and I have an idea of how the motherland celebrates.
How the U.S. celebrates 4th of July: Red, white and blue/flag clothing; Grilling; Beer; Fireworks.
How Guatemala celebrates Independence Day (according to my Chapina momma!):
Traditional clothing (optional); Parade; Fair; Fireworks (which are low-key dangerous!)
But I am extremely interested in how other countries/cultures celebrate. I have a degree in Anthropology for a reason 😉 So, I toss it to you!
How do YOU celebrate your country’s independence? Please let me know in the comments below!! 😀
HAPPY BLOGGING EVERYONE!