Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation
|Author:||John Phillip Santos|
In this beautifully wrought memoir, award-winning writer John Philip Santos weaves together dream fragments, family remembrances, and Chicano mythology, reaching back into time and place to blend the story of one Mexican family with the soul of an entire people. The story unfolds through a pageant of unforgettable family figures: from Madrina—touched with epilepsy and prophecy ever since, as a girl, she saw a dying soul leave its body—to Teofilo, who was kidnapped as an infant and raised by the Kikapu Indians of Northern Mexico. At the heart of the book is Santos’ search for the meaning of his grandfather’s suicide in San Antonio, Texas, in 1939. Part treasury of the elders, part elegy, part personal odyssey, this is an immigration tale and a haunting family story that offers a rich, magical view of Mexican-American culture.
Mexican American journalist John Phillip Santos’s lyrical and loving memoir explores his family’s history in magnificent prose touched with the singing cadences of his Spanish-language heritage yet vibrant with the energy of American English. It’s a combination utterly suited to his native San Antonio, where las viejitas—the little old ladies of the Garcia and Santos families—ruled over their children and grandchildren with the toughness and grandeur of the Mexico they left during the revolution of 1914. “Poised between those ancient Indio origins from the south … and our Mestizo future in the north,” these new Texans made Mexico live for their descendants in the magical stories and folkloric practices of an older culture. Yet there was also a sense of secrets kept and cherished possessions left behind, of people who had traveled far and traveled light. The “wind of story” was also “a wind of forgetting,” and as Santos probes his heritage, he comes to understand that “it is okay to move on and forget.” Nonetheless, this is a book that restores to memory the drama not just of a single family but of an entire people whose past is more closely entwined with that of the United States than some Americans care to remember. Santos depicts them with care and dignity. —Wendy Smith