The Guardians (New York: Random House), by Ana Castillo, is a
timely and highly readable novel about the El Paso/Juárez
area, and how the border has become an eerie 'Paradise Lost,' where family
members routinely disappear and women are murdered for their organs or raped by
this pitiless desert, which undocumented workers see as a stepping stone to ‘
The story is told from four perspectives: Regina, the 50-year-old widowed virgin who lives in Cabuche, New Mexico, and searches for her brother Rafa as he attempts to cross the border and join her in the United States; Miguel, Regina’s love interest, and a leftist high school teacher in search of his manly confidence, and who is clearly mesmerized by the red-headed Regina; Gabriel, or Gabo, Rafa’s 16-year-old son, a young man simultaneously obsessed with monkhood and gang members who promise him a sense of family; and Abuelito Milton, a cantankerous viejito from El Segundo Barrio, who pushes his grandson Miguel into action, rescues young Gabriel from jail one night, and even flirts with la Regina.
Castillo’s most important accomplishment in The Guardians is to give a unique literary voice to questions about what makes up a ‘family,’ Mexican-American or otherwise, where an independent soul can find redemption, particularly in a hostile world, and how we can realistically find ‘faith,’ if we can find it at all, after we have suffered through our personal and political histories, and are still standing on this earth. This is a wonderful novel that does justice to life on the Mexican-American border.
article appeared in the Sunday Books section of the El Paso Times on