Everybody here knows what I do and understands how much it tinges my perception of the Hispanic people. I feel warm and fuzzy when I simply just hear the word “Mexican.”
I understand, though, that nobody is required to share my feelings. Cultural differences exist and people can feel wary or anxious about those who are different. The day before I had to take my first class in Latin American culture, I threw a fit because I suspected there would be Hispanic women there, and I was terrified of them before ever meeting a single one. And then I started hanging out with Hispanic women to learn Spanish and discovered these were my favorite people in the world.
So what I suggest when you are bothered by a culture is to spend some time in a friendly interaction with people whose culture you find threatening or icky. You might completely change your mind. Or not, you never know. But it makes sense to try.
This suggestion, of course, only pertains to reasonable, mentally healthy folks and not obsessed paranoiacs like T.C. Boyle. God, this fellow hates Mexicans with the power of a million fiery suns. His Mexican characters are not only “rapists and murderers” – which they are – but they also burn down half of California and destroy a beautiful library of 6,000 volumes. The metaphor couldn’t be clearer: Mexicans are so uncivilized that they destroy knowledge, culture and beauty.
They also kill a cat. Like in, they cook it and eat it. A little boy’s pet cat. And it’s a really nice cat, too. If even I, a person who is indifferent to cats, felt a pang when she was killed and eaten by Mexicans, that means the cat was portrayed in the novel as a really nice, friendly animal who didn’t deserve this fate.
And then they eat more pet cats.
I can only conclude that the author is obviously mentally unwell because his hatred of Mexicans makes Trump look like a passionate admirer of the Mexican culture. Again, I’m very willing to recognize the million and one problems of the Mexican culture. But it’s simply crazy to present the Mexican people as these irredeemable, useless, stupid folks who destroy everything they touch. And eat cats after doing it.
The novel’s parallel story of clueless American liberals I’m not even discussing because it’s been done a bizillion times in US literature and I’m so over it.
Reading this book was a powerful experience because it isn’t often that you encounter such raw, pulsating hatred spewed out with unflagging intensity over 449 pages. I’m very opposed to teaching this book in high school because the literary quality is nil and kids this age are not equipped to resist a text of such great intensity and such a simplistic worldview.
Once again, thank you, reader el, for giving me a copy. I’m very glad I read this book.