20 de septiembre de 2009

IN THE NAME OF THE SON by Mario G. Huacuja


In the Name of the Son is the most recent novel by Mexican author Mario G. Huacuja.
About the Book
Through its examination of the relationship between a single immigrant mother and her son, In the Name of the Son offers a perspective on the lives of Hispanic American migrants, as well as the social, political and economic upheavals that marked the U.S. and Mexico at the beginning of the 21st Century.
Julieta Sanchez lives with her son in Manhattan’s upper west side. As her son grows up, he naturally becomes curious about his origins, and about the father he never knew. His quest to discover his true identity will take him to Mexico City and to Paris, back to New York, and finally to the tropical rainforests of southeastern Mexico.
The story narrates the internal conflict of a young man trying to ascertain the identity of his father, who will ultimately uncover the unexpectedly violent and disturbing truth of his origins. His search leads him into a labyrinth full of mirrors, where he finds his own reflection changing at every step.
Mario Huacuja delivers a fast-paced novel with a cinematic flavor, offering unexpected twists in every scene. It is perhaps no accident that one of the characters turns out to be the silver screen legend himself, Robert De Niro.
About the Author
Mario Guillermo Huacuja was born in Mexico City. He has worked as a journalist, a professor at Mexico´s National University, a TV scriptwriter, a radio commentator, social communications director for the Mexican Ministry of the Environment, a novelist and a sailor. He sailed from Acapulco to Japan in an ancient carabela, a replica of Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria. His novel In the Name of the Son, about a Mexican immigrant growing up in New York City, is his first novel translated into English. His most recent novel, “Coyoacán, Hora Cero”, revolves around the Aztec prophecy of the Apocalypse, and is set in Coyoacán, one of Mexico City's most popular colonial neighborhoods.


One of the most striking memories of my early childhood is that of my encounter with the Statue of Liberty. I would have been four or five years old, and the sight of it filled me with awe; I had never seen a woman so big. Everything about her was larger than life. Her green copper color, the strength of her arm reaching into the sky, the elegance of her tunic, the golden flame of her torch and her vacant expression marked me forever.


First, a few plants would appear, sprouting up from the quagmire of trash and growing with amazing speed, turning into the robust trees of Park Avenue as I passed them; then the elms of Central Park would appear, and around the heaps of scrap metal and squashed cardboard boxes would appear the outlines of the buildings that surround the park like sentinels: the Dakota, with its symmetrical windows and ochre colors; the Hotel Plaza, with its renaissance façade; the Twin Towers of the thirties, with that grace granted only by the passage of time. I would regard this fantastic metamorphosis with a joy that knew no bounds; I would look to my mother in the distance and run towards her embrace with renewed resolve, while the city grew up all around me as if by magic. It was an extraordinary sensation; I felt as if wings sprouted from my shoulder blades, and I began to fl y unhindered through the avenues and alleyways. Then the widest path in the junkyard turned into Broadway, the shattered windscreens were transformed into brilliant neon signs dancing with light, the skeleton of a dilapidated truck expanded suddenly to take on the dimensions of Radio City, the puddles of putrid water crystallized into the skating rink of the Rockefeller Center, and all at once the city rose up with its colossal buildings and filled up with its inhabitants from every corner of the world.


Samantha looked at me with an expression of perplexity and rapture, as if I had just synthesized in a sentence the full depth of the painting. Then she took me by the arm, leaned her head against my shoulder, and led me to the winding ramp that identified the profile of the museum and defined its architecture. We walked out onto the balcony, where from on high we watched the people leaving the museum before closing time, and in that moment she took my face in her hand as if it were an apple and forced her tongue into my mouth vehemently, searching for something inside me that would give her the key to my sensitivity or astuteness. This sudden attack robbed me of my self-control, rendering me completely stunned, although I admit that not even in the most alert state would I have imagined that it was the preamble to what happened next.


Marijuana, on the other hand, was common currency. It could be obtained on any street corner in the neighborhood, and it had become as popular as tobacco. My friends smoked it to relax, and as a result I always saw them in a state of peace that resembled beatitude.
I remember clearly the first day that I slipped into that illicit world. It was dawn, and Samantha and I had left an apartment in the Village where there had been much talk of painting and the constant drone of Charlie Parker’s sax as if it were a mantra. I had been as bored there as an animal in captivity. Shortly before saying goodbye, one of Samantha’s friends offered us a satchel of pot as if it were the most appropriate baggage for the return journey.
And in fact it was, because before boarding the subway on the way home, a small sampling of that spiritual herb was enough to inspire us to contemplate the daybreak on one of the historic
benches in Washington Square, and we sat looking in wonder at the colors that streaked the sky. Wow, I had never before seen such beauty; the clouds were impregnated with a Mexican rose pink that looked like a fire in the distance, and the white marble arch was illuminated as if it were the threshold to an imaginary kingdom.


And then, in the blink of an eye, I saw him. He was one man among the millions of ordinary pedestrians swarming about the residential districts of southern Manhattan, but he had that proverbial magnetism that radiated from his unmistakable figure on the silver screen. RobertDe Niro, talking on a street corner. I was stupefied. It was him, the loony taxi driver who accumulated a diabolical arsenal to protect a teenage prostitute and to challenge the world with his ballistic strategies; the young and dashing godfather Vito Corleone, who took advantage of the fleeting opportunity offered by a parade in lower Manhattan to shoot at point-blank range at one of the self-proclaimed kings of the neighborhood and then went home with a shiny apple for his son; De Niro, the overweight boxer who gained God knows how many pounds to play the part of heavy weight champion Jack LaMotta; De Niro, the noble missionary who defended the Brazilian natives against their own government’s unjust war of extermination. De Niro, the hero with charismain spades; the villain of unbridled cruelty; the leading man who takes away the breath of every woman in the world; the idealist Mafioso, the simple martyr. Robert De Niro, the figure at the top of the very short list of men I admire in this life.


Then I decided to follow her, and I went forward to the edge of the rink to rent some skates. It wasn’t so full, and although I was an inexpert skater I stepped onto the rink spurred on by the novelty of having an encounter with her on ice. I hesitated for sometime at first on the edge of that great frozen rectangle, holding firmly onto the wooden barrier as I tentatively tested my abilities on the skates. Then I ventured out a few steps, with enough impetus to slide furtively as I pushed myself forward with my feetpointed diagonally, digging the blades into the ice with increasing self-assurance, until I got to the curve and tried to cross the rightfoot over the left to make the turn, but with such poor coordination that the back of my right blade got jammed into the front of the left, and I lost my precarious balance and dove head first at the feet of the statue of Prometheus while the other skaters dodged about me and eyed me with either commiseration or mockery.