Riding on La Bestia: The Border Writing

By Jorge Inzunza

The Beast snorts with all its metallic weight and annihilates with its infernal lullaby. It rambles along a little and hundreds of hopes jump on its back. It stops and terror rushes over, with its lights, screams and silences. The journey that Jenny Torres-Sánchez offers us in her novel “We Are Not from Here” is brutal, wild and heartbreaking.

The main characters in the novel represent neglected identities. Their names: Pequeña, Pulga, and Chico reflect a sense of insignificance. Their stories are marginal and are rooted in histories written with the lowercase “h,” in contrast to History written with uppercase, “H,” that highlights the version built by hegemonic power.

The tragedy of the protagonists begins before they are born. The destiny of young Guatemalans seems to be outlined in advance on a path that bifurcates early: the reproduction of violence or exile. Both options imply an internal breakdown of the characters, a vital destruction that leads them to crawl and flee simply to live.

The Beast is transformed into Charon’s boat. A fateful train that is hope and threat at the same time. It is a passage to an unknown land, to a chimera; Torres-Sánchez immerses us, sinks us, in the psychology of his characters.

The desert becomes purgatory. The protagonists, stripped of everything, are clinging or carried away by the mirages and ghosts of an army of souls who wander into wails of madness. The reader is thrown into stirrings of life and death, to the decomposition of the flesh and to a acid and suicidal sadness.

The Beast finally becomes an omnipresent and polymorphous creature that will continue to accompany the protagonists in their lives. Torres-Sánchez thus avoids any simplification of immigration experiences, showing their personal impact and sliding the question of how our societies welcome or punish these experiences. 

Photo by Phil Botha on Unsplash

Published by Jorge

Psychologist, educational researcher, dual language teacher, PhD in Education, and writer of children books.

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