As a sort of double feature for both Hispanic Heritage Month winding down and the spooky Halloween season winding up, today will be spent looking at and recommending the novel Mexican Gothic by Mexican-Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
Mexican Gothic is a bestselling novel from Moreno-Garcia. Like most of her previous works, Mexican Gothic takes the classic gothic horror story with all its genre staples and refocuses the narrative through a Mexican lens. This is not to oversimplify or suggest any lesser qualities in Moreno-Garcia’s work or the novel in any way. Merely, showing how shifting something as simple as the setting and the central protagonist can create new and interesting stories without disregarding the genre conventions or expectations. In some ways, these simple shifts add completely new dimensions to the expected conventions.
Mexican Gothic has, essentially, all the gothic romance/horror genre expectations: a dilapidated estate, an old, elite family in decline, a debilitating illness impacting unsuspecting victims, a potential supernatural connection and explanation to the long standing family decline, an “innocent” rational protagonist set to save a beloved afflicted by the family and estate, a “battle” between classes, traditions, beliefs, and progress ever encroaching on the past. However, all this within the setting of turn of the (previous) century Mexico with the protagonist being an intelligent, head strong Mexican woman of indigenous descent adds aspects of colonialism commentary and racial disparities and injustices with the antagonist family being an Anglo lineage who took over the depleting silver mines of the mountains of El Triunfo.
In this story, Noemí Taboada (the protagonist) is called upon by her cousin, Catalina, to rescue her from the clutches of her English husband, Virgil Doyle. Unsure of the legitimacy of Catalina’s claims, Noemí’s father sends her to High Place, the Doyle homestead, to investigate and assess the true nature of Catalina’s claims and condition. Upon arriving, Noemí is greeted with mild annoyance of her presence by the Doyle family that continuously grows to outright hostility the longer she is present. As well, Noemí learns more of the Doyle family’s incestuous and checkered past as past sins and tragedies are revealed many of which could have vast implications and consequences for the family’s current declining conditions. Ultimately, this culminates in an unexpected resolution and climactic final confrontation between Noemí and the Doyle family
All in all, Silvia Moreno-Garcia deftly writes an intriguing gothic romance with just the right amount of suspense, horror, and aptly handled social commentary in her novel: one I highly recommend that is perfectly suited for this season.