The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
A Fairy Tale As Lush As the Yucatán
By Ren Martinez
There are places that spill magic into the world, and the people who live there, breathing it in, inevitably become magic, too. Cenote City (CLASH Books) by Monique Quintana is a story about such a place and such a people. Rich in cultural heritage and simmering with colorful imagery, Cenote City is poetry-turned-prose, exploring the realities of poverty, grief, and oppression within the colorful spinnings of a fairy tale, too beautiful and sharp not to be true.
The story centers around Lune and her family, who live on the edge of a cenote, or sinkhole. The cenote is a physical landmark, a natural marvel, but it is also a place of where ancestors dwell and rituals are performed. Lune’s mother, Marcrina, is both revered saint and carnival attraction as she spills her tears into the cenote every night, filling it with the water of her grief, watched and witnessed by the hundreds of tourists who pay their admission fees and leave soon after.
It’s the clash of these two forces, like opposing weather fronts, that create the storm of the story. There is the magic of the cenote that spills into the valley and is breathed in by the people who live there, like the Fae beyond a fairy circle. And, there is the magic of the tourist trap, cheap and flashy and designed to catch your attention while someone picks your wallet from your pocket.
Quintana has created an immersive experience, connecting to a world that, while it simmers with the fantastical, is very real. She portrays the culture and people of the Yucatán with colorful strokes, bold and bright, but never without thoughtfulness or respect. She connects the magical with the mundane, a white, thrift store zoot suit, the pink of peeling wallpaper, creating an environment as lush and vibrant as the cenote itself. The struggles of Lune and her family are beautifully versed and utterly authentic, the wondrous otherworldliness never masking the harsh realities of poverty, of oppression, of death.
Cenote City is a vibrant celebration of a people and a place, telling a story rich in color and full of wonder. It is like the cenote itself, a place that, once you’ve seen it, you know that magic is there.
Read an essay that Monique Quintana contributed to Quail Bell in 2018 here.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.