“Our bodies hide so many mysteries and they tell so many stories without a single word”Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Although Halloween is over, I was able to discover some new materials of gothic literature and horror-Nevertheless, I was determined to read Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Before Goodreads, I relied on Buzzfeed’s recommended reading list; I understand that some may argue it might not be the best source for curated literary collections, but I kept seeing this novel everywhere online. Moreno-Garcia’s novel actually debuted in October 2020, but I finally finished it, er, two weeks ago, and wow; A lot of symbolism in the story, but I wanted to focus on one, so here we go.
Warning: If you have not read the book, this is a SPOILER ALERT.
The novel introduces a confident debutante, Noemi Toboada, who receives a letter from her cousin, Catalina. Catalina writes to Noemi that something is threatening her, and suspects her newly-wed husband is planning to murder her. Noemi ventures to the Mexican countryside, to find an old English mansion called High Place, owned by a prominent yet old Doyle family.
The story sets a stylized mood of secrecy that fits the Gothic literature archetype such as an old mansion, stoic servants, and a disturbing peek of a family’s past. Mexican and Indigenous imagery are expressed in the story, enriching readers to explore gothic horror represented in Latin America.
Although the narrative is a third-person point of view, the readers are able to sense an uneasy atmosphere surrounding Noemi as unwelcoming and foreign. Noemi’s feeling of being out of place is ironic, because High Place itself has not aged well in the current era of the story, as if time has stopped for them while Mexico thrives in its vibrancy. Mexican Gothic applies dark literature elements, including an obscurity within the estate, a dark family history, and a dreary aura to reflect the background of the novel.
What Mexican Gothic succeeds in the genre is expanding gothic horror with Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican roots. Gothic horror/literature, to an extent, revolves around a Eurocentric platform, and Latinx literature delves into surrealism and magic. Mixing the best of both genres, Moreno-Garcia pays homage to her heritage while incorporating classic horror tropes to create an enigmatic ghost story.
A ghost story indeed, but Mexican Gothic has an unsettling cautionary tale of colonization. The discomfort of this nuance is further examined through the allegory of mushrooms.
Mushrooms have been mentioned a few times in the story, but play a catalytic role at High Place. I am no mycologist, but from my basic understanding, Fungi plays an important role in our ecosystem by recycling dead materials on the earth. Fungi are amazing organisms, where some species are edible, while others are poisonous or parasitic. Many types of fungus can zombify another creature, or kill a human with its spore; Whatever the type, the purpose of fungi is spread its colony for survival.
From this analysis, fungi represents ecological colonization that can be compared to the Western colonization of the Americas, specifically Mexico. The Spaniards invaded, exploited, and enslaved the indigenous population. While this is an open-ended interpretation, the allegory fits perfectly with the Doyles’ aspiration to control the land and the people around them.
Diversity vs Colonization
Diversity is another theme slyly penetrated in Mexican Gothic, emphasizing both roles are connected in regards to biological progress. Diversity can thrive through symbiotic harmony while the latter succeeds through established control. If colonization is not met with diversity, legacy will falter. For example, residents at High Place do not seem to know any Spanish except for Francis. He commented that none of the residents were interested in learning. Noemi is fluent in both Spanish and English, and embraces trends of the current timeline, giving her an advantage to expand her parameter of social adaption.
I comprehended this by comparing the Doyles as an elite group that will be long forgotten if they are unable to progress in a new environment. Without engaging in diversity culturally, they will succumb to an unfortunate extinction of their kind.
As I said, there’s a lot to unpack in Mexican Gothic, despite being a relatively short novel. I could go on about this book, but I would be writing a 10-page essay about it. This is my first Latinx gothic literature I’ve transported to, and I hope to read more throughout my literary journey. I will be writing about Cultural Academia, where modern academia became more inclusive, by mixing literary genres together with multi-racial elements. I would love to read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s other works, the next one I am intrigued to dive in is She Walk in the Shadows, a love letter to Lovecraftian horror.
Until then, open your mind to old and new worlds, and Ad Astra Per Libras.
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