Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo does not celebrate one’s ability to scarf down tequila shots and guacamole. It does not commemorate one’s gumption to dive wild-eyed into a pitcher of icy Margaritas, the brain freeze that follows, or even Mexican Independence – contrary to an even more popular belief.
If this is old news to you, feel free to skip down to the book list.
Although the holiday is frequently mistaken for Mexican Independence Day, May 5th actually commemorates the unlikely victory of the Mexican army over the French in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. Considerably outnumbered, the Mexican troops managed to stomp out an enemy that had not been defeated in nearly 50 years. Since the battle, Mexico has yet to be invaded my any European nation.
Now that deserves a tequila shot.
To celebrate the holiday at the heart of Mexican culture and pride, we’ve made a list of several of the country’s most esteemed authors. Old and new, these Mexican authors enlighten the culture they hail from, and present another token of pride that any patriot (or book lover) can cherish.
Image courtesy of The New Yorker
As the man the New Yorker calls ‘Mexico’s literary prankster’, Bellatin is a great author to read on this festive holiday. His writing is mischievous and ethereal, and utterly strange much like the author. When asked who his favorite writer was he supposedly made up a fake Japanese name, baffling reporters.
Image courtesy of Electric Wire Literature
You may be familiar with her book The House On Mango Street, but Cisneros is also widely known for a number of novels, including Carmelo, and Have You Seen Marie? Cisneros’ work experiments with a cultural hybridity between the U.S. and Mexico, much like her own upbringing did. Into this hybrid she blends the values of two different cultures, perspectives on economic inequality, and varying strains of feminism.
Image courtesy of Britannica
Image courtesy of Power of the Word
Gilb has been recipient of the Hemingway Foundation Award, the Whiting Award, and the Guggenheim Fellowship for the Creative Arts.
Image courtesy of English
If you’re a fan of George Saunders, you may be a fan of Gonzales’ book, The Miniature Wife. The collection of short stories is weird and poignant, and wonderfully commonplace all at the same time. The eighteen stories introduce readers to a composer who can speak through his ears, a shrunken wife, and plenty of oddball encounters to keep you busy this Cinco de Mayo.
Image courtesy of Two Lines Press
Yuri has been praised as one of the best contemporary Mexican writers, acclaimed for his poetic style and the incredibly dynamic worlds his books create.
In a comment from Valeria Luiselli, the author featured just below stated, “Yuri Herrera must be a thousand years old. He must have travelled to hell, and heaven, and back again. He must have once been a girl, an animal, a rock, a boy, and a woman. Nothing else explains the vastness of his understanding.”
Yeah, he’s good.
Image courtesy of The Guardian
Luiselli’s book, The Story of My Teeth, has found a spot on nearly every must read list of 2015. The story follows Gustavo ‘Turnpike’ Sanchez, on a laborious mission to replace his teeth, and the unusual means he finds to raise money for the purchase.
Luiselli is also the author of the award winning novel, Faces in the Crowd, and a number of other highly praised books.
Image courtesy of Lavoz
From Nettel’s expansive work of both fiction and non-fiction we’d recommend Natural Histories, which examines what it means to be human through the illuminating fates of cats, snakes, and other non-humans that venture onto the page. The novel won her the Premio Herralde Award in 2014.
Image courtesy of Milenio
Paz is another classic Mexican writer, famous for both his poetry and his prose. Again, all we can say is read him, just do it.
We reccomend starting with his Collected Poetry.
Image courtesy of Provencia
Juan Rulfo’s major works compose a library of literary feats, especially considering that he wrote his two most widely recognized works in the span of just two years. The first is a book of short stories titled El Lano En Llamas, which centers around several harsh depictions of life in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. The second book, Pedro Páramo, is a short novel following a traveler’s journey to a ghost town, empty except for the spectral figures that hover over the ruins. The latter is a bit of a spooky one!
Enjoy your reads! And for best results, read while sipping a margarita.