Engle merges streams of free-verse poetry into a Hispanic history lesson spanning centuries.
Beginning on the shores of pre-Colombian Borikén (Puerto Rico), Engle imagines the voices of the Taíno as well as those of the colonizers and many diverse mestizos from across the Hispanic Americas to craft a poetic picture of Hispanic history that begins with a trickle and ends in a torrent. The author does not hide her point of view. She paints an idealized picture of Taíno culture—the only explicitly Indigenous voices represented—in which people lived in harmony with the land before the arrival of the Spaniards, a choice that elides the complicated history of the pre-Columbian Americas. As the story continues into the modern day, the featured characters demonstrate the wide variety of ethnic roots included in the multicolored tapestry of Hispanic culture, but there is not so much diversity in thought, as it largely celebrates those stories that align with contemporary liberal ideology. The retrospective look back reveals many narratives that seem to play on a loop as similar struggles are faced by successive generations and continue to this day, begging readers to learn from the past lest it repeat yet again. Within the authorial bias, the poetry is fluid and thought-provoking, and Latinx readers will find many narrative threads that will seem teased from their own family looms.
A flawed but necessary history of a culture whose voices demand to be heard. (Poetry anthology. 10-14)