A debut collection of short fiction, mostly in Spanish, addressing aspects of the Mexican and Mexican-American experiences.
Author De La Cruz shares more than two dozen short, Spanish-language narratives, some just a paragraph long and others spanning several pages. The book opens with “Conitos de nieve,” a disturbing account of two hunting aficionados showing off their trophies. Explorations of the dark side of human behavior follow, including a vivid depiction of a disliked old woman. But the author’s outlook isn’t entirely bleak; there’s a touch of playfulness in “Guiño,” in which deities from around the world socialize together, and “El rosario” presents a thoughtful portrait of two policemen attending a funeral. The stories return to the theme of chameleons introduced in the title, using the animals as a metaphor for finding homes in different cultures and different places. The book’s shortest pieces evoke Eduardo Galeano’s microfiction, with the same attention to language and confidence in the reader’s ability to interpret metaphorical statements such as “Mi último sueño fue curioso: había hielo y un cameleón se volvió transparente queriéndose perder” (“My last dream was curious: there was ice and a chameleon turned itself transparent trying to blend in”). One item in the collection is presented in English: “Maricopa,” a prose poem that asks, “Why wasn’t he blessed with citizenship? / Why wasn’t he born up north? / Why not golden hair?” The characters in these stories are quiet, but each plays a role in conveying the book’s symbolism and its themes of alienation and adaptation. In these tales of false identities, transgressive behavior, determination, and moments of grace, De La Cruz has produced an incisive depiction of the transnational and transcultural experience of border life in engaging, highly readable language.
A creative, evocative mix of stories.