HOLY RADISHES by Roberto Fernndez


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Fernndez (Raining Backwards, etc., not reviewed) continues his exploration of Cuban-American experience with a nearly unintelligible supposed satire of immigrant life. The setting is Belle Glade in the Florida Everglades, where the former aristocrats of Xawa now live in exile and toil at the local radish-processing plant. Their stories are told at breakneck speed, zipping back and forth in time, through long-winded and unrealistic streaks of dialogue. At the whirling hub of these scattered tales is Nellie Pardo, who, as a child, was a spoiled rotten near-savante who spoke only to her pet pig, Rigoletto. Grown up, she marries Nelson Guiristain, the unwilling heir of a business empire. Nelson attempts to ease his anxiety by spending long hours chasing the squirrel at Marina's luxury zoological brothel. When revolutionaries overthrow the Cuban government, Nelson escapes with his father's company's several million dollars in cash in a cardboard suitcase, but sets himself free of paternal pressures by throwing the money into the sea. The exiled have various ways of surviving once they find themselves in Belle Glade. Nellie and her vastly overwritten redneck neighbor glue seashells and glitter on stray animals and open an exotic zoo. Nelson's best friend, Bernabe, in the belief that a local Jewish merchant is hording a vast treasure, tattoos a number on his arm and poses as a long-lost relative. (This is not the only distasteful ethnic reference; Nellie works at the radish plant with a black woman who says things like ""Dats what ah always say, de lawd will provide."") Meanwhile, Nellie and Nelson's marriage splinters further as he yearns only for his lost squirrel and she retreats into her fantasy world. In the end, perhaps, they will both realize their dreams. A silly and sloppily composed compendium of ethnic stereotypes scantily clad as satire. And as every struggling comic knows, when slapstick falls, it falls hard.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
Page count: 300pp
Publisher: Arte P£blico