MAGIC EYES by Wendy Ewald


Scenes from an Andean Childhood
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 Vivid oral history of one peasant's harsh life in a Colombian mountain village and in the barrios of Bogot†. The graphic realities are driven home by photographs (63 b&w) shot by Ewald as well as by the village children. Ewald, a professional photographer and a winner earlier this year of a MacArthur ``genius'' grant, lived from 1982-84 in the small mountain village of Raquira, on the western slope of the Andes. She took photos, taught photography to the children, and listened to the narratives of Alicia V†squez. Alicia was a child of poverty, of a society steeped in witchcraft, and of an extended family whose members washed in and out on the riptides of disease, desperation, brutality, hope, and the blunt necessity of lasting another day. Her story, overflowing with the rich details of a harsh life observed by a bright mind, tells of her early childhood in a mountain shack and how, at age seven, she was forced to become a servant. At 12, Alicia began living in tar-paper shacks in illegal squatter-settlements; she was gang-raped at 15 and, at 17, had children of her own. Through her experiences, Alicia was transformed from a victim--and a young girl perceived as a witch: hence the title--into a community organizer who championed the personal effort, risk, and responsibility that could lead her and her children ``off the road poor people keep walking on.'' There are moments of joy along the way (playing hide-and-seek; the birth of a brother), but, for the most part, it's the hard truths of poverty and oppression that dominate here. An affecting example of how oral history can open a window on another reality.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1992
ISBN: 0-941920-21-6
Page count: 164pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1992