Come Back, Carmen Miranda: Stories about Latin America

"The main character is Latin America itself: tragic, lush, violent, romanic. A wonderful group of stories." Sarah Passell, Danbury News-Times

"She conveys that curious affect of travel, where you are transformed by the strange surroundings, all the while aware that you're just a tourist, and her eye and ear for telling detail are marvelous." George Witte, St. Martin's Press 

I know what they have been telling you. I repeat, I am not a “crazy old lady,” and you must not pay attention to them. And I ask you this only: Why should I even try to defend my good name against these people who have lived so long in their huts that they themselves resemble adobe? Did they ever sit among nice things, valuable things? Did they have crocheted curtains and flowered teacups, dresses from far away, sprigged muslin and lavender-scented soap? Cake with sweet cream icing and music rising gentle as incense to the clear blue heavens? Mercy of God, no! The only thing my detractors know of is broken-down guitars and beer and of course children, their endless children whose play consists of putting dust over their black eyes, and exposing their naked bellies.

Look over there. No, there. At the gleaming mountains still full of metal – now only the gringos can solve the problem of extracting the silver and the tin. Before, it was easy enough – although it is true that men died in the attempt. Now, see the goat paths and how those goats are like hunchbacks who can walk anyplace and eat anything? With their thin ears they listen for the smallest rustle of a scrap of paper or a tin can; then they chew this refuse with relish. The people here are about the same. They slit goats’ throats and drain their blood and roast the meat. Did I tell you of this? They are as poor as dirt. Their enjoyment is to go to the plaza with its broken benches on a Sunday evening and laugh at the huge desert toads asleep on the warmed concrete there, those girls with bad teeth that their hands cannot hide and those young men who squat with their hats in their hands looking at the girls with improper dreams in their heads. As if they were movie stars – like Dolores Del Rio, the most beautiful of all, from my youth. And none of them see, as I do, the aquatic blue sky behind the blooming clouds, the enchanted mountain that disappears behind foam at night.

Glowing, glowing. They see only each other, raised on goat meat, and then at 9 o’clock the lights go out in the plaza.

from Crazy Carlota and the Piano