The following is an excerpt from Carmen’s new novel ¡Jíbara! that tells the story of Juanita, a jíbara, a poor, young woman from the mountains of Puerto Rico, who wants to become a teacher. She attends a rural school until a hurricane forces her and her mother to migrate to the city where they end up in a slum. In my novels I draw on my personal experience growing up in Puerto Rico to write about the culture as well as about how race and class manifest in intimate relationships.
Several major hurricanes devastated the island in the first quarter of the twentieth century and contributed to general poverty and social dislocation. In the following fragment the children are in the rural schoolhouse during the hurricane.
* * * *
Just then, the ceiling light began to fade and quiver, as if it were breathing with difficulty. Then it went out.
The children screamed. The room was pitch black. The rabid dog wind and the pounding rain were going to come into the dark room. They seemed to already be there, among them. Surrounding her. Breathing with a deafening sound. Juanita turned quickly to look behind her towards the windows, but she could see nothing. She began to shake.
Misi Davis voice was loud. It was almost as strong as the wind.
“Get under the tables!’
“¡Métanse debajo de las mesas!”
Juanita was glad that Misi García was there too. And she was glad that Misi García spoke Spanish. At that moment, without words, she loved her language. It was as if her mami were there in the words. She sat still under the table with her heart pounding. She thought the roof and walls would cave in and everyone would be blown away into the howling darkness. She missed Cisa. She wondered where, in all that darkness and sound, her mami might be, and whether she was scared.
See more from Carmen on Epochalips HERE