www.ambiente.us  SEPTEMBER | SEPTIEMBRE 2009

Cuentos Del Centro | Stories from the Latino Heartland
(Scapegoat Press, 2009)
Review by Charlie Vázquez

As Carlos Cumpián points out in the introduction: The writers assembled in this
anthology hail from diverse places and bring their regional spices to add to the literary
salsa that is Cuentos Del Centro —California, Colombia, Texas, Peru.  This was a
revealing volume for me to read, since I’ve only experienced Latino culture on the
American coasts: Puerto Rican, Colombian, and Cuban culture on the East Coast and
Mexican and Central-American culture in the west—with sprinklings of others. The
stories in this book were composed by writers in the Latino Writers Collective in
Kansas City, Missouri.

Chato Villalobos’s opening story “Barrio Angels” begins, “Barrio Angels. That’s how we
referred to our sistas from the barrio that were on the honor roll but liked kicking it with
us bad boys when their papis weren’t watching.”  The tales begin here and weave
through myriad experiences and perspectives, from Xánath’s Caraza’s mystical and
erotic fiction account “At the Café on Huanjue Xiang Street” (It traversed her; it lightly
brushed her nipples and sex until it made her lose consciousness), to the very serious
and enraging “Hijo con Filo” by Miguel M.

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Morales, which studies the inner-world of a young field worker, whose family gets
sprayed with pesticide, thanks to a cruel crop duster’s pilot.

Some of the stories discuss intergenerational themes (Whitney Boyd’s “No Tengas
Vergùenza” and Linda Rodriguez’s “Why I Can’t Draw”); others recall toxic youth and folly
(Maria Vasquez Boyd’s “Lucy in the Sky”). José Faus’s “El Regreso” is a haunting an
introspective look at the longing felt for fathers who travel afar to work for too long, and
Nathalie Olmsted’s “The Farmhouse” illustrates the terrifying crossroads where
humanity and racism intersect, as witnessed by a Mexican family seeking refuge in a
white family’s farmhouse, as tornados threaten to wreak destruction and terror on the
open plains of Kansas.

Cuentos Del Centro features many other works I wish I could elaborate on here and is a
must-read for any collector of original Latino fiction, as it’s written by very different writers
in varying phases of their craft and career. I’m looking forward to more, guys!  

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