Golondrina, Why Did You Leave Me?
Golondrina is the Spanish word for a (female) swallow, a noun. But to accept that in such strict terms would be an injustice to this literary artwork laid out by Bárbara Renaud González in Golondrina, Why Did You Leave Me?. To swallow—the verb—would be to envelope or take in and also to accept or believe without question, anger, or protest. To embrace the former, this long-winged migratory bird with the deeply-forked tail is to embrace all of these definitions within the context of Amada García’s journey.
Amada’s story is intricately woven within the delicacies of Mexican cuisine and through the eyes of her second daughter, Lucero. Her journey begins and, dare I say, ends in Mexico. The Mexican Revolution would seem to better serve as a prelude rather than a catalyst for the bitterness that unmercifully surrounds Amada. For if it were a prelude instead of a catalyst, time may have been kinder to her.
Having to be taken out of school at the age of thirteen, Amada decides to educate herself. This education came in the form of a rebellious quinceañera gift to herself: a brutal marriage to a man her father’s age and a daughter, Salomé, forced to grow up without his love. Amada decides to leave Mexico and Salomé in search of a better life for herself and she hopes the daughter will join her eventually. She falls in love with the man who takes her across the border, but chooses to marry a man who is only in love with the land taken from his people. The love Amada so wishes to have is the love she gives to her eight children and the physical and emotional nourishment she provides for them.
González is a masterful storyteller with the ability to unapologetically simmer pain, desire, and despondency with the richness of words that conjure up beautiful culinary imagery. She refuses to romanticize the brutality of the journey, yet still creates a longing in the reader that allows us to take in this journey with more philosophical resignation than question, anger, or protest. Amada García’s story is that of a heart that migrates across what seems to be three lifetimes: her life in Mexico, her journey from Mexico to Texas, and her life from Texas on forward. Amada's journey starts in Mexico, and even though she is physically in another country, those lessons that have so deeply etched themselves into her heart seem to remain loyal to her motherland.
In Golondrina, Why Did You Leave Me? González beautifully and artfully leaves us content with nothing to protest.