Mirrors Beneath the Earth

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As editor Ray Gonzalez states in his introduction to this volume, the title evokes how Chicano short fiction rises out of the earth as a cultural writing that encompasses the power of landscape, autobiographical experience, and political realities of the environments of the writers. The stories alternate between sometimes harsh realities and imaginary adventures grounded in myth and superstition.

Some of the stories, such as “Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush” by Luis Alberto Urrea, rely on humor to make their point. Mr. Mendoza is a graffiti artist in a small town, pointing out the faults of the town for people who do not, until the story’s conclusion, realize just how inspired he is. Leroy V. Quintana’s “The Rosary” mixes the spiritual with the comic, combining a man’s vision of the miracle of a burning rosary with his attempts to pass his driving test. Both plot elements illustrate the daily realities of the protagonist’s village.

Along with the fond reminiscences of some stories are the unpleasant realities in others, as in Alma Luz Villanueva’s story of a boy who dies while sniffing glue, Lucha Corpi’s tale of a young boy who dies in the riots during which journalist Ruben Salazar was killed, and Benjamin Alire Saenz’s narration of the struggle of a boy to obtain sanctuary in the United States after escaping from Salvadoran guerrillas.

Throughout this collection run themes of hope and of coping. Several of the...

(The entire section is 455 words.)