In “Jade, Blood” you manage to capture the loneliness and emptiness of a young woman who has never known kindness until that one pure moment she tosses the pig into the cenote. Have you ever visited a cenote? Does The Eye exist?
I’ve been to several cenotes; they are very common in Yucatan. I don’t know if there is a cenote called “The Eye,” but there is one called X’Keken (aka Dzitnup), which means pig. The locals supposedly discovered it because someone lost a pig and they found it there. I think everything is made out of pig in Yucatan.
What can you tell us about the inspiration behind “Jade, Blood”?
The santoral is just the most amazing thing ever. I was never into Catholicism, but I did read my Bible ferociously because it had all these gory, sexy and horrible stories. It’s the same with the saints. Agatha of Sicily is shown in paintings holding a dish with her breasts. Bernini did a sculpture of Saint Teresa which is, quite frankly, orgasmic. I’ve also always been interested in relics, like the fingers of saints. There’s the Holy Prepuce. This was a relic, supposedly, yes, a bit of foreskin from Jesus Christ. I read somewhere that an angel put this in Saint Bridget’s mouth and she had a vision. Saint Catherine outdid her: she wore Christ’s foreskin as a ring. Mystical marriage, indeed.
And it’s just odd how Indigenous beliefs bleed in and out of Mexican Catholicism. You look at something like the cult of Maximón, which is a sort of blend of Pre-hispanic ideas about gods and Catholic saints, and you end up concluding the world is strange and you know nothing about it.
Short stories, particularly this one, are very different than novels. “Jade, Blood” is a very lush story painted in minimalist prose, every detail perfectly placed for maximum effect. Did you intend for this story to be longer? How did you decide that enough was enough, that the plot had curled around itself and made itself whole?
It was supposed to be flash fiction. I like to write short, first of all, and then I think several stories lose their impact if they go on too long. This is one of them.
Much like the way Christianity has attempted to subvert and appropriate the Mayan culture in this story, colonialism and cultural appropriation continue to grind down marginalized cultures and peoples under the pretense that it is “their right” to do so. One of your most recent advocacy projects is the Emerging Indigenous Voices awards. Do you see a time when Indigenous writers and artists will be able to claim and express their heritages without others insisting it’s wrong or selfish to do so?
The Emerging Indigenous Voices awards are administered by the Indigenous Literary Studies Association, and I helped them with some promotional stuff. If anyone wants to donate to them, please do; the goal is to maintain long-term awards which support Canadian Indigenous writers. In Canada, the residential school system lasted until the 1960s and ’70s. The schools essentially took children from their families, seeking to re-educate them. This meant eliminating their traditions and making them stop using their own language. The result was a loss of language skills, traditions and the fracture of many families. The effects of the residential school system can still be seen across Canada, and while we speak of reconciliation, Indigenous writers and artists are still in the midst of tackling and figuring out many things.
Life is not all work and no play. When not writing, advocating, or working your day job, what do you do to recharge your batteries?
Watch movies, go to the pub once a week, and nap every day. I live a very placid, dull life, but that’s what Flaubert said you need to write good fiction: “Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” I take my bourgeois duties very seriously.
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