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The Vampire of Colonia Roma… is draining my Master Card!

24 August 2006

I thought I had gotten over my need to own “stuff”. But, now that I’m settled — again — I find I miss “stuff” … books mostly…that went into a storage locker in Houston that I eventually stopped paying rent on, or are still sitting in a friends garage in Mexico City, or… loaned out never to be seen again.

I’ve been spending a small fortune the last few days picking up some odd “essentials” — two books on the Mexican-American War (I still haven’t located my “Diary of Samuel Chamberlain”… one of the three or four copies I’ve owned and lost over the years may still turn up).

For a time I had a nice collection of tour books of Mexico City. None came close to the reality of the city (I used to amuse myself picking out their flaws) as close to the “real” Mexico City as a small book from written in the 1970s, which an earthquake, years of rebuilding, a Periferico, Ejes and a complete change in government (and a few million more inhabitants) hasn’t dated.

I only stumbled across it by accident… at a Half-Price Books shop in Houston that had both a good Mexican section, and a gay clientele. Luis Zapata’s “Adonis Garcia: the vampire of Colonia Roma” was shocking at the time. I don’t know why. It’s a classic “piquaresque,” shocking only in that it’s so very on-target about Mexico City. “Adonis”, being a gay hustler, made it a “gay novel” and the translation was from a small press. Which means… replacing what was a $5.00 purchase back in the days when I made a bundle just cost me thirty bucks with one of the internet used book dealers.

I’m lucky… the other copies of this all-too-little known classic go as high as 70 or 80 dollars. I don’t know if the reprint rights are available, but it’s one of those “Mexican” books in English (like Rosa King’s “Tempest over Mexico”, about the hotelier’s experiences during the Revolution, or Fanny Erskine de la Barca’s 1845 “Letters from Mexico”) that wear their age gracefully, and still are relevant in a way that an old “Lonely Planet Guide” isn’t. Perhaps the viewer (reader?, whatever you call the person who looks at this) who keeps pushing me to finish MY Mexico book wants to look into this.

I’d forgotten I thought of buying an extra copy of “Adonis” a few years ago… from Amazon.com. I found one other review on the web — mostly dealing with sexual politics. Mine was sparked by my amazement at finding this Mexican piqueresaque listed under “GOTHIC” novels:

Luis Zapata’s “Adonis Garcia” is subtitled “Vampiro de la Colonia Roma” in its original Spanish, but perhaps it should be classified as “gothic humor”, not “horror”.

Adonis inhabits the world of the night — true. But, so do most prostitutes and drug dealers. Having turned his back on a promising future in electronics repair working in his father’s shop in Matamoros (on the U.S. border), “Adonis” opts for an adventurous, open life as a gay prostitute, petty thief and sometime drug dealer.
He makes no apologies — “es me onda” (it’s my thing) he says. While this novel deals with Mexico City before the 1985 earthquake that obliterated much of Colonia Roma … and changed the social and political landscape … much of what was written about Mexico City in the early 80s is still true today. Mexicans — and the Mexican underclass — are survivors above all. They make no apologies, they have their dignity, and — above all — they recognize the absurdity of life.

This is a joyful novel (something that doesn’t always come across in the academic translation). As the hero of a piquaresque, Adonis is a loveable rogue. His worst crime is stealing an antique mirror from some trusting little old ladies — with typically comic complications. This is not the Mexico of outsiders — feeling sorry for our poor, worrying about the socialogical effects of a marginal life (Adonis’ psychiatrist aunt worries about that for us). This is Mexican humor at its best — mordant and black at times — but willing to face the absurdity of life with a smile.

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