R.F. Sánchez. Latina Mistress. ISBN: 978-0-915745-91-3. $24.95.
This story is about young and pretty illegal alien women in El Paso, Texas, who unknowingly fall or conveniently acquiesce to the sexual demands of their male employers, who most happen to be Anglo Americans. Much what has been written about El Paso and the southwest is about its history, its settlers, its movers and its heroes. Latina Mistress, however, is about ordinary people, illegal aliens, their loves, hates, beliefs, and more importantly their circumstances. The events which take place in the novel intersect the Hispanic and Anglo worlds, with their own good and evil characters. This novel follows the long tradition of historical fiction in the sense that all the anecdotes told here are actually true, although the names have been changed to protect the guilty. The author gathered these very human stories through years of observation as well as personal experience and much research.
The author and his wife, Helen, actually knew personally Berta, one of the tragic heroines of this novel. He also interviewed scores of males and females of both cultures attesting to the accuracy of the story. What is a young and beautiful illegal alien to do to survive two alien worlds, the Hispanic and Anglo worlds, with their own good and evil characters? The answer is shivering in its clarity: whatever is required.
This novel depicts the dramatic lives of two beautiful sisters, both illegal aliens, and how some people take advantage of their weakness and their sex. In this sense this novel is a classic tale of what has always occurred with the disadvantaged all along; the powerful taking advantage of the weaker and more disadvantaged members of society. Although the novel starts with the arrival of the two pretty young women in the United States, dramatic events unleashed, which change the lives of these women. Some of these circumstances are simply traumatic, others are downright heart-breaking, and some others are happy events, which they must undergo before setting roots in this country. As in real life, not every immigrant coming to the United States makes it, in this novel; Rosario did, but not her sister, Berta. Some characters in this novel are truly loveable, others quite detestable; all nevertheless are quite human. The reader weeps at times, is angry at times, rejoices at times, but at the close you will find a new meaning for what is meant for a Latina Mistress.
"Longtime sportswriter does fine job with family epic." Nancy Hamilton / Special to the Times Article Launched: EL PASO TIMES 03/04/2007 12:00:00 AM MST Veteran
"El Paso sportswriter Ray Sanchez has changed hats to become R.F. Sanchez, novelist and interpreter of the social mores of his hometown, in Latina Mistress (Floricanto Press, $24.95 paperback). Although he published a short novel about horse racing in 1981 (as Ray, not R.F.), this one is a mature study that deserves closer attention. He has chosen a set of characters who came to El Paso in the 1960s by wading the river, and traces their failures and successes into the 1990s. The early part of the book centers on Berta, a 16-year-old from a tiny town in Mexico, who has seen a toaster but never before washed clothes and dishes in machines. She suffers inevitable rapes by her employers, becomes pregnant, and tries to return home. The Anglo male sense of entitlement to sexual favors is discussed by various characters. Thirty years later, a new generation is working out sexual and marriage issues, still centered on cultural differences and questions of bigotry. Berta's sister, Rosario, kept working in El Paso and ultimately married a lonely widower whom she had served as housekeeper (without premarital sex). Their daughter, Rosa Jones, represents the product of intermarriage who encounters social conflicts and falls in love with a handsome Anglo whose parents quickly disapprove of her. When the young couple proposes living together but not marriage, Rosario is devastated. She spends most of a chapter analyzing in detail the advantages and disadvantages of intermarriage as it is handled by Anglos and Hispanics. In protesting her daughter's decision, Rosario flees to relatives in Mexico, then returns to her husband, who could not understand her actions. Local readers will enjoy references to local landmarks ("Our phone bills are going to be higher than Mount Franklin") and eateries (Leo's, La Hacienda). In moving from books about UTEP basketball into fiction, Sanchez shows a depth of concern about the themes of the book. But beyond the well-drawn characters and the rather predictable plot, the reader is impressed by the author's sensitivity to intercultural conflicts as they evolve through the years of his story, and by the haunting ambience of life in la frontera." Nancy Hamilton is past president of Western Writers of America and a former Times Books page editor.