I loved the desert when I lived in El Paso, but as a native, I had no environmental concerns. There was no such thing back then. We were too busy growing up in a vast landscape that could never change.
Ray Gonzalez grew up on the Mexican
border, in the booming desert city of El Paso, Texas, but left in
his 20s to pursue an academic career. Decades later, as a
successful poet and a tenured professor, he returned to his
hometown to survey the changes. The 15 essays in The
Underground Heart include ruminations on the exploitation
of the Pancho Villa legend, our macabre curiosity about the atomic
era, the contradictions between preservation and tourism at
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and many other secrets and lies of
the tourist-friendly desert Southwest.
The essays often
stray from the traditional form, including historical clippings and
other found materials. One of the most lyrical pieces, "El
Mercado," is little more than an elaborate list of what’s
bought and sold at a border market. Gonzalez sometimes directs his
anger at easy targets, savagely caricaturing a heavily made-up tour
guide and a crowd of panicky Minnesotans visiting the border
country for the first time. Yet his long view of the region, and
his poet’s touch, make for a great deal of illuminating
The Underground Heart: A Return
to a Hidden Landscape, Ray Gonzalez, University of
Arizona Press, 2002. 186 pages. Softcover:
The Underground Heart: Return to a Hidden Landscape
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