This was one of those random books at the library you find every once in a good while. They’re rare, but spectacular. The story, Silver People, by Margarita Engle, followed an intriguing ensemble cast of characters as they shared their own stories of living life, either working, watching, or leading the construction of the Panama Canal in 1906.
The story starts out from the point of view of Mateo, the main character in the story. He’s going through all of the reasons of why he needs this job of working on the Panama Canal. His abusive father. His helpless mother desperate for financial relief. The desideratum for a new life. Every few pages, the perspective changes: Anita, the forest whisperer who sells herbal medicines to whoever will take them, that is, whoever notices her. She is discouraged that her sacred forest is being overrun by Americans. Henry, a former cock-fighter, is livid due to the utterly inadequate conditions Cubans are placed under versus those Americans are (similar to the highly debated issue of equal pay for equal work, no?). And finally, Augusto, an artist Mateo discovers, who decides to paint the beauty of the forest that surrounded him, while it’s still there. Despite the beauty of each character’s disposition, it’s the character of The Forest that stood out for me. It gave me insight to a common problem we face today in the world; climate change. Humans may reach for the stars, developing, researching, creating, but no iPhone bazillion or Samsung Galaxy S Note Edge whatever will trump the ultimate force of Mother Nature. When you take out the chaos and social expectations and Instagram feeds and Snapchat filters and viral videos and screens and binges and clothing and competition, all you have left is your bare hands and feet, and our Earth. And that makes me smile. Continue reading