Gambusino

Overview

Alfredo Montenegro is a gambusino, or scavenger of mines. Following the pull-out of American mining interest in Mexico in the late 1920s, he roams the hills, sking out a bare existence by hauling promising samples into town and hoping to make deals with current land owners.

Prospecting requires a grubstake, and from time to time Montenegro takes a steady job as a trucker or supervisor for a small Mexican mining company. The problems of his lifestyle are reflected in a growing ...

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Overview

Alfredo Montenegro is a gambusino, or scavenger of mines. Following the pull-out of American mining interest in Mexico in the late 1920s, he roams the hills, sking out a bare existence by hauling promising samples into town and hoping to make deals with current land owners.

Prospecting requires a grubstake, and from time to time Montenegro takes a steady job as a trucker or supervisor for a small Mexican mining company. The problems of his lifestyle are reflected in a growing estrangement from his wire, Irene, and by a break with his foster father, the past Ramizrez. Alfredo is tortured by his inability to find a major deposit and is resentful of the fact that Irene is attracted to his CPA son-in-law, who doesn't take risks.

Eventually his obsession reaches the point where no professional miner will go out with him, and he has to settle for a famer to assist him. It is then that he makes his big strike.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Among the most respected of contemporary Mexican novelists, Montemayor published Gambusino in 1982. It became a bestseller in Mexico and won El Nacional's 50th Anniversary Novel Contest. The novel explores the moral universe of early 20th-century Mexico by way of a searing portrait of one man trying to make his way in a world where the powers that beAmerican mining interests and their Mexican counterpartsrank property rights over human rights. Alfredo Montenegro is a gambusino, a prospector of sorts who lives a nomadic, risky life as he tries to make a fortune spotting gold. Alfredo has seen how the dismantling of a mine can obliterate a community. He has asked and been asked if a company town deserves to live if its mine is not productive. A second generation miner, Alfredo has a gambler's soul. He wants to find lost veins not only in order to save jobs and to become rich but also simply to prove it can be done. His story is narrated by his educated boyhood friend, Armando, who juxtaposes the past and the present while observing that his friend does not know another way to live even as his obsession estranges him from his bosses and from his family. Everything Alfredo does is part of his insistence on free will. He wants to make his own luckor his own trouble. And yet fatalistic overtones drive the book to its surprisingly subtle conclusion. The prose is rich and dark, like spilt blood, and tied to the very earth that keeps its secrets from Alfredo. Written with a muscular simplicity that rises to an elemental lyricism, Gambusino is a grave and beautiful novel. (July) FYI: An English translation of Montemayor's novel Blood Relations was published in 1995 by Plover.
Library Journal
Winner of Mexico City-based El Nacional's 50th-anniversary novel contest, this second novel by Montemayor (Blood Relations, LJ 4/15/95) is the richly poetic tale of an itinerant miner. Alfredo Montenegro is a gambusino, one of those "seekers of deposits hidden as if at the end of dreams." Narrated by a poet and lifelong friend of Alfredo, the novel moves between past and present, encompassing nearly 40 years of Alfredo's struggle to find the ultimate strike. While vividly depicting the poverty of rural Mexico, Montemayor has a larger, more existential goal in mind. Alfredo's quest is ultimately everyone's; defining himself by his perseverance in the face of futility, he uncovers the mysteries of the self and of life. Recommended for all collections of Latin American literature.Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, Mass.
Choice
"Montemayor rightly takes his place among the technical innovators of Mexican prose, modern and eternal in his words on jutice and death."
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