It's 1852 in Cholula, Mexico, and three sisters, indigenous girls of the Chontal people, seek work at the Hacienda La Perla. They rapidly make their way from dish washers to the cook's assistants before entering the house as servants to the wealthy Acuña family. But when the youngest sister is viciously raped by a family member, they flee the estate-after taking their revenge-only to be caught up in the historic Battle of Puebla, where native ...
It's 1852 in Cholula, Mexico, and three sisters, indigenous girls of the Chontal people, seek work at the Hacienda La Perla. They rapidly make their way from dish washers to the cook's assistants before entering the house as servants to the wealthy Acuña family. But when the youngest sister is viciously raped by a family member, they flee the estate-after taking their revenge-only to be caught up in the historic Battle of Puebla, where native Mexicans defeat invading French troops.
Fearful that the Acuña family will not rest until the sisters are found and punished, they keep moving, ultimately finding work as servants at the National Palace in Mexico City, where the French have recently taken control. There, the sisters' fortunes become intertwined with that of the Empress Carlota. Both beautiful and extremely intelligent, she dedicates herself to the empire, chastising Napoleon when he reneges on his promise to send troops and antagonizing the Church by proposing that the empire secularize at least part of its holdings. But her love for Mexico's people is not reciprocated, and soon the sisters have to decide whether to stay behind without the empress' protection or to accompany her to Europe.
Weaving the story of Mexico's indigenous peoples with that of the tragic Belgian princess who became the wife of the Austrian Archduke Maximillian von Hapsburg, acclaimed author Graciela Limón once again explores issues of race, class and women's rights. She skillfully crafts a gripping novel about a smart, wealthy woman who is not afraid to challenge powerful men, and re-imagines the story behind Empress Carlota's descent into madness and eventual imprisonment in a remote European castle.
Limón's latest (after The River Flows North) disappoints with an out-of-context look at a misunderstood historical figure. Three hardworking orphan sisters of the Chontal people—Tila, Chelo, and Lula—find work within the confines of a rich hacienda in rural Mexico in 1852, but when the scion of the estate rapes Lula, the sisters take revenge and flee. Seeking safety from both local uprisings and family reprisal, the sisters are taken in by Carlota, the recently arrived French Empress on tour of the newly conquered Mexican territory. Afraid of her new husband and desperately lonely, Carlota finds the sisters the only trustworthy women in the bustling palace, and despite the rumors that they secretly practice witchcraft, makes them her personal handmaidens. The sisters begin to trust her too, and when the French lose Mexico and the royals must secretly leave the country, they accompany their mistress back to Europe. Thwarted by a powerful family and an ineffectual husband, Carlota makes a fascinating historical figure. Unfortunately, her character is flattened by repetitive storytelling and the overdevelopment of a romantic subplot. Oddly, given her background in Latina/o studies, Limón also fails to challenge the European view of the indigenous as a monolithic entity; the sisters never develop as compelling individuals. Such potentially strong characters receive less than their due in this bland historical. (Mar. 31)
In this novel, Limon gives us a view of Mexico during the latter half of the 19th centruy, from landowners and their indigenous and mestizo workers to the sumptuous court of foreign monarchs.