American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

A PLACE WHERE THE SEA REMEMBERS (1993). A novel written by the Mexican American author Sandra Benitez (1941- ) first published in 1993, this short collection of unified tales opens with Remedios, a local curandera, or healer, in the small coastal village of Santiago, Mexico, waiting at the edge of the sea for “the one blue wave that will bring a corpse to shore” (2). The identity of this corpse is not disclosed until the penultimate chapter of the book, and the reader is forced to wonder what the connection might be between this unidentified body and the small cast of characters whose dreams and tragedies are rendered so poignantly in the staccato rhythms and poetic prose of the chapters that make up this fablelike narrative. Remedios forms the spiritual nexus for both the individuals and their respective stories, which, in the end, cohere into a mosaic-like vision of the mysterious ineffable connection between humankind and the sea. “It is stories that save us,” Remedios avers (103).

The sea itself is a constant physical and symbolic backdrop in Benitez’s dark tale, which resonates with a mythic import that is as quietly, but insistently, understated as the pained lives of the impoverished villagers who inhabit Santiago. At times, as in the “Cesar Burgos” chapter devoted to a local fisherman who has lost his wife and two of his three sons in a tragic bus accident, the sea is a place for new beginnings in which to forget the “heartbreak on the shore” (88), where a father can hope for his remaining son that “the sea might turn the boy into himself again” (92). But the sea also represents death, as the first page of the novel promises and the final page affirms. [See also LATINO/A LITERATURE OF THE SEA]

Peter F. deCataldo