It was as if an expedition of black Africans had made their way up the Nile and across the Mediterranean to Italy and were trying to make enough sense of the Roman Empire of the Caesars to attempt to conquer it. – Norman Spinrad, Mexica
I think we need to make Norman Spinrad an honorary Chicano. His novel of the conquest of Mexico, Mexica, is the reason. It was published in Spanish in Mexico, where it was a bestseller. A film is in the works, in English, from El Uno productions.
Those are things that not many Chicano/Latino writers have accomplished. But, before you go online or to you're favorite bookstore to grab a copy, don't bother. This amazing novel is not available in English, or in America. Seems that Nueva York has treated Norman Spinrad like a Chicano.
He and his agent bounced the book all over Nueva York -- and couldn't sell it. Spinrad reports that most of the rejections were on on the assumption that:
. . . American readers wouldn't be interested in an historical novel about the key event in Mexican history, this in a country where there are at least 40 or 50 million Mexican-Americans fluent in English whose very culture and ethnic identity were the result.
Yet Mexica has a potential appeal far beyond the Latino Lit market. It's one of those books that has everything. Not just a bit of ethnic studies and historical curiosity, this rather straight reportage of the Conquest is more fantastic than the best science fiction and fantasy. It makes Star Wars and Lord of the Rings look mundane. There's action, adventure, horror, even romance. You want wild entertainment? Well, here it is!
It's also a powerful rendering of an important subject. Spinrad's viewpoint character, a Jewish Spaniard who had lived under the Muslims and the Inquisition, provides a fresh perspective to the Mexica (it is pointed that “Aztec” was derogatory term, like Chicano once was), and Spaniards who are equally alien to the modern reader. The rich complexities of Latino identity become clear:
Marina, who had been Malinal, smiled at Alvaro de Sevilla, who had been Alvaro Escribiente de Granada, who in his heart was still Avram ibn Ezra or in truth Avram ben Ezra.
As history goes on, identities change. Maybe that's what Nueva York is afraid of . . .
So why am bothering you with all this, if you can't buy this book? Well, the good news is, you can! But not in the old way. Spinrad has released Mexica as an ebook. Nueva York's days as the literary capital of the world are numbered. A revolution has begun. And the changes that will come for readers, writers, and publishers will be comparable to those that happened when Cortes conquered Tenochitlán.
Go now, and join the revolution.