- Sin Fronteras
326 Pages; Print, $23.95
Relationships, according to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, are defined as the "state of being connected." The definition for the term broken, also provided by Merriam-Webster's dictionary, is defined as "damaged or altered." In other words, for relationships to be broken, that which binds them in a state of connection, whether that be trust, love, or family, must also be damaged and or broken. Beatriz Rivera's Museum of Broken Relationships: A Cuban Saga is a melancholy tale about the myriad forces that not only bind us together, but a reflection of how those very same forces function, simultaneously, in breaking us apart, be that kinship, religion, ethnicity, politics, and or history.
Inspired by a Croatian museum dedicated to the memory of failed love relationships, TheMuseum of Broken Relationships: A Cuban Saga by Beatriz Rivera is a fictitious tale of three generations of the Basavi family, individuals separated by time but all torn by the weight of life and the society to which they belong. It is a harrowing account of life and death, sprinkled with anecdotes of love, adultery, brujeria, and ill-fated despedidas. But even more so, it is a thought-provoking statement on the Latin American and Latinx condition, a somber account into the history of migration, exile, miscegenation, patriarchy, machismo, and the irrationality inherent in the constructs of social gatekeepers. In this regard, TheMuseum of Broken Relationships: A Cuban Saga evokes the intellectual contributions of cultural theorist and Chicana feminist Gloria Anzaldua, whose Mestiza consciousness encouraged a generation of Chicanxs/os/as and others of the Latin American Diaspora to embrace the borderlands (the social and cultural experience of living in multiple worlds) as a new spiritual and cultural home, "participating in the creation of yet another culture, a new story to explain our world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connect us to each other and to the planet."
For Rivera, one of the symbols used to articulate the experience of life in the borderlands was the remains of a lost manuscript, left behind by Pepe Basavi in the back of a Jerusalem taxicab. It is the story of Julia Basavi, daughter of Pepe Basavi, that evokes the bitter sweetness of discovering that which was once a part of you but lost to time. Set in the backdrop of a culturally, spiritually and politically fragmented Jerusalem where language, identity, politics and religion dictate notions of belonging, Julia Basavi's finding of the lost manuscript functions as an allegorical representation of our ability to transgress the social constructs that serve to fragment humanity and reclaim that which is no longer in our possession. Though Julia's agency, Rivera not only coveys the pleasures of discovering the lost manuscript (and family heirloom) but demonstrates, through examples both broad and mundane, of the ways in which we as people actively deconstruct the borders that seek to maintain our fragmented world, conscious of the fact that we are broken but, more importantly, cognizant of that which breaks us. For example, when language functions as a cultural barrier, Rivera demonstrates characters with the ability and willingness to speak multiple languages; when traditional religious beliefs fails, Rivera presents characters who turn to those "other" spiritual The beauty and sophistication of
traditions safely kept in their cultural closets; and when the love of others is betrayed, particularly the love of our family, Rivera presents characters, who although brokenhearted, courageously search for the ability to love themselves.
The beauty and sophistication of Rivera's work is that it seeks to confront the forces that fragment us and dares to challenge those borders perpetuated by society. The story is constantly shifting characters, locations, perspectives, and encounters, transgressing conventional timelines and forcing the reader to navigate character relationships through time and place. In fact, I lost count of how many times I had to revert to the kinship charts offered by Rivera in order to understand the connection between all of her...