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Matt Markovich

Giving Kerouac’s ‘Mexican Girl’ Her Rightful Voice: Q&A with Tim Z. Hernandez

Tim Z. Hernandez

Tim Z. Hernandez

Who was the woman known to history only as “Terry, The Mexican Girl” from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road? Given that she was the linchpin for what became one of the most renowned tales in American letters, and that virtually all of Kerouac’s characters were based on real people who subsequently became famous themselves by association with the book and, often, as artists in their own right, it seemed improbable that no one had taken the time to track her down. That is, until author, poet and performer Tim Z. Hernandez found himself standing on the front doorstep of the house of a 92 year-old woman named Bea Franco.

Just months prior to her death, she had no knowledge of her place in literary history. But, had it not been for the diminutive daughter of migrant farm workers from California’s San Joaquin Valley, the world may never have heard of a vagabond scribbler named Kerouac and the book that defined a generation and launched 100,000 road trips may never have made it to print.

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Chiapas, the Zapatistas, and the Moral Opportunity: Q&A with Michael Spurgeon

Let the Water Hold Me DownOn January 1, 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional or EZLN) marched out of the jungles of the Mexican state of Chiapas to occupy its capitol, San Cristóbal de las Casas. Like his protagonist Henry Singer, author Michael Spurgeon had a bird’s-eye view of the occupation from the balcony of his girlfriend’s apartment directly overlooking the city’s main square. In his new novel, Let the Water Hold Me Down (Ad Lumen Press; 372 pages), Spurgeon chronicles how the events surrounding the Zapatista uprising stir Singer out of a state of relative inaction as the lives of those around him are inexorably drawn into the larger conflict.

The book is based on Spurgeon’s experience as a young man, little more than a year out of college, vagabonding around Mexico with a friend, intent on trying to write a novel of their own. Surviving on savings, they hopped aimlessly from city to town. Yearning to leave the sweltering Oaxacan coast, they decided to aim for the relatively cooler climate of Chiapas. The first time Spurgeon heard the name “San Cristóbal de las Casas,” the name of the city that has come to determine the course of his life, he was already on the bus that would take him there, chugging its way up into the highlands.

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