New Sun / Un Nuevo Sol

authors: Max Benavidez and Katherine Del Monte
illustrator: José Ramírez
Latino Literacy Press, 2002
grades unknown

 A New Sun / Un Nuevo Sol appears to have been written for hablantes who are learning English. Here, the narrator, newly arrived from Mexico, is struggling with the differences between the familiar culture he left and the strange new culture he encounters. Ultimately, he finds that people everywhere want “to have hope and make their dreams a reality.” This sparse prose-poem (I came with a dream, / Yo vine con un sueño, / with so many hopes. / con tantas esperanzas. / I was looking for a new life. / Buscaba una nueva vida.) has no story—it’s just phrases on a page with no real connection to the immigrant experience.

The melting-pot ending—(Yet, no matter how different we are / Sin embargo, no importa cuán diferentes somos / we have the same hopes. / tenemos la misma esperanza. / We share the same dream of a better tomorrow. / Compartimos el mismo sueño de un major futuro.)—is the most annoying part, implying that, while we all have some differences, we are really all the same. The reality, of course, is that, while we all may dream of a better tomorrow, our dreams aren’t the same. In truth, some of us dream about staying alive, about being where the bombs aren’t falling. Some of us dream about having enough food to eat, about drinking clean water. Some of us dream about going home, about reuniting with our families.

Ramírez’s art, in highly saturated oils on a dark, morose palette, does not reflect what little message of hope there may be. The people’s faces are distorted and unhappy-looking and most of them appear to be wearing masks. On close inspection, one might find La Virgen de la Guadalupe and a few calaveras.

What’s apparently being taught here is basic translation, grammatical sentence structure and working with antonyms. The text is flat; here’s no passion or even emotion. There is just not enough content to be meaningful—to anyone. A New Sun / Un Nuevo Sol is not recommended.

—María Cárdenas
(published 1/16/14)

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