Reading New Mexico’s DNA
Rick Collignon: A Santo in the Image of Cristóbal García
The story starts simply enough, for it’s a Rick Collignon novel. A fire burns in the mountains above Guadalupe, New Mexico, and Flavio Montoya struggles to irrigate his late sister’s fields.
Then the story gets a little complicated, for it’s a Rick Collignon novel. The boy Flavio listens to a tale told by his grandmother Rosa. He is visiting the house that his late sister would own.
Then, by degrees, the story becomes richer and intricate, interlaced with history and philosophy, for it’s a Rick Collignon novel. Every character, no matter how inconsequential, earns a backstory. And every backstory shows through to the present, like a set of nested, but transparent, Russian dolls.
When you read A Santo in the Image of Cristóbal García, you willwant a pen handy to mark haunting sentences.
It made him uneasy to think that his mind could leave without him knowing it. [Flavio]
This village is full of so many lies that no one any longer knows the truth. [Guadalupe]
No one here forgets even if they don’t remember. [Donald]
Your pen, as in reading a Tolstoy novel, can also serve to record the generations.
Cristóbal García, stranded by his two companions after they had laid claim to the valley, was Guadalupe’s great-great-great-grandfather and a carver of a santo during his winter madness. From there everything, including the lame walking and the mute speaking, was fated, or not, to happen.
I should warn you that A Santo is not a young person’s read. To apprehend its elaborate truths, a reader needs the cynicism, skepticism, and acceptance that only age endows.