The Latina Book Club welcomes author Lilibeth Andre, an artist and a writer. Today, Lilibeth shares with us her fascination with the oral history of Mexico’s legends, and how they inspired her novel, THE LADY OF THE TURQUOISE PENDANT.
A: The book idea came first. I originally wrote it as a short story. Then in 1999, I began to work on the book, and completed the manuscript in 2002. I created the painting in 2012. I decided to do portraits of the main characters, and that turned into a series of eight paintings to illustrate the book. At first, it was challenging to take characters I created with words and turn them into a 2D image. So I started, as I do with most things, with the hardest character first, the Jaguar Knight.
Q: What is the legend of the volcanoes? Was it always a love story? Are these legends recorded anywhere for the next generation?
A: The legend of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl is the story that brings about the creation of the volcanoes in the outskirts of the valley of Anahuac, home of the great Tenochtitlan, currently Mexico City. Yes, it was always a love story, a tragedy that brings about the death of the heroine and the hero to live forever as the “smoking mountain” and the “sleeping woman”. The legends are told and retold in oral fashion and may vary by region. Some have been recorded in various publications, but the beauty of them comes from their unique oral propagation.
Q: You say the book is a gift to yourself, "a small offering." Tell us about yourself. Tell us about your US and Mexican roots.
A: I have always been curious and thirsty for knowledge. I like to learn new things, especially about different cultures and customs. I particularly like to know about Mexican culture and customs. I like to know about the people and their way of life. I’ve lived in the US more than I have lived in Mexico now, but I feel as Mexican as I feel American, an interesting and original combination of two cultures. My formative years were in the US so I always felt more American but my heart is Mexican. They both make me who I am.
Q: You grew up in the U.S. and reconnected with your roots when you visited Mexico as a teen. Do you think Mexican-Americans of all ages, who don't visit Mexico often, are in danger of losing their culture? How can they reconnect like you did?
A: I was born in Mexico. I was the first niece and all my uncles liked to show me off and take me everywhere. This helped me gather a lot of memories of my home town. After we moved to the US, I remembered the Mexican streets, the neighborhoods, the landmarks…I had the unique opportunity to revisit all that when I returned. While living in Mexico once again, I enjoyed rediscovering the people, the markets and traditions, and learned even more. I was fortunate that I was able to choose an education that gave me the chance to learn about the arts and culture of Mexico while living it so it was a very pleasurable experience. Understanding this privilege, I wrote the book to share a little bit of that culture, to share a part of that great proud Mexican history.
A: Educators are seeing this as a good learning opportunity for their students, particularly for English, Art, and Spanish students. I had a student attend two different presentations. I asked him what he thought and what presentation he preferred. I was curious to know if he’d found the second presentation repetitive. He actually said he liked the second one better. Perhaps he picked up more details the second time. Adults are seeing this as an opportunity to learn and share the Aztec culture with their kids, their Hispanic friends or political family. It would be a fantastic opportunity to take this program nationwide, but I am letting it lead me organically. I am enjoying the role of teacher sharing what I have learned. It is my way of giving back.
Q: Who are your favorite Mexican authors and artists?
A: Writers I like include Carlos Fuentes (THE EAGLE’S THRONE), Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (poetry in general), and Laura Esquivel (LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE). Artists I have admired are the great Mexican muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Diego Rivera for their powerful images of the people of Mexico.
Q: Is THE LADY OF THE TURQUOISE PENDANT and its paintings the first in a series? Will there be more legends made into books? If so, which legend and when?
A: During my final edits I realized I was leaving the door open to a possible sequel. We’ll see where that leads. I’ve been searching legends for several years. I definitely want to consider more of them. What I find interesting is that when searching for a particular legend, each person has their own version but the basic storyline is the same. That diversity is probably a result of the oral history of legends.###
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lilibeth Andre is an artist and a writer, in that order. She was born in Mexico, but has lived in the US most of her life. Her educational background is in design, art and business. Lilibeth started painting at the age of five. Learn more about her and her art at www.lilibethandre.com and http://lilibethandre.wordpress.com. Friend her on Facebook @Artist.Lilibeth.Andre.