Fear comes in many colors. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic was getting such positive press that I didn’t wait for the paperback. At first the title threw me a bit, but creepy old houses can be found in many places around the world, and the gothic often lurks in such structures. The story builds slowly until the supernatural begins to seep in steadily and the reader realizes they’ve been hooked along the way. In some ways it reminded me of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, but the setting in Mexico gives Moreno-Garcia’s tale its own kind of zest. Having a strong hispanic, female protagonist is a nice corrective to the political rhetoric we’ve been fed for the past four years. As I said, fear comes in many colors.
Perhaps I’m not as afraid as I used to be when I read fiction. Gothic, however, is all about setting the right mood. It’s a creepy sensation that boundaries are being crossed and such things often take place in isolated locations. The house owned by the Doyles—not exactly colonialists, but symbols are seldom exact matches—is marked by greed and power. A kind of rot is everywhere evident, but the family must keep power within its own circle. The parallels to a Trumpian outlook were perhaps not intentional, but national trauma can make you see things in a different way. As Noemí attempts to rescue her cousin from the house, High Place itself participates in thwarting their escape.
Reflection after reading draws out some further insights. Not only is the white Doyle family the oppressive element here, they do so by religion. Secret rituals and practices have made the patriarch a god—and here let the reader ponder—who builds his power on the oppression of others. I have no idea if Moreno-Garcia was influenced by the nepotistic White House we’ve just experienced—eager to use political office for overt personal gain, and yes, worship—but she’s laid bare the ugly truths of white power. I dislike racializing people, but race was invented by Europeans as a mean of oppression and keeping wealth within the grasp of a few individuals who would be surrounded by an empowered “white” race. It worked in Nazi Germany and it came close to working officially in the United States that fought to vanquish it just seventy years ago. Mexican Gothic is a moody book indeed. It’s also a book, whether intentionally or not, that is an object lesson for our times.