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Erased Faces
by Graciela Limón

Erased Faces

Reviewed by Jennifer O'Neil

Enduring Survival

Graciela Limón's fifth novel, Erased Faces, describes the intertwined journey of Adriana Mora, Juana Galvan, and Orlando Flores. They are brought together to fight for their freedom from the Mexican government. Limón's previous novels are entitled The Day of the Moon, Song of the Hummingbird, The Memories of Ana Calderon, and In Search of Bernabe. Limón's novel In Search of Bernabe was the recipient of an American Book Award. Ms. Limón is currently a professor of U.S. Latino/a Literature at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Through the use of historical and cultural information, Limón develops a very interesting background for her novel. She also uses this information to introduce and follow Adriana, Juana, and Orlando in their fight for independence. Three themes-- betrayal, oppression, and survival-- flow throughout the novel. With the use of these themes, Limón isolates and unites each of her characters.

Adriana Mora is a young Los Angeles photojournalist who has made her way to the small Mexican village to record the lives of the Lacandonan women. Despite Adriana's youth, she has suffered feelings of both betrayal and oppression. At a very young age, Adriana was forced to deal with the death of her parents, which throws her into a life filled with foster families and uncertainty. "She flung her arm across her face and remembered her life, how ever since she could remember, she had felt lost, separated, alone, always filled with fear"(4). Throughout her life, Adriana had to overcome the limitations and abuse her foster "families" subjected her to. She has also grown up feeling betrayed because her mother had abandoned her as a little girl. While Adriana has survived her upbringing and grown into an ambitious woman, she is still trying to escape her memories and find peace within herself. During her stay at the village, Adriana is sought to photograph the Chiapas uprising by Juana Galvan. Adriana immediately feels a deep connection with Juana, a connection she feels will give her the peace she is searching out.

Juana Galvan has fought a hard battle to become a leader within the freedom seeking rebel group. She felt the sting of betrayal as a young child when her father sold her into a marriage with Cruz Ochoa, an older man she had never met before. Throughout her marriage, Juana was constantly beaten down and forced to comply with Ochoa's wishes. She lost her spirit and her sense of belonging. Juana had never before felt the burden of oppression, and as time passed she learned she could not live with it. Juana knew she could not survive, mentally or physically, the beatings and loneliness she was subjected to. Armed with her survival instinct and mental sharpness, Juana escapes her life with Cruz. Despite societal norms, Juana, as a single female, sets out to make a life on her own. As Juana starts her new life she is introduced to Orlando Flores, a man recruiting others to join his army fighting for freedom. Taking a chance, Juana follows Orlando and soon realizes there is a purpose for her life, one that brings back her once lost spirit and sense of belonging.

Orlando, like Adriana and Juana, has felt betrayal and oppression. As a young child he was brought up as a houseboy in the home of Don Absolon Mayorga. As Orlando grew into a teenager he began to develop a friendship with Mr. Mayorgas son, Rufino. This relationship was forbidden because he was a servant. When the friendship of Orlando and Rufino became known to Don Absolon, he sent Orlando to work as a boyero, to "labor along teams of oxen that pulled the giant mahogany trunks through the mud of the jungle; the danger of being sucked in by mire under the hooves of the straining beasts"(119). This betrayal forced Orlando into years of service. These years of oppression made Orlando angry and vengeful. Sick of the punishments and the torment, he finally escapes. Orlando discovers others who are experiencing the same feelings of mistrust and anger against the government. He joins forces with them and begins to understand there could be another life for him, free of oppression and full of independence.

In search of their own independence Adriana, Juana, and Orlando are brought together to fight for the Chiapas people. This interaction allows the characters to experience new events as they reflect on their past lives. The reader is brought into their struggle to combine their new and old lives, while fighting for a bigger cause. The political struggle also allows Adriana, Juana, and Orlando to confront their feelings of love, confusion and mistrust. Each character is forced to grow and change, an action that leaves Adriana and Juana to examine feelings that they have never experienced before. "The years of fighting and leading others had transformed her. Most important of all other considerations was the presence of Adriana in her life. Juana knew that she could no longer live without her" (238).

In Erased Faces, Graciela Limón shows the effect of oppression and betrayal on people. Erased Faces looks at the fight for freedom that was undertaken by the Chiapas people. It also looks at the conflicts that occur within people and how these conflicts affect their views of life.