“Perro Viejo and the Revindication of the Black Individual,” is a review by Indira Ramírez Elejalde of the new novel by Teresa Cárdenas, Perro viejo. It is a novel that addresses the issue of the slave trade told from the perspective of an old slave who travels to the past and back to the present, “in order to build a story that brings us to one of the great wounds of American history, slavery.” It was one of the ten winners of the Casa de las Américas 2005 award.
That work is part of a significant group of novels and stories that stand out for their attractive proposals in handling “difficult themes.” These are defined by Alga Marina Elizagaray as subjects about those dark zones of life that are little explored: dysfunctional families, rafters, social differences and homosexuality, among others.
They also stand out for playing with folkloric elements, the representation of the magic-religious universe of African-Cuban culture and the figure of the black individual as a leading character of the stories.
The last few elements that speak of the writer’s interest in revindicating the black individual imply validating a race to which she belongs.
The novel presents transtextual relations with what could be understood as literary backgrounds and other works by the writer. One could mention El Monte, by Lydia Cabrera; Yan el Cimarrón, by Edwigis Barroso, Cartas al Cielo and Tatanene Cimarrón, by Teresa Cárdenas. In each of them elements are seen that, in their evolution, have been determinant in the construction of the homonymous hero.
[. . .] Among the themes discussed one finds love, old age, death, violence and freedom of the human being. These are interspersed in the treatment of slavery, the central theme from which other problems inherent to it are also derived such as runaway slaves, the loss, search and reencounter with identity, the fear of the black, the longing for Africa and racism.
Recreation of the life of slaves is achieved by showing their religiosity, the presentation of representative legends of their culture and elements that make up their magic-religious universe.
Also noticeable is an affiliation to the tradition of representing the black in Cuban literature, and at the same time presenting an enslaved individual in the 21st century who breaks the line of leading characters who invaded the literature of the 1990s.
[. . .] In like manner, the novel broaches the symbolic nature of the El Colibrí hiding place, which represents the materialization of that emancipative ideal. Although no one knows its exact location, all maintain that it exists, and perhaps it is reasonable to have hope in the place that bears the name of a little bird with short wings, difficult to capture and practically impossible to detect in the hills. [. . .]
For full review by Indira Ramírez Elejalde (in English), see http://www.cubanow.net/articles/perro-viejo-and-revindication-black-individual
For a full review by Sofía Grandés (in Spanish), see http://www.lajiribilla.co.cu/2007/n341_11/341_06.html