The Making of A Mestiza Voice

In The Butterfly’s Ring: A Letter to the Ancestors, a surreal mestizo world emerges. This contemporary epic, a work of autobiographical fiction, bridges five generations of immigrants from different corners of the world displaced by war. In their journey, they adopt a tiny island in the Caribbean, the island of Cuba, as their new homeland, a place that once served as the home of Taino, Siboney and Arawak natives displaced by colonial powers.

The Butterfly’s Ring attempts to answer a central question: what does it mean to be Cuban? Many languages, traditions, and cultures syncretized in that small geographical area. Although “we” as Cubans, celebrate unifying linguistic and cultural expressions which emerge from such syncretism, to provide an exact definition of what it means to be Cuban is virtually impossible. There are as many definitions as there are individuals within the space-time continuum. In spite of this, we are lumped into one category, diluting our identities in a Cuban version of the melting pot.

To plot the journey of an expatriate in search of her roots, required an omnipotent narrator with a journalistic tone capable of describing events without assigning value or judgment, a narrator capable of sustaining the anthropological concept of cultural relativism, even when as the writer I embraced myriad biases. Hence, the narrator is consciousness itself, expressing a central truth: we can only control the development of our awareness.

The most significant challenge writing this book, which took 23 years in the making, remained to portray an authentic Mestizx continuum that keeps redefining itself with each generation and individual. As the author, I continue to unfold, adapt, and embrace new ways of identifying in the world.

Writing about a dynamic process presents numerous challenges in literature. The book required the timelessness reflective of the central subject while respecting its historical context. Extracting fiction from extremely painful scenes required a distance that only the usage of the third person narrator can facilitate.

In the opening chapter, the ghost of the central character reminds her daughter, “We come from the light, and we return to the light.” This statement sets the tone for a unique journey with many abrupt turns guided by the search for light, or enlightenment. It also defines my pilgrimage as an individual who has struggled to identify and find a fit in a world full of expectations about identity and who ultimately found that all labels are meaningless. Such labels required me to reduce myself, to dilute my experience. As a Queer Mestiza, I am more encompassing than any label. And both queer and mestiza although more inclusive terms, remain labels.

While during the process of trying to fit, I attached to myriad labels, as a writer and a body of light, I find that freedom, as my wise mother would say, “Is a state of mind.” The ability to transcend the duality of chaos and order and create sacred spaces in between line killings, missile heads, pools of blood, and military tanks inspired my mode of thought and opened my eyes as a child.

I remember the time I asked my grandfather Papo, “Porque estas tan inquieto, abuelito?” He paused, drank his mint tea, looked at me, “El Moro y El Gitano aqui adentro estan de pleito, hija,” he said palm tapping on his heart. I was five. It took me fifty years to understand what mi abuelito meant that night.

As a Queer Mestiza, I often embraced contradicting inner worlds, sustained heated internal arguments where one aspect of my identity stood in fierce opposition with another. It is easier to teach a camel how to play the drum, than to understand all the nuances of one’s own inner world.

Writing a book like this required me to devote countless hours to explore my own place in the world and my ancestral lines to understand the meaning in all the different cuentos passed orally from one generation to the next. I found essential to study the Bible, the Kabbala (the mystical form of Judaism), Santeria and the Yoruba traditions, Native cosmologies, the Quran, Wiccan and pagan rituals, the structure of Gypsy Clans since all these unique and distinct worlds feed my essence and my blood.

To transmit these cuentos, I had to find common ground and concoct a hybrid voice, a hybrid literary style I termed Lucid Surrealism (LS) which uses Spanish, Arab, English, Spanglish in a manner that seamlessly conveys meaning. This mestiza voice also encompasses all my roots, cultures, worldviews and points of view. It weaves elements of epistolary writing, poetry, fable, fiction, creative non-fiction, and non-fiction in a surreal matrix that moves through dreams, the physical dimension, the illusory and ever-changing landscape of memory, remote viewing, storytelling, meditative mindfulness and altered states of consciousness. All of these combined evolved into a powerful mestiza voice and literary style that genuinely reflects who I am and my process of becoming.

The Butterfly’s Ring deconstructs the shackles of patriarchal structures filled with absurd contradictions. It reassembles all the pieces using a unifying Mestizx voice, a new way to understand the world, where life is not black and white, nor an expression of opposing binaries, but a continuum of often contradicting expressions that resolve themselves as we allow them to mingle to form new meaning.

Writing this book challenged all preconceived notions of my own identity. It made me grow into a fuller, more accepting self, one that is more encompassing, compassionate, humble, and emphatic.

As a former political refugee, I do hope this book gets published, especially at a time where immigrants worldwide are heavily persecuted. I hope that reading this contemporary epic novel inspires people from all walks of life to pause and ask the question: who am I? In answering this pivotal question, one can give peace a chance.

La palabra es un vínculo primordial en la creación de un mundo donde el dialogo y no las armas, promueven la paz interna, lo cual conduce a la paz mundial. Y reflexionar es la virtud de vivir la vida dos veces, en el instante en que respiramos, y en forma retrospectiva.

Lastly, I must add: identity is a work of fiction until we study our DNA. Everyone is an immigrant!

Gracias, e dupe, shukran, thank you,

Mariel Masque
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