by Eduardo González Viaña
Publication Date: September 30, 2007
A magically real and timely epic of Hispanic immigrant life in the United States.
“Remember that we’re in the U.S.,” Dante Celestino is told when his daughter Emmita runs away. Friends and neighbors warn him that in the United States it’s not considered so unusual for a fifteen-year-old girl to run away. But Dante had counseled Emmita to date only Spanish-speaking Hispanic boys, and never anyone who joins gangs or deals drugs. Yet she ignores her father’s advice and—right in the middle of her quinceañera—runs away with a tattooed Latino who doesn’t speak Spanish and rides a lowrider motorcycle. And to complicate matters, Dante is in the U.S. illegally, making it difficult to report the girl’s disappearance to the police.
So begins Dante’s odyssey. Accompanied by a lame donkey named Virgilio and the voice of his dead wife, he sets out for Las Vegas, where Emmita’s boyfriend—or abductor, as Dante considers him—supposedly lives.
On a journey filled with the joy of music and the pain of flashbacks from his small-town life and marital bliss in Mexico, Dante encounters a series of eccentric characters: Josefino and Mariana, known to radio listeners as the Noble Couple, who change their listeners’ luck in an instant; Juan Pablo, a young man who uses his computer genius to rob a Las Vegas casino so he can pay for his college education; and the Pilgrim, a famous balladeer who has crossed the border via underground tunnels so many times that even years later he smells faintly of dirt and death.
In this bittersweet tour de force originally published in Spanish as El Corrido de Dante, the First and Third Worlds join hands, and Mexican pueblo life and Internet post-modernity dance together in one of the most memorable fables to shed light on issues such as immigration, cultural assimilation, and the future of the United States with its ever-increasing Latino population.
2009 Finalist, International Dublin Literary Award
“…explores themes of immigration, cultural assimilation, and ‘the fleeting nature of life and the long evenings of death’ throughout Dante’s magical, mystical odyssey.”—Booklist
“…wistful and pragmatic as only papás and expatriates can be…superbly crafted prose, delicate sense of humor, and sharp eye for the way culture and memorabilia blow and wade and limp lamely from backyard to backyard make this novel particularly sweet and sabroso for those with familia por allá.”—ForeWord Magazine
“Dante’s Ballad will ignite laughter and often tears with the exploration of immigration, assimilation, cultural heritage, martial bliss and mafia-style executions. Each chapter is a separate short story in itself yet they are all interwoven into a magnificent finish of a father’s undying love for his daughter.”—REFORMA Newsletter
“González Viaña writes beautifully and with a very Spanish sense of humor, fusing sorrow and laughter, about a most difficult and painful subject, undocumented immigration.”—MultiCultural Review
EDUARDO GONZÁLEZ VIAÑA is the author of numerous novels, including El corrido de Dante (Arte Público Press, 2006). His short story “Siete noches en California” received the prestigious Juan Rulfo prize in 1999. He is the author of several collections of short stories, among them, American Dreams (Arte Público Press, 2005), Los sueños de América (Alfaguara, 2000), Las sombras y las mujeres (Mosca Azul Editores, 1996); and Batalla de Felipe en la casa de Palomas (Editorial Losada, 1969), which garnered the Premio Nacional de Fomento a la Literatura. He teaches at the Western Oregon University and writes the Correo de Salem, an Internet-based collection of journalistic commentaries.
Learn more at elcorreodesalem.com.