Witches by Brenda Lozano (Translated from Spanish by Heather Cleary); Paradais by Fernanda Melchor (Translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes) - review by Patrick Graney

Patrick Graney

Under their Spell



MacLehose 272pp £16.99



Fitzcarraldo Editions 128pp £10.99

On 16 August 2021, Brenda Lozano was appointed cultural attaché to the Mexican embassy in Spain amid accusations of misogyny against her predecessor. Shortly afterwards, Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, dismissed Lozano due to her criticisms of the government. He suggested that she be replaced by an indigenous female poet.

It is an appropriate context in which to examine two novels concerning Mexico’s social divisions. Lozano’s Witches, first published in Spanish in 2020, examines precisely the issues – relations between white and indigenous cultures and between femininity and machista masculinity – involved in the controversy last year. She deals with Mexico’s binaries by telling the stories of two women. Zoe, a young journalist, interviews Feliciana, an indigenous woman made famous by her abilities as a curandera, or traditional healer, a profession usually reserved for men. The pretext for the interview is the murder of Paloma, Feliciana’s cousin and healing teacher, who was a muxe – a trans woman, in the traditions of the Zapotec people.

Chapters alternate between the interview with Feliciana, in which she narrates her upbringing and life story, and Zoe’s retelling of her own family history. Both women speak about the lives of those they hold dear: in Feliciana’s case, Paloma, and in Zoe’s, her sister Leandra, who was troubled

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