The Research Behind Fulano by Benjamin X. Wretlind’s
It’s an honor for me to host this, the second stop on the amazing Benjamin X. Wretlind’s Sketches from the Spanish Mustang blog tour (Be sure to check out Day One over at Michael K. Rose’s blog). Whether you’re an established fan of Benjamin’s work or a potential fan, you’ll find enjoyment in both his post here and his books, the newest of which will be available July 1st. I’ll step aside and let Benjamin get to it now. Enjoy!
THE RESEARCH BEHIND FULANO
First of all, I want to thank Kimberly for hosting Day 2 of the Sketches from the Spanish Mustang Blog Tour. This early in the game of writing 14 blog entries in a row, I’m not tired yet. 🙂
I grew up in the desert Southwest, on the northeast side of Phoenix. In that environment, you can’t avoid hearing news of illegal immigration, of border patrol or how many people were found dead during any given summer. So I’ve always kept a journal of sorts in my head, full of notes I might someday use. That journal has given rise (so far) to two different stories of immigration through my life.
The first was a tale of two boys who crossed with their pollero–another name for the guide who is paid to help people navigate the desert to some unknown destination. That story, “A Tooth for Miguel,” won an award in a 2007 short story contest in Hawaii. It was both allegorical and magical, and it was based off an article in the Arizona Republic about border deaths.
I decided to return to that desert in one of the Sketches from the Spanish Mustang novellas. Originally titled The Five Fortunes of Fulano, the novella started off after I learned about winning large sums of money.
I have yet to actually win large sums of money in a gambling hall, but I do know what happens when you do. Like so many things in life, there is paperwork.
You can thank the IRS for that.
So this story was going to be about an immigrant who worked the fields in Pueblo, Colorado and happened to be in Cripple Creek as a sort of thank-you from his employer. Told to be quiet and not be seen, he could gamble a little, walk the town, see the sights and then they could go home.
The conflict arose when the immigrant won $2,500 at a slot machine in the Spanish Mustang. Because anything over $1,250 requires paperwork–and a social security number–the immigrant can’t collect. Naturally, some nice con artist offers to take his place at the machine so Fulano could collect.
The novella wasn’t going to end well, that’s for sure.
When I started writing the story, however, it took on a different direction. All of a sudden those notes in that “brain journal” I kept while growing up headed to the surface. I had to find out more. What possesses people to cross a deadly border anyway? Who are they? Where do they come from? What do they go through?
I’m not a political person so I stayed as far from immigration issues as possible. I only wanted to write about what it took Fulano to cross and why he did it in the first place. Working fields in Pueblo isn’t that much fun and it certainly doesn’t pay well. You’d have to be pretty desperate.
Because I needed to know more, I picked up a book from the local library called Crossing with the Virgin: Stories from the Migrant Trail by Kathryn Ferguson, Norma A. Price and Ted Parks and published by the University of Arizona Press. This book is amazing, completely unbiased, and does nothing more than relate stories from three Samaritans.
Samaritans is the name of a group of people based in Tucson, Arizona. They hold no united political stance on the matter of immigration into the United States. Rather, they exist solely to prevent death in the deserts.
In the 1950s, the American government decided the land in Arizona that borders Mexico is, of itself, a “natural border.” That natural border, however, resulted in thousands of deaths. Between October 1, 1999 and September 30, 2007 a cartographer from Humane Borders plotted 1,138 known deaths in southern Arizona.
As I wrote the story of Fulano’s crossing and read up on what really happens to people, the story took shape. All of a sudden there was a brujo (witch) and a promise made at the moment of death. In addition, I divided the story into two distinct renderings: an English only version which would include only those Spanish words that are important to the story, and a mixed-language version where the dialogue of the migrant workers would be left intact. While my Spanish isn’t good, I had thought I could separate the journey of Fulano across the border from the rest of the story by telling it in Spanish only. However, the translation of such a large amount of text was too difficult for this novice speaker and I didn’t have the time to become fluent.
The research behind Fulano took a while–almost two months of study. I wanted to be authentic and, at the same time, put in a little of that “speculation” I spoke of on Michael K. Rose’s blog yesterday. What I ended up with was a novella I feel is the strongest of the six. It’s not politically charged, either; it just tells a story.
On Wednesday, June 20th and Thursday, June 21st, The Five Fortunes of Fulano will be free on Amazon.com. I encourage you to download the story and find out what those months of research turned into. In addition, there’s a preview of Sketches from the Spanish Mustang in the back. Check it out at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006WO37GC/
Benjamin X. Wretlind, the author of Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors and Sketches from the Spanish Mustang, has been called “a Pulitzer-caliber writer” with “a unique American voice.” Aside from novels, he has been published in many magazines throughout the past 10 years.
SKETCHES FROM THE SPANISH MUSTANG
In Sketches from the Spanish Mustang, a haunting, heart-warming and often brutally direct exploration of the lives of seven people in the mining town of Cripple Creek, Colorado, a woman must come to grips with the failings that cost the lives of her husband and child. Bestselling author Michael K. Rose says: “Mr. Wretlind has penned a tale of such emotional and literary depth it will haunt the reader long after the last page is turned.”
With a pencil, a sketchbook and a keen eye for the details of the soul, the woman’s lines and smudges, curves and tone reveal the stories behind her subjects. Life emerges on the page — vengeance, salvation, love and death. The artist’s subjects fight for survival, only to be saved in the sketches of a woman with a gift . . . and a curse.
International Book Award winner Gregory G. Allen calls the book a “unique journey that rips away the outer layers of people allowing us to stare into their souls where humanity is universal: no matter the genre of writing.”
Sketches from the Spanish Mustang will be available at all major online retailers for $14.95 on July 1st, 2012. It will also be presented in an electronic format (e.g. Kindle, nook) for $5.95.