Rudy Ruiz’s The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez is a book that is deeply centered in latine culture, and one that, perhaps because of it, looks to examine it – and at times, even dismantle the toxic parts of it – from the inside. It’s not a book about magic, but it is a book where magic becomes part of the story, because magic is, in some ways, parts of this reality.
We had a chance to talk to the author about taking aim at the machismo that is so predominant in latine culture, creating a playlist especially for the book, using magical realism as a way to tell this particular story, and what comes next for this story, and its writer. And the answers we got don’t have to be surprising to be infinitely interesting.
Perhaps my favorite thing Rudy shared, and I want to start with that, is that “the exploration of machismo and its negative effects on Latino families, women, and relationships was at the heart of my concept for The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez from the beginning.” Right off the bat, this makes the book a rarity. But Rudy had a lot more to add on this subject. “Interestingly, some of the driving thoughts behind my writing about machismo are that it is one of those traits that serves mostly to undermine the goals of its perpetrator. When acting out machismo, the classic Latino archetype outwardly demonstrates strength and invincibility, power and control, but it is most often a manifestation of the opposite, a deeply seeded sense of insecurity and weakness, vulnerability and fear.”
I’d say this is an appreciation that goes beyond one specific culture, but it is true that there’s a certain sense of it, particularly in The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez, that feels very much like the latine culture I grew up in, and that still exists. “Machismo is also a sort of generational curse that can be passed down from father to son. This is why I chose to tie it together with the idea of the Maldición de Caja Pinta, a mystical curse which plagued the men in Fulgencio’s family. Just as that curse had to be broken for Fulgencio to hold on to love, so did he have to learn to turn away from machismo as a choice and thus grow as an emotional partner for Carolina.”
Look, I’m not saying this is about as good a love story as it gets, but I’m also not saying otherwise. Finding love is one thing, but accepting it and keeping it means another, different journey, one that Ruiz splendidly weaves with this idea of personal growth, and, of course, some magical realism.
“Magical realism is a wonderful way to immerse readers in a culturally driven story with a unique sense of time and place. I feel magical realism opens up the reader’s mind to possibilities in general. Once that happens, the reader is in a mental space that might also be open to considering ideas and perspectives that might have seemed alien or impossible before.”
Even – and perhaps especially – serious issues, like the situation at the border, or immigration issues in general.
When there’s some magic, there’s also music, and in this case, Ruiz curated his own Spotify playlist for the book. “I was raised around music. My father, Rodolfo Ruiz Cisneros, to whom I dedicated the novel, had a powerful and soaring voice. I grew up listening to him belt out the songs that Fulgencio sings in the book. The songs are classic boleros from the golden age of Mexican music and cinema. To me, the songs are deeply meaningful personally, but they are also cultural treasures that help generations of Latinos connect, recall, and appreciate our heritage.”
You can check out the Playlist here, and though I’m not personally the kind to read with music, I will say there was something about this playlist, paired with the book, that just worked. “I had so much fun curating the Spotify playlist and I hope your readers check it out! It’s been most rewarding to walk into our living room and find my teenage son listening to 1950’s Mexican music in Spanish without me having to force it on him.”
The magic of books.
And speaking of books, Ruiz has another book coming – a prequel to The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez. “Valley of Shadows is a magical realism neo-Western thriller set in the 1880’s in West Texas and Northern Mexico. It follows an ancestor of Fulgencio’s, Solitario Cisneros, who is from the first generation in his family to struggle with the curse brought about when the Rio Grande was declared the border between the United States and Mexico.”
The book will be released September 2022, in both Spanish and English.