By Ralph M. Flores, edited by Geri Rhodes
Though cast as fiction, these stories show what dropping into a small New Mexico town at the end of the highway in the Rio Abajo was like for freaks rejecting the madness of the Vietnam War and mainstream U.S. culture. This posthumous collection includes photographs by Bob Christensen and depicts the narrator’s evolution from a 1960s dropout to a man finding his way to connection with others.
Unlike Horse in the Kitchen: Stories of a Mexican-American Family, Flores’s award-winning book fictionalizing his family’s experiences in revolutionary Mexico and later as immigrants in the U.S., La Perla shows Raf and others working out how to live, work, and celebrate with other misfits and their neighbors. “Shane Revisited,” for instance, explores the difference between real and fake La Perla wannabes, while “Law West of the Rio Grande” humorously depicts the challenges of gaining respect from La Perla natives. A section at the end, “Beyond La Perla,” continues the author’s evolution after he and La Perla friends move farther south to a place he calls Edge City. “My Life and the Existential Duck Pop,” an interlude in San Francisco, shows the alienation and philosophical underpinning of the author’s choices.
One can’t help wondering why Flores felt the years in La Joya were “misspent.”
Ralph M. Flores lived in Tomé, NM. He taught English, Chicano Studies, Cultural Studies, and Science Fiction for many years at Central New Mexico Community College (formerly Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute) and retired in 2006 to tend his garden. Wherever he lived he left the dirt better than he found it.