‘Purification On Cristo Street’ by René Marqués

Purification On Cristo Street by René Marqués, 1958

The magic trick:

Telling a larger cultural story through one family’s haunting demise

We begin our final week of U.S. literary travel with a trip to Puerto Rico. These midcentury stories all deal with the Puerto Rican transition period where cultural independence and literal population was (perhaps disastrously) in flux.

Nowhere among these stories is that conflict more hauntingly illustrated as in “Purification On Cristo Street,” where one family’s sad decline quickly takes on the meaning of an entire culture.

And that’s quite a trick on Marqués’s part.

The selection:

Ines was startled to see Amelia get up and go over to wipe Hortensia’s cheek with her frayed lace handkerchief. Amelia’s concern for the rice powder seemed childish. She had put more powder on Hortensia’s left cheek simply to cover the blackish stain which had appeared years ago on that part of her sister’s skin. She never did anything without a reason. Never.

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