Nicaragua & LGBT rights in Meet Me Under the Ceiba

It is purely serendipitous that the book I’m reviewing  the day after posting what the GLBT Reading Challenge means to me is a novel that has GLBT rights at the forefront of its plot and motivation.  Meet Me Under the Ceiba, written by Silvio Sirias, is the  chronicle of the murder of a young woman named Adela by an unnamed researcher who became fascinated by her death.  Through a series of interviews with her family, friends and even her murderers to try to piece together the events leading up to her death and her last moments.

This book is not necessarily a mystery: we know who her murderers are from the very beginning and we know exactly why they killed her.  The narrator uncovers small mysteries that paint a clearer picture of Adela’s last day on earth, but what this is really about is giving Adela a fair representation, trying to uncover the lies that have been protecting her murderers.

Adela, a lesbian, was passionately in love with the beautiful Ixelia, a gorgeous young woman who had been abused her whole life and was eventually sold by her mother into a relationship with Don Roque, a powerful and cruel older man.  When Adela tries to rescue Ixelia from her fate, crosses the wrong paths and Don Roque and Ixelia’s  mother, Doña Erlinda, decide to get rid of her once and for all.  Adela’s story is tragic and heartbreaking; you spend most of the novel hoping that something will change, that Adela will be uncovered as alive.  She was so obviously loved in her small community.

I learned a lot about the state of LGBT rights in Nicaragua and it is very difficult to read about.  In Nicaragua and much of Latin America, being part of the LGBT community means that in the eyes of some people, you are less than a person.  During the investigation and the trial, many people simply referred to Adela as “la cochona”, the dyke, never using her name.  Adela is reduced to nothing but her sexuality, she no longer has an identity.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba begins with a quote from Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García  Márquez: “none of us could continue living without an exact knowledge of the place and mission assigned to us by fate.”  There is certainly some inspiration from Chronicle of a Death Foretold in Sirias’ narration, but it is more straightforward in Meet Me Under the Ceiba.  There are many intriguing levels of narration since the story is told completely in flashbacks and interviews, the painful reality is that because Adela is no longer here, we will never really know what happened to her.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba is an important novel.  It addresses Nicaraguan LGBT rights and also the failure of the judicial system.  Most importantly, it paints a tragic portrait of one woman’s unfortunate death in the hopes of stopping future deaths.  Siarias’ story is based on the true murder of Aura Rosa Pavón and at the end he describes which aspects of the story were fact and which were fiction, but in the end I am so grateful that Sirias told this story, because it is absolutely one that needed to be heard.  I definitely recommend Meet Me Under the Ceiba, not only for the important issues that it puts out into the open, but also because it is a highly readable novel that will keep you an edge.

Silvio Sirias will be visiting Regular Rumination today to answer any questions you might have, so feel free to leave a question in the comments!  The author has generously offered to do a giveaway!  If you are interested in reading Meet Me Under the Ceiba, there are a couple ways you can enter this giveaway.

To enter:
+1 for a comment, +1 for asking Silvias a question in the comments, +1 for a tweet or a blog post, +1 for following
Please leave a separate comment for each entry!   This contest is open until Sunday, January 17.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba is part of BronzeWord Latino Book Tours and will be making the following tour stops this week: Book Lover Carol, Brown Girl Speaks, The Tranquilo Traveler, Pisti Totol, Mama XXI, Farm Lane Books, Sandra’s Book Club, Latino Books Examiner, Una in a Million.

I received Meet Me Under the Ceiba for review from the BronzeWord Latino Book Group.  You can purchase Meet Me Under the Ceiba on Amazon.

8:15pm: There’s still plenty of time to ask questions and have them answered, but I just wanted to say thank you so much to Silvio Sirias for visiting Regular Rumination today!  It’s been so wonderful having you here.

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31 thoughts on “Nicaragua & LGBT rights in Meet Me Under the Ceiba

  1. I’m planning to read this soon, so it is great to hear that you think it is worth reading. I look forward to starting it!

  2. Okay so you call it a novel, so I’m assuming this is fiction, but is it based on something that really happened? What time period is it set in? I’d love to enter for the contest. This sounds like an excellent book.

    1. Amanda: It’s set in the last two years or so. The novel is a fictionalized account of the real death of a Nicaraguan woman, the author outlines the differences at the end of the story. The big facts are the same, but he created a lot of the details.

  3. Hi
    yes Amanda it is based on a true story. The author will be here to tell you his whole story and it is quite interesting. It’s amazing how he did he research. I know that i was stunned reading all that he did to gather the info for the book.

    Thank you again Leslie for this wonderful post. You always add a personal touch to what you do that makes everything shine brightly. Thank you so much for joining the book tour.
    Jo Ann Hernandez
    BronzeWord Latino Book Tours
    http://www.LatinoBookTours.com

    BTW Go Team Gale

  4. Great Post, Lu. Fantastic how it fit together with your theme yesterday! In an earlier stop of Sirias’ Latino Book Tour, he mentioned how he had to be very careful conducting his interviews in the small town where this murder occurred-I think it adds such intrigue to this novel!

  5. I can’t wait to read this book and planning to order as soon as I can from Amazon.fr since I can’t get it shipped from the States here in France.

    I really enjoyed Dr. Sirias’s first novel “Bernardo and the Virgin” and I am glad to see him growing as an author and getting recognized for it! Congratulations!

    What I like most of the Latino Literature is that it is like Creative Nonfiction (although it might not be accurate at all) but I just feels like his stories “communicate information shaped like fiction.” This is what I enjoy the most of the Latino writers out there, they have real stories to tell, but they are not history books or newspaper articles. They are stories written and shaped to read as fiction, making them much more personal than an article or some history book. I must say I really enjoy Bernardo and the Virgin’s narrative style and can’t wait to read this one too.

    I can’t comment much on the book since I haven’t read it yet. But looking forward to it!

    PS: Do we get +1 for Fbook post?

    1. Hi, Monica,

      As anyone reading this can tell, Monica was a student of mine in what now seems like another life. Still, we’ve faithfully kept in touch through the years–even though see always seems to be prancing off somewhere far away.

      The Latino and Latina Literature novels I particularly loved–and as a result had Monica read in my classes–were those that retrieved peculiarities of culture and history and “translated” them to great effect for English-speaking readers. These type of books are the ones I adored reading, and as a writers’ maxim states: “Write the book you want to read.”

      Thank you, Monica, for the plug on BERNARDO AND THE VIRGIN. (For everyone who may be interested, Monica is a formidable reader and an astute writer herself. Because of this, she was one of the first to read BERNARDO–when it was still a galley proof.)

      Thanks for posting. Now, leave Paris and come back home to Panama. 😉

      Hugs,

      SS

  6. Good morning,

    First let me start out by thanking Lu for hosting me today on this book tour. And, especially, for writing such a stunning review–not only because it praises MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA, but because the piece is so well-written. Thanks for taking the time, Lu. I am acutely aware of the effort it takes to produce something so enjoyable to read.

    For Amanda: MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA is a work of fiction. Yet, at the same time it is based on an actual incident. I made a commitment to stay true to the “spirit” of who the murder victim was in life, and the bare bones of the incident follow the reality, but the vast majority of characters and their circumstances reside within the domain of fictional literary license.

    The murder took place a little over ten years ago: on Christmas Day, 1999. The hardcore research for this novel took only a couple of weeks, but it is an experience I’ll never forget–as was the research I conducted for my first novel, BERNARDO AND THE VIRGIN.

    Thanks again, Lu and Amanda,

    Silvio

    1. Silvio: Thank you so much for your kind words and all the hard work you put into answering questions on my blog and all the other blogs this week and next. As you can tell, I loved Meet Me Under the Ceiba 😀

  7. If this book had been written in Spanish (something I hope happens in the near future) it would probably have stirred the Nica heavens and Lake Cocibolca’s shark-filled fresh waters. Like we’ve seen in discussions at previous blog stops, the recount of Adela’s murder drags along with it a series of issues, that are not only difficult to read about but that are hardly ever addressed truthfully. Point in case, the efficiency and impartiality of our judicial system! Everyday our newspaper are filled with stories of murderers, rapists, child molesters, and most recently drug dealers, and corrupted public officials walking away…

    Again, one cannot be thankful enough for having the opportunity to join this discussion, and most importantly, to read the thought-provoking points of view.

    I have to say that thanks to this tour, I have visited for the first time many of the blog sites that will be hosting the book (which I probably wouldn’t have heard of on my own) and I look forward to reading the upcoming reviews!

    1. Sandra Mariela,

      Thank you for visiting for a second day in a row. I totally agree with you that MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA would cause a ruckus if published in Nicaragua, in Spanish. (I am also certain that BERNARDO AND THE VIRGIN would draw a lot of attention as well.) (If anyone from Arte Publico Press is reading this, if you’d be willing to publish the Spanish versions of these novels, I’d be willing to work on the translation.)

      The thing about Nicaragua that breaks the hearts of everyone who loves this country is that the people are wonderful, but the political culture has a nightmarish quality that residents of the US can not imagine. (I realized there is corruption in the US, but in comparison to Nicaragua the judicial system there works magnificently–at least people like Madoff and O.J. Simpson eventually get theirs.)

      And, Sandra Mariela, thanks for joining us everyday of the tour.

      Hugs,

      SS

  8. Just wanted to say what a great post, Lu. Really enjoyed reading your review and couldn’t agree more with what you wrote in the last paragraph about Ceiba being an iimportant novel. The fact that it is (in my opinion, and it seems many others) highly readable will hopefully get the novel the attention it deserves.

    Silvio, I wondered if you could talk a bit about the ceiba tree…I love the descriptions of the tree in the book and perhaps about how you came to decide on a title for the book. Did you consider other titles?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi, Lourdes,

      Thanks for the visit and the question. I am looking forward to appearing in your blog.

      Regarding the ceiba and why I chose it as the centerpiece for the title. To be honest, I don’t remember exactly how that title came about–but I can tell you that my wife played a crucial role in choosing the titles for BERNARDO AND THE VIRGIN and MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA. What I do recall is that in the note that the actual victim received that lured her to her death asked her to meet her former lover under a chilamate. Now, I honestly don’t know nor can I find in the dictionary what we would call a chilamate in English, but it grows in abundance in Nicaragua. It is a thick tree with lots of thick veins climbing up the side. In Nicaraguan folklore some say if one catches a flower in a cotton cloth while it falls, one can enter into a pact with the devil without having to give up anything.

      Now, having to deal with explaining a chilamate and making the tree glamorous seemed like a arduous task. The ceiba, on the other hand, is a handsome tree, taller than any, and with a widespread spiritual lore regarding the gods and the afterlife based on Mayan and Yoruban/Santeria beliefs The choice, then, seemed a natural. And since the meeting under the ceiba is the pivotal scene in the narrative, the title seemed apt.

      The only other title I briefly considered was “The Secret of the Ceiba.” But friends who read the completed manuscript loved the original, so I stuck to it.

      Loved the question, Lourdes,

      Silvio

    2. If I may…I’d like to second this question because it’s been in the back of my mind (I guess I just didn’t dare to ask before). There is something betwitching and poetic about the image of the tree. Would love to hear Dr. Sirias’ take on it 🙂

      Thanks!

      1. Sandra Mariela,

        Yes, there is. Indeed. In fact, when I researched the ceiba and its cultural implications I became mesmerized by a question I found unexplainable: How can two people–the Mayans in Central America and the Yorubans in Western Africa–have developed similar spiritual beliefs surrounding the ceiba centuries before either group ever dreamed of coming in contact?

        The ceiba is originally from Western Africa, I learned. Their seeds grow in pods that float, and these floated across the ocean long before any humans did. When the Yorubans, who first came as slaves to the Caribbean, saw their sacred tree here, they saw it as a sign that their gods had come with them. Hence the birth of vudu, calombe, and santeria on our continent.

        When I initially wrote the chapter that explains the spiritual lore of the ceiba, I got carried away and explained everything. But the story got bogged down so I was forced to cut about five pages of my dissertation on the ceiba. 😉

        Another good one, Sandra Mariela,

        Silvio

  9. Hello everybody.

    First of all, I’d like to thank Lu for the review of Silvio’s MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA. It gave me a clear idea of what the book is about. I haven’t finished reading it. But, because of your review, I cannot wait to have the hard copy in my hand and sleep with it. 🙂

    Thank you, too, Silvio, for inviting me in the first place to joining this beautiful and very simple way of book blog-touring, and for your sweet responses to my questions before.

    I tried to find MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA today in Jakarta, but too bad they haven’t imported your novels yet. But, I certainly did throw the idea of starting to import your books, by making them check that there were only 1 (one!!!) copy left in the States today for public to buy (correct me if I’m wrong 🙂 Awesome! I’m thrilled, too, that a lot of people were already reading it and hopefully your message that you’re trying to share in your story has been spread.

    Another opinion of mine regarding the LGBT rights, is that being a gay/lesbian is a choice someone takes. Whether it is a sinful act or not, I’d like to let God be the Most Judge. And no country, no government, has a capacity to make any laws against it. No community has the rights to put them aside/away. Lesbians/gays should not go to jail or be murdered just because of what they choose to be.

    I think I will wait for my hardcopy to arrive and will also for your next novels to come, Silvio.

    Again, thank you.

    -adela-

    1. Hi, Adeline,

      Thank you for your kind comments. And good luck getting your hands on the novel. Let me know if you ever do get it, it would be great to know that someone in Jakarta has read my work.

      Regarding whether homesexuality is a choice or not–I believe, and this is just based on a lifetime closely observing human nature, that our brains, for many things, are pre-programed, especially when it comes to our sexual identity. Gays who have shared their experience with me have said that they’ve known they were so ever since they were children. And I find it hard to believe that someone age 5 or 6, say, makes such a life-defining choice. But I do agree with you that regardless of what we believe, with regard to a person’s sexuality, as long as they are consenting adults, it’s no one’s business.

      Tough question, Adeline, 😉

      Silvio

  10. Thanks for the review Lu. I saw another review of this book on another blog somewhere else as well (must have been part of the tour).

    It’s definitely news to me that it’s a work of fiction based on something that happened in real life. I’m definitely interested in reading the book now.

    I have a question that’s not really related to the book (since I haven’t read it yet), but how is the fight for LGBT rights going in Nicaragua? Winning the fight?

    P.S. I’m way across the globe from America, so I’m not sure if I’m still in the time frame for questions..

    1. Hi, Michelle,

      Thanks for writing, and you’re still within the timeframe–wherever you may be.

      I compare the LGBT movement in Nicaragua to be at the same stage as the Civil Rights Movement in the US in the early ’60s. That would be a grass roots movement that’s coalescing into a force to be reckoned with. The challenge they face is similar as well: overcoming centuries of prejudice by educating Nicaraguans at large.

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Silvio

  11. Yes, I was referring to the adults who make the choice. 🙂 This is getting more and more interesting.

    Thanks. I hope to see you tomorrow then, in another blog.

  12. I’m curious – who DOES support GLBT rights in Latin America? I know that’s kind of a vague question, but I suppose I’m curious if, as in America, there were originally pockets of support for homosexuality (radicals, intellectuals, etc) that may slowly mainstream?

  13. Hi, Jason,

    Your question is intriguing, and I may not have an answer. What I can venture to guess is that homosexuality in Latin America–which until recently was at least 90% Catholic–was driven so underground that no one dared speak in favor. In small communities, like the one where I spent my adolescence, everyone knew who were the gay citizens . The taunting they experienced, and I got to witness myself, was excruciating. It was open-season in terms of harassment, with no one that I ever observed pointing out that to demonize others diminishes us all.

    In MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA, the central character is allowed to work–in fact, she is considered a model employee. Where the discrimination comes in is with regard to her personal life, and after her murder the defense attorneys’ main tactic–as happened in reality–was to dehumanize her.

    It is not until recently that important voices have begun to speak out against this type of discrimination. And if you ask me, homosexuals in Latin American are been watching the U.S. and European gay movements very closely and taking notes.

    But, again, I am just throwing a few conjectures out there, hoping that I am close.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking question,

    Silvio

  14. I love running across books I’ve never heard of…thanks for the fantastic review Lu! And thanks to the author for answering all the questions. I’ve added this one to my wish list.

  15. Such a great review of the book, Lu. I’ll look forward to this title being available sometime soon here in the Philippines. And lovely to read the author answering questions posted herein.

  16. This sounds like an amazing book. The facts that it’s set in Nicaragua and it’s based on a true story really appeal to me. Would love to be entered in the giveaway please. Thanks!

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