Wednesday, October 09, 2002

My Heart Lies South: The Story of My Mexican Marriage by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino

My Heart Lies South: The Story of My Mexican Marriage (Young People's Edition) by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
1953, Bethlehem Books, 228 pages, softcover, Catholic

Elizabeth Borton de Trevino is best known as the author of children's stories, especially I, Juan de Pareja which won the Newbery Award in 1966). Long before all that, in the 1930s, she was simply Elizabeth Borton, a modern American lady, living in Boston and working as a journalist, when she was given an assignment in Monterrey, Mexico. There she met, was courted by and eventually married a native by the name of Luis Trevino. In this book she recounts the adventures her courtship and marriage and most particularly her adjustments to life in a completely different culture from her own. She paints a charming pictures of Mexican culture and faith and some of the stories about her mistakes and embarassments are hysterically funny. In moving to Mexico not only does she give up her old way of life (modern America of the 1930s was a significant contrast to life in Mexico), but she wholeheartedly embraced the Catholic faith and learned to truly love the hallmark of Mexican culture - the strength of the family and the essential role of mothers in the home and family.

This story is delightful for its own sake, but also gives tidbits of history (Mexican and Spanish), religion, and culture. It is also the sort of book that is useful and delightful for teenage girls to read as they begin to consider their future roles as mothers, wives and influences on their community. (The humorous incidents will probably keep it interesting enough for the guys as well.) There are some references to dating and courtship, the consequences of drinking too much and other subjects which would not be suitable for young children (although they are handled in a reasonable manner). Don't be turned off by the word "seduction" that shows up in the first few pages. It comes up in a fairly harmless context and is not an indication of shocking material to come.

I also found her discussions of parenting interesting because she was raising her children at a time when American doctors advocated bottle feeding and a sort of detached parenting . When she wrote the story, however, the doctors had begun to come around to a healthier and more natural parenting philosophy and the author expresses some of her regrets and frustrations at following the conventional wisdom which really went against her instincts.

Her arguments in favor of the Mexican view of the role of women are quite compelling. The Mexican role is, in many ways, very Catholic. Women are not inferior or subservient (as in the "Leave it to Beaver" American model of the 1950s) nor do they feel the need to fight for "equality" as in the American feminist model of today. The Mexican women have (or perhaps had) a very strong and dominant role within the family which was the center of society. They liked to make their husbands feel manly by allowing them to help them because it made them better husbands and companions. Although the author does not fully embrace every particular of the Mexican customs in this regard, she sees them generally as the women's way of cunningly "allowing" the men to feel superior in order to keep them happy while almost always having the final word.

Reviewed by Alicia Van Hecke (10-04-2000)
Available from Adoremus Books, Aquinas and More, By Way of the Family and Stella Maris Books

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