Leonardo da Jandra

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 8.53.30 AMBy Julie Etra

The well-known Mexican author and philosopher Leonardo da Jandra is certainly no stranger in our midst. Although born in Chiapas in 1951, da Jandra has spent over 20 years in Huatulco where he lived with his wife, the painter Agar García. A large part of those 20 years was in Cacaluta, where part of the Parque Nacional de Huatulco and Laguna Zanate is located. He left for Mexico City in 2008 after being told by the authorities that his house was on private property (Cacaluta is also where massive development is underway on properties owned by Fonatur (Fondo Nacional de Turismo)). Among his more well known books about the Oaxacan coast are the trilogy La Almadraba, Huatulqueños, and Samahua. Other works include La Hispanidad, Fiesta y Rito. Though not available in English, those of us non-native speakers that enjoy Spanish literature will find his books challenging, with somewhat complicated sentence structure, extensive vocabulary, and colloquialisms. Not light reading.

I recently finished La Almadraba, which means net, as in fishing, specifically designed to trap difficult but valuable species like turtles and therefore more lucrative to its owner. Published in 2008 the book begins and ends in 1998 following the incredibly destructive hurricane Paulina, it takes place during and right after the Parque Nacional de Huatulco was formed. It is the last book in his Trilogy. The central character is an exceptional diver, known as the Ingeniero, although he is decidedly not an Engineer. He is obsessive and cares about very few things besides killing fish, eating fish, and sex. Not a particularly attractive character except perhaps the sex part, but I will defer to the reader’s judgment. Other characters highlight aspects of the Oaxacan culture such as the Muxe, and the developing and conflicting interests of the resort town in its early days. Drug and human trafficking along the coast, particularly of Central Americans, takes place where the almadraba is cast, and the events form part of the complicated story of the dramatic changes occurring in the area. For lovers of fish and fishing Da Jandra’s knowledge is extensive. I will make sure this book stays in Mexico so I can finally learn the Mexican names in addition to scientific and English common. The other two books in the trilogy are on my list and promise to present exceptional reading about the coast.