When I saw that Belinda Vasquez Garcia had written a book about witchcraft and the Great Depression set in the American Southwest, I just HAD to talk to her. As some of you may know, I just curated an exhibition on the 1930s so I’m a little addicted to the period. Belinda’s novel, The Witch Narratives: Reincarnation, is full of fascinating concepts. She’s here today to talk about historical connections but watch this blog to hear more about the book.
Adding a Historical Time Period to a Paranormal Novel
by Belinda Vasquez Garcia
Some Southwestern witches shape-shift using a piedra imán, those lucky enough to find the rare magnetic shape-shifting stone, whose powers go back to Roman times. In crafting my story, I thought that if a woman had such a stone, she would use it to remain young and beautiful. If one could remain forever young, then immortality would follow. So, in my books, a piedra imán acts as a fountain of youth. I therefore, needed to have my series start in an earlier time period so the lucky owner would stay young, while other witches around her age, festering with jealousy. For the first book, one of the time periods I chose was the Great Depression.
Madrid, New Mexico was once a company-owned, coal-mining town and it lost 37.5% of its population due to the Great Depression with 1/3 of the homes being emptied. The miners were forced to work just once or twice a week and struggled with even more debt which they owed to the company store. They ate mainly staples during this time period. One character, Marcelina, is given to quoting dichos [proverbs] and says of the Great Depression, “there is no shame in being poor but there is never a convenient time.”
Like most rich men, my fictional owner of the town and coal mine, Samuel Stuart, is not affected as much by hard times because he, also, owns businesses in Albuquerque, though some have closed due to the depression. However, his bank in Albuquerque, of which he is part owner, does fail and has to close its doors, even though the eight-story First National Bank is the biggest in Albuquerque. Here comes the Calvary! Lo and behold, the government and Roosevelt come to the rescue with the Glass-Steagall Act and loans money to banks all over the country, allowing the rich mine owner to reopen his bank. Hmm, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Well, the Glass-Steagall Act which saved the banks from entire ruin during the Great Depression bailed them out, so long as the banks agreed not to dabble in investment banking and underwrite securities.
Wait a minute! That’s what banks were doing that caused our current economic problems! I found it unnerving that during my research I discovered that the economic crisis our nation has been having the last few years is simply an echo of the past. It was rather daunting to see how history repeats itself.
Two young women, a witch and a Catholic, clash with the Penitentes, a fanatical, Catholic secret society who enforce their own punishment for sin. Salia, a third-generation witch and half-breed living on the fringes of society with a cruel mother and selfish grandmother, befriends Marcelina, a doubting Catholic haunted by a centuries-old witch, La Llorona, who rises from the muddy Rio Grande. While Marcelina is torn between Catholicism and witchcraft allure, Salia has no desire to join the Sisterhood of the Black Rose, the covens created by La Llorona.
Belinda grew up in Albuquerque. The daughter of a seasonal carpenter and housewife, her family never had much money. Growing up, the only books her family ever owned were the A and B encyclopedias, and Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, which she used as a stool to sit on. Thus, did she absorb an arsenal of words.
She was seven years old when a neighbor loaned her Tom Sawyer. The novel mesmerized her, and she spent her summer days, sitting under a tree, reading the book from cover to cover ten times, before surrendering it. She then badgered her brother to walk her several miles to the library and several miles back, so she could check out other books of spell-binding fiction. She was skinny and often hungry, but nothing could keep her from that library walk, and the pile of books she would carry back home.
Her father deserted the family when Belinda was twelve, and her mother died when she was sixteen. Still, she earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico with emphasis on Applied Mathematics.
As a child, her family often spoke of witches. They particularly told tales of the legendary, centuries-old witch, La Llorona, who fascinated Belinda. Thus, her inspiration is taken from the true tales of witchcraft she heard as a child, from a strong Native American influence in her youth, and through research. Her fictional work reaches beyond regional geography to entice anyone who enjoys the world of mysticism, and the power of sorcery, but with spice. Her vision is to fashion colorful and realistic characters, and create compelling worlds that speak of sorcerers, witches, spiritual journeys, human compassion, individual frailties, love, hate, and the importance of family. One of her goals is to deeply touch the emotions of her readers.
Before embarking on writing full time, she worked as a Software Engineer and Web Developer for Sandia National Laboratory. In her spare time, she honed her craft of writing fiction.
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