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Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Missing Source of Guillermina's Rose

As I write this blog entry, this is the season of Dia de Los Muertos which is the festival when the ancestors are honored in Mexico, in the Mexican-American community and by many non-Mexicans in California. I look forward to the festival of Our Lady of Guadelupe ,who first appeared to Juan Diego in Tepeyac, which is celebrated in December. California was once part of Mexico. I am conscious of that history--particularly at this time of the year. 

These are the reasons why I reacted the way I did to Guillermina and the Rose which I reviewed for The Bookplex.   I may not have been born in California, but I have lived in California more than thirty years.

Let me say that Guillermina and the Rose is in many ways a wonderful book, but there was an element of tremendous importance that was missing.  I would have been remiss if I failed to mention it in the review that appears below.


The author of this book is listed as Don Cush, but the experiences described are those of Robert Nielsen, an American executive employed by a computer technology firm who makes a fateful trip to Mexico.  I’d imagine that Guillermina and the Rose is an “as told to” memoir. This means that the subject of the memoir told his story to a professional writer.

I wish I could say I was shocked by what Robert Nielsen discovered about a Catholic orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico.  Unfortunately, I am well aware of the existence of child trafficking .  Children often become victims as a result of poverty, as this author points out.  He also posits that pre-Conquest Aztec attitudes might be a factor.  Yet it seems to me that there is actually a prevalent cross-cultural belief that children are property which fuels crimes against children worldwide.  Guillermina and the Rose is the chronicle of a child who was thrown away as unwanted, and might have died unknown. Robert Nielsen not only saves her life, he discovers that she has astonishing gifts. 

Although this book is a very personal memoir, it also deals with an important trend in education. I was very interested in Nielsen’s leading edge introduction of computers into classrooms.  Pioneering efforts like Nielsen’s eventually led to the current development of online instructional programs that allow students to acquire an education without leaving their homes.  So this author’s professional accomplishments are definitely notable.

There was an editing flaw in this book that I noticed. Some persons were inconsistently named.  Names were evidently altered possibly for legal reasons. I wouldn’t bring this up except that it seems like a search and replace process for a re-named person that was almost completely successful, is probably responsible for the removal of Our Lady of Guadelupe from this book.  Our Lady of Guadelupe is extremely important in Mexican culture.  For the Mexican-Americans that I have known, she is at the heart of their spirituality.  I was taken aback when I saw the patron saint of Mexico given another name in this book.  This problem even undermines the symbolism of this memoir’s title.  Roses are a central image in the story of Our Lady of Guadelupe.  This makes the incident of Guillermina being given a rose emblematic from a religious and cultural standpoint. If there is a new edition of Guillermina and the Rose , I would definitely recommend  the restoration of Our Lady of Guadelupe to her rightful place.


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