Last Train from Cuernavaca,
lyrically written, Last Train from Cuernavaca by Lucia St. Clair Robson
brings the past to fascinating, fire-breathing life. As the Mexican
Revolution sweeps into Cuernavaca, two young women --English and Mexican -- are
hurled into a high-stakes adventure that will help determine the nation's
future. Add rich characters, unforgettable scenes of bravery, and two
beautiful love stories, and you'll know why no one writes historical fiction
better than Robson."
"Last Train from Cuernavaca is ... a
gripping story that takes us deep into tumultuous years of Mexican history that
few Americans know about. We need more books like this."
"To read Lucia St. Clair Robson is to learn while being
thoroughly entertained. Last Train from Cuernavaca puts us through
the tragic violence and political treachery of the Mexican Revolution and its
consequences so intimately that we feel hunger, lust, thirst, grief, and saddle
sores, and admire anew the awesome durability and courage of the people of
Mexico-- especially the women."
"Lucia St. Clair Robson casts
spells with words that pluck us from our armchairs and plop us instantly into the place and time of her choice. In her
hands, the characters she spun from whole cloth breathe and speak and sweat
with the force of those who lived and who live once again here as never
before. Last Train from Cuernavaca proves once more that Robson
is an American treasure."
A reader review from Julie Chitwood: "Received Last Train from Cuernavaca yesterday afternoon - and as hard as I tried I still ended up finishing it today - I REALLY tried to make it last longer as I didn't want it to end - but I couldn't put it down. Needless to say, I loved it."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Note from Lucia: An unexpected number of people have told me about their experiences in Cuernavaca and the vivid memories they have of the city. So I'm jumping to the end of the book and posting the afterword. It seems appropriate. Also please visit Postcards from Cuernavaca for images and some fitting quotes.
Two very real women, Rosa King and Angelina Jimenez, inspired the characters of Grace Knight and Angela Sanchez.
In 1905, the newly-widowed Englishwoman, Rosa King, came to Cuernavaca from Mexico City to open a tea shop catering to the city’s foreign community. The governor convinced her to buy and restore the almost-four-centuries-old ruin of a hacienda’s manor house in the heart of the city. Rosa named her hotel the Bella Vista. After the Revolution’s decade of warfare she wrote Tempest over Mexico, a compelling memoir of her experiences before, during, and after the fall of Cuernavaca. Little, Brown, and Company published her book in 1935.
Angelina Jimenez, who became known as Lieutenant Angel, tells her story in a book called Those Years of the Revolution: 1910-1920. It’s a collection, in English and in Spanish, of the memories of the Revolution’s veterans who fled to California toward the end of the war. Edited by Esther Perez and James and Nina Kalla, the book was published in 1974. It contains a photograph of Lieutenant Angel at about age seventy-five.
Rosa King refused to leave her hotel until General Zapata’s troops were storming the city. Her descriptions of the Cuernavacans’ flight through the mountains are harrowing. She wrote that 8,000 people started out, but only 2,000 made it to safety.
Rosa waited out the war as a refugee in Veracruz. She returned to Cuernavaca after hostilities ended with the eventual assassinations of many of the Revolution’s leaders. She found her beloved hotel in ruins. She tried to make a new start, but conditions in the devastated city were so dire that even she, as determined as she was, could not manage it.
Lieutenant Angel’s experiences were more amazing than Rosa’s. After blowing up a train, stealing weapons, and rescuing comrades imprisoned on it, she rode north to join her father. She, her father, and other officers were captured, imprisoned, and sentenced to death when a former ally betrayed them. Angel’s account of her perilous escape and flight to safety across the border to El Norte is also a page-turner.
Students of Mexican history may notice that in Last Train from Cuernavaca I have engineered the fall of the city a year before it happened on August 13, 1914. Cuernavaca did come under siege and attack by the rebel forces in the summer of 1913, but managed to revive and survive for another year.
Sadly, while dictators Porfirio Diaz and Victoriano Huerta lived in exile, revolutionary leaders Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa, and Francisco Madero were murdered. Venustiano Carranza was killed in 1920 by followers of General Alvaro Obregón, who was subsequently elected president. Obregón was a pragmatist who said, “The days of revolutionary banditry have ended because I have brought all the bandits with me to the capital to keep them out of trouble.
Today Cuernavaca is a bustling city built on top of and around those deep, lush ravines known as barrancas. A city bus route passes the concrete bridge and steep path to the village of San Anton, the inspiration for San Miguel. Now a suburb of Cuernavaca, San Anton is known to this day for the ancient style of pottery that (the real) Rosa King and (the fictional) Grace Knight bought there almost a hundred years ago. The village overlooks two spectacular waterfalls in the gorge below it, and the openings to caves (where I have the rebels hiding) are visible in the face of the cliff.
The railroad station built in 1899 during the regime of Porfirio Diaz still stands across the street from the depot where buses arrive from Mexico City which lies about fifty miles across the 10,000-foot-high mountain range. The two volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl keep watch over the valley.
The building that was Rosa King’s Bella Vista Hotel still exists across the street from the city’s main plaza. It now houses small businesses and doctors’ offices, but the courtyard and wide corridors with their elegant arches are in place. The victorian bandstand graces the zócalo and a band plays concerts there on Sundays.
Cuernavaca has two nicknames: the City of Eternal Spring and the City
of Flowers. Even today it is easy to see why Rosa King and Grace Knight loved
it. (author's note: and so do I).
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
email Lucia directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
©Lucia St. Clair Robson 2001 - 2010
Website by: www.Sky-Bolt.com