Janice’s Review Blog

Memoir gives insight into life in Nogales

Posted on: April 30, 2009

Alberto Alvaro Rios writes 'Capirotada,' a Nogales memoir.

Alberto Alvaro Rios writes 'Capirotada,' a Nogales memoir.

A flashing advertisement on the Phoenix Public Library homepage piqued my curiosity.  The ad showed the book “Capirotada,” the 2009 winner of the ONEBOOKAZ award.  The book looked interesting, and I met the author, Alberto Alvaro Rios, and purchased another of his books, “The Theater of Night,” at the Phoenix College Microburst Writer’s Conference in 2007, so I decided to read it.

Although small in size, only 147 pages, this paperback book tells the story of Rios growing up in Nogales.  He describes the border town starting in the 1950s and includes some black and white photos of his family.  His descriptions of the area paint vivid pictures in the reader’s mind.

Rios uses the innocence of his childhood to describe how his family lived their life in Nogales.  How they worked together, took care of each other and enjoyed a happy life.  He describes a border in the early years where people in the U.S. and Mexico could come and go freely while shopping, getting medical treatment or enjoying celebrations.

The subject of Capirotada surfaces midway through the book.  “Capirotada: This is indeed simply a bread pudding,” writes Rios, “but it would be unfair to stop there in the description.  ‘Bread pudding’ says so little about it, as so many words are unequal to their task.  Made with a zoo of foods, each thing in it is good, but taken together Capirotada is Mexican cooking’s version of fruitcake.”  The last two pages of the book contain the full recipe for Capirotada.

Many stories give glimpses into Rios’ childhood.  At eight-years-old, Rios describes how he and his friend Sergio packed their knapsacks with all the ingredients for sandwiches along with plates, silverware and Coke and headed into the mountains surrounding their homes.  They planned to stay for three days.  Their full knapsacks weighed them down and wore them out, but they continued on until they came to the top of the hill.  On the other side of the hill, they thought they found heaven.

Rios tells how his English mother and Mexican father met in England while his father served in the U.S. Air Force.  The couple planned to marry and live in England, but two weeks prior to his father’s discharge from the Air Force his commanding officer sent him back to the United States.  The reason was never clear.

The stories in the book make it hard to put down.  It’s not difficult to see why ONEBOOKAZ chose this book as the 2009 winner.

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2 Responses to "Memoir gives insight into life in Nogales"

I’m curious … has he also written this book in Spanish?

I looked for a Spanish version of the book, but I didn’t find one. Mr. Rios wrote the book in 1999, and he grew up on the U.S. side of Nogales, so I’m not sure he would have chosen to write a Spanish version.

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