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". . . courageous characters so real we can suspend reality . . ."
In 1592 Spanish invaders built San Miguel Mission on top of graves of Piro Indians they slaughtered. The site is a short distance from my home along the Camino Real, the “royal road” of commerce. My New Mexico town is named Socorro or “help,” which is what the Indians first provided their conquistador guests who traveled from Spain through Mexico, New Mexico and on to California, the setting for “Zorro,” Isabel Allende’s adventure novel about heroes and powerful women.
Diego de La Vega, a.k.a. Zorro, born in California, is the son of Gray Wolf, a Shoshone woman warrior, and Captain Alejandro del La Vega, a Spanish Aristocrat. Raised in two worlds, Diego learns Okahué (justice, dignity, courage, honor and respect) from his grandmother, White Owl, a shaman and healer. During his Shamanic journey, he is saved by the fox, “zorro,” who becomes his spiritual guide. His father wants him to become a “good Christian, loyal to the King and master of fertile lands” so he sends him to Barcelona where Diego’s fencing master indoctrinates him into “La Justicia,” a secret society that fights against oppression.
On his journey, Diego witnesses tyranny under Napoleon, inquisitions under Ferdinand VII, slave traders, mistreatment of gypsies and injustices driven by greed. He is propelled into action giving rise to the legend of Zorro. Upon his return, Zorro dons his cape and mask in a rescue mission that saves his father and tribal members from death with the help of Isabel, the narrator, who insists on helping Zorro.
Allende, born in Peru and raised in Chile, has personal experience with political injustice and for years has given us novels with powerful messages. “Zorro” is similar to her novel, “Daughter of Fortune,” with courageous characters so real we can suspend reality and join them in their transformational journeys.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla