Desiree Zamorano


Scarification  means changing the seed coating to in order for germination to occur, by fire, for example.


According to Désirée Zamorano is one of 20 Chicana writers whose name you should know.  The author of the critically acclaimed literary novel The Amado Women, her writing has appeared in Catapult, Cultural Weekly, the Kenyon Review, and she is a frequent contributor to the LA Review of Books. 

Twitter: @LaDeziree 


One evening in July, in San Antonio, a group of us fled the stiff air conditioning of our rooms and gathered  impulsively at the outdoor seating of the college dorm at Texas A & M University. People brought beer, bottles of Topo Chica water, bottles of wine. Others brought hummus, potato chips, brownies. I glanced around the crowd of mostly women, and wondered, how many novels, memoirs, chapbooks, essays, present and future, did we all represent?

For five days I was at the writers workshop called Macondo-a reference to the iconic novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, and the named village within, the harbinger of magical realism.

That week was indeed one of real magic. I was surrounded by brilliant and bold writers, predominately women, most from the US, most with Latinx roots. Our hues ran the spectrum, our forebears ranged from US and Latin American origins: Chile, Panama, Peru, Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Indigenous, Puerto Rico. This annual gathering is the brain child of a MacArthur genius grant recipient, Sandra Cisneros, an American of Mexican heritage who hails from Chicago.

I was surrounded by brilliance, writers, and that lighthearted sense of deep fellowship only discovered among similarly committed people. Immersed in our work, we attendees  were buffered from the world outside. We looked at each other and found ourselves, complete.

Monday, the day after the workshop ended, following my return to Los Angeles, I drove an hour and a half to Adelanto, to bear witness at an asylum hearing for a young Venezuelan I had befriended. As she gave testimony, her story of courage, of refusing to capitulate to government intimidation, the Department of Justice judge tried to conceal his yawns. She recounted violence and death threats, to which the US government gave a desultory cross examination. The judge said he would give a written decision within 30 days.

I was not allowed to speak to her, before, during or after her hearing. The soonest I could visit her would be the following Sunday. I drove to Adelanto again, to visit and support. The day after the El Paso massacre.

That beautiful Macondo bubble was just a memory. Our brownness, our brilliance, our depth, our breadth, so tenuous on normal, average, ordinary days, brought into horrifyingly stark contrast by the targeted attack.

Our beauty, our resilience, our humanity, absent, invisible, desecrated.

I talked to the Venezuelan of other things, of her impressive testimony, her moral stance, her intelligence. This expressive, incarcerated 24 year-old distracted me from the ugliness of my country of origin. Of the hatred my compatriots hold towards me and people like me. Like her.

Part of survival is ignoring. Ignoring the bullshit, the betrayal, the misrepresentation, the lack of representation. Rage? Rage against the reality of hatred and prejudice and ignorance of this country’s history?

Rage against blithe whiteness? Against ‘good’ people who have no idea of actions beyond social media bon mots?

Rage is the appropriate response, yet rage, unless I funnel it into to my writing eats at my intestines, cannibalizes my heart, colludes in all my self-destructive tendencies.

Rage and impoverish my mind, my spirit, my writing?


I tell myself, Let’s survive. This is a brutal distraction, but let’s be strategic. Let’s focus on the writing I’m doing, the novel I’m working on, the essays that have come to me. Let’s ignore the monsoon of violent ugliness and hatred. Let’s go back to work.

So I do. I protect myself, my heart, my family, and decline to discuss the murders, the attempted annihilation.

I pick up Amy Herman’s book on visual intelligence and read until the author says a doctor, noticing a patient’s Spanish newspaper, might prompt questions into his diet “rich in Hispanic foods that might worsen his condition.”

I am stunned by the casual unexcavated assumptions here.

Flipping on the television as background noise to the powerpoint I’m creating for class I hear a white-presenting character with a Spanish surname. Latinx representation in television and movies has hovered for decades at 4%. The list of shows and movies set in Los Angeles, where our populations is over 50%, without any speaking roles for my demographic is long, and impacts my viewing habits. No “The Good Place.” No “La La Land.” I find myself watching French or British shows where there is no Latinx population to exclude. When I hear the character’s name I think, nice, at least they’re trying. With half an ear I follow the storyline of this career woman, until, during her pitch for venture capital, a man mentions she’s clearly not related to her “brown” brother. She explains her birth parents were killed and she was adopted by her nanny. Another WTF moment to add to my media viewing list. Now no “What/If.” I turn off the set.

As I drive to a meeting a reporter on public radio is discussing Merced, a town in California’s central valley. “It’s a white minority city,” she says, ignorantly or intentionally centering whiteness, instead of letting the listeners know it’s a predominately Latino community, alongside a strong Hmong presence.

All this in the space of two weeks and by now I am incandescent.

The erasure and eradication did not begin with this administration. It began with the southwestward expansion of this country and continued  with the murders and lynchings Texas Rangers, among others,  committed, continued with the betrayal of the Hidalgo Treaty, continues with the disenfranchisement on a daily basis by the white-washing of our shared history, by the paucity of our media portrayals, to the vilification of aspiring immigrants from south of the Rio Grande.

I am a seed, I tell myself, consumed by rage.

© The Acentos Review 2019