Friday, June 22, 2012
Review: Taxi Rojo by Erik Orrantia
With Taxi Rojo, Orrantia creates that combination of LGBT fiction with romance/love stories that I seem to enjoy so much these days. And yes, if the definition of romance is for couples to find a happily ever after, there are at least two full-fledged romances and the beginning of another one in Taxi Rojo. Of course these are no cookie cutter romances, gay or otherwise. Orrantia's characters are everyday people struggling to survive in a place where survival is the word of the day, and their romances are not fantasy filled, but take place as they struggle with the harsh realities of every day concerns. I think of these as reality-based romances.
The story begins when six strangers share a taxi from downtown to Playas, a neighborhood in Tijuana, Mexico. While on their way, there is a tragic accident where the driver and a passenger are killed. The passenger is a gay old man who is found with no wallet or identification. The rest of the passengers survive and forge a bond through this terrible experience that changes their lives.
Orrantia highlights each central character from their individual points of view beginning with Pancha/Pancho, a transvestite and performer who dreams of finding a man who will accept her for whom she is. She's just not sure that her long-term lover Eduardo is that man. After the accident, Pancha finally finds the resolve to clarify her position to Eduardo. Julia is a poor, guilt-ridden, hardworking woman that lives for her family but has allowed herself to become a doormat. The death of that unknown old man in the taxi deeply affects Julia, and slowly she strives to make things happen for herself, including allowing a man in her life. Julia's character also serves to make a social statement. Through her character, Orrantia makes the argument and shows the need and growing frustrations that comes from the daily struggle of having to cross that border on a daily basis to make a living.
Rigoverto, Cristian and Toni's lives become intertwined when, in the evening of the accident, Rigo and Toni hook up while Rigo's partner Cristian is away. Rigo and Cris confront two conflicts in this story; dishonesty/lack of trust due to Rigo's lies and a more serious conflict that arises as a result of medical testing that will affect Cris and Rigo's lives forever. Each character struggles with the emotional aftermath and consequences of their actions, as well as with the possibility of a future together or apart. In the meantime, Toni's denial of his sexuality is as wide as the River Nile. I found this character rather compelling because he's not just in the closet or on the down low – he’s in complete, utter denial. As a result of his encounters with Rigo, life also changes for Toni, and as his homosexual encounters gain momentum that denial changes to extreme homophobia.
There's a lot of denial going on in this story and all the characters seem to rationalize their actions in one way or another until the accident takes place. Afterwards, most of Orrantia's characters work through the denial, rationalization, and conflicts, while others can't come to terms with reality and cross the line. On a personal note, I enjoyed all the stories but must admit that Pancha and Eduardo's romance became my favorite and particularly like the queer twist that Orrantia brought to their happy ending.
Although there are multiple points of view used in Taxi Rojo, Orrantia delivers a tight narrative by using the bond established by the characters through the accident and the old man's death. As the setting, Tijuana is incorporated into the story so seamlessly that it almost becomes another character that the author explores to its fullest extent with all its gritty flaws exposed. There are happy endings in Taxi Rojo, moments that may seem to be just a bit too happy or convenient in the end. But in my opinion if anybody deserved happy moments and happy endings, these characters with their ordinary lives and struggles, did. Well done!
Category: LGBT Fiction/Romance
Publisher/Release Date: Cheyenne Publishing/April 10, 2012
Visit Erik Orrantia here.