writes in English and Spanish about the liminal lives of vulnerable creatures: sea turtles, axolotls, LGBT individuals, and those whose color or culture are seen as less. Her work has appeared or will appear in Barcelona Review, Best of Solstice, Coal Hill, Feminine Rising, Flash Frontier, Latino Book Review, La Colmena, Luvina, Ni Locas ni Solas, Revista de Literatura Mexicana Contemporánea, Sinister Wisdom, and Under the Volcano.
“Naca” is an excerpt from Estela’s novel Arribada, a finalist for Feminist Press’s Louise Meriwether award.
Estela divides her time between Mazatlán, Mexico, and Vermont, where she teaches Latin American literature. She is now finishing a historical novel about gay ghosts in Mazatlán.
You can see more about Estela here.
An excerpt from Arribada
By Estela González
Naca was that day’s word.
When I was about eight, Luisa and I learned new words by playing games. We liked, for instance, alternating a hop on the green tiles of the seaside walk with another on the rose ones; a word for each.
Our uncle Alonso walked ahead, while Padre and Madre waited on a bench under the palms for the lighthouse to start its evening display.
We hopscotched to our Naca-India-Naca-India chant, and caught up with Alonso.
Don’t say that. Where did you pick it up?, he asked.
I pointed at a group of girls chasing another one, trying to lift her skirt.
They call her India-Naca.
Who’s Naca?, asked Luisa. Who’s India?
Alonso lit up. It’s a person with warm, deep skin and eyes like the night.
Luisa yanked at her own ponytail. Pretty? Black hair? Blond is pretty. Like Mariana.
She placed her ponytail next to mine. I pulled it back.
Don’t be silly, said Alonso. He took Luisa’s ponytail and tickled her nose with it. I’ve told you how pretty you are, and kind, smart. If you were dark, you’d be just as pretty. Those there think they'll feel special if they put someone else down.
But Indias live in orphanages, Luisa said and ran to Madre. The lighthouse blinked.
The swarm of girls ran in our direction, closing in on the dark-haired girl. Her long braids lashed behind her, as though companions. The mean ones grimaced and edged closer.
She’s not wearing underpants. Indias don’t wear underpants!
As she approached me, the pretty one tripped on her long skirt. I offered my hand.
That’s a bad scrape.
She peered at me, then at the pack. She scrambled to her feet and ran towards a throng of tourists about to board an amphibious bus.
She got lost among the gringos with the sombreros and the shopping bags, and the mean girls scattered. Alonso approached one of them, pointed towards the town. The girl smiled like a hunter and sped off; her pack close behind. I plowed through the crowd and found the bonita crouching next to the bus’s fender.
Come, I said, and led her towards the seawall. We walked down the steps until we reached the sand. Her throat fluttered. Her lips were full, dark like violets; the rest of her skin a tad lighter. Her cheeks were moist. I wiped her face with my sundress.
It’s hot today. Hey! Your eyes are like the night.
She looked at the ocean, then back at me. Yours are like the water.
What’s your name?
¡Naca! Need some panties?
A mean girl was leaning over the wall above us. She wore the Escuela Pacífico uniform. Other girls joined her.
Mom says Indias don’t wear underpants, so they can piss wherever they want.
India, did you have to take a leak?
They cackled, then started down the steps towards us.
Fernanda looked left and right.
I held her hand tight and sang out a few notes.
Up on the wall Alonso sang a shrill, undulating song. He and Luisa walked towards the mean girls. I replied with my own song as loud as I could, keeping Fernanda’s hand in mine. The wild girls covered their ears. They craned their necks up to Alonso, then down at us.
Fernanda and I took one step up, and I sang louder. Alonso responded, walking downstairs one step at a time. We had them surrounded.
One jumped eight or ten steps onto the sand. Others followed. One of the younger ones twisted her ankle and cried out. They scrambled away.
India lover!, one stopped to shout from a distance. You’ll take your pants off, too?
A fire rose in my chest.
When they were gone Fernanda kissed my cheek. She smelled of summer rain.
I’m Mariana, and that is my uncle Alonso. And my sister, Luisa.
Fernanda turned to them and said Hi. Gotta go now. See you at school.
You go to Escuela Pacífico?
Fernanda slipped her shoes off, held her skirt, and darted along the surf. It was magic—in no moment did her clothes get soiled.
What are you doing down there? Madre called from the top of the wall.
I ran up. Madre took me by the arm. Was that India bothering you? What was she doing to those girls?
Luisa clung to Madre's thighs. Her little head tilted upwards.
Madre, you won’t send me to the orphanage, ¿verdad?
The lighthouse blinked again.