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Bay of Tigers, continued from page 23 Their husbands are either missing or dead. All have several children; all have menial jobs. “They can’t read, they have no profession, they know only how to work the land, but they have no land. They came from the villages that were burned:’ Mendes clearly has deep empathy for settlers and natives alike. He subverts and confounds expectations, quick to turn stereotypes and quick assumptions on their headwith one glaring exception. His treatment of amputees contrasts starkly with his otherwise delicate and scrupulously fair treatment of the other subjects in the book. The international campaign against landmines has long used amputees as metaphors for a kind of death; they are depicted in video and print material as hopeless specimens, half-people that the world must account for. A tenth of the world’s one hundred million landmines are buried in Angola. Here also, amputees serve only as a metaphor; they are not-quite-human bodies meant to convey a message of death, appearing to have no agenda beyond the delivery of that message. “They come, testifying to nightmare and miracle, hugging the silhouettes of trees, merging with them, walking on their roots, bones, trunks, stilts, crutches: A new species, half man and half plant, half living and half pretense:’ Mendes’ description is enough to make anyone cringe, disabled or not. It gets worse: “The demobilized, the mutilated, and the jobless emerge from the ghettos that contain them. We go through Chongoroi: they attack the train, tossing their crutches and sugarcane stalks aboard before running on prostheses and hopscotching to gain momentum to jump onto the moving cars. The legless, lacking that ability, look at us in fury, condemned to remain behind, and ask for one last favor from the gravel, inches away from being ground up by the train’s enormous wheels.” He identifies these people as “the ones who die:’ While he uses other anecdotes to illustrate the triumphs and losses of a single life, he groups the amputees under the banner of “the mutilated!’ Coming from a writer who seems to go out of his way to make things difficult and complicate our impressions of the world, this is too easy and disappointing. P P F . 4 very village is an island,” writes Mendes. “Every person also. They drift along the edge of the continent that was once theirs: the memory of their parents, the memory of the group, the religion of their grandparents, and now the language of their children, the salt they don’t have, the fire they must go even farther to find. Benguela, Luanda, Lobito: in Angola only the shores are terra firma, and the greatest worry is being submerged:’ In Bay of Tigers, voted best Portuguese novel by the Portuguese Pen Club and translated into five languages, Angola emerges as a world where the war has officially ended, but all sides refuse to go home. Everyone lives in a “spectatorless rodeo of violence” where “the lie is to survive:’ Angola has all but fallen off the map, replaced by other wars, other deaths. And that is precisely the author’s pointit’s what gives his writing a sense of urgency. For me, Bay of Tigers makes all too clear what lay beyond the sandy sunswept plains just outside the staff tent where I briefly worked in Africa. It also makes clear what it must have meant for Marcus to cross the border that divides Namibia and Angola. I knew nothing of his political affiliations or experiences; I didn’t ask. I simply got what he requiredsandals and inkpensand lent him the desk in the tent whenever he asked for it. Years later, I can still see his hands working carefully in the dim circle of light from the single bulb in the tent, sweat glistening in his beard, his dusty heels, shod in new, bright blue sandals crossed behind him underneath the creaky wooden chair. Carefully he pushes tiny pieces of paper into the pens so that through the cheap plastic, just above the reservoir of cheap ink, reads a singular message: “Pray for Peace in Angola?’ Observer intern Emily Rapp is writing a novel about Ireland. It wasn’t long before Chris Blackwell, the legendary founder of Island Records, caught on to the Nortec vibe. One night, the record label magnate heard a homemade CD sampler from the Nortec Collective at a Miami Beach party. He liked what he heard and signed the collective to a recording deal for three compilation CDs and one album for each of the Nortec members. The Nortec Collective has since released their eponymously titled Nortec Collective Vol. 1 to rave reviews. Since then, both Bostich and Terrestre have traveled the world playing at concerts and music festivals. Bostich’s tracks have been featured in Volvo and NFL commercials. Meanwhile, Terrestre has worked on remixes for the Kronos Quartet and Enrique Iglesias. Vol. 2 of the Nortec Collective is slated to be released in early 2004 on Blackwell’s current label, Palm Pictures. “When Nortec started I never imagined it would take me around the world;’ Amezcua muses. An unassuming dentist by day, the 40-year-old Bostich is married and the father of four children. He says that increasingly Nortec has taken him away from his family and his dental practice. “I was in LA yesterday, Austin today, and tomorrow I leave for Brazil,” he says, smiling. “But, if you’d like to make an appointment, I will be in the office next week.” Both Corona and Amezcua say they want to continue pushing the musical borders of the Nortec aesthetic. Amezcua has a new project called Point Loma in which he works more with analog synthesizers and uses fewer sample loops. “It’s not as playful as Bostich,” he says. Corona has left the collective altogether and often performs under the name of Murcor, mixing chamber and classical music with digital processing. While Corona says he is pulling away from the Norteiio aspects of Nortec, he will never entirely give up the traditional sounds of northern Mexico. “Nortec music is honest because it reflects the world around us,” he says. “That’s why we play it.” Melissa Sattley is a freelance writer in Austin. 10/24/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29