Elena Garro's (1916-1998) vocation may not have been the one that immortalized her; it may not have been literature, it may not have been her novels, her stories, her plays. She wanted to be a dancer, but perhaps the vicissitudes of life made literature a sort of call that turned her into, according to Emmanuel Carballo, "the most important Mexican writer of the 20th century".
For the essayist and literary critic, Elena Garro is "one of our greatest Mexican writers, and perhaps the most brilliant woman (...)". The writer from Jalisco was not the only one who found Garro's work exemplary. Various critics and writers have affirmed that, after Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Elena Garro is the best writer in Mexico.
One of Garro's best-known and recognized pieces is Un hogar sólido (A Solid Place, 1957), a theatrical piece that represented her debut in the arts. In this work time and space are blurred while her prose moves from reality to the dreamlike. This narrative form, characterized by the fantastic, surrealism, and magic, is present in almost all of Garro's literary production, particularly in Recuerdos del porvenir (1963), a novel that cost her work to be framed in magical realism, a category in which writers and critics placed her, making her the predecessor of Juan Rulfo and Gabriel García Márquez, two great icons of this literary movement.
However, the author herself refused to be catalogued in this way, pointing out that, according to Patricia Rosas Lopátegui, the magical reality found in her works is nothing more than "the representation of the magical and millenary thought of the indigenous cosmovision that has always been present in Mexico"; that is, the representation of what she witnessed since her childhood and what was happening around her.
"As a tireless searcher of the essence of things, of what is truly transcendental in existence, Elena Garro broke the old theatrical molds by inserting magic into the scenic composition. Elena demonstrated that the theatrical stage (synonymous with the stage of life) follows the 'logic' of dreams, of dreamlike surreality. Everything can happen on stage, just imagine it. In her farces she breaks surprisingly with the temporal and spatial reality through situations of great originality", says Rosas Lopátegui, researcher, writer, and scholar of the life of Elena Garro.
However, even though this fantastic quality characterizes a good part of Garro's work, there is another facet in her literary work that contrasts with the dream-made letters. It is a narrative full of memories and saturated with reality.
("The work of Elena Garro") will go down in the history of Mexican literature as having two faces, one luminous and the other somber. Her first moment, dominated by the fantastic, defines her as a writer who privileges imagination. The second, although it is also the product of artistic creation, constrains her to a narrative intoxicated by reality, which, although atrocious and violent, is still monotonous," writes essayist and researcher Vicente Francisco Torres about these contrasting characteristics in Garro's writings.
However, as journalist Delia Galván points out, the fantastic is a constant in Elena Garro's texts, even in those that are presented as more realistic.
" Her entire work combines the erudite with the simple, mixes fantasy with reality, and in general a dual, if not multiple vision of the world is remarkable (...) in some of her works the oneiric and the subconscious are filtered more, with surrealistic effects. Socially her work is committed to the socio-political-Mexican circumstance, about the injustices of the monopolies of culture, to the indigenous world, and notably to the condition of women," explains Galván.
Some notable works by Elena Garro are Memorias de España 1937 (1992), a text in which the writer pours memories of her trip to Spain to attend a congress of anti-fascist writers in Valencia; Andamos huyendo Lola (1980), a book that focuses on female characters whose common characteristic is to live in oppression, marginalization, and poverty.
Also, Los Recuerdos del Porvenir (1963), a novel awarded with the Xavier Villaurrutia Prize and Garro's most recognized novel, narrates in its pages, in the middle of the Cristera War, the disenchantment of the inhabitants of a town with the order imposed after the Mexican Revolution.
Originally from Puebla and raised in her childhood in Iguala, Guerrero, Elena Garro studied in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, ventured into dance, and developed in the field of theater participating in the University Theater. Her first publication was Un hogar sólido (1958), the only text by a Mexican author included in the Antología de la literatura fantástica (1965), coordinated by Jorge Luis Borges.
After the Tlatelolco massacre in 1968, Elena Garro went into self-exile in Europe after accusing various intellectuals of being behind the student movement. Her departure from the country became a literary silence of about 16 years that ended with the publication of Andamos huyendo Lola. She finally returned to Mexico in 1993, five years before her death from lung cancer.