In Sandra Martinez’ A Place Where the Sea Remembers, the lives of a group of women in this Mexican village are detailed, including those of the young rape victim Marta, the infertile sister Chayo and her husband Candelario. When Marta is raped, Chayo and her husband say they will take the resulting love child, but once Chayo becomes pregnant herself, she decides to say no. This sets in motion a chain of events that leads to a curse being placed on Chayo’s child, resulting in its drowning. The conflict of person vs. society is the primary conflict being explored in this book, as the impoverished villagers have little option due to their circumstances but to act as they do. There is also an element of person vs. the supernatural, as Marta and Chayo attempt to deal with the curse that Marta placed on Chayo’s child.
Marta Rodriguez is a 15-year-old girl who works a job as a housekeeper at a hotel. She is pregnant due to being raped, and plans to give her baby to her sister, Chayo, who promises to take care of it. However, once Chayo says she is pregnant and will not take the baby anymore, Marta wants to get rid of it. Due to her low-income job due to the oppressive society and economy of the village, she cannot take care of the baby, and so she goes to a witch doctor to place a curse on it. However, he instead places a curse on Chayo’s baby. The society that allowed her to be raped and forced her into silence is something that Marta consistently battles throughout the novel.
Chayo, Marta’s sister, is barren and married, and promises to take care of Marta’s child so that she can finally have one. However, once she becomes pregnant, she changes her mind. She constantly battles the supernatural in this novel, particularly after Marta places the curse on her child. She gives birth to Tonito, who then becomes sick and dying due to the curse put on him by ej brujo, the witch doctor Marta goes to. Through the reconciliation of Marta and Chayo, he pulls through, but instead Marta’s son Richard drowns in the river.
Candelario, Chayo’s husband, is a salad-maker in a restaurant, who is initially happy to take in the child of Marta. However, Chayo’s pregnancy makes him put his biological child ahead of Marta’s, pushing her away. He feels an obligation to societal norms of fatherhood and manhood, meaning he has to keep his word, something that comes back at him when he refuses to take care of Marta’s child. He also struggles with his job, being fired due to the Marta’s abortion doctor hating his salad. In tough economic times, he has to struggle to make ends meet, which leads to familial strife as his pride conflicts with his abilities and opportunities.
The battle between these individuals and the society they live in forms the crux of Martinez’ novel, as well as the influence of the supernatural. Due to the impoverished nature of the community, Marta, Chayo and Candelario have to face incredible obstacles with a minimum of help. It helped to show me just how bad things are in an extremely poverty-stricken environment, as well as the power of superstition and mysticism to affect these peoples’ lives. I was affected greatly by the struggles of these people to make it past incredible odds, like abortion, pregnancy and job loss. These characters provided a snapshot of lower-class Mexican life that is both insightful and entertaining.