Mario Bencastro presents a rich and varied portrayal of the immigrant experience in the dual language poetry and prose collection Paraíso portátil/Portable Paradise. His characters are often nostalgic for their beautiful homelands, native foods, family, and friends; they typically feel compelled to flee, for reasons ranging from grinding poverty and oppression to civil war and genocide. Privileged natives of El Norte may be disgusted and outraged by the cruelty of the discrimination, exploitation, and victimization these people routinely endure in their struggle to survive, but cannot help but be moved by their heroic determination and capacity for hope. Again and again, Bencastro points out that people have been migrating all over this planet for a very long time, the physical landscape being no deterrent. By comparison, modern border fences and political harassment are puny obstacles. The collection concludes aptly with the titular poem, which reiterates the diversity of the immigrant experience, and the richness the immigrants’ stories offer to all.
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