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Cool covers are my kryptonite; so, if you combine a pop art-inspired front page with a title like ¡Te amaba y me chingaste! (which translates to: I Loved You and You Fucked Me Over) I’m 100% going to buy that book. And, once again, I was vindicated in my belief that you can judge a book by its cover because ¡Te amaba! is both as fun as the cover art suggests and as tongue-in-cheek funny as the title implies.
Clocking in at just 83 pages, ¡Te amaba y me chingaste! was the first standalone title from Mexican writer and editor Nora de la Cruz and is currently only available in Spanish. (However, a limited print-run means copies are somewhat tricky to find outside of Mexico.)
Following a flash-in-the-pan love affair between Fosca María (a cat-loving music teacher with a passion for tacos) and Tito Lucio (a misunderstood marimba virtuoso with family $$$), this skinny lil spoof of a novella has all the drama of a good Facebook feud combined with the classic rich-poor dichotomy of Shakespearean tragedy. Except it’s set in a Mexico where people still send wax-sealed letters and ride around in carriages, but also eat street tacos and say things like “¡CHINGATUMADREEEEEE!” (“GOFUCKYOURSELFFFF!”).
Honestly, the most effective way to summarise the essence of ¡Te amaba! is with a meme. This meme, to be precise. Because this novella is a pitch-perfect send-up of 19th-century romance novels that had me cackling away to myself while I read. Think: Jane Austen meets Mexico City, bookended by tacos and tamales. Or, to quote the blurb: it’s a “nineteenth-century telenovela…which could’ve been written by Chekov if he’d acquired a taste for Juan Gabriel and salsa-drenched tacos.”
Undoubtedly one of the best things about ¡Te amaba! – perhaps the best thing — is that intensely Mexican tone, from the regionalisms to the references. Basically, as someone who’s lived in Mexico for five-ish years but isn’t Mexican (not even a little bit), I liked the way ¡Te amaba! made me feel like I was in on the joke. Anyone who’s spent time in a country that isn’t their own will know that’s a hard-won sensation.
And yet it’s precisely this sort of nudge-nudge-wink-wink hyper-regional feel that I worry only people somewhat familiar with Mexico (and, more specifically, Mexico City) would be able to appreciate. Even readers fluent in Spanish might find a lot of the jokes, references and the broader vibe of the novella are lost on them.
Tone aside though, and despite the fact that the plot is pretty much ripped from the annals of literary history, ¡Te amaba! still manages to pithily reflect the ridiculous rollercoaster of emotions that is modern-day dating, from misunderstandings and miscommunications to crying alone in your bedroom with only a cat for company. So, if you want a quick and semi-straightforward Spanish-language read which sends-up Austen, feels very Mexican, and is just plain funny, then you should try and get your hands on a copy of ¡Te amaba y me chingaste!. Or ask to borrow mine.
Buy Te Amaba y Me Chingaste: Casa Tomada (Mexico only)
About Nora de la Cruz
Nora de la Cruz (State of Mexico, 1983) is a novelist, short story writer and editor who coordinated the 2019 Selena-centric anthology Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.
Other Books by Nora de la Cruz: Orillas (Paraíso Perdido, 2018), Bidi Bidi Bom Bom (Paraíso Perdido, 2019, Ed.)