The Amulet of Cananea (Song of Carmelita)

Written by Raymond F. Cavanaugh
Review by John H. Manhold

Cavanaugh’s story follows persons associated with a gem-encrusted gold cross reportedly given to a priest for saving the life of Hernando Cortez and now purported to bring good fortune. The Amulet is first introduced in the possession of a Jesuit priest in America’s Sonoran Desert. It next appears in the possession of Colonel William Green, the charismatic owner of a huge copper mine in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico. The object disappears again but finally resurfaces and is given to a young woman who donates it to the even-then historically prominent Franciscan Cathedral del Bac in Tuscon. Here it generates intrigue. The story is set in the waning days of the Porfirio Diaz presidency and the growing worker unrest with the monetary disputes between American workers, special interests, and a handful of privileged Mexicans, following the lives and activities of Edelmida Castillo, Manuel Carreras, their daughter Carmelita, Colonel Green, his associates and employees, and a villainous Irishman, Thom MacMurrough, among others.

The tale is engaging, played against a largely accurate portrayal of historical Mexico in an era of upheaval. The degree of serendipity connecting some of the book’s actions, however, may stretch credibility for some readers.