The Five Acts of Diego Leon
The Mexican Revolution of the early 20th century disrupted the quiet rural life of the Leon family; loss, disease, and poverty affected everyone in the small P’urhépecha village in central Mexico. Although young Diego is sad, and has questions about his beautiful, city-bred mother and his soldier father, he learns the language and ways of his ancestors and plays with the other village boys. When he is 11, he is put on the bus to the bustling city of Morelia to go live with his maternal grandparents, whom he has never met. It is then that his real education begins, as he learns to act the part of the serious student and heir to the family business. At the same time, his more creative side yearns to sing, to dance, to become a famous actor.
When Diego’s grandparents announce he will be married to the daughter of a successful businessman, his life is at another crossroads: this time, the bus ride takes him out of the country, and to Hollywood, where he finds out just how much work and sacrifice is involved in attaining his dream. As a young Latino in Hollywood during the 1920s, Diego hopes to be the next sought-after leading man. His sexuality, heritage, and loyalties all come into question over the next several years as he struggles to become a star.
There’s a lot of action in this story, and we don’t get much analysis or reflection from either Diego or the author. The result is that some of the narrative feels contrived, relying on both coincidence and the readers’ own experience to propel Diego forward. Overall, however, Espinoza ties the locations and the historical action together well, reflecting the tumult in the political and social landscape of the first decades of the last century.