The Nightlife

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“Do you have the time?” The young girls tell the older men. They are called baby chicks and they will give you anything you want, and that is anything. “Do you have the time?” The two main characters Lucien and Requiem in the novel Tram 83 enjoy the forbidden fruit of said Tram 83. The area in which all the degenerates and the poor, rich go to feed their desires. The author Fiston Mwanza Mujila shows the dark side of people’s desires in Tram 83 there are no rules, the people there make up their own authority and the officials go there to also indulge in the forbidden nightlife that only stays there. “The night came on with her swimsuits and undershirts she forgot to wring out (page 35).” Yes, the night is also sexualized when it comes to the old bar, even the characters first encounter a lady of the night and throughout the night even at dinner there is a young woman begging for their time.

It seems to be an easy access to anything sexual, the men and women alike go there and then go back home as if nothing happened. Lucien and Requiem are always asked if they would like a sexual favor but it seems that the only one not interested in that is Lucien. While Lucien is a writer you would think that he was a little bit more adventurous to write a story about such an experience. Requiem is the one who exploits these fantasies as he blackmails the tourists that pass by Tram 83. One person is Malingeau and he is exploited by Requiem in order to have something to blackmail him with. It seems like sexual exploitation is a daily thing and it becomes the thing that destroys Tram 83. Ironically the sexual freedom that is promised in Tram 83 is the very thing that threatens its existence. The dissident General is blackmailed by Requiem and wants to destroy Tram 83. Is it possible that even the greatest power can have a downfall?


The Fear of Change

“Signs preceding the end of the world” is an interesting story that speaks about change in both character and settings.

Our main character in the story is a girl named makina who starts off and finishes as a smart, strong willed, determined character and ends as such to but in a different place with a new name and origin. In the quest to search for her brother makina encounters people and place she has never seen or imagined before.

One of the most repeated phrases in the story is when Makina says “Get out of there and come right back” she is referring to crossing to the U.S and coming right back after she finishes her objective. Wanting none of the change that occurs upon coming into the U.S. Unfortunately this does not occur as Makina finds out it has been arranged for her to stay in the U.S under a new name and a whole new history.

One of the main aspect I believe gets lost in translation is the desire almost innate desire for many people of poor wealth, especially poor people who are intelligent such as  Makina, to come to the U.S. To stay and learn and live by different means. By not captivating this I believe it lost a little bit in translation but I wonder what it was native english speakers took from this book.


Within today’s society, there are several borders that are being uncovered. With all of the events in the news, even in commercials, it is easy to see borders everywhere.

But what are these borders that are around us? How do we know about them?

Based on the sort of things that we are seeing in the news today, we can understand that race, class, sex,  age, religion, culture, and so many more. All of these can be traced back to essentially the beginning of civilization.

However, as Signs Preceding the End of the World by Herrera demonstrates, there are several borders that are still applicable today as they were hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

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We can clearly see the obvious border that is being discussed in the novel: the border between Mexico and The United States. However, the main border that I wish to discuss is the idea of separation based on gender.

I know, it is silly to go to THAT place. Women are strong and they have a place in the world and SPOILER ALERT they have voices. However, as this book suggests, both men and women are expected to behave in certain ways that fit with certain stereotypes.

For instance, there is a scene in the bathroom when this girl takes Makina’s lipstick and begins to use it. Now normally, if a person were to take something of Makina’s or disrespect her in any way, she would have gone absolutely mental. However, there seems to be some sort of respect between Makina and this woman.

The part that I find is a little wonky is how Herrera portrays this woman. His protagonist in the novel is a little badass girl who will defend herself against any person who goes against her (this mostly includes men who are larger than her which just adds to her total level of badassery), and yet he features a woman who seems to play a role in the old-fashioned stereotype of women.


“She did it slowly and confidently, slid the stick from one side to the other of each lip and then swooped it up as if she’d come to the edge of a cliff, smacked her lips together to even out the color, puckered them for an air kiss. When she was done, still staring into the mirror, the woman said Me? I tell you, I’m gonna start off on the right foot; don’t know if makeup will help but at least no one can say I showed up scruffy, you know?”


Herrera, ri. Signs Preceding the End of the World (Kindle Locations 268-271). And Other Stories Publishing. Kindle Edition.


Now let’s take a look at the roles given to the men in the novel. Some of them are misogynistic, some are respectful, some feel as though they can take advantage of women as objects and get away with it, and some are like Makina’s brother.

We can see through his accounts of the war that he felt out of place when he arrived. How seeing his friends die and not understanding how it happened never really was something that he could get used to (can we blame him?).  However, similarly to the Vietnam War, the women expected the men to go to war and do the “masculine” thing, while the women waited at home for their heroes. Unfortunately, while going to war may have elevated their sense of manliness, war in all aspects is not considered an amazing opportunity for the sake of sanity. 

“And suddenly you hear your homie died that morning and no one saw where the bullet came from, or you come across a bomb nobody saw get thrown, but there it was, waiting for you. So you gotta go look for them. But when you find them they’re not doing jack and you just gotta believe it was them, they were the ones, otherwise you go nuts”


Herrera, ri. Signs Preceding the End of the World (Kindle Locations 692-695). And Other Stories Publishing. Kindle Edition.


I believe that Herrera does an amazing job in noting the sort of borders that occur in today’s world and providing his readers with a protagonist that is unlike most. She serves as an inspiration for women all over the world and sets forth the idea that no matter one’s sex, fighting against stereotypes is all in a day’s work. 

Crossing Those Societal Norms

How do you define someone as being strong?


Is it their muscles? Or their courage and determination to succeed?

For women, this question becomes even harder to answer, as we aren’t generally determined by our levels of strength.

One of Yuri Herrera’s themes presented within her fictional novel, Signs Preceding the End of the World, translated by Lisa Dillman, discusses this idea of what makes a woman strong. Protagonist Makina is an independent woman, who’s not at all afraid to speak the truth. Throughout her journey to deliver a message from her mother to her brother—who immigrated to The United States—Makina undergoes a seemingly endless amount of unprecedented challenges. In every barrier that she faces, she takes it head-on with a surprising amount of persistence.

In only the second chapter, “The Water Crossing,” Makina crosses some pretty standard gender norms when she snaps a man’s finger back after he had “dropped his left hand onto his own left leg, languidly letting it sag onto the seat and brush her thigh” (31). Most women would either move to another seat, or try their best to ignore it, as our society pre-disposes us to be kind, polite, and gentle. Makina, however, is just the opposite of our culture’s pre-determined traits and characteristics for women.

Now, of course, I will say that it is the twenty-first century and our culture is a bit more accepting of the stronger and assertive-type of woman. However, it is still so deeply ingrained in our brains as women to act in the more submissive manner. This is why it’s so important to see strong female idols, such as Makina, in both fictional,635936159960490891347554447_35aa15ad6bc80fbe6e2d068f80378363

and real-life scenarios. This way, women can see that they too, can be strong, independent, and outspoken—that they too can cross and break those cultural boundaries.


Check out: Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World, and experience the rarity of such a badass female lead in one fictional but fully alluring novel.


Images Cited

Nothing is certain, except death.


From the time we are born, nothing in our lives will ever be certain. Except “death and taxes”, of course. Everything is constantly changing. We go through obstacles in life and times that it may be difficult to see and end. However, we also go through times where we feel invincible, but the sad and also beautiful part is that these times never last forever.

In the novel Signs Preceding The End of The World, by Yuri Herrera uncertainty is continuously exhibited. From the very beginning, we, as the readers are greeted to the novel with something so random and so unpredictable. This opening scene is filled with panic from the natural disaster that occurs right in front of the main character’s eyes, Makina.

As the novel progresses, it becomes more clear that nothing is really clear. Uncertainty is common. She’s uneasy about the adventure her mother sends her on to find her brother. Her mission; to cross the border and find her brother. Throughout all her mini adventures within this big one, she faces many setbacks and challenges. Anywhere is goes, she has no idea what to expect and the some of the craziest things happen to her. She gets in contact with big thugs, is in the middle of a shooting, witnesses a death carcass when at first glance she thinks it’s a woman with a pregnant belly but as she moves closer she is able to see that it’s not at all what she thought it was. on page, 326 of the Kindle version, it says, “as they approached she discerned the features of this person, who was no woman, nor was that belly full with child: it was some poor wretch swollen with putrefaction” This was signifying moving into the “unknown”. In the beginning, it is evident that Makina is a badass and is tough, however, this mission is still scary for her because it’s uncertainty and unpredictable nature. She had no idea all the things she would encounter in the beginning.

Not even family, is promised. Makina’s own brother, whom she set out in search for and went through the unthinkable for still betrays her. She even starts to see it the change of tone in his notes and how he becomes less and less like his old self. In other words, a death of his old self. Makina starts to come to the realization that nothing is constant. Borders are every where and these are the only things that create separation.

What Are the Signs Preceding the End of the World?

Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World details the journey of a young woman named Makina, who crosses the border between Mexico and America in an attempt to find her brother. When one considers the novel, it seems as though its title is unfitting. What does the end of the world have anything to do with going to another country, or finding a loved one?


       In order to figure out what the signs preceding the end of the world are, it is important to start with the very beginning of the novel. Part of the answer is right in front of us—the first chapter is even titled “The Earth”! In this chapter and the next few after, Herrera establishes the characteristics of Makina’s world, only to gradually bring it to an end as the novel progresses. The novel starts with Makina nearly falling into a sinkhole, muttering about how her city is “always about to sink back into the cellar” (Herrera 11), instantly demonstrating the instability of the world in which she lives.

Later on, we find out more about the role Makina serves in her city, running “the switchboard with the only phone for miles and miles around”. (Herrera 18). She serves as a bridge of communication between people, is able to speak in three different languages, and stays out of people’s business. This not only makes her incredibly useful in her society, but affords her a lot of prestige. We also later find out that she has some sort of power over men, being able to physically stop a man from sexually harassing her and knowing enough to offer advice to men on multiple occasions.

However, as Makina crosses into America, these things are lost—it is the loss of these things that serve as signs that America is not the same as the world that she came from. Before she even makes it across the border, and after she makes it across, she finds herself running away from men that are trying to arrest her. Right before she meets her brother, she finds herself in a position where is she in serious danger of being beaten or raped (Herrera 73). While she could speak three languages at home, in America, people “spoke none of the tongues she knew” (Herrera 69), and throughout her entire journey in America, she has no knowledge to go off of besides the words of others as she searches for her brother. In Mexico, she is strong and independent, but in America, she holds much less power and has to rely on strangers for help. Her world has not completely come to an end because she’s still holding onto the hope that she will find her brother, but it is these things that slowly tear it apart.

It is the amount of change that her brother has gone through that ultimately ends her world, I think. When she first sees him, she cannot recognize him. She soon finds out that he’d also given up a crucial part of his identity, having received a new name and numbers to even live in America. Their interactions are described as mechanical and not familial, more like a polite gesture (Herrera 93), and Makina leaves having felt as though her heart had been ripped out. Herrera seems to be saying that the ending of one’s world entails a loss of identity. Makina’s brother has a different name, refuses to come back, and is nearly broken by traumatic experiences in the military. Makina no longer has the strength and independence that she had in her city—traits that made her important in her society, and her relationship with her brother, the reason she crosses in the first place, ends up strained.

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Where do We Belong in a Place Like This?

Have you ever asked yourself where do I belong? Where do I fit in?

Image result for where do i belong                                   Image result for where do i belong



As I finish up the book, Signs Preceding the End of the World, which was translated into English by Lisa Dillman. It focuses on Makina, a young Mexican woman, as she travels from her rural village across alien towns, ice-green rivers, and black mountain searching for her brother north of the U.S.-Mexico border.


While reading, the author takes us on heroic journey that goes through many underworlds to get to the place where she finds her brother. Through the journey, one thing that had caught my attention was how the book is related to real-life problems with immigrants and how they don’t feel like they belong in a place they started life, but the life they wanted is no better than the life they once had.


In the beginning of the book, her mom sends her to give her brother a paper. While on her journey she was sent to a house. She had knocked and there stood a small man with glasses, wrapped in a purple bathrobe. He was black. And before she had said something, he beat her to it with, “I could put a blond wig on if you would like.” I think this is a good example of trying to belong in the world. He’s just a black guy living in a white world, and all you could really do is dress like a white person because there is not anything you can really do about it.



Another example of one trying to belong/fit in was with her brother. After she had found him on army base, he was too ashamed to return home, which is why he accepted the first job that came his way. His job was to help save a family, but I think it is him who needs saving.

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His job was to pass himself off as the other, in return, the family would pay him sum of money. He learned by heart the answers he must give when he reported, the family taught him to copy the signature of the kid he is replacing, memorized his social security number, and they gave him pancakes with warm milk which they had treated him well.


I think that was the life he wanted and to belong in a life and family that has everything that may seem like the “American dream” but it is something he’s not going to be able to get. He realized traveling to where he is, may had seem like everything in the movie, but it’s not like that.


I think that why the author had used Makina as a heroic narrator. She strong, independent, problematic and can speak 3 different languages. From the beginning, she knew where she had belonged.

“She’d already arranged for her crossing and how to find her brother, now she had to make sure there would be someone to help her back; she didn’t want to stay there, nor have to endure what had happened to a friend who stayed away too long, maybe a day too long or an hour too long, at any rate long enough too long that when he came back it turned out that everything was still the same, but now somehow all different, or everything was similar but not the same: his mother was no longer his mother, his brothers and sisters were no longer his brothers and sisters, they were people with difficult names and improbable mannerisms, as if they’d been copied off an original that no longer existed; even the air, he said, warmed his chest in a different way” (p7)


“Culture Lost Through Generations”

Fiesta! 2010

From the online article “Fiesta celebrates Hispanic heritage, culture”

Many if not all love the holidays, or any cultural celebrations. It’s that time of the year when we get to see our family, eat lots of yummy food and of course, vacation. But what do these celebrations mean? Growing up I never understood what we were celebrating, all I knew was that I was going to see my family, eat food and perhaps receive some presents.

Now does it make you wonder why is it that we have these celebrations? Are we celebrating the real meaning or are we celebrating out of habit?

The novel “Signs Preceding the End of the World” that was translated by Lisa Dillman starts of by describing Makina’s journey, the main character. In the novel Makina is in search of her brother who has cross the border to the United States, along her journey she encounters many differences. One of those being culture differences, in the novel Makina receives a message from her brother where he mentions celebrations in the U.S., he tells her,

“they celebrate here, too, but they don’t dance or pray, its not in honor of anyone”.(p.110, from digital version)

Here we can see how even an “outsider” from this culture was able to notice how these celebrations had no meaning. We can safely assume that the brother was able to notice these meaningless celebrations because he was brought up to know the meaning and purpose of the celebrations  in his culture.

Every culture has celebrations, and they all originated with a purpose, unfortunately these reasons get lost through generations. Not only does the original purpose of a celebrations gets lost but many other things, like the language spoken, music, dances and many other things.

So how do we make sure that our culture and celebrations continue on with meaning? By practicing, by doing, by participating and by knowing. The author lets us know that cultural history can easily be lost if we don’t use it, so it us up to us to know what we are celebrating and why we do it. It will also be more meaningful if we know.

Remember “if you don’t use it you lose it”.  

Makina the Chosen One


Hercules Strangling the Nemean Lion by Peter Paul Rubens obtained from located at Harvard University

Zelda’s Theme by System of a Down Retrived from

As seen in the photo, the beautiful song by System of a Down, and the main character of Yuri Herrera’s novel Signs Preceding the End of the World Makina they are each hero’s destined for greatness.  The picture shows that of legendary hero Hercules slaying a what seemed to be immortal lion a task that all thought impossible. While the song from System of Down weaves a tale of a young boy saving a princes in a classic video game.  Both of these stories are well-known and heroic in nature with both beating the odds and becoming chosen heroes. What I will be arguing is that Makina is put on the same plane as these iconic legends. This idea of Makina being a hero is shown by her actions but also the sureness in her victory.

Within the text Makina is seen to be untouchable and almost unhuman in her strength and presence. The text lets us into her mind saying “You are the Door, not the one who goes through it.”(117)  This idea of door and thresh hold reminds me of the old saying if doors don’t open for you build one. Both of these mean similar things, while one is relying on the world to give opportunity the other is making their own destiny. I would go so far to say that the true meaning of this quote is that destiny works for our character meaning that she is predetermined to be unable to fail her quest.  This is equal to that of other great heroes that can overcome impossible tasks because of their heroic status.

Other things show the deterministic quality of the world, in that are hero will succeed. Some of these qualities could be easily missed.  The lack of waiting or perhaps more aptly put the perfectness of timing is almost unbelievable.  Multiple passages of the books mention this idea that the story and stage have been set. In the first meeting with Mr.Q he is described as “As if he had been waiting for me”(151) and even claiming “In the end you will find your brother”(151) both of these quotation have in uncanny feel that the actions of our main character have already been decided. These sort of sure statements put in the future tense are commonly seen in heroic stories. This can even be true in the Zelda’s Theme song By System of a Down saying ” Now the children don’t play but they will when Link saves the day.” ( quote begins on 0:16) It is the future tense and sureness of WHEN link saves the day and WIll FIND your brother that has the striking similarity to each other.

overall it is the utilization of future tense that really give the heroine of are story Makina that heroic inevitability and closeness to her. I believe this further enhances the other points of Yuri Herrera’s work and serves to give the story more power.

What do you guys think? Do you believe that Makina is a chosen hero equal to that of the hero of time (link for you non-nerds out there) and Hercules?



Makina: The Female Character We’ve Been Waiting For

When all seems divided, Makina shows off her strength and bravery as a young woman as she tries to save her brother across the border. In the novel, Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, Makina, the main character, has to save her brother who is on the other side of the border. Throughout the story we see how independent Makina presents herself.

It’s nice to see female characters like Makina in novels because it shows that women can be headstrong. In the story, Makina is described as being very sexual. In describing the lead, female character in this way, the reader can see that women do not need a man to protect them. Especially, Makina. There is a scene in the novel which says, “every weekend they’d shuck” (Herrera 28) describing Makina’s relationship with a guy.

The main character doesn’t follow the typical standards women are stereotyped as, which makes Makina the female role we’ve been waiting for. She challenges gender roles and the traditional view of Hispanic women. Her forceful character goes after what she wants to help save her family.