A hero’s journey requires separating from the comfort of a known way of life and moving towards another way of being in the world. Makina, the female protagonist, in Yuri Herrera’s novel Signs Preceding the End of the World, embodies this role as she leaves the Little Town and journeys across the Big Chilango river. Leaving behind her life as a trusted switchboard operator, Makina pushes against the western trope of the male hero and easily inhabits the subject position of heroine in Herrera’s narrative. A reimagined hero emerges with all of the components associated with the hero’s journey in this non-traditional interpretation. This immigrant’s story is important as it not only places a young woman at the center of a traditionally patriarchal narrative but concedes her gender and emotions as neither and both female.
US/Mexico Border (https://www.google.com/url?)
Makina maintains her femininity and is a heroine. Herrera does not create a hyper-sexualized aggressive female character in the tradition of western male prototypical leading men. At the point of crossing the Big Chilango, Makina is helped by Chucho who she finds attractive and “before things got rough, felt him lean in close and sniff her hair, and she was glad she’d had the chance to shower” (39). Held under by the swift current, Makina panics but then “intuited that it made no difference which way she headed or how fast she went, that in the end she’d wind up where she needed to be. She smiled”(39). She is savvy, smart, and sensual without displays of overt masculinity or dominant stereotypical tropes of manliness. Makina speaks three languages, can navigate the slippery world of the patriarchal Latino power dynamics in her community and across the border, and trusts her intuition during the journey. She does not use knives or guns, or overt shows of power and aggression to be a compelling character.
There is nothing extraordinary in her success because women are heroes. Her story is only extraordinary because the perspective is from a female inhabiting a traditional role who is often bland and muted by male characters who fight and demand their power. Makina is comfortable in position as the heroine and does not need the drama of complete subjugation to succeed. She can die and rise again over and over coming out with scars and lessons learned while inhabiting the complex amalgam of daughter, sister, lover, and heroine.