Cenizas by Cynthia Guardado
Cenizas offers an arresting portrait of a Salvadoran family whose lives have been shaped by the upheavals of global politics. The speaker of these poems—the daughter of Salvadoran immigrants—questions the meaning of homeland as she navigates life in the United States while remaining tethered to El Salvador by the long shadows cast by personal and public history. Cynthia Guardado’s poems give voice to the grief of family trauma, while capturing moments of beauty and tenderness. Maternal figures preside over the verses, guiding the speaker as she searches the ashes of history to tell her family’s story. The spare, narrative style of the poems are filled with depth as the family’s layers come to light.
Guardado crafted the poems in Cenizas over a ten-year period, often traveling to El Salvador for research and to conduct interviews. The Salvadoran Civil War haunts the pages of this collection as it unflinchingly explores war, its aftermath, and the bittersweet legacies that are passed down from one generation to the next. The poems mourn those who were lost and honor the strength of the speaker’s ancestors. “All my people have been born from the ashes of volcanoes,” she writes, invoking a family lineage that has endured the atrocities committed against them. Even so, El Salvador keeps pulling the speaker back—and despite warnings of danger, she still manages to find beauty among the ruins.