— Book Review —
“The Malpais Man” Title: “The Malpais Man” Author: Robert Gallegos Published: 2012 Publisher: Fire Starter Press, P.O. Box 482, Grants, N.M. 87020 By Rosanne Boyett Beacon Staff Writer
Editor’s note: Book review articles are available online at www.cibolabeacon.com/bookreviews.
“There are treasures to be found in an anthill,” claims Lummis. This book introduces a new legend, Lummis, to the American Southwest – one that is as powerful and as New Mexican as La Llorona, Skinwalkers, brujas, or flying saucers, according to author Robert Gallegos, who has lived in Cibola County most of his life. “The protagonist is created from a fusion of volcanic eruptions and Native American spirituality,” said the author. “During the past centuries Lummis has taken on the role of the El Malpais’ guardian, who protects the ‘badlands’ from pot hunters, poachers and those who want to desecrate the area.” The first chapter describes Lummis, “ . . . born thousands of years ago when fissures in the earth gave birth to the beast lava.” The giant’s skin is a thick layer of crust cut from solid pahoehoe. He exhales steam like a fiery dragon, and there is fire in his eyes. “I am the Malpais man – part cowboy and part pachuco – part Acoma and part Zuni – part Montana and part Laguna – part Ramah and part Cañoncito,” wrote Gallegos at the end of the first chapter. This area’s thousands of acres of lava flow have not always been kind to humans. In another section the author recalls the mysterious disappearance of a Gallup newspaper writer and chronicles how easy it is for people to lose their way in the Malpais. What was Lummis’ role in the unknown numbers of people who have never returned from their “badland” adventures? The author suggests that the Malpais Man was responsible. Early on the reader is introduced to Gus, Lummis’ companion, who yearns to become a man. “Be careful what you wish for,” laughed the author when he described Gus. The frog does become Gustavo the man, who falls in love with a woman, Carla from Mexico. The romance is the final chapter of the 67-page paperback book. Gallegos encourages readers to rely on their imagination, but he pointed out that all but one of the 17 chapters has a connection with Lummis. “The book is similar to a traditional Navajo rug because the weaver always leaves a ‘mistake’ to allow evil spirits to escape,” said Gallegos. “I leave it up to the reader to discover the one chapter without Lummis.” Every place has its ancient myths, according to Gallegos. “We need our sense of place in history,” he explained, “and ‘Lummis’ is now part of our culture here in the El Malpais area.” Robert Gallegos, long-time Cibola County resident, is the Double Six Gallery executive director, a sculptor and author. The gallery is located on West Santa Fe Avenue in Grants. This is his second published book. His earlier work, “Ambrosia Lake,” was a limited edition that was published in 1984.