Al rumor de las cigüeñas, the first novel by the Bolivian author Gabriela Ovando, is precisely the structured, concise weaving of divergent worlds one would expect from a journalist of The Miami Herald. She is also the author of Atisbos, a collection of articles from Miami and Bolivia (presented by Elena Poniatowska), and El retorno del héroe, a literary critique of Lituma en los Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa.
One terrain familiar to readers of this journey is the complex world of the Florida-based Bolivian journalist/student/teacher/wife/mother/character Mariana. Her every day struggles in1999 with her husband Rodrigo, his dedication to genetic research, literary commentaries, Spanglish, life at the university, all intermingle with her work on a Medieval text about an Allende-like clairvoyant writer. In a series of intermingled voyages or dream sequences, Mariana pieces together the life of her ancestors. Real or imagined, these characters have ample bibliographical references in the form of literary commentary and quotes directly from the ancient manuscripts. Although this is not a footnoted historical novel, it reads as one.
The ancient manuscript conjures up the genealogical world of the Alfón family. Characters move from the Spanish Middle Ages to colonial life in the Babylonia of the new world, Potosí. There is a premonition of apocalyptical proportions about Bolivia today when a torrential flood carries away all of the historical characters “hasta borrarlos de los mapas y de la memoria de la humanidad” (Al rumor, 173). The other space is current and past Bolivian history and politics. The analogy to the eternal quest for the meaning of existence also explains the time elements, whether dream sequence or actual voyage, because the novel is also a commentary on the search for the best for Bolivia. Mariana is asking the same question many Bolivians are asking. What will become of the llajta?