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When philanthropy goes bad, it goes really bad: crass suffering and irredeemable psychic damage occur, especially when children are involved. Such a travesty unfolds upon the pages of the historical novel Remember Me (2020) written by Mario Escobar who gives voice to the “Children of Morelia.”

One year into the Spanish Civil War, 1937, the Mexican government offered asylum to Spanish children, in harm’s way from Generalissimo Franco’s aggression. One was a relative of the author. She and over four hundred other children were shipped to Morelia and jammed inside the Spain-Mexico Industrial School barracks to live in sub-human conditions for the duration of the war. Designated funds for their care found other pockets.

To enflesh these events, Escobar develops three siblings: Marco, thirteen years old, and his sisters Isabel and Ana, ages ten and six, respectively. Their resiliency, courage, and spirit moved them in and out of shocks from bullies, from their cruel director and teachers, from abductions, and from hunger and worn clothing. Memories of their parents in Madrid fuel their determination to be reunited, at any cost.

Escobar’s skillful editing screens out unseemly details that could have interrupted the urgent flow of the narrative. At stake here is the survival of the siblings.

Because twentieth-century Spanish history eludes me, I found the author’s end chapters on the “Clarification of History” and “The Timeline” helpful in understanding the novel.

Thanks to the artistry of Mario Escobar, the “Children of Morelia” have found a permanent home in Remember Me. Their innocent suffering and even death will not be relegated to the backwards of Spanish or Mexican history.

Available on Amazon

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