If you’ve been with me for a while, hello again! If this is the first time you’re coming across a Jonny Garza Villa book, happy to have you here. And regardless, bienvenidos y te mando muchos abrazos. This book is a lot of things. It’s a rivals-to-lovers romance between a Leo sun with a bit of a god complex (because, obviously) and a Cancer sun who shows himself to be much more tenacious than anticipated. It’s a story of grief and how that grieving might make us act in a way that one might call unlikable, but I might just call human. It’s about loss and those expectations we put on ourselves when it comes to family and legacy and the people who shape us versus allowing ourselves to forge our own path. And, as always, it’s about culture. It’s about being Mexican and Chicane and centers a beautiful part of who we are: mariachi.
In the books I write, I like to both celebrate and examine my culture. In Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, I wanted to be honest about the homophobia that still exists in my community; I wanted to take on machismo and gender roles and how those affect young queer Chicanos and AMAB Chicanes navigating their world. In Ander & Santi Were Here, I focused on immigration and on how we, as Mexicans living in the United States, can be just as ignorant and even hateful as non-Latines when it comes to the undocumented, as well as write about existing as a non-white person in spaces that aren’t meant for us and of embracing what we love, especially when it’s done in admiration of our own community.
And now, in Canto Contigo, I want to shine a light on mariachi. On its beauty and the power of music as a pillar of my culture. But I also want to recognize that mariachi is very traditional and thus can be and is queerphobic and transphobic and racist, and to acknowledge what that exclusivity does to young people just trying to celebrate who they are: individuals courageous enough to, still, claim their place in something that they have every right to enjoy and fall in love with. Ultimately, when I look at this story, I think, Vicente Fernández would probably hate this, and I see that as a success.
This book is very much a celebration of mariachi, of music, of falling in love and finding and claiming joy, but I want to be clear, because I truly feel it is my responsibility, as the writer of these words, to tell you before you go any further: In these pages, there are—while very few—instances of on-page transphobia and queerphobia and racism. There is grief and a character who can’t help but hold on to that specific sadness of losing someone important to him. And if knowing that causes you to feel like you need to hold off on reading this book or stop at a certain point or maybe never get around to reading it, you don’t and never will need my permission, but you do have all my love and support. Always do what’s best for you and your own peace of mind.