The story “The Crystal Frontier” of Fuentes is a wonderful narrative about the meeting of two people from different countries with different life situations – the way they found an ideal they imagined in each other and could not overcome the crystal frontier, which was not just a glass but something deeper, more important and influential than both of them had thought. Actually, it is a story about an individual tragedy, personal grief of not having the life you want, of being not together with the one you want and not where you want. Mexican people are shown in the period of their humiliation and shame, their downfall, and poverty, which produced an influence on every house, every family, and every person in the country.
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The main hero, Lisandro, is shown as an unusual personality from the very beginning – their boss, Don Leonardo Barosso, noticed that the man who entered the plane was not a usual dark-skinned poor worker, but a polite, intelligent, and well-bred man who has lighter skin than even Barosso does (Fuentes, p. 173). It is necessary to mention here that the color of skin was significant in distinguishing poor from rich people – those who had dark skin were sure to work in the streets or on the fields all day long, so they were considered poor. Those who had light skin were considered rich as they did not have to spend so much time outside the house.
So, Barosso was the first to notice Lisandro. And Lisandro showed his being different from others by his behavior onboard the plane and then during his glass cleaning work. In the course of the story, he was constantly trying to convince himself he was different; by recollecting his rich childhood and then his family’s tragedy and crisis, he tried to keep to those times and not see what was happening at that very moment. Audrie, the woman who was working in the building Lisandro cleaned, also recognized his individuality and charm at once – she was also trying to flee to dreams and illusions, being too desperately unsatisfied with her present life (Fuentes). This is why she dared to contact the man who managed to be himself, who represented an unusual individual for her and who included all qualities she was so passionately looking for. The inner callings of two souls made them familiar and closed within a couple of minutes and let them understand each other without words. They surely recognized their differences, her being a wonderful advertising representative and seeing work in the office as relaxation, and he is not created for office work; however, they felt their souls’ unity which was more important than some habits, preferences, or inclinations (Fuentes, pp. 186-187).
“He wished he could tell her; frankly, I’m different. Don’t judge by appearances, I shouldn’t be doing this, I’m not this, I’m not what you imagine. But he couldn’t speak to the glass” (Fuentes, p. 188).
Audrie was ready to open her heart to him, so she told him her name – but at that moment, it seems that Lisandro realized that the crystal frontier is not only the glass separating them, but the real gap between their ways of life, their material, social and cultural backgrounds, their vision of life, the way they earn for their living, etc. – the frontier was much huger, it was a challenge Lisandro was unable to handle. So Lisandro explained this frontier to Audrie by writing ‘Mexican’ instead of his name, showing that their venture was in vain and nothing would do. Despite the genuine, sincere calling of their souls and hearts to one another, they were not able to overcome the crystal frontier of stereotypes, ideology, and politics, being thus doomed to solitude and despair.
Fuentes, Carlos. The Crystal Frontier: A Novel in Nine Stories. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1997, pp. 166-189.