Warrior with Heart: A Spotlight on Cina Pelayo
By Patrick R McDonough
Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo is many things – a loving mother and wife, friend, writer, and publisher. All that can be surmised in a few words – warrior with heart. Pelayo is a Puerto Rican female from Chicago, who was a journalist covering true crime before diving into the world of prose. All that resulted in a person who has seen a lot of ugly things. Someone who has witnessed and been consumed by all the suffocating shadows of humanity. But most importantly, someone who has vital stories to share with the world. Pelayo is an artist that bleeds on the page.
Her prose is poetic, each line filled with hard truths, some so hard the veracity compels certain types to lash out on the author as opposed to the real-world monsters described in her stories. Pelayo’s lines have this aesthetically pleasing syntax, and a smooth cadence that demands for more books from her readers. Back to those hard truths for just a moment. They are often reflections of the reader. Who are you, really? What are you willing to do when the reality of how the world actually works appears before you? She’s a writer who is bound to eventually have a wider audience, more attention on what she has to say, and unapologetically stands behind what she believes in.
The first long-form work I experienced of Cina’s was her 2021 release, (published by Polis books) Children of Chicago. I read that alongside her poetry collection Into the Forest and All The Way Through (more on that collection in a moment). They pair beautifully together, like a fine cheese and aged wine. Be warned, they aren’t easy reads, strictly in the sense that the content cuts deep. For Children of Chicago, it’s about children killing children and the downward spiral of the life of Lauren Medina, our protagonist. For Forest, it’s the heart-breaking amount of women who are still cold cases throughout the United States. Forest is a collection of true crime poems, specifically about (infants to elderly) females who have been kidnapped, tortured, killed, and left for the maggots. It was refreshing (yet, irrevocably sad) to see Puerto Rico included in the list of United States locations. Often times, PR is treated like a ghost—this invisible entity that won’t bother you if you don’t acknowledge it.
Both books deal with the worst this world has to offer. All those cruel and malicious monsters target the same thing—women.
What women go through in these stories, in their final moments, is enough to shred your heart apart and leave it for the predators. For all these reasons, I implore you, be it the first time you’ve heard of Pelayo, or maybe you’ve heard of her but that book of her’s is stuck in that To Be Read hell pile, consider making a point to have her book jump to the top. It deserves it.
You can read Patrick’s review of Children of Chicago here.