Final page of Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, showing date and signature (twice) of Nicholas Trist, U.S. negotiator
Introduction to the Draft Blueprint for the Next 50 Years
Distributed on this 170th Anniversary of the Signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
By Armando Rendón The attached document derives from the panel on Chicanismo in the Americas held November 17, 2018, during the conference commemorating the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing held 50 years ago in San Antonio, Texas. Drafted by Armando Rendón as a working document, it reflects as faithfully as possible the comments and general sense of speakers and participants on the panel* that a blueprint is needed for us to address unresolved issues of the past 50 years, confront new concerns of today, and employ new strategies to deal with evolving changes that are sure to arise over the next 50 years. Fifty years ago, at the height of the Chicano Movement, would have been the ideal period to look ahead to the next 50 years and to establish an oversight committee, so to speak, to lay a framework for addressing issues then current and what might lie ahead. Diverse interests, limited financial and communications resources, and geographic distances among the various parts of the movement made it virtually impossible to organize and develop a long-term plan in the 1970s. However, the communications media we now have at hand facilitate meetings via audio or video conference calling, and the exchange of documents and ideas in moments. We also now have the experience and training of a variety of activists, scholars and experts in pertinent fields to draw upon for practical advice, research skills, writing and communicating capabilities that were unknown 50 years ago. The blueprint is intended to allow for input and enhancement from all parties who commit to serving as part of a drafting committee, working title: The Next 50 Years Committee. How to organize the committee, how it and the various working groups would relate to each other among many other details would be part of the follow up discussion. The draft should eventually evolve into a working document that smaller, focused groups of activists and experts can discuss and convert into action, setting timetables and deadlines as appropriate, maybe in increments of one, five or ten years, culminating at the end of the next half century. In other words, the drafting committee’s task is to improve on the model blueprint and then distribute and promote its use as a plan of action. This latest draft can be shared as widely as anyone wishes. The concept requires that at least one person commit to taking a lead role on a particular issue and recruit/join others of like interest to evolve a more detailed action plan (part of the overall blueprint). Minimally, each group should also commit to aligning with updating the drafting Committee on its progress. The blueprint contains specific issues, but is not exclusive of other concerns which may not be listed or have yet to arise. Suggestions for additional issues should be submitted to the drafting committee as the project in order to incorporate them into a “master” document. Of course, meetings can take place in person or via electronic means. Rendón commits to serving on the drafting committee if it becomes viable and continuing as the editor of the blueprint as long as he’s needed. The draft follows, for your consideration:
BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT 50 YEARS (Working Title) DRAFT First Draft November 26, 2018 Revised December 27, 2018 Revised January 31, 2019
A half century has passed since the height of action and attention raised nationally by the Chicano Movement, a social justice activism driven by the realization among Mexican Americans of the racist and discriminatory treatment they had suffered at least since the birth of their ethnicity, their status as a “nationality,” with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February, 2, 1848. That document concluded the hostilities brought on by the U.S. invasion of Mexico two years earlier, but the cessation of conflicts quickly evolved into a concerted and relentless campaign to deny to the Mexicans who remained behind the new border any of the rights and privileges otherwise guaranteed by the Treaty. The Treaty is the most important document to the past and the future of Mexican Americans, because not only does it mark the origin of our ethnicity but it remains a living document due to the essential human rights it contains, rights which have been affirmed under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in San Francisco in 1945, and regionally for the Americas in the Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man adopted by the Organization of American States in Bogotá in 1948. Important decisions have reaffirmed land grant ownership and common land uses, as well as religious rights asserted by American Indian tribes, using the Treaty as precedent. By these expressions of the rights that pertain to each person because of their nature as human beings, we Mexican Americans assert our right to be recognized as a people under the guidelines of international jurisprudence and the traditions of the world’s nations from time immemorial. With this understanding in mind, we first present our grievances as the Mexican Americans of the United States of America:
Whereas, the government of the United States has failed to ensure and provide the basic protections guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and
Whereas, the private institutions and the political bodies of the States of the Union have historically denied equal protections and equal access to achieving equality of educational, economic and political opportunity, and
Whereas, the existence of individuals and organizations have been allowed to proliferate whose sole purpose, under the banner of white supremacy and white nationalism, is to maintain control of the institutions of government and withhold from us the rights all Americans should be able to exercise, and
Whereas, as a people, we seek to preserve and share certain values which, although they might not make us unique among the community of nations, together they exemplify values which manifest our nature as a people: our respect for elders, our love and dedication to our children, our peculiar facility as a bilingual-speaking community, our cultural traditions in music, the arts, and food, our acceptance of the role as stewards of the earth, and our loyalty to our country shown by the willingness of our men and women to fight side by side with other Americans in defense of the country in conflicts dating back to the Civil War, and
Whereas, we must break free from the present-day dependency on entities of government and strive to overcome the efforts by persons and groups in American society who seek to oppress us as a people, we must avoid the tendencies of human institutions to take on characteristics of the oppressor and to lose sight of our frailties by continually re-examining our motivations and allegiance to the principles of democracy and individual freedom, social justice and fair play throughout our community, and
Whereas, because we recognize the need to commit our lives and resources to addressing and resolving concerns which relate to our identity and essence as an indigenous-hispanic nation of Mexican (mestizo) heritage,
Therefore, We commit ourselves to the following plan of action as a guide and blueprint for the next 50 years to address the inequities and lack of recognition which have suppressed our development as a people and as full-fledged citizens of the United States of America. The timeline for achieving certain goals will differ for each area of concern or interest, but ultimately we Mexican Americans will have perfected our identity, will have forged protections of our cultural values and traditions, and become full-fledged citizens of the Americas.
GENERAL AREAS OF CONCERN The concept driving the blueprint is that we look beyond broad issues such as education, health, human rights, employment, wealth distribution, political involvement, the environment and so on, and look at concerns which affect Mexican Americans (as well as other indigenous-hispanic groups) where we should apply our own worldview and traditions to address, improve, or resolve. With the next 50 years in mind, we should think broadly and long-term, even beyond immediate issues, as we began to do during the anniversary U.S. Civil Rights Commission conference in Novermber 2019. Please review the draft list of issues that follow for an idea of what the blueprint envisions. A recommended format is provided addressing certain issues which pertain to Mexican Americans, for example, advancing our literature and arts, forming alliances with other indigenous tribes in the U.S.A. and the rest of the southern continent, and creating a process for us to name ourselves as an aspect of preserving our identity. The blueprint is open to suggestions and even more specific areas for action.
Education: Creating or applying new pedagogies at the family level emphasizing our cultural values and traditions
Stewardship of the earth: Involvement in addressing climate change
Keeping Alive The Chicano Movement and Chicanismo
Self-Governance: Development of Community Organizations to address concerns specific to Chicanan barrios and our community as a whole
Full political participation: develop programs to increase political awareness and activism from childhood years, reviving “civics” classes
International relations: form a working group on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to study and arrive at applying it to current Chicanan concerns
Alliance with all American Indian tribes: charge a commission to research the indigeneity of Mexican Americans and to recommend ways we can approach other indigenous peoples to join forces in mutual cultural and social action
Building relations with other indigenous-mestizo peoples of the Americas
Forming collaborations with other indigenous-hispanic ethnic groups in the U.S.: create closer bonds through regional and national discussions toward greater interaction and mutual support on common goals
Address the growing social and health concerns due to an aging population: study and recommend culturally relevant approaches to improving the health and means of treating our Chicanan elders
THESE ISSUES ARE ADDRESSED BELOW IN SAMPLE FORMATS, WHICH CAN SERVE AS STARTING POINTS FOR IN-DEPTH DEVELOPMENT AND ADAPTATION OF THESE AND OTHER ISSUES.
PRESERVING OUR IDENTITY AS AN INDIGENOUS-HISPANIC (MESTIZO) PEOPLE Submitted by Armando Rendón Since the 1970s, we have been labeled as “Hispanic” or “Latino” by agencies of the federal government. The only name we have bestowed upon ourselves is Chicano. The word has origins, according to some sources, in the early 1900s as a shortened version of Mechicano—it may have been born in song or on the railroad lines or in the fields. The sense of a unique identity entailed in the name, Chicano, is what gave the Chicano Movement its essence as a radical departure from the past but imbued with the past. It is the reason that the philosophy behind Chicanismo continues to thrive because it is still evolving; it should be renewed continually through a process of small encounters each year leading up to national symposia every five years. The Chicano Movement is still very much alive and can only survive by adapting to evolutionary changes in human understanding. We should adopt a process of concientización, whereby groups made up of community activists, scholars in various disciplines, political leaders and professionals in business, health, philosophy, writers and artists, and so on examine the principles of Chicanismo and revitalize its relevance by reaching out to barrios and enclaves of our people throughout the country. The nature of these encounters should become fields of study in our schools that incorporate elders/teachers of the barrio reaching out to youth/students. We must bring an end to the use of Hispanic or Latino by forging our own name, building on how we perceive our own identity, and how our language and history can guide us in arriving at a name, which proves acceptable to all indigenous-hispanic people regardless of politics, gender or language, as long as it is derived organically and logically from our nature, history and worldview. Step 1: Call to Chicanans (my placeholder for a possible name) willing to commit time and resources to form a planning working group, conduct a series of small conferences around the country dedicated to arriving at the recommendation of a name, or names, within a set timeframe. Step 2: The working group would set a time line for convening a first gathering (including in person and using phone/video facilities) to launch an effort to ensure a diversity of members, set dates for further meetings, and initiate guidelines for a national inquiry. Step 3: The working group would set a deadline for deciding on a name, although it would most likely arrive at two or three optional names for people to consider. The main duty of the group would be to recommend one name and publicize it for broader consideration and, hopefully, acceptance. Step 4: Submit the name by which to identify us indigenous-hispanic Americans to the U.S. Census Bureau for inclusion in the 2030 Census.
(MORE DETAILS TO COME)
FORMING ALLIANCES WITH OTHER INDIAN TRIBES UNDER THE TREATY OF GUADALUPE HIDALGO (Some background: In the 1980s and 1990s, I participated in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo project that was launched by the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), a non-governmental organization (NGO) made up of American Indian tribes, provided legal counsel to an indigenous Xicano organization on human rights and international law issues, have belonged to a men’s Chicano-Indio spiritual group, and witnessed the recognition of Chicanans as American Indians by other Indian tribes, notably the Hopi, the Navajo and the Tohono O’odham. In 1985, as a legal counsel to the IITC, I presented an intervention (statement) at the UN Commission on Human Rights annual conference in Geneva asserting that Proposition 187 that had passed as a referendum on the 1984 California ballot was in violation of international laws and treaties, including the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. At the fifth annual international conference hosted by the International University in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in August 2018, I pointed out to an audience of scholars from various disciplines assembled around the theme: Latin America: Traditions and Globalization, that for Latin America, let alone Mexico, to evolve as a major player in the phenomenon called globalization, it should not ignore, but rather embrace con un gran abrazo, the 40 million indigenrous-hispanic Americans of Mexican heritage who have survived generations of cultural abuse, attempted genocide, and discrimination, stronger than ever.) The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo should be declared a living human rights document, providing human rights protections to persons of indigenous-hispanic (mestizo) background in the United States of America as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, globally by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in San Francisco in 1945 and regionally in the Americas by the Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man adopted by the Organization of American States in Bogotá in 1948. The Treaty recognizes the people of indigenous-hispanic origin as an ethnic group authorized by treaty to have international standing with the U.S. Government and the community of nations, and thus serves as a formal link with other treaty based tribes. The Treaty can serve as the basis for seeking a wide variety of reparations to compensate the descendants of the Mexican population of the territories which were annexed by the U.S.A. as a result of this monumental land grab and the subsequent violation of the rights of the Mexican population who are still protected under the Treaty. We shall seek to establish formal alliances with the other Native American peoples in the U.S.A. and beyond into the rest of the Americas. We Mexican Americans/Chicanans are an indigenous-hispanic tribe, that is, of mestizo origin. We number upwards of 40 million persons, another probable 10 million persons of undocumented status, for a total population of 50 million. According to the U.S. Census, theAmerican Indian and Alaska Native population made up about 2.0 percent of the total population in 2016; by 2060, the percentage will rise to 2.4 percent. There were 567 federally recognized Indian tribes in 2016. Over the next few decades, the Chicanans can become one with the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Our goals are mostly the same, respect for and preservation of our culture and language, access to educational opportunities, the full benefits of decent employment and proper health care, and so on. The Chicanans, the Mexica, Mexican Americans, whatever we decide to call ourselves cannot only form these alliances, in unity with our Mexican familiares, but eventually become a contributing force in turning this country of our birth, and of choice for many of us, into a multi-cultural and multi-lingual nation meriting recognition among the community of nations.
(MORE DETAILS TO COME)
FORGING ALLIANCES WITH INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN THE AMERICAS Submitted by Armando Rendón An indisputable truth that arose from the artistic roots of the Chicano Movement and then became a principle of Chicanismo was our link as indigenous-hispanic people to our ancient native roots in all the the Americas, Aztecan, Mayan, Incan, and specifically the Mexica, the raiz word from which Chicano is derived. However, we failed to recognize and strengthen our blood ties to the indigenous peoples of the Southwest, such as the Comanche, the Apache, the Coahuiltecos, the Kickapoo, etc., who are our relatives, our ancestors, among the very people whose blood we share, in some cases their direct descendants. Some of us reclaimed our descent over the years, either acknowledging tribal lines which had been forgotten or denied, or learning through DNA analysis of our link to specific tribes. Having lost a half century when greater attachments could have been forged with other Indian peoples, we must now formally and actively seek out alliances and working relationships with Indian country, which connotes all of the United States of America. This will entail a long-term process—long lost relatives often take time to make amends for being away so long and to create bonds of culture, language, and traditions where they have not existed for generations. The bonding will need to include learning our common history of resistance as peoples treated as conquered by the Anglo society, exchanging knowledge about our values and beliefs, sharing the sense of guardianship for the Earth Mother that we hold in common, and forging alliances to achieve mutually beneficial goals of social justice, political representation and certain rights under international law such as treaty rights and national sovereignty. This would not be a one-sided venture, because for decades certain individuals and organizations have been collaborating with each other to recognize the fundamental indigeneity of Chicanans and to raise awareness of the need for unity among indigenous peoples in the U.S. We need to bring about a greater realization of our indigeneity and our blood relationship to American Indian tribes through education, social and cultural exchanges and community building. The Mexican Americans, we believe, can become within the next half century full members of the family of indigenous nations within the U.S.A and the Americas. Step 1: Have the Next 50 Years Committee authorize a commission to expand and forge ties with the rest of the indigenous peoples in the U.S. Step 2: Call for others to join the Commission. Step 3: Set a target date for an initial meeting to set out procedures, short-term and long-term goals and objectives, a timetable, and address logistical needs. Step 4: Convene the first meeting using Internet media. Step 5: After one year, report on the initial findings and progress to the Committee. Step 6: Initiate during this first year contacts with indigenous peoples in Mexico as a starting point for stronger relationships. Step 7: Work with existing organizations such as the IITC, AIM-West, and the AIGIN to make initial contacts and lay the groundwork for more specific collaborations through discussion, literature, and the arts.
(MORE DETAILS TO COME) Three additional areas proposed for inclusion in the blueprint: CHICANISMO AS A WORLDVIEW Chicanismo should become a formal area of study in various disciplines including philosophy, history, psychology, sociology among others toward the goal of being officially designated as a distinct culture within the USA. Scholars already working in these fields should devote research and writing to enhance our knowledge and appreciation for Chicanismo, this integral but largely ignored worldview within the broader American society.
EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY AND INNOVATION The cultural, linguistic, economic, political and other contributions of the Chicano people to the U.S.A. should become integral components of public school curricula in all the publicly funded schools nationwide. Scholars, researchers and practitioners focused on the education of Chicanada youth should be recognized for the vital nature of their work in advancing Chicanismo, preserving and imparting cultural and social values, improving scholastic attainment and completion of educational and vocations goals.
CHICANAN LITERATURE AND THE ARTS Chicanan literature should be given its rightful place as an integral part of American literature rather than a sub-genre of U.S. writing or offspring of Latin American writings. Mestizo writers could form an alliance nationwide to bring greater attention to the works of mestizo authors, poets and essayists. We should strive to establish an open access depository for our writings in every genre. Chicanans should encourage, support and promote our community’s writers. We should strive to enhance the literacy levels among our communities and make literature and the arts available in barrios and rural areas as well as in major urban centers. Artists in music, dance, the fine arts should be recognized as vital to the development of the Chicanan culture and celebrated and promoted in every way possible. Submitted by Armando Rendón February 2, 2019
*Panel members included James Barrera, Mario Compean, Martha Cotera, Jose Angel Gutierrez, Carlos Hernandez, Ignacio Perez, Armando Rendón, and Angela Valenzuela. The key questions follow. Attach a copy of this page or copy and paste into an email to Armando Rendón, firstname.lastname@example.org
Do I accept the draft as a working document and commit myself to developing the concept and recruiting others to the effort? Yes ______ No ______ If you have a specific interest among the issues listed, or wish to recommend one or more other issues, please note here: ___________________________________________
Armando Rendón is editor of Somos en escrito Magazine. He was a Public Information Officer with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights at the time of its 1968 hearing. The photo shows a couple publications he produced for the Commission that were on exhibit at the conference.
On August 2, 2018, what might have been the first encounter between Mexican academics and Chicano writers took place in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México, at the Fifth Annual International Conference on “Latin America: Tradition and Globalization in the 21st Century,” hosted by the Universidad Internacional, in coordination with St. Mary’s College of Moraga, California. Professor Álvaro Ramirez, a member of the Modern Languages department at St. Mary’s, the organizer of the conference, asked Armando Rendón, the Somos en escrito editor, if he would be interested in assembling a panel to discuss Chicano literature at the conference. Seizing the opportunity for a first encounter with mexicanos on the subject, Rendóninvited three Chicanan writers to speak on the nature and scope of Chicanan literature and its symbiotic relationship to Mexico in particular and the Américas in general. In order of their presentations, they were Rendón, Rosa Martha Villarreal, Roberto Haro, and Felipe de Ortego y Gasca. Illness kept Dr. Ortego from attending at the last minute but his colleagues stepped in to discuss the main themes of his essay.
The presentations are published here as separate features,but under the title, “The Cuernavaca Papers”
The Chicano of the Americas
By Armando Rendón
The intent of my remarks is to lay the first few bricks to a bridge between Mexico and the rest of Latin America into the United States. It’s a notion that has threaded my thoughts going back to the early years of the Chicano Movement, the latter 1960s—that the way to span our two-fold worlds is through literature and the other cultural media. In mid-1970, I was in the final stages of completing Chicano Manifesto, the book that has served as a touchstone for many Americans in addressing and understanding issues which impelled the Chicano Movement and the underlying philosophy of chicanismo. After 300 pages of trying to portray what it meant to be a Chicano, I asked, not knowing the answer as I wrote the words: “What does this kind of multicultural intuition promise for the future of the Chicano, of the United States, or of the world.” I remember the answer coming to me out of the blue. I wrote: “Fundamentally, I see the Chicano as the prototype of the citizen of the Americas a century from now.” –We’re halfway there! I went on to develop this thesis, but in no way did I mean that everyone would be a Chicano or Chicana in 2070, but that through the process of osmosis, rubbing cultures together, learning each other’s language, getting to know each other, contending against each other, an “assimilation or distillation” would occur which would allow for our better angels to prevail. Then I ran across this quote from Walt Whitman, written 87 years before my “prophecy:” Speaking of 1880s America, he stated: “Character, literature, a society worthy the name, are yet to be established. To that composite America of the future, Spanish character will supply some of the most needed parts. No stock shows a grander historic retrospect, grander in religiousness and loyalty, or for patriotism, courage, decorum, gravity, and humor.” (From a letter dated July 20, 1883, Camden, NJ., 135 years ago almost to the day) The term, globalization, had not been invented yet in 1970, let alone 1883, but Whitman foresaw that the force of contact, of cultural abrasion, and inter-dependency with its neighbors to the South would serve the Anglo American society best by civilizing it, unless whites succeeded in wiping out the indigenous peoples and Hispanic colonizers, who had preceded the European incursions.
Here’s what I figure: Whitman did not define what he meant by “Spanish:” we probably all looked alike to him even though by the 1880s, Mexico was a mestizo nation. The Chicano embodies that mestizo character Whitman perceived but also has the advantage of having lived and survived in the belly of the beast at least since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the invasion by the U.S. of this, our mother country. Of course, Mexico and all the countries to its South have borne the savagery and greed of its neighbor to the North for centuries. But generally, Latin America, as a geo-political montage in the Western Hemisphere, has not had to cope with the threat and familiarity of the White Anglo society on a daily basis, generation after generation. This is where the Chicano comes in: we know the Anglo American society better than it knows itself. It does not know us yet, us Chicanos, Latinos, Hispanics, whatever they may call us. Remember the terms, Latino and Hispanic, were stamped on us by government agencies. Today, certain demagogues, in the shadow of racists going back to the likes of James K. Polk, have painted Latinos, to use the most generally familiar term, as invaders, murderers, rapists, though “there are some good people.” Thus, the indigenous-hispanic character is persistently portrayed as immigrant, ignorant and debased, racially inferior, unable to deal with lofty affairs, let alone help to run the country. Mr. Whitman, where are you? ¿Dónde está?
Walt Whitman, 1887
In spite of the demeaning history books, of ill-intentioned political motivations, of a racism evolved over half a millennium at least and sustained for the sake of maintaining white supremacy, we have survived. We have contributed great minds, awesome musicians and artists, terrific baseball players, and significant literary works. We are about the task of civilizing America, never mind its current leaders. Which brings me to my central point: The notice about this conference suggested that Latin American literature basically ends at Mexico’s border with the U.S. I’m here to make a case for the fact, as I see it, that Latin American literature, broadly understood, extends into the U.S.A. The potential exists for “Latin America” to grow even stronger politically, economically and culturally by recognizing not only the presence of Chicanas and Latinas in the U.S. but our growing influence on America and the significant role we can play in the evolution of an even more glogal presence for the peoples of Latin America. For future conferences such as this one, perhaps the emphasis should be placed on uniting the Latin Americas through the arts, culture and literature. The Chicano, I believe, is the link to the future for a stronger collaborative effort. Or, put another way, there can be no role for Latin America in a globally connected world without embracing and coalescing with the indigenous-hispanic peoples in the U.S. How can Mexico, let alone Latin America, engage in affecting the nature and direction of globalization, if it skips over the 61 million indigenous-hispanic Americans of the U.S.A. We have been the principal driver of U.S. demographic growth since 2000, accounting for half of the population growth in the U.S. And about two-thirds of these are of Mexican origin. Our median age in 2015 was 28, up from 25 in 2000, but Whites had the highest median age, 43, in 2015. (From Antonio Flores, Pew Research Center, September 18, 2017) What we here propose is that a beginning point is in the written word, in literary endeavors, in inter-American tertulias. It is in poetry, the novel, the short story, and critical writing that greater understanding and collaboration can evolve. To sum up, while we are concerned with globalization as a geo-political phenomenon and worldwide evil, I urge that Mexico –perhaps at this most timely change of leadership here– look to the north and refocus its view of Chicanos and Mexican Americans as partners, compatriotas, and joint creators of a new society, a new global standard of “patriotism, courage, decorum, gravity, and humor.”
Armando Rendón, a native of San Antonio, Texas, is the author of Chicano Manifesto (1971, 1996), author of the award-winning The Adventures of Noldo book series and the founder/editor of “Somos en escrito The Latino Literary Online Magazine.” He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
On August 2, 2018, what might have been the first encounter between Mexican academics and Chicano writers took place in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México, at the Fifth Annual International Conference on “Latin America: Tradition and Globalization in the 21st Century” hosted by the Universidad Internacional, in coordination with St. Mary’s College of Moraga, California. A few months prior, Professor Álvaro Ramirez, a member of the Modern Languages department at St. Mary’s, the organizer of the conference, had asked Armando Rendón, the Somos en escrito editor, if he would be interested in assembling a panel to discuss Chicano literature at the conference. Seizing the opportunity for a first encounter with mexicanos on the subject, Rendóninvited three Chicanan writers to speak on the nature and scope of Chicanan literature and its symbiotic relationship to Mexico in particular and the Américas in general. In order of their presentations, they were Rendón, Rosa Martha Villarreal, Roberto Haro, and Felipe de Ortego y Gasca. Illness kept Dr. Ortego from attending at the last minute but his colleagues stepped in to discuss the main themes of his essay. There’s already a good chance that another encounter between Chicanan and Mexican writers may be part of the agenda for the 2019 conference at UnInter.
The presentations are published here as separate features, but under the title, “The Cuernavaca Papers”
Forging a literature of opposition in which the periphery becomes the center
By Felipe de Ortego y Gasca Prologue
Literature is not the product of a vacuum, nor is a literary text a divine inspiration as John Milton rhapsodized. Literature is work. It’s a strand in a bundle of strands that comprise human activity. As such it is engendered by factors in a complex matrix of cultural production. And equally complex factors determine a reader’s response to a text, depending on cultural affiliation or association. No one reader is privy to the reading of a text.
To understand a literature, a text, one must consider the backgrounds out of which a literature emerges. Writing is a cultural act surrounded and impacted by historical forces. What is written depends on the motivations of the writer. As readers and critics, we cannot accurately discern those motivations, we can only approximate them. More to the point, however, is the question: What is Mexican American Literature? Simply, it’s literary production by Mexican Americans, literary production which before the Chicano era had been marginalized by the hegemonic forces of the American literary establishment and its minions. Ortego, “Mexican American Literature: Reflections and a critical Guide.”
1. Backgrounds Mexican American/Chicano literature is as American as apple pie. It draws its parentage from the homeland of Chicanos which now constitutes the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and parts of Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma, states that once were part of northern New Spain and identified as “the Mexican Cession”—that part of Mexican territory sundered by the United States as a booty of the U.S.-Mexico War (1846-1848) and ratified by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo on February 2, 1848. All this by way of establishing the bona fides of Mexican Americans many of them now identifying themselves ideologically as Chicanos—a self-designation of protest, resistance, and opposition (see Ortego, “Forging a Literature of Opposition”). Terms of identity have become significant (see “Masks of Identity: The Space of Liminal Possibilities,” latinoopia.com/Bravo Road with Don Felipe, July 2017) But they are Mexicans ethnically and Americans (U.S. citizens) politically and geographically. The conquest generation of Mexican Americans did not cross a border to abide in the territory they lived in; the border crossed them. Many of their families settled in that territory from the time of Spanish exploration and subsequent settlement with the growth of population spanning almost three centuries before the U.S.-Mexico War. To think of them as immigrants is historically erroneous. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo clearly bestows American citizenship upon those inhabitants of the Mexican Cession who chose to stay within the territory of the Mexican Cession (actually their homeland). Those who chose not to stay moved into the newly designated though restricted space of Mexico as Mexican citizens. Those who stayed became Mexican Americans. Unfortunately there is no accurate count of the Mexicans who remained within the territory of the Mexican Cession. Jingoist American historians claim the territory was wild and inhabited only by renegade and uncontrollable Indians. This was the message of Frederick Jackson Turner’s 1893 Frontier Thesis arguing that the growth of the United States was its “westering tradition” that tamed the wild and uninhabited west. This vision lost track of the theretofore population centers of San Antonio, El Paso, Santa Fe, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterrey, San Francisco, the San Luis Valley of Colorado and the hundreds of smaller settlements that dotted the landscape between these larger population centers. Fantasy histories of the Mexican Cession rise to the risible. More likely estimates by Chicano historians and demographers suggest a population of 3 million including indigenous populations. It would be an egregious error to conclude that Mexican Americans were passive in defending themselves against Anglo American aggression and discrimination. In post-conquest New Mexico they struck for better wages and working conditions, they formed private and parochial schools to overcome the deplorable education offered them by the American government. To protect themselves from violent oppression they organized Las Gorras Blancas for vigilance regarded by whites as marauders. Admittedly the population growth of Mexican America had to include a migration stream of minimal density from Mexico to the United States much like the migration stream of “return” by Palestinians to their biblical homeland. The population growth of Mexican Americans to the current 40 million is not due solely to the fertility and motility of the conquest generation. Three factors have spurred that growth: (1) the migration stream of minimal density, (2) the million and a half Mexicans who fled north from Mexico to the United States during the destabilization of Mexico and the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1921, (3) the million Braceros who harvested American crops during World War II from 1942 to 1962 and form the basis for the 40 million Mexican Americans in the current census count.
Mexican farmworkers during the bracero program
In that 60 million total count of Hispanics and Latinos in the 2010 Census two-thirds (40 million) are Mexican Americans. That is not a trifling figure. Yet they are the least publicly visible in the media, politics, and education. In the public schools of the states of the Mexican Cession they are the largest demographic group being taught by the standards of the colonial curriculum, denied information and knowledge about their history, culture and language (see Ortego “Montezuma’s Children”). In this regard, laws in states like Arizona and Texas have been unduly harsh and apodictic comparable to what I have called “the Mexican Dixon Line.” Recently, however, there has been a break in the hardline stance of the Texas State Board of Education in not approving a Mexican American Studies course for Texas schools. The course was finally approved to the cheers of Texas Mexican Americans. The course has been too long in the offing, especially in Texas. In Arizona a federal judge ruled that banning Mexican American Studies in the state was unconstitutional and that, moreover it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. This victory was the result of concerted efforts by Mexican Americans everywhere but certainly in Arizona and texas with Librostraficantes--a book-smuggling operation to take banned books into Arizona where they have been forbidden by a state imprimatur.
II. Opening Salvos
Vis-à-vis harsh and apodictic laws, in 2010 I wrote:
There’s a nativist streak in the American psyche that emerges periodically to unravel the constitutional gains of American society, moving the nation more to the right—in a sort of dance macabre of the American national zeitgeist; in other words: something akin to an American Nazi Party (with the word “Nazi” being short for “National”). What has kept this Nazi zeitgeist at bay has been the vigilance of Americans working to create “a more perfect union,” committed to the preservation and process of democracy as articulated in the American Constitution. What is little cogitated is that democracy is a process. Ortego, “Arizona Goes Bonkers.”
This brouhaha erupted over the context of the instructional materials in the Mexican American Studies courses in the Tucson Independent School District. Both the Superintendent of the Tucson School District and the state Superintendent of Public Instruction proclaimed that the material was inflammatory and harkened sedition and insurrection. In toto it was thoroughly un-American. Nonsense! The aim of Mexican American Studies was and is to acquaint students (principally Mexican American students) with the history of Mexican America as detailed in the preceding section. In the summer of 1969 at the request of Louis Bransford, Director of the fledgling Chicano Studies Program I developed a course on Mexican American/Chicano Literature at the University of New Mexico (Ortego, 2007). I was a Teaching Fellow in the Department of English finishing up the Ph.D, in English. It was the first such course in the country. Research for the course led to my dissertation on Backgrounds of Mexican American Literature (1971) first study in the field and to the essay on “The Chicano Renaissance” published in Social Casework, May 1971. The article attracted considerable attention immediately, and is considered a seminal essay in the field—it has been included in a number of readers and anthologies, though surprisingly the piece was ahead of the curve of the Chicano Renaissance though no journal of English accepted it for publication. Recently, as a guest panelist for the Western New Mexico University MEChA (Chicano Student Organization) Forum on the Status of Education for Chicanos, I mentioned in my commentary that my PhD dissertation was on Backgrounds of Mexican American Literature at the University of New Mexico in 1971, first study in the field. It occurred to me to explain why I chose that topic. Easy! Because no one else had and I wanted to quaff my ignorance. I was 40 years old when that revelation hit me. There I was a Mexican American knowledgeable about British and American literature with a respectable bibliography in the field but totally bereft about Mexican American literature--I had studied Mexican literature. Ahem! Mexican literature is not Mexican American literature (Ortego, “Mexicans and Mexican Americans: Prolegomenon to a Literary Perspective”). Therein lies the rub! During 123 years since the U.S. War against Mexico (1848-1971) why had no history of Mexican American Literature been undertaken? Bits and pieces had been penned by various Mexican American scholars but no “grand sweep” had appeared. That lacunae was and still remains a mystery. As a population, the assimilation rate for New Mexico Mexican Americans grew apace, the traditional ways held sway, The English language and American mores inched along depending on the strength of the Anglo-Hispanic contact. In the main the two cultures did not coalesce—no assimilation though acculturation had established a toe-hold. Anglos saw Mexican Americans as a mongrel race; Mexican Americans saw Anglos as uncouth and boisterous. Anglos called them Greasers. Mexican Americans called themselves Hispanos. By mid-20th century the American Census referred to them as Hispanics. Despite the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo Mexican Americans were not welcomed nor wanted. They were outrightly caricatured and demonized.
In 1856, W.W. H. Davis, United States Attorney for the state of New Mexico wrote a propos of his experiences with Mexican Americans that “they possess the cunning and deceit of the Indian, the politeness and the spirit of revenge of the Spaniard, and the imaginative temperament and fiery impulses of the Moor.” He describes them as smart and quick but lacking the “stability and character and soundness of intellect that give such vast superiority to the Anglo-Saxon race over every other people.” He ascribed to them the “cruelty, bigotry, and superstition” of the Spaniard, a marked characteristic from earliest times. Moreover, he saw these traits as “constitutional and innate in the race.” In a moment of kindness, though, Davis suggested that the fault lay no doubt on their “spiritual teachers,” the Spaniards, who never taught them that beautiful doctrine which teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Ortego, Backgrounds of Mexican American Literature, pp 68-69.
This was the opening salvo for Mexicans now Americans confronting a new language, a new political system, and a new modus of education. What they faced would turn Odysseus pallid. But it was what it was—obstacles to be surmounted—a sort of Navy Seal crash course for Demi Moore as G.I. Jane. Through thick and thin Mexican Americans have shown their mettle and survived. And like Joaquin in Corky Gonzalez’s poem: W shall survive! No! We will survive!
III. Crux of the Struggle
More to the point, during my Ph.D. studies I was developing a field-theory of literature by which could compare literary production by genre across the globe. That’s when periodization of Mexican American literature dawned on me (see Periodizaton Chart) and enabled me to see the historical sweep and development of Mexican American literature. What became apparent was that the literary tradition of the Conquest Generation changed little during the period from 1848 to 1912, the year New Mexico acquired status as a state (64 years). Just as it had before the U.S.-Mexico War, Mexican American poetry abounded in the newly reshaped Mexican American homeland—identified later by Chicanos as “Aztlan” (mythical homeland of the Aztecs). Hispanos kept diaries; maintained assiduous correspondence with geographically distant friends and family, established community newspapers, wrote tracts, memoirs, and plays with regular performances. All the while they maintained and preserved the historic texts. There was no lull of intellection. They were becoming bilingual, holding on tenaciously to their culture and language. In the process, the inevitable cross-fertilization of English and Spanish gained ground to the consternation of linguistic purists who dubbed that emerging patois as Spanglish, little realizing the historical linguistic phenomenon taking place, unaware that many languages are the product of linguistic blending—English, Spanish, French, Italian. Unaware of these auguries, Mexican Americans had no prescience that their lexo-cultural experiences would become foundational features of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s.
Protesting the sale of boycotted grapes
The Chicano Movement began long before 1960. It started the day Father Martinez of Taos, New Mexico, railed against the American invasion of northern New Spain (Mexico) which came to be known as the Mexican American War—in reality the American War against Mexico—President Polk caterwauling about aggressive Mexican trespass onto American soil at Brownsville, Texas—a trumped up ploy disguised to cloak the long simmering ambitions of the United States to secure by fair or foul the Mexican land mass that became known as the Mexican Cession—more than half of Mexico territory seized as a prize of war. Treachery, treason, and temor on both sides carried the day for American victory in the U.S.-Mexico War (1846-1848). The American villain of the piece was President Polk. The Mexican villain of the piece was Santa Anna who headed the Mexicangovernment on 11 occasions as Mexico's president, four times before becoming a military-backed dictator. Santa Anna accepted $15 million dollars and agreed to settle all claims of U.S. citizens against Mexico. In 1853 the United States negotiated the Gadsden Purchase for $10 million extending the U.S.-Mexico boundary line to its present southern site. This extension included the people living on the Gadsden Purchase. Again, as in the Mexican Cession there are no real figures as to the size of the population. All the statistics are guesstimates. If “Spain in America is a more substantial subject than England in America as the historian Charles Gibson commented, then it stands to reason that the “substantial” population of the Mexican Cession plus the population of the Gadsen Treaty would include more than weavers, hunters, and gatherers. The fruits of the golden Age of Spain reached every corner of Spanish settlements. All knew who Juana Inez de la Cruz was. In terms of literary output, Spain in America is indeed a substantial subject. That substantialization was everywhere present in New Spain and its northern frontier and was everywhere present in those frontier settlements when Spain in America became the Independent Republic of Mexico. Most of the literature of this period consists of memorials, reports, and correspondence. Old folk plays like Los Pastores were produced regularly in town squares. Poets read their works and the works of established Spanish poets in selected areas of marketplaces. Cuentos (stories) were popular but not novels or tales of wizardry banned by Spanish imprimatur as outrageous and salacious. Here and there literary bent gave rise to newspaper publishing. Father Jose Antonio Martinez, Curate of Taos, for example, published the newspaper El Crepúsculo (the Dawn), the first newspaper in New Mexico as a forum for dissent (North from Mexico, 118). More contemporary plays by the Mexican playwright Juan Ruiz de Alarcon reflected the consciousness of new-worldness, according to Anderson Imbert (130) 22, infused with a colonial Mexican character reflecting the new society. Though Mexican Americans strove to become part of the American mainstream in their own way they were nevertheless regarded with disdain by a sizeable segment of the Anglo American population crowding the territory of the Mexican Cession. Inevitably Mexican Americans were becoming strangers in their own land. Statehood did not buoy their aspirations. Mounting racial antagonism led to the creation of the Alianza Hispano-Americana in 1895 some 10 years before the creation of the NAACP—so much for the proposition of Hispanics riding the coattails of African Americans. Major public figures of the time included the New Mexican folklorist Aurelio Espinosa, Napoleon Vallejo and his father Mariano Vallejo, last Mexican Governor of California. Miguel Antonio Otero was the 16th Governor of New Mexico Territory from 1897 to 1906 appointed by President McKinley and in later life the author of several books on Western lore, among them The Real Billy the Kid. In 1916, a collection of Vicente Bernal’s poetry, Las Primicias (First Fruits) was published to rave reviews about Bernal’s command of the English language dubbing him a man of “double portions” as a bilingual Hispano. But all was not serene in El Dorado. By 1912 Mexican American communities along the U.S.-Mexico border had trebled—shades of future portents. El Paso, Texas, became the gateway to the American Midwest—especially Chicago which today has a Mexican American population of some 400,000 pressed in the Pilson Area, once a predominantly Middle-European neighborhood.
IV. Forging a Literature of Opposition
Invariably social and political dissatisfaction leads to a rupture prompting some physical action intended to remedy the aggravation. Most often that remedy engenders political results that may or may not resolve the aggravation but allays momentarily the inconsequential results of the unsatisfactory remedy. This was the ponderable situation of Mexican Americans in post-World War II America. Of the 16 million American men and women in the armed forces during the war (1941-1946) Between 250,000 and 500,000 Hispanic Americans (mostly Mexican Americans) served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, out of a total of 12,000,000, constituting 2.3% to 4.7% of the U.S. Armed Forces. The exact number is unknown since, at the time, Hispanics were not tabulated separately, but were generally included in the white population census count. They fought in every major American battle of the war as marines, airmen, soldiers (including WAACS) and sailors (including WAVES) earning more medals of honor than any other ethnic group. Mexican Americans served in the American armed forces during World War II despite their progenic status as a conquered people in an internal colony of the United States(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hispanic_Americans_in_World_War_II). Essentially, Marvin Lewis is correct when he explains that Chicano literature “did not evolve in a vacuum.” It does represent, as he points out, “the culmination of cultural dynamics that have been in force on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border for many decades”—a clear progression from Mexican (1848-1912) to Mexican American (1912-1966) to Chicano literature (1966 to the future). The emergence of Chicano literature in the 1960’s was a response to the domination of Chicanos by the centers of political powers in the states. Chicano literature was excluded from the American literary canon. A homologous fracture between exclusion and selection in the American literary canon depreciated the value of certain texts because they were produced by outcast groups like African Americans, women, Chicanos, and other minorities. In 1966, a group of Mexican Americans from the periphery (the Quinto Sol Writers) chose to define themselves as Chicanos in the presence of an already established image of them from the center. By that act, Chicano literature sprang into being as a literature of opposition, determining its stance in terms of its distance from the center, staying clear of the center’s destructive gravity and its ontology of domination. Such an affirmation was, in fact, a statement of renewal—thus, “the Chicano renaissance.” Ortego, “Forging a Literature of Opposition” I agree now as I did then with Walter Ong that most Americans “share a highly standardized culture” (3). Indeed as Americans we all share a common base of culture under-pinned by shared technologies. In my youth there were differences, of course, between the various ethnic groups. While tortillas were a staple in our house during the period I was growing up in the United States, tortillas were not staples in non-Mexican American households. My mother made them at home; today I buy them at the supermarket and “everybody” eats tortillas. Although now I also eat bagels and various kinds of breads that in my youth we regarded as Gringo food. The remains of traditional Mexican culture in the lives of many Mexican Americans are now only memories as technology and shared space homogenize all of us. To be sure, there are still differences. I continue to speak Spanish though my children don’t. Today the things that make me “Mexican” and American are more subtle than they once were. Only physiognomy identifies me as a child of blended Indian and Spanish genes. Many Mexican Americans look like the rest of dominant America and are not perceived as Mexican Americans. The most prickly consideration anent American literature raised by Walter Ong’s essay is that “one cannot teach everything” (6). Why not? We just need to make space for the literatures of the others. Who says that in teaching American literature we need to read ad infinitum the words of Sarah Kemble Knight’s journey to New York? There is much in the presentation of American literature that we can whittle down to make room for other American literatures, including Chicano literature as part and parcel of American literature rather than as something foreign. Per the dictum of the Latin dramatist Terence: “homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto (I am human; nothing human is foreign to me).” The 1970 edition of the Norton Anthology of American Literature included no Chicanos. It was to be another 20 years before a Chicano writer made it into the Norton. As concluded in Searching for America in 1973 and as is still the case today, the absence of Chicano writers in such widely used anthologies of American literature perpetuates the distortions that have rendered Chicano and minority writers invisible. The one anthology that has made progress with inclusivity is the Heath Anthology of American Literature edited by Paul Lauter and which includes Hispanics on its editorial board. There is, unfortunately, condescension in Walter Ong’s Introduction. His imploration for inclusion of Chicano writers in American literature is prompted with expressions of validation based on improving the well-being of the body Americana rather than calling attention to the agency of literary value in minority and Chicano literatures. He does say, however: A minority literature often negotiates for its own identity with the majority culture and constantly redefines itself, ultimately bringing the majority culture to define itself more adequately, too. (3). As it was in the beginning, this is the stance of Chicano writers today.
Felipe de Ortego y Gasca, Ph.D., (Renaissance Studies/Chicano Studies) is Scholar in Residence (Cultural Studies, Critical Theory and Public Policy, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English (Retired), Texas State University System—Sul Ross. He lives in Silver City, New Mexico. Felipe is especially recognized as the earliest proponent of what he called, The Chicano Renaissance, based on his seminal studies of Chicano literature.
For Works Cited and Consulted, click here to continue.
V. Works Cited and Consulted
Imbert, Enrique Anderson, Spanish American Literature: A History 1492-1910, Detroit, 1969.Ong, Walter, “Introduction to Three American Literatures,” Edited by Houston Baker, Modern Language Association, 1982.Ortego y Gasca, Felipe de, “Mexican-American Literature,” The Nation, September 15, 1969 _____________________, Backgrounds of Mexican American Literature (Diss,),University of New Mexico, 1971. _____________________, “The Chicano Renaissance, Social Casework, May 1971. _____________________, “The Mexican-Dixon Line” (reprint from El Grito) in Voices: Readings from El Grito, Octavio Ignacio Romano-V., editor, Quinto Sol 1971. _____________________, We Are Chicanos: Anthology of Mexican American Literature (Editor) Washington Square Press (Simon & Schuster), 1973. _____________________, “El Renacimiento Chicano” (translation of “The Chicano Renaissance” The Journal of Social Casework”) in Aztlan: Historia Contemporánea del Pueblo Chicano, Mexico: Secretaria de Educación Publica, 1976. _____________________, The Chicano Literary World--1974 (editor with David Conde), Albuquerque: National Education Task Force de la Raza, 1975. ERIC 101924. Reprinted as a Special Issue of De Colores, 1 No. 4, 1975. ______________________, “Chicanos and American Literature” (with Jose Carrasco, reprinted from Searching for America) in The Wiley Reader: Designs for Writing, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1976. ______________________, Special Issue on Chicano Literature, English in Texas(editor), Summer 1976. _____________________, “Chicanos and the Pursuit of a Literary Identity,” English in Texas, Summer 1976. _____________________, “Prolegomenon to the Study of Mexican American Literature,”English in Texas, Summer 1976. _____________________, Milestones in Chicano Literature (A Guide and Reading List), Austin: Texas Council for the Humanities, 1982. _____________________, “Are There U.S. Hispanic Writers?” Nuestro Magazine, April 1983. _____________________, “The Cross and the Pen: Spanish Colonial and Mexican Periods of Texas Letters (monograph) Washington, DC: The Hispanic Foundation, 1985. _____________________, “Chicano Literature: From 1942 to the Present” in Chicano Literature:A Reference Guide, Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1985. _____________________, “American Hispanic Literature: A Brief Commentary,”ViAztlan, (International Chicano Journal of Arts and Letters), Part I, January-February 1985; Part II, March 1985; Part III, May 1985. _______________________, “Mexicans and Mexican Americans: Prolegomenon to a Literary Perspective, The Journal of South Texas, Spring 2005. Posted on Somos Primos, January 2016. _______________________, “Mexican American Literature: Reflections and a Critical Guide,” From Chicano Studies: Survey and Analysis (3rd Edition) edited by Dennis J. Bixler-Marquez, et al. Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 2007. _______________________, “Mexican American Literature: A Survey of Genres,”Chicano CriticalReview, December 2006. Prepared for the Sabal Palms Lectures, University of Texas at Brownsville, Summer 2004. _______________________, “Chicanos Writers and the Art of the Novel,” Somos en escrito: the Latino Literary On-Line Magazine, November 12, 2009; posted on Pluma Fronteriza, December 22, 2010. Updated July 26, 2011. _______________________, “Arizona Goes Bonkers.” From Heritage of America Foundation, June 3, 2010; posted on Immigration, Education, and Globalization: US-Mexico, June 21, 2010; Newsdrome, June 30, 2010; posted on Somos Primos, July 2010. _______________________, “Forging a Literature of Opposition,” Somos en Escrito: The Latino Literary Online Magazine, February 11, 2010; April 2017. _______________________, “The Art and Practice of Mexican American and Chicano Fiction,” Somos en Escrito: The Latino Literary Online Magazine, December 26, 2017 _______________________, “Some Cultural Implications of a Mexican American Border Dialect of American English, Studies in Linguistics, Volume 21, 77,October,1970. Reprinted in Introduction to Chicano Studies edited by Livie Isauro Duran and H. Russell Bernard, Macmillan, New York, 1973. Reprinted in Bridging Two Cultures: Multidisciplinary Readings in Bilingual Bicultural Education, edited by Marta Cotera and Larry Hufford, National Educational Laboratory Publishers: Austin, Texas, 1980. _______________________, “Which Southwestern Literature and Culture in the English Classroom?” Arizona English bulletin 13 No. 3, 15-17, April, 1971. _______________________, “Sociopolitical Implications of Bilingual Education,”Educational Resources and Techniques, Summer 1972. Reprinted in Mano a Mano (5:1, February 1976), publication of the Chicano Training Center, Houston, Texas. Reprinted in Developing the Multicultural Process in Classroom Instruction: Competencies for Teachers, University Press of America: Washington, DC, 1979. ____________________, “Another Heaven, Another Earth: American Literature and the Chicano Experience,” Presentation to the Human Relations Department of Kansas City, KS, August. 1978. ERIC/CRESS Document ED178244. ____________________, “Towards a Cultural Interpretation of Literature,” ViAztlan: Inter-national Journal of Chicano Arts and Letters, April-May, 1986. ____________________, “Chicano Literature: Shaping the Canon” (Monograph), Caravel Press, 1990. ____________________, “Mexican American Literature: A Survey of Genres,” Prepared for the Sabal Palms Lectures, University of Texas at Brownsville, Summer. Chicano Critical Review, 2004. ____________________, “Mexicans and Mexican Americans: Prolegomenon to a Literary Identity Journal of South Texas, Spring. Reprinted in LatinoStories.com, July 28, 2009. Prepared for the 2002 U.S.-Mexico Cuernavaca Transculturation Program, Texas A&M University—Kingsville. ___________________, “Chicano Literature and Genesis of the Term The Chicano Renaissance: Reflections on Provenance, Production, and Posterity,” Remarks on the occasion of being honored by the XIII Annual Multicultural Conference, San Antonio College; and receiving the Premio Letras de Aztlan Award from the National Association for Chicano and Chicana Studies, Tejas–Foco, San Antonio, Texas, April 24, 2007. Included in Immigrant Rights Are Civil Rights: Cultura, Arte y Comunidad, edited byRoberto R. Calderón, Lorenzo García, David Molina, Mariela Núñez-Janes, and Denis Paz, Denton, Texas: National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, Tejas Foco, __________________, “Reflections on Chicanos and the Teaching of American Literature,” atinoStories.com, June 23. 2008. __________________, ”Chicanos and the Art of the Novel, Pluma Fronteriza, December 22. 2010. __________________, “Adios Chaucer, Adios Shakespeare: Americanizing the English Department and its Curriculum—A Latino Perspective,” Pluma Fronteriza, Part 1, April 20, 2011; Part 2, April 21, 2011. Posted on LatinoStories, May 20, 2011. posted on la-manogroups. com, May 20, 2011. ________________, “If George Washington’s My Father, Why Wasn’t He Chicano?” Presented at the Forum on Confronting Race and Ethnicity, Western New Mexico University, February 21, 2012. Posted on Pluma Fronteriza, March 1, 2012. Posted on Educational Equity, Politics, and Policy in Texas, March 2, 2012. Posted on TLAKATEKATL, March 7, 2012. Posted on Somos Primos, April 2012
PERIODIZATION OF MEXICAN AMERICAN / CHICANO LITERATURE: ROOTS AND TRADITIONS
By Felipe de Ortego y Gasca
While Chicano Literature is identified as such only since the “Chicano Renaissance (1966-1975), the literary tradition of Mexican Americans stretches back to the beginning of the major civilizations in the Americas (Aztecs, Olmecs, Toltecs, Mayas). The literature of Pre-Columbian Mexico is as much part of Mexican America as the Medieval literature of England is part of Anglo-America. This approach divides Chicano Literature into two periods: (1) Roots and (2) Traditions.
I. AUTOCHTHONOUS MEXICAN ROOTS / SPANISH PENINSULAR ROOTS (0000-1521) The works of this period are antecedently part of the literary roots of Mexican Americans. The book of Chilam Balam and the Popul Vuh, works of the Americas before Colon and Cortez, are as important to Mexican Americans as are, for example,El Cid or Don Quixote. This period reveals how these two literary roots figured in the development of Mexican literature and how, in turn, they have influenced Mexican American literature about the concept of Quinto Sol.
II. SPANISH COLONIAL ROOTS (1521-1821) This period includes those works of the Spanish Colonial presence in Mexico and what is now the Hispanic Southwest of the United States, works of the period whose focus deals not with Mexico but with some part of what is now the United States, comparable to the works of the British Colonial period (1607-1776) which are now considered American literature.
III. MEXICAN NATIONAL ROOTS (1821-1848) Continuation of the previous period except that the geography of the above is now controlled by the Republic of Mexico. The focus here is on literary production in what is now the American Southwest before 1848, the northern Mexican borderlands.
IV. EARLY MEXICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE: The Period of Transition (1848-1912) Just as American literature really begins in 1776, so too Mexican American literature begins in 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (February 2) and the American acquisition of Mexican territory (now comprising the American Southwest) and the inhabitants of the severed territory. This is a period of transition for Mexicans–now Americans–towards a bilingual and bicultural lifestyle reflected in their literature–the literature of the Conquest Generation.
V. LATER MEXICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE: The Modern Period (1912-1960) The beginnings of this period (the Modern period of Mexican American literature) coincide roughly with the beginning of the Mexican Civil War (1910-1921) and the exodus of one-and-a-half million Mexicans to the United States. In this period, Mexican American literature, the literature of the Assimilationist Generation, is characterized more by its pastoral impulse than by its efforts to come to terms with the realities of Mexican American existence.
VI. THE CONTEMPORARY PERIOD AND THE CHICANO RENAISSANCE (1960-present) Publication of Pocho (1959) marks the beginning of the Chicano period of Mexican American literature, writing characterized by a stridency drawn from the Chicano Movement (1960). The appearance of El Grito magazine in 1967 marks the beginning of the Chicano Renaissance. The Quinto Sol writers are regarded as the vanguard of this literary movement.
On August 2, 2018, what might have been the first encounter between Mexican academics and Chicano writers took place in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México, at the Fifth Annual International Conference on “Latin America: Tradition and Globalization in the 21st Century” hosted by the Universidad Internacional (UnInter), in coordination with St. Mary’s College of Moraga, California. Professor Álvaro Ramirez, a member of the Modern Languages department at St. Mary’s, the organizer of the conference, asked Armando Rendón, the Somos en escrito editor, if he would be interested in assembling a panel to discuss Chicano literature at the conference. Seizing the opportunity for a first encounter with mexicanos on the subject, Rendón invited three Chicanan writers to speak on the nature and scope of Chicanan literature and its symbiotic relationship to Mexico in particular and the Américas in general. In order of their presentations, they were Rendón, Rosa Martha Villarreal, Roberto Haro, and Felipe de Ortego y Gasca. Illness kept Dr. Ortego from attending at the last minute but his colleagues stepped in to discuss the main themes of his essay.
The presentations are published here as separate features, but under the title, “The Cuernavaca Papers”
La Pluma y el Corazon
By Roberto Haro
The northward movement of Latinos from Latin American countries, and especially Mexico, to the United States caused the development of a literary subculture that continues to evolve. A significant part of this process is the creation of a window, a portal through which the Latino community views the larger society, and where America can also see into the Latino community and culture. While other ethnic and racial groups in the US have influenced American literature, only one or two have created a unique window through which the expression of ideas and emotions is available for comparison and exploration by the country of origin and the immigrant nation.
Non-Latino American writers like Maxine Hong Kingston, Sherman Alexi and James Baldwin come to mind as new world writers that explore the intermix of native and different/ external cultures. Yet, for the most part, the unique, viable and impressive Chicano subculture remains tangential to traditional American historians, literary scholars and critics.
They do not fully understand or appreciate the important subculture that reflects Mexico and how it has joined with American social and cultural factors to construct a new identity; the Chicano. While the different US environments and provincial cultures influence and condition that identity, there is an overarching communality in America that binds together Chicano society and culture. And Mexican antecedence plays a major role in the development of this identity.
Just down the road from UnInter sits this capilla; dating to early 1500s
There are numerous terms now used, some for political convenience like Hispanic, to identify the Chicano. Labels like Spanish-speaking, Mexican American, Hispano (used in New Mexico and Colorado), and even the comprehensive Latino and Raza exist. However, Chicano is a preferred term for several reasons that will not be explored here. Suffice to say that it remains the most popular identifier because of the ideological message it carries.
Mexico among the world’s nations developed a unique literary identity that examines with intense scrutiny what it means to be Mexican. In the Americas, from colonial times until the late 1960s, North American scholars and literary critics favored and praised writers who emulated the literary traditions of the Iberian Peninsula.
But gradually, Latin American writers and poets, like Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Juan Carlos Onetti and Pablo Neruda were recognized and celebrated for their new literary perspectives. In Mexico, Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes prepared impressive works that revealed a new literary orientation and style built not on European values, but on those of the people of the Americas.
The unique literary expression of Mexico was carried north to the United States by Mexican immigrants. Gradually, the immigrants who traveled north made a place for themselves in the US and began to express in voice and printed word their experiences. However, the writings of Chicanos have not received the attention and consideration of social scientists and literary scholars in both countries, especially in the fields of literature and communications. So far only a few prominent Mexican writers, like Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes, ventured impressions, images and narratives about the experience of Mexicans in the US.
What it means to be Chicano (male and female) in the US can be traced to the preliterate expression of Mexican immigrants using graffiti to communicate ideas and feelings, and to musicians who sang about their experiences. The corridos were musical expressions by Chicanos that told stories about their lives in the US. Gradually Latino poets and writers started to formalize their thoughts and feelings to represent their status in the US.
As Chicanos were a minority in America, their early expressions often were cautious forms of self-identity and impressions of what it was like to be marginalized by a dominating culture. However, some Chicano writers like Oscar Zeta Acosta and Raul Salinas used indirect aggression in their writings to challenge the larger society that ignored or repressed Chicano literary expression.
The image of the Chicano could not be suppressed, however, and in his seminal work, I Am Joaquin,” Corky González described what it was to be Chicano. Luis Valdez in a theatrical mold used the image of the Pachuco to convey a similar theme, albeit as an evocative persona in a fixed time.
There followed Chicano poets like Alurista, building on the contributions of artists like Corky Gonzalez and Luiz Valdez, writing with a new sense of urgency and using colorful and passionate terminology that added to the mystique of the Chicano as a new American person. Writers like Rudolfo Anaya and Sandra Cisneros contributed to the narrative and gradually made important gains and recognition among a wide audience and thereby influenced traditional US scholars and literary critics.
Over the years, Chicanos moved past simple graffiti to murals, oral and written music, and then to poetry, essays and other forms of literary expression to forge their identity. The advent of new sources of media, film and audio recordings, expanded the avenues for the projection of Chicano self-identity. Films like Tortilla Soup are important visual dramatizations of the emotions, sentiments, language and social behavior of Latinos and Latinas that graphically dramatize the Chicano family in today’s America.
While films like Tortilla Soup are infrequently prepared, there is a growing appreciation by movie moguls that a large and expanding Chicano audience is ready to pay to view films about their experiences in America. However, the dissemination of Chicano ideas, especially in literary narrative, is not well served by the publishing industry, traditional communication outlets, and the media.
Latino writers continue to be marginalized, especially by white editors and literary critics. These traditional gate keepers in the publishing industry continue to favor simpering memoirs and formulaic mysteries and detective stories (particularly spy thrillers and international intrigue novels), and occasional sops about the “immigrant experience” in America that are sanitized for the average American reader. While self-publishing, the internet, and a vigorous expansion into radio and TV have helped Chicanos, many challenges remain that limit the full dissemination of Chicano literary expression and the rich culture on which it is based.
What can Mexico and the United States do to promote the identification, preservation and dissemination of ideas, feelings and experiences of Chicanos in the US? We need to hear more from writers like Michael Nava, Maria Nieto and the creative Rocky Barilla. These three authors are examples of inventive, talented and award-winning Chicano spokespersons. They have engaging stories to share about Chicanos and their lives in America. It is essential, therefore, that a form of cooperation exist among literary scholars and social scientists in both countries to share and understand the unique writings and communication of Chicanos that benefit all people.
Moreover, it is imperative that the media and publishing gatekeepers recognize and respect the work of progressive advocates like Kirk Whisler and his important creations: The International Latino Literary Awards and Latino Books into Movies competition. When combined, these efforts promise a full and rich interpretation of what it means to be Chicano, and how our lives have played a very significant role in the history of the United States.
Roberto Haro, who writes under the pen name, Robert de Haro, is a retired university professor with
a doctorate in higher education administration and public policy and career service as a senior level academic administrator at major universities in New York, Maryland and California, His 13 novels to date, many of them award-winning, employ historical fiction between 1900 to 1950, contemporary detective yarns, and tales about the Mexican American experience in the United States. He resides in Marin County, California.
On August 2, 2018, what might have been the first encounter between Mexican academics and Chicano writers took place in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México, at the Fifth Annual International Conference on “Latin America: Tradition and Globalization in the 21st Century” hosted by the Universidad Internacional, in coordination with St. Mary’s College of Moraga, California. Professor Álvaro Ramirez, a member of the Modern Languages department at St. Mary’s, the organizer of the conference, asked Armando Rendón, the Somos en escrito editor, if he would be interested in assembling a panel to discuss Chicano literature at the conference. Seizing the opportunity for a first encounter with mexicanos on the subject, Rendóninvited three Chicanan writers to speak on the nature and scope of Chicanan literature and its symbiotic relationship to Mexico in particular and the Américas in general. In order of their presentations, they were Rendón, Rosa Martha Villarreal, Roberto Haro, and Felipe de Ortego y Gasca. Illness kept Dr. Ortego from attending at the last minute but his colleagues stepped in to discuss the main themes of his essay.
The presentations are published here as separate features, but under the title, “The Cuernavaca Papers”
A Literature Born of Two Traditions: The Genealogy of U.S. Latino Literature
For American writers of Latino descent, we have resided in a Dantesque valley of exile. The gatekeepers of the American letters have considered us Latin writers because we write about our culture. The gatekeepers of the Latin American letters consider us American writers because of our nationality. We, like Sisyphus, futilely push the boulder uphill from one gate to another, only to be denied entry proper. But as our political and economic clout has increased in the last half century, our literary production has aroused interest from both the American and Latin America academia. We are too many and increasingly too affluent to ignore as outsiders on the margins of both societies. In the United States, we occupy positions of power in politics, industry, and art. (And perhaps it is because we do have real power—outsized in places that have been historically Hispanic such as California and Texas---that we face a vigorous antipathy by those who want to take “their country back” [sic]. But that’s a topic for separate discussion.) Thus, academicians on both sides of the border ask anew: Is our work North American or Latin American? Is it both? Or is it neither but rather a new form born of dispossession? To answer this question, I must refer back to what my literary god Carlos Fuentes calls “the genealogy of literature.” It is from this point, that I posit that we belong to both just as the creative production of Sor Juana Inez makesher simultaneously a Mexican writer because of her geographical origins and the influence that it exerted on her sensibility, and a Spanish writer because she wrote in Castilian and its literary traditions. Like all aspiring writers, I set forth to study literature, its form, its history, and the criticism of scholars. Inspired by the works of William Faulkner, I wanted to write serious literature with the themes of the human aspiration for a high consciousness. There was never any doubt that my subject matter would be about persons of Mexican heritage and that these stories would be set, partially or entirely, in Mexico. Although I was born in Houston and raised in California, my roots in Mexico and its norteñohistory have dominated my imagination. Both my parents are natives of Coahuila, and my father’s family were among the original colonial settlers of Nuevo Leon and Coahuila. My ancestors include the Tlaxcatecan and Spanish founders of Saltillo and Monterrey, among them Alberto del Canto, Diego de Montemayor, Bernabe de las Casas, and Juan Navarro. The past events of the northern frontier were living memories. I can still hear the stories of the past as recounted by my grandparents---stories that their grandparents and great-grandparents had told them—on winter nights as we warmed ourselves next to the cooking fireplace in the kitchen. On those nights, time was not erased but evoked into a simultaneous presence with our time. We could hear the hooves of horses, feel the wounds and terror of the battles with the nomadic Indians, and despair at the cruel indifference of nature. I set out to write similar stories about Mexico but in the American literary tradition.
II. Hawthorne and Faulkner
The American writers who most influenced me were William Faulkner and Nathaniel Hawthorne. To better understand why they were so influential, I must refer back to the 19th century and its two competing national and literary visions of the American nation. The first was inspired by the Jeffersonian vision of a new Eden in North America, with the “American” as a new Adam, the farmer citizen free from the bitter memories and conflicts of Europe. The critic R.W.B. Lewis succinctly summarized this worldview in his brilliant book, The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy, and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century. Opposite this worldview, said Lewis, was Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne foreshadowed later discoveries in human evolution by recognizing the dark animal nature—evil, or the potential for evil—as an integral part of the human psyche. Even before formal existentialism existed, he pondered the human existential dilemma vis-à-vis this inherent darkness, “the stain of sin.” Ironically, Hawthorne posits that our inner darkness and our ability to sublimate evil into something positive is the road to authenticity and, ironically, natural empathy. For Hawthorne, the greatest sin was not that of passion but of the mind, of a “reason that never sleeps,” as Fuentes says in Constancia. Hawthorne’s writing can be interpreted as a critique of his Puritan ancestors’ excessive reliance on the Word, Logos. The Puritans believed that by suppressing natural passion, the human could elevate himself and grow closer to God. For Hawthorne, this amounted to a mutilation of the human soul as he demonstrates in his short story, “The Birthmark.” The scientist, an agent of pure reason, resolves to remove his wife’s birthmark, a symbol of hereditary sin. His effort results in death not perfection.
Wilfredo Álvaro García, director of the Museo de Arte Indígena Contemporáneo, showing off a local artisan's work
Hawthorne’s use of allegory and symbolism as his philosophic vehicles guided my development as a writer both philosophically and technically. I emulated his use of the allegorical journey in my novella, Doctor Magdalena. My creature of reason, Magdalena Ibarra navigates within the human landscape of inner darkness and discovers what Hawthorne calls “a perfect place of beauty.” In The Scarlet letter, it is from her position of sin and exile that Hester Prynne acquires true compassion and wisdom, not the empty piety of religious doctrine. Like Goodman Brown, Hester can discern in the averted glance of young women their own sexual transgression. Because of her own alienation, she truly feels the pain of others, as if all suffering is one thing. Hester and Doctor Ibarra’s suffering is the path of authentic enlightenment, their felix culpa. The road to redemption repudiates innocence. As the character of Catherine of Aragon in the mini-series The Tudors, says, if she had a choice between compete happiness and complete sorrow, she would choose sorrow because happiness makes one forget God whereas suffering opens a true path to him. Another aspect of Hawthorne’s work that influenced me is his creative use of enigma and ambiguity, which reminds me of the poet king Nezahualcoyotl’s declaration that true meaning can only be intuited in “flowers and song,” i.e., in metaphors. In “Young Goodman Brown,” Hawthorne does not tell us for certain if the young man embarked on a physical journey or merely dreamt it, but only that it was true because he was subsequently wise. One criticism of the ending of my novel Chronicles of Air and Dreams: A Novel of Mexico is that I don’t reveal Maria Elena’s ultimate discovery in her journey of many languages and dreams.
The dreams, silences, fragments of histories and memories are the partial relics of a past that cannot be completely recovered. I, much like the character of La Nahua who collects omens on the peripheries of Mexico City, cannot offer a single interpretation of the many dreams, desires, and the floating fragments of conversations of ghosts because they are only partially known. The storyteller acts as the presenter of images that, according to Carlos Fuentes, the reader must arrange and interpret according to his/her desires. A close cousin to ambiguity is Hawthorne’s use of enigma. Pearl in The Scarlet Letter is afavorite subject for analysis, but for me Parson Hooper in “The Minister’s Black Veil” poses a more complex situation. The veil simultaneously conceals and reveals. T.S. Eliot famously said that we “prepare a face to meet the faces that we meet.” So, is that face, our identifier to the world, false? Worse, are we aware that it could be false? By concealing the face, does the parson reveal his true inner self? Or is the veil/mask an active agent that allows him to become someone else? Kobo Abe explores the same existential question in his 1964 novel, The Face of Another. I experimented with identity and the human face as an enigma in Doctor Magdalena. Is she just a face, a creation of her father’s ambitions? If so, is that constructed face now her true self, an integral part of her inner being? Or is there another embryonic self who exists within her primal self? Her allegorical journey into the world of ancestral memory makes her question whether, contrary to conventional feminist criticisms, the male constructs can be apositive component to the development of feminine psyche. Whether she actually dreams or physically experiences her journey of discovery, her story is true on some level because its seeps into the mass unconscious. In the songs and fables, there is now a story about a woman who had her memory removed. Aside from Nathaniel Hawthorne, no one influenced me as much as William Faulkner, who, besides exploring similar philosophic themes as Hawthorne, revealed a writing style that could be adapted to the sensibility of the Mexican dreamscape. When I first read Faulkner in my freshman English composition class at San Jose State University, I was jolted by the revelation that the English language could be molded in such a manner as to conjure the memories and histories suppressed by triumphalist historians. I heard in his writer’s voice the soft murmurs of the Mexican storytellers of my parents’ native Coahuila. Faulkner’s writing style demonstrates a preference for the cumulative sentence and elaborate phrasal modifications that suspends time, creates metaphor, conjures the simultaneity of conflicting desires, equivocations, moral ambiguities, and resurrects a world remembered in dreams. I adapted and modified the Faulknerian style to evoke the sensibility of the Spanish language and the emotive world of my ancestors. Second, I was influenced by Faulkner’s use of circular time. By arranging his narrative in a circular rather than linear narrative, he summoned the past into the present, permitted two times to exist simultaneously in the space of a single story. Thus, the narrative is one and many. There is not a single truth but competing truths born of competing longings that defy easy moral definitions. In Faulkner’s short story, “Barn Burning,” for example, the boy, Colonel SartoriusSnopes, is torn between the reality of his father’s time which is passing but not passed and the ethos of an emerging civil society. He is conflicted between his natural love for his father—“the pull of blood”—and a hatred of what his father stands for and doesn’tstand for. He must choose between blind familial loyalty and the desire to be free to create himself. This existential dilemma occupies my fiction as well: to be what is expected is to deny what can be created.
Some of the grounds of Universidad Internacional, Cuernavaca, Mexico
III. Carlos Fuentes
Many of my reviewers have classified my fiction as an example of Latin American Magical Realism. That’s not surprising because the writers of the Latin American Boom were very influential in my development: Gabriel García Márquez, Elena Garro, Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes, and Octavio Paz. Of that group, I gravitated the most towards Carlos Fuentes, both thematically and structurally, because, although Fuentes intended his fiction to be Magical Realism, it can also be read as speculative science fiction. I say speculative science fiction because I developed an affinity for physics during my university studies and could subsequently identify aspects of Quantum Theory in Fuentes’s fiction such as the Many Universe Theory, time travel, consciousness and the holographic universe, and the manipulation of sub-atomic particles. Unlike Magical Realism, speculative science fiction has an empirical basis, and thus, has the element of plausibility. For example, there is nothing in our known science that explains the growth of the corpse in García Márquez’s “The Third Resignation.” However, the Many Universe Hypothesis can explain the phenomenon of Señora Consuelo’s simultaneous manifestation as a young and old woman Aura. Her ability to go back in time is theoretically possible. Felipe can be both Felipe and General Llorante. The study of quantum mechanics has challenged the conventional thought of our empirical reality. As William Blake intuited in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, “If the doors of perception were cleaned, everything would appear to man as it is: infinite.” Perhaps Fuentes was thinking of Blake when Felipe discoversanew world through the doors that open with the slightest touch in Aura. The plausibility of Aura has been my guiding principle. I try to keep all phenomena in my fiction within the plausibility and the limits of science. The second aspect of Fuentes’s writing that made a lasting impression were hisexistential themes and his assertion that a book is a conversation with another book, one author responding to another. Just as Aura is Fuentes’s response to Henry James’s The Aspern Papers, my Doctor Magdalena is a thematic responsetoThe Death of Artemio Cruz, with regards to the role of identity, memory, and betrayal. I revisit the role of betrayal, identity, memory in Chronicles of Air and Dreams, and likeArtemio Cruz I set it in two times, alternating the chapters between the past and the present. However, it was Aura and its theme of erotic love and identity that has fascinated me. It took me 10 years to finally continue that conversation with Carlos Fuentes with The Stillness of Love and Exile (La quietud del amor y del exilio). Fuentes discusses Aura in “How I Wrote One of My Books” in his collected essays,Myself with Others. His criticisms of patriarchy and its marginalization of women is one of the most eloquent polemic on patriarchy. He fictionally depicts his criticism of a world where “Man divided between his divine thought and his carnal pain is the author of his own unbearable conflict.” Felipe, blinded by the light of masculine constructs, discovers a new world in the dark rooms of Sra. Consuelo’s apartment. Aura (Consuelo) represents the primal woman who “is the owner of her time because she is the owner of her own body.” The ending is both beautiful and grotesque, or perhaps it is beautiful because it is grotesque, so far from the conventional ideal of beauty and youth, yet so authentic. The juxtaposition of the grotesque (and absurd) manifests itself again in his novella, La Desdichada, where the feminine principle is trapped and encompassed in the form of the mannequin. However, in both of these novellas, as in Constancia, andThe Death of Artemio Cruz, he examines the feminine principle from the point of view of the male: Felipe, the law students, Hull and Plotnikov, and Artemio Cruz.
What I wanted to do was to continue this conversation but from the point of view of the woman, Lilia Cantú, who unlike Regina in The Death of Artemio Cruz, does not fall in love with her rapist but detests him. She uses the same silences of Fuentes’s mannequin (La Desdichada) to resist him, to lock him out of her inner being. But her self-exile, like Felipe’s, ultimately makes her incomplete, alienated from intimacy, uncertain of her self-worth, and unknowingly untrue to herself. Her journey through love, first through her friendship with Gabriela, and later with her love affairs with Javier San Andres and Miguel Treviño, liberate her from her self-imposed exile. In my writer’s conversation with Fuentes, I wanted to show the female’s perspective in a world where there is still an imbalance of power, where violence is still a tool of intimidation, and where fear forces the repression of the self for the sake of preservation. Whereas, a woman creates higher consciousness in men in Fuentes’s fiction, I responded by portraying self-realization from the woman’s perspective, not as the passive but active agent. Not the one who is discovered by men but who discovers the passion of men as a vehicle for self-actualization.
The making of a writer begins with the books one reads. Just as the apprentice learns from the master craftsman, the writer absorbs the style and substance of his/her art from learning from the masters of literature. For Latino writers, we have the influence of our formal education and with it, the literary traditions of England and the United States. Furthermore, with very few exceptions, we write in English. But unlike other national groups that have forgotten their mother cultures, we retain distinct Hispanic characteristics. Perhaps it is because of our proximity to Latin America. Or perhaps it is because Hispanic culture changes and remains the same. Despite our Americanness, our attraction and affinity to our ancestors’ culture invariably draws us to the Spanish letters, and thus, we draw influence from that source as well. A close examination of our work will, to varying degrees, show descent from both traditions. It is not a unique literature that stands outside of both traditions, but a literature that simultaneously belongs to both thematically and structurally. Because of the strong influences of two literary traditions, we are writing in both traditions in varying degrees. Some works such as Ron Arias’ The Road to Tamazunchale, for example, is American literature because it takes place in Los Angeles, its characters are American, and it is written in English. But it is also Latin American fiction because of its magical realism and Latino themes. The Rain God, by Arturo Islas, is American Literature because it is set in the United States and is written in English, but its subject matter are the Mexican Americans of New Mexico, and he employs the circular narrative style invented by Faulkner and popularized by the Boom writers. My creation, The Stillness of Love and Exile, is more of a Latin American novel in English although it relies not on magical realism but American-style science fiction. One can go on, but that is an endeavor for scholars and not a novelist. I hope that this conference is a new beginning for the classification of the work of American Latino writers, who offer a window into the inner collective mind of our community in the United States and has emerged as the latest historic permutation of Hispanic culture.
Works Cited or Consulted
Arias. The Road to Tamazunchale. New York: Anchor, 1992. Asimov, Isaac. Understanding Physics. New York, Dorset Press, 1966. Faulkner, William. “Barn Burning.” The Collected Stories, Vintage, 1977, pp. 3-26. Fuentes, Carlos. Aura. Translated by Lysander Kemp, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1965. -------. Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins. Translated by Thomas Christiansen, Harper Perennial, 1991. ------. The Death of Artemio Cruz. Translated by Sam Hillman, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, ------. “How I Wrote One of My Books.” Myself with Others: Selected Essays.” New York: Noonday, 1990. García Márquez, Gabriel. “The Third Resignation.” Translated by Gregory Rabassa, Perennial Library, 1984, pp. 3-12. Gribbin, John, Unveiling at the Edge of Time. New York: Crown Trade Paperbacks, 1992. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birthmark.” The Literature Network. The Literature Network, http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/125/. Accessed 13 Jul 2018. ----. “Young Goodman Brown.” An Anthology of American Literature: Colonial Through the Romantic, 2nd ed., edited by George McMichael, Macmillian, 1974, pp. 1135-44. -----. “The Minster’s Black Veil.” An Anthology of American Literature: Colonial Through the Romantic, 2nd ed., edited by George McMichael, Macmillian, 1974, pp. 1152-60. -----. The Scarlet Letter. An Anthology of American Literature: Colonial Through the Romantic, 2nd ed., edited by George McMichael, Macmillian, 1974, pp. 1211-1322. Hirst, Michael, creator The Tudors. Showtimes, 2007. Islas, Arturo, The Rain God. Palo Alto: Alexandria Press, 1984. Lewis, R.W.B. The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy, and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955. Marx, Leo. The Machine in the Garden. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964. Talbot, Michael. Mysticism and the New Physics. New York: Penguin, 1993.
Rosa Martha Villarreal, a Chicana novelist and essayist, is a descendant of the 16th century Spanish and Tlaxcatecan settlers of Nuevo Leon. She drew upon her family history in her critically acclaimed novels Doctor Magdalena, Chronicles of Air and Dreams: A Novel of Mexico, and The Stillness of Love and Exile, the latter a recipient of the Josephine Miles PEN Literary Award and a Silver Medalist in the Independent Publishers Book Award (2008). She currently writes a column, “Tertullian’s Corner,” for the Latino literary magazine “Somos en Escrito.” She lives near Sacramento, California.