Monday, October 27, 2008


After class on friday, I kept thinking of how form was important to the telling of these particular stories and what it meant to use differing perspectives, one-sided dialogue, slang, and all the other literary techniques employed by Cisneros. It is the question I kept at the front of my mind while reading the second half of the book but still not an easy one to answer. 
The conclusion I have come to without anyone to banter back and forth with is that Cisneros uses these varying stories and perspectives to break down the stereotype that the world (mainly north americans) has regarding Chicanos. That there are infinite variations on the chicano story; girls born with mexican mothers and mexican-american fathers, chicanos that can't speak spanish, girls born north of the border only to be sent south of the border. Back and forth, mixing this with that, Cisneros shows us how different one chicano's life might be from the next. I think that she reinforces this idea with the reoccurence of popular culture.
Her various mentions of telenovelas, barbie dolls, latin pop music and fast-food mexican restaurants juxtapose the "authentic" life Cisneros wishes (and succeeds) to portray. In the story "woman hollering creek", telenovelas provide a stereotypical view from both sides of the border. While Cleofilas dreams in anticipation of her life in the US, she compares what she thinks it will be like to the cheesy, mexican telenovelas; at least she will have the passion and the pretty dresses they wear. Meanwhile, the woman who saves her from a life of abuse, Felice, breaks the stereotype that Cleofilas has of women. That they must depend on men (not just her husband but her father and brothers as well) to survive and be happy. The use of the soap opera  is then used in reverse when Felice hears Cleofilas' story. "a real soap opera sometimes" she says. Felice has obviously heard this drama story before.
In "Bien Pretty", Lupe falls in love with a stereotype. a short, poor mexican that comes to exterminate the cucarachas from her house. she wants to use him as a model for a painting of a mayan because he has that face that is perfect for it, that stereotypical face. she loves things about him like his uneducated bluntness and the language he uses when they make love but i don't think she really loved him. it was more the idea or the concept of being with a mexican that she had grown to love. even after seeing the tattoos on his body of the names of past lovers, she is still surprised to hear that he has children to feed and ex-wives south of the border? common lupe.
I think that popular culture and the stereotypes that pop culture create are very important themes throughout this collection of stories. i think that in every single story there is some reference, no matter how small, to pop culture. now we can either identify with these cultural references and slangy italicized words or not (depending on what you know). but i think in most cases we understand that there is much more depth to these stories than barbies and one-sided conversations. i don't know, i think i don't quite get it yet.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

woman hollering creek pt. 1

I. My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn

Once again we have multi-narration going on. or at least i think so. the first few sub-chapters or stories are told by a girl with many sisters, rachel i think. and then in "mericans" the protagonist is a boy with many brothers. i thought it was interesting the difference in the style of writing from "my lucy friend who smells like corn" with its run on, super-descriptive, slang sentences to the more mature style of "tepeyac". 
Both i love. after reading the first two pages i felt as if Cisneros was once a little person, sitting on my shoulder, commenting on my childhood. she talks about things that i thought nobody else did, like scratching your friends mosquito bites when they're not looking so they itch. who does that? i thought i was the only one. 

II. One Holy Night

"tepeyac" neatly connects the last story with the next. i noticed how at the beginning of the book, people are named by association to their smell, hair colour, appearance, demeanor etc which is perfect for these stories. when you are young you can't remember all the big peoples names, especially all those aunts and uncles. so you make mental notes of what they look like and then at least you remember, well, what they look like. 
another theme that popped up in both stories is age and time. in "eleven" rachel describes turning eleven but feels three when she cries and four when she can't speak up for herself. there are so many social constructs that go with age. people expecting that you are eleven and not five anymore even though that is sometimes how you feel. and then in "one holy night", chaq/boy baby/chato philosophically says that 'the past and the future are the same thing'. im not sure if i agree with this but as i look on my past, not yesterday past but maybe four years ago past, that all feels the same. 

i haven't decided how to interpret this book from our chicano study perspective, i think its to early on in the book for me. but what i did notice is that i think lucy is chicano and the rachel is not (from rachel wanting to be as tan as lucy in the first chapter).

in my opinion, our readings in this class have gotten better and better. probably going to finish this one tonight.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I realize this is a little late but the internet has either been unavailable to me or i have been studying for other midterms, but now its time to focus on this class!

I have really enjoyed the readings for this class. i think that the themes we have covered such as gender, discrimination, the search for acceptance within a foreign society, identity, etc all concerning a relatively small group of people in the world are essential to understanding chicano culture. a culture that i had very little previous knowledge of. in each book we get a unique perspective of a chicano living in America. each experience is different from the next and it has helped me realize that there is no common chicano story to be read. every chicano writer has a different story to tell with different criticisms on american culture. 

In "who would have thought it" Ruiz de Burton criticizes the unblinded attraction the new englanders have for money, the importance of (false) appearances and deception and the absolute rudeness of americans towards one of another race. 

In Jose Martí's writing, he sees a new population, growing quickly but completely unaware of their surroundings, or the advantages they have. he has come from cuba and seen a small nation strive for independence and was rejected for voicing his opinions. america lets him speak his mind and allows him freedom but the people that were born in to it do not seem to be so grateful. his outsider approach is essential to this perspective.

Salt of the Earth shows a large population of migrant workers striving for equality. the director shows the hardships borne by chicanos as well as the unjust, racist ways of his own kind from the chicano point of view.

its time to run to class. i really look forward to the books we have yet to read.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Salt of the Earth

I though this moving was great. It not only provides us with a criticism on American culture and prejudices against Mexican Americans in the 50s but also a criticism on the role of women in American society, whether they be of mexican decent or not. The migrant workers are treated as such, workers that come and go with the seasons, but mining does not require a season to work unlike fruit-picking. These families were not necessarily immigrants, on the contrary, they were born and raised on the tierra they worked. This is how the protagonist Esperanza Quintero introduces the small, mining town, as a town before and after the arrival of the Anglos. All along the Mexico-USA border, in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas there have been disputes about where the border should lie and who belongs on which side. This film criticizes important racial issues the time; rights for chicano workers (or equal rights to anglo workers), discrimination against American-born people of Mexican decent, and finally gender issues as well. 

This film was released in 1954 by Anglo director, Herbert J. Biberman.  Biberman was one of the original "Hollywood Ten", a group of ten directors who released a short film in which they all condemned McCarthyism and Hollywood Blacklisting. All ten were briefly jailed in 1950. When Salt of the Earth was released in 1954, it was banned from being viewed by the American public. This says even more about the state and depth of racism and the government. Even more so because this film was based on a strike that actually occurred in New Mexico. I think that the film was banned for a number of reasons besides the fact that Biberman was blacklisted by the US government such as the the critique of Anglos' racism towards American-born Mexicans, the Marxist movement of the workers revolting and staying strong by fighting together against their employer, lack of rights for chicanos and non-existent support from the American government, early feminist movements...the list goes on. Regardless, the fact that this film was banned is important and interesting and worth discussion. (thanks wikipedia!)

I thought this movie was extremely relevant to our class and chicano culture. Good pick Jon.