LITR 4340 American Immigrant Literature Lecture Notes

Mexican Americans: Immigrant / American Dream story--or another Minority?

Pancho Villa

The US-Mexican War, 1846-48;  Some History of Mexican Immigration: "100 Years in the Back Door, Out the Front"; Gloria Anzaldua; San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site

 

response to midterms

most midterms are in > Model Assignments research proposals

email with grade report by sometime this weekend . . . welcome to reply, discuss

next Tuesday, review midterms and rationale for this type of exam

 esp. Essay

preview:

"literary devices"

historical backgrounds

built back into Midterm1 Essay draft, extend into Midterm2 Essay draft

 

 

test-taking

use resources (including assignment), organize materials

coordination of exam with objectives

 

 

Mexican Americans as unique immigrants b/c of proximity to homeland, shifting border, cultural contact

 

 

language as political correctness > learning

critical thinking

terms > standard assumptions, working definitions that can be varied

learn rules in order to learn how to bend and break them; can' break rules if you don't know what they are

terms enter dialogue with each other

minority + immigrant > New World Immigrants

 

 

tradition / modernity

 

Annie Murphy Paul, ďReading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer.Ē Time 3 June 2013

 

 

Latino Americans

 

Sandra Cisneros, "Barbie-Q" (IA 252-253)

assimilation or resistance?

252 "Every time the same story"--the girls' make-believe is universal, not separate except by its limits in terms of acquisition--but most readers would say "they're being girls" rather than "they're being Mexicans"

"Barbie" as symbol of vanilla white America

but . . . 

253 "So what? . . . " could be a minority or multicultural identification. Accepting the water-soaked and sooty Barbies as they are rather than insisting on Barbie-perfection could be an acceptance of a different status

But maybe stretching too small a story to too big a point

Any other takes on "Barbie-Q"?

Woman Hollering Creek and other Stories

House on Mango Street

Caramelo (2003)

 

Cisneros's style

ability to write miniatures, teachable lengths--even poor readers can concentrate that long

evocative, impressionistic, sensory, dreamy

charming at various depths:

  • adolescent viewpoint > adolescent readership: childhood always seems fresh, recent, magical but potentially threatening

  • adult level: symbols and archetypal patterns with multiple or ambiguous resonances

can be intellectualized, thematized or not

 

Nash Candelaria, "El Patron" (IA 221-228)

voluntary participation?

226 how old when you left Mexico?

color code

221 brown-skinned kewpie doll

law (generally speaking, "the law" works for the dominant culture, but a minority culture may see the law as only more trouble.)

222 the law!

223 Pancho Villa

(Identification with Pancho Villa would be resistance)

 

gender inequality

222 "woman"

 

Dominant culture moment--Candelaria:

extended family vs. individualism

 

221 Dios, El Papa, y el patron > traditional culture = hierarchy of decision-making, not left to individual freedom of choice

223 men + duty

Patron 227-8--reason and conscience override traditional social structures

 

p. 224--Tito + college experience / protest against American corporate imperialism

How does Tito's status declare some degree of dominant culture status?

228 Junior and Lolita were squabbling over what channel to watch on TV

 

Nash Candelaria, "El Patron" (IA 221-228)

221 Dios, El Papa, y el patron > traditional culture = hierarchy of decision-making, not left to individual freedom of choice

221 descending order (hierarchy)

221 bus in San Diego > L.A. and us

221 Southwestern U

221 brown-skinned kewpie doll

221 you macho, chauvinist jumping bean!

222 go to the kitchen with the other women

222 "woman"

222 the state university

222 the law!

223 My father fought with Pancho Villa

223 fought los Jaqpones in the Pacific

223 men + duty

223 "No blood for Mideast oil! Boycott the Exxon army!"

223 rich college boys

223 [cf. Big Fat Greek Wedding]

224--Tito + college experience / protest against American corporate imperialism

225 just as stubborn as his father and sister

226 Sons are supposed to obey their fathers

226 how old when you left Mexico? What did your father say? [preview Pilgrims and dominant culture]

227 only the older children had hear Papa's story of how he left Mexico

227 el patron in Washington

 

227-8--reason and conscience override traditional social structures

228 Junior and Lolita were squabbling over what channel to watch on TV

 

Gary Soto, "Like Mexicans"

301 Grandmother's advice: don't intermarry; Mexicans as distinct, separate identity (> minority)

302 Mother: barber--they make good money, but Mother in the kitchen (gender identity / inequality)

assimilation:

302 my brother and David King + Scott, 2nd-generation Okie

302 talked about school and friends and record albums

302 never marry an Okie / Mexican (separation, distinctness x-assimilation)

but . . .

302 But the woman I married was not Mexican but Japanese [intermarriage, melting pot as immigrant story]

303 "Marry a Mexican girl" > someone of my own social class

303 Plymouth [> Pilgrims! Of Plymouth Plantation--i. e., dominant culture]

303 Japanese Methodist Church

304 I was a college student, hinting that I could take care of her daughter

304 image of kitten as outside wanting in (the "wanting" is the essential part of assimilation)

304 three kittens clawing and screaming to get in. Like Mexicans, I thought. 

 

 

 

 

Reyna Grande (1975- )

83 father N > $ < house in Mexico

Family to predominantly Latino Highland Park, Los Angeles

Immigration history Mexico

Circular migratory pattern

 

83-4 U.S. Immigration and Reform Act of 1986

Legal permanent residents

 

84 The Distance Between Us 2012

Dedicated to father and all DREAMers

 

Book One, Ch 19 

84 May 1985, 10 years old

84 my cousin Felix, Abuelita Chinta

84 father calls, shock

 85 Carlos, Mago > Abuela Evitaís [extended family]

85 heart beat so hard it hurt

85 Mango grove, sugarcane field

 85 Grandmotherís neighborhood, La Guadalupe

85 Don Rubenís house turned into liquor store

85 Drunks like Tio Crece

85 Betty

85 I could kiss Juan Gabrielólyrics of song

 86 Elida smirked, rags, beggars

86 The Man Behind the Glass, in the flesh

86 skin color of rain-soaked earth

86 Ashamed

Papi = Natalio

 

87 Looking back . . . how awkward for him as well [empathy]

87 Mila . . . woman who had broken up my family

 

87 El Otro Lado

87 Light-skinned, light makeup, stylish outfit x Mamaís olive skin + pants [color code]

87 clothes: peaches, browns + olive skin

87 Mila five years older, looks younger

 

88 betraying my mother

88 Money for pot of menudo [a.k.a. pancita]: traditional Mexican soup of beef tripe (stomach) with peppers and other seasonings.

 88 baby dolls with blue eyes, smell of a new toy [dominant culture smell?]

88 wanted Papi to be kinder [Elida]

88 Mami, understood her anger

89 losing my hair once again fnf

89 Chata, special nickname

89 Inspected house he had built for us

89 Which . . . your room?

89 pajamas > scorpions 

 90 go home? Home?

90 Even though the house is finished, no jobs here > miserable poverty

90 Carlos . . . job? > school

[extended family]

90 Mila naturalized U.S. citizen

90 Flying back x coyote

90 Not coming back . . .

90 A new life in El Otro Lado

 

91 Mago all I have

 91 my motherís constant comings and goings

91 come back only to leave again

91 If Mago left me

91 Photograph on a wall

91 Only person who truly loved me

 

92 school, lied, envy, shame

 

93 bad things come to women who donít know their place fnf

93 Mila looked furiously at my grandmother fnf

93 Itís different for women in the U.S. . . . not treated like servants [traditional / modern]

93 Mago: wonít go without Reyna

93 maternal instincts won over need to save herself

93 take all my children back with me

93 Betty . . . fly . . . U.S. citizen

93 Born in the U.S. a privilege

 

94 sneak across border like a thief

 94 la migra

94 Tio Gary: the opportunity to have a better life

94 canít have Betty

94 ďShe has never had a good vision of the future.Ē

 

95 Laws in the U.S.

95 If you had just listened to your mother . . . .

95 Mago: canít leave our little sister behind

95 Record shop, different side to Mami

95 Ever since El Otro Lado had taken her away

95 It was there, except not when she was with us

 

96 stubbornness, pride, or he won

 96 the mother she was before she left

97 left and left and left

 

Book One, Ch 20

 

97 Attempts across the border

97 Blame myself

97 Toothache fnf

 

 98 too young to fully grasp the danger

98 Thousands who had died

98 My fault

98 Lose my job

 

 99 an unwanted, parentless child [children]

99 Feeling torn about our situation

99 Why does it have to be so hard?

 

100 cf. church pilgrimage

100 sounds coming from la migra

100 every step farther away from Mami and Betty

 

101 Papi like a frightened animal 

 101 helicopter . . . animals . . . . lizards

101 I want to live in that perfect place . . . . to have a family

101 Carlos (characterization fnf )

101 place called Chula Vista

 

102 what El Otro Lado looked like

102 Palm trees

102 The freeway . . . amazing so enormous fnf

102 Golden arches fnf

 

103 sunflower seeds . . . Mago reached out her hand [characterization]

103 Exit to Disneyland

103 Do everything . . . like speak English

103 Did what El Guero said

104 map Mago once shared with me

 104 Mami and I had switched places, but distance between us just as big

104 2000 miles between me

104 Your home now, Chata

104 Umbilical cord buried in Iguala

104 I promise Iíll never forget [where I came from]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Potential advantage of Mexican and Hispanic Literature

de-emphasis on race

fresh attention to class?

 

Question:

Will Mexican Americans assimilate and join dominant culture? Or remain separate and distinct as a minority culture?

Short answer: trends in both directions

 

What's at stake for educators?

Do we "celebrate difference" and emphasize multi-culturalism?

Or do we emphasize "a common culture?"

Recall controversies over bi-lingual education vs. English-only education.

Are we concerned with maintaining cultural diversity, or helping our students improve the economic quality of their lives?

Both? Mexican America as interesting cultural variation on immigrant-minority division

 

Third way? Neither immigrant nor minority, or both?

bi-lingual, bi-cultural society, esp. in the Southwestern United States--examples: "the Valley" in Texas culture, El Paso / Nuevo Laredo, San Diego / Tijuana in California

metaphor of "borders" often appears in Mexican-American identity: crossing and recrossing borders is parallel to maintaining outsider and insider identity

Mexican Americans may remain in the "divided" second-generation position for longer than other immigrant groups, owing to the special considerations below. In other words, all immigrant groups go through a stage of being both "native-land" and "American" before becoming "American," but Mexican Americans may prolong this indefinitely.

Why?

Special consideration

Mexican American population may increase so dramatically (especially in the Southwest) that there may not be as much of a dominant culture to assimilate to.

 

2. Are Mexican Americans immigrants or minorities?

Answer: some of both

"Mexican American" an inclusive term, potentially including Mexicans as well as any American of Mexican descent.

alternative term: Chicano (many local & historical variations on meaning)

also "la raza"--"the people," esp. Mexican Americans but may include other Hispanics

 

 

2. Are Mexican Americans immigrants or minorities?

Answer: some of both, or maybe a third identity

"Mexican American" an inclusive term, potentially including Mexicans as well as any American of Mexican descent.

alternative term: Chicano (many local & historical variations on meaning)

also "la raza"--"the people," esp. Mexican Americans but may include other Hispanics

 

Among all Hispanics . . . Mexican Americans may have the best claim on "minority" status.

LITR 4332 American Minority Literature (Minority) studies Mexican Americans as at least potentially a minority group comparable to African Americans and American Indians.

That course does not study all Hispanic or Latino groups of Non-Mexican Hispanics as minority groups. Each of these groups has their own story, but generally that story more closely resembles the "immigrant narrative" of the dominant culture than the "minority narrative" of African and Native America (definitely not immigrants). 

To answer the immigrant-minority question . . .

 the dominant culture of the United States, itself formed by immigration, primarily interprets the Mexican presence as immigration . . . .

This interpretation is justifiable according to statistics and contemporary national boundaries, laws, and definitions.

How do Mexican Americans fit the immigrant model?

Movement of large numbers of people across national boundaries, into USA for economic opportunities

"In 1970, the Mexican immigrant population [in the USA] was less than 800,000, compared to nearly 8 million in 2000."
(http://www.cis.org/articles/2001/mexico/release.html)

Some shifting of national allegiances (i. e., increasingly, immigrants or their children or grandchildren would no longer regard themselves as "Mexicans" but as "Americans.")

Some tendencies toward assimilation, though assimilation may take additional generations. Spanish > English

naming of children: Carlos > Kevin; Maria > Kristin.

Intermarriage with other ethnic groups (including dominant culture) appears more prevalent than for African Americans (maybe reflecting different Hispanic attitudes toward racial mixing)--cf. "Like Mexicans" + Japanese girlfriend

Mexicans have range in intermarriage, esp. compared to dominant culture

 

But divorce rate increases with every generation in USA

After some generations, numbers of Mexican Americans or Hispanics no longer identify themselves as such but simply consider themselves as "whites" or "Americans." (These numbers are indefinite and hard to track because such identifications are voluntary.)

Such assimilationist trends may increase beyond the Southwest; e. g., in parts of the Midwest a Latino surname may mean no more than an Italian or German surname.

 

How does Mexican American story differ from immigrant narrative? 

 

One obvious, non-controversial way that Mexican Americans diverge from the standard immigrant background

"Classic" or "Traditional" immigrant model involves immigrants (e. g., Asian Americans, European Americans) crossing water to reach USA, which may involve a different level of commitment--"cultural guillotine"

But Mexican Americans mostly cross on "land bridge," increasing possibility of return to home country and potentially decreasing commitment to assimilation to new country

(Check today's pictures)

 

 

Border between USA and Mexico is less natural than political or economic.

 

contrast U. S. weather maps:

 

 

 

Other implications:

water and air travel may imply minimal financial resources + commitment to change

land travel: poor people have always walked and hitched rides--back and forth

(This could have bearing on "model minority" immigrants like Asian Americans--supposed ethnic or cultural differences may really be class differences)

 

 

In what ways do Mexican Americans fit the minority model?

Some record of involuntary participation and exploitation: USA conquered and annexed parts of Mexico much as it conquered and annexed parts of Native America.

historical maps of American expansion in early 1800s

In this regard, Mexican Americans do not resemble immigrant groups but rather a minority group, esp. Native Americans, in that "they were here first" and didn't necessarily join

Mexican Americans often wish to retain Spanish language, especially in the home. This can resemble other immigrant groups, but the size of the Spanish-speaking community makes retention of other language more likely. Retention of unique speech habits can be a sign of minority status, as with African American dialect, Ebonics, etc.

Retention of extended families, with potential gender inequality and de-emphasis of education, individual striving

high birth rates, esp. early childbearing (tends to limit education, curtail upward mobility)

high dropout rates, also curtails upward mobility

some lack of emphasis on education and restriction to traditional roles involving men as outdoor workers, women as homebound. Some of this lack of emphasis on education may derive from Catholicism, which historically limited literacy to the priesthood, while Protestantism emphasized importance of literacy to individual believer. (Dominant culture as protestant.)

 

Question:

Will Mexican Americans assimilate and join dominant culture? Or remain separate and distinct as a minority culture?

Short answer: trends in both directions

What's at stake for educators?

Do we "celebrate difference" and emphasize multi-culturalism?

Or do we emphasize "a common culture?"

Recall controversies over bi-lingual education vs. English-only education.

Are we concerned with maintaining cultural diversity, or helping our students improve the economic quality of their lives?

Both? Mexican America as interesting cultural variation on immigrant-minority division

 

Third way? Neither immigrant nor minority, or both?

bi-lingual, bi-cultural society, esp. in the Southwestern United States--examples: "the Valley" in Texas culture, El Paso / Nuevo Laredo, San Diego / Tijuana in California

metaphor of "borders" often appears in Mexican-American identity: crossing and recrossing borders is parallel to maintaining outsider and insider identity

Mexican Americans may remain in the "divided" second-generation position for longer than other immigrant groups, owing to the special considerations below. In other words, all immigrant groups go through a stage of being both "native-land" and "American" before becoming "American," but Mexican Americans may prolong this indefinitely.

Why?

Special consideration

Mexican American population may increase so dramatically (especially in the Southwest) that there may not be as much of a dominant culture to assimilate to.

 

 

Mexican American as immigrant / minority

Richard Rodriguez, from Hunger of Memory 

Language

Rodriguez 229 I grew up victim to a disabling confusion: English x Spanish 

(Reconciliation of this confusion would tilt toward either immigrant or minority status--assimilation or separation?)

 

 

assimilation or resistance?

232 Rodriguez on bus with "ghetto black teenagers"

 

What's Rodriguez about with the black teenagers on the bus?

232 the sounds of the outsider

233 reinforces feelings of public separateness [i. e., resists assimilation, reinforces minority status]

 

Sometimes immigrants react strongly to minority groups in terms of whether to be identified with or against them

 

Rodriguez 231 somehow committed a sin of betrayal by learning English.  But betrayal against whom? . . . immediate family.

(This is more of a minority feeling--that you should not assimilate but stay with your people, rather than going over to the dominant culture)

(+ extended family)

 

Richard Rodriguez as important Mexican American author

Hunger of Memory first explicitly Mexican American book that many of my generation wrote

Politically a hot potato (which can also put him between immigrant and minority status)

Some of Hunger of Memory complains about problems with Affirmative Action--Rodriguez became a darling of conservative political groups, invited to conferences

But

In later books he came out of the closet and discussed his homosexuality, which got him disinvited . . . .

 

 

Dominant culture moment--Rodriguez:

230 "Pocho"--colorless or bland . . . becoming an America, forgets his native society.

Compare dominant culture as "unmarked" (example last week: Lucy's khaki skirt and tassel loafers in "Gussuk")

232 In public I expect most of the faces I meet to be the faces of strangers. (How do you do?) If meetings are quick and impersonal, they have been efficiently managed. . . .

My city seems silent until some ghetto black teenagers board the bus I am on. . . .

Compare "impersonality" to Dean Whiteside in "Soap and Water":

106  . . . the surgeon approaching with his tray of sterilized knives. She never looked into my eyes. She never perceived that I had a soul. . . .

Miss Whiteside had no particular reason for hounding and persecuting me. Personally, she didn't give a hang if I was clean or dirty. She was merely one of the agents of clean society, delegated to judge who is fit and who is unfit to teach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dominant culture moment--Soto:

303 Plymouth [> Pilgrims! Of Plymouth Plantation--i. e., dominant culture]

American consumer items gain status by association with Anglo culture--last text of semester: "Hunting Mr. Heartbreak"

compare Barbie doll in "Barbie-Q"