Hearing the Voices: Women and Home and Ana Castillo's "So Far from God"
Lanza, Carmela Delia, MELUS
I tie up my hair into loose braids, and trust only what I have built with my own hands. --Lorna Dee Cervantes
In the nineteenth century, Louisa May Alcott made subjects of objects when she wrote her domestic novel Little Women, which centered on four sisters and their mother during the American Civil War. Alcott created a home for the March girls that was removed from the world of war and male supremacy. In the twentieth century most critics who have devoted their attention to home space and domestic ritual have concentrated on white, middle-class homes (Matthews xvi). It is necessary, however, to begin including working-class homes and the homes of women of color in this dialectic. The subject of home space has not gone unnoticed by some women of color, like cultural theorists bell hooks and Gloria Anzaldua, and novelist Toni Morrison. Each of these writers is re-visioning the home space and its significance regarding gender roles, racism and spirituality in the homes of working-class women of color. For example, in her essay, "Homeplace: a Site of Resistance," bell hooks is not interested in further exploration of the "white bourgeois norms (where home is conceptualized as politically neutral space)" (47). Instead, she uses her theory to examine the "homeplace" of African American women, a space she defines as a "site of resistance and liberation struggle" (43).
Bell hooks's theory on "the homeplace" can be used to explore the domestic world that Ana Castillo has created in her novel, So Far From God. In this novel, Castillo, like hooks and other women writers of color, constructs the home as a "site of resistance" for the woman of color living in a racist and sexist world. Deconstructing physical, political and spiritual boundaries, Castillo takes on the role Gloria Anzaldua describes in her book, Borderlands/La Frontera, as "the new mestiza' (79). With its playful and ironic style, and its insistence on ambiguity and contradictions, So Far From God offers a postmodern inversion of Alcott's Little Women. Both works are American novels dealing with the primary relationships of four sisters; however, Castillo's novel is concerned with four Chicana sisters and a mother living a working class life in Tome, New Mexico. According to Cordelia Chavez Candelaria, Castillo is "one of the earliest Chicana voices to articulate a sexual politics through textual poetics" (146), and this is clearly seen in So Far From God. Unlike Alcott's created home space that for the most part is politically neutral, the home space in Castillo's novel is infused with political resistance. It is a place where women of color have an "opportunity to grow and develop" spiritually and politically, which is not always possible or allowable in a "culture of white supremacy" (hooks 42).
The daughters in So Far From God are dealing with power relations that the March girls in nineteenth century middle class America did not even have to think about. The March girls, despite their own oppression in a patriarchal culture and their own sympathy for the poor and destitute, were part of the hegemony of white culture. The sisters in So Far From God, on the other hand, must construct a home space that will offer them sustenance, security and spirituality in order to move into a white world as subjects. This is crucial, for according to hooks, "when a people no longer have the space to construct homeplace, we cannot build a meaningful community of resistance" (47). The daughters in So Far From God are given the opportunity to "reconceptualize ideas of homeplace, once again considering the primacy of domesticity as a site for subversion ..." (hooks 48).
I am sitting at my kitchen table, thinking about the anger in Ana Castillo's novel--and how it is masked in humor. A narrator's voice disguising rage with flippancy, telling the story of four daughters who cannot live their entire lives in their mother's home, womb, female space. My baby starts to cry--he is angry because he's hungry, and I have to stop thinking about why Caridad is wearing Fe's wedding gown when she floats across the room in her healing vision. I get a bottle for the baby and it is love in action; it is a political act; it is a moment when my private sphere, my home space is directly connected to the growth of another human being. I think about what Louise Erdrich said regarding mothering and how that relates to my home, my so-called private life:
One reason there is not a great deal written about what it is like to be the mother of a new infant is that there is rarely a moment to think of anything else besides that infant's needs. Endless time with a small baby is spent asking, "What do you want? What do you want?" (38)
It is the opposite of war. The ego is put aside; ideas, philosophies, theories all shrink down in the chthonic force of sustaining life--feeding another person.
It is in this continuous state of childbirth, moving into grace with all my resistance that I want to say, "Leave me alone, I'm busy." But I don't. According to Clarissa Pinkola Estes "There is a saying, `You can't go home again.' It is not true. While you cannot crawl back into the uterus again, you can return to the soul-home. It is not only possible, it is requisite" (284). I wash and sweep within the four walls and create stories; and like Ana Castillo, Toni Morrison, Gloria Anzaldua, and Louise Erdrich, I want to give voice to the "cultural silence of the domestic sphere" (Wright 113). Writing a poem while writing a poem in my home space.
In the first chapter of So Far From God, the voice of the matriarchy is clearly heard through the mother, Sofi, when her daughter, La Loca, comes back from the dead. After Loca awakens from her other state of consciousness (whether she actually dies or suffers from epilepsy is irrelevant), opens her coffin and flies up to the church roof, the priest immediately declares his judgement by asking, "'Are you the devil's messenger or a winged angel?'" (23). He is embodying the voice of institutions--Christianity, patriarchy. La Loca can either be a devil or an angel, a virgin or a whore according to his linear thinking. Sofi, however, will not allow this destructive language of dichotomy to continue. She demands in the voices of Coatlicue, Hestia, Demeter, Guadalupe:
`Don't you dare! ... Don't you dare start this about my baby! If our Lord in this heaven has sent my child back to me, don't you start this backward thinking against her; the devil doesn't produce miracles! And this is a miracle, an answer to the prayers of a brokenhearted mother ...' (23)
Sofi is the head of her home, a home she has created for her daughters. For one daughter, Loca, the home is the only space she can call her own. She stays home, not playing the role of angel or devil, and is "without exception, healing her sisters from the traumas and injustices they were dealt by society--a society she herself never experienced firsthand" (27). As for the other daughters, they "had gone out into the world and had all eventually returned to their mother's home" (25). They become trapped in the "quest-pattern that has dominated Western literature" (Romines 7). They are unwilling to accept what Kathryn Allen Rabuzzi describes in her book about spirituality and domesticity, The Sacred and the Feminine: Toward a Theology of Housework, as the "positive face of chaos, a letting go into possibilities that freedom from externally fixed routine allows" (153) and that external routine is the world of male domination and the world of racism. In the novel, the daughters can only face chaos when they reenter their mother's home and re-discover their identity, their spirituality, and their strength. Eventually all of the daughters, including La Loca, experience loss in the collision of their need to create a home space with the destructive forces outside.
where I am born, I fall in the snow you and I cannot open our mouths to the ice house of rules and minutes, quick thoughts of before buildings and I feel muscles in every brick, steel girder, I cannot breathe and try to explain what it feels like to live in a world as an alien. What is our place in the universe at a time that goddess and poet have both made their excuses leaving us biting our nails in the dark trying to turn the highway into a bowl, melting another iceberg with our tongues, "Suck on this," "housework doesn't suck because if it did, men would love it,"* *From a greeting card that was given to a friend. We wait inside Emily's poem, the freezing people walking in circles making our tombstone from a home and we can no longer resign or revision or remember our honey moon.
The first daughter to move away from the home and into the perilous and destructive outside world is Esperanza. She enters her "quest-pattern" when she chooses to leave home and work as a television anchorwoman in Washington, D.C. On the surface, her decision appears sensible: "... it was pretty clear to her that there was no need of her on the homefront. Her sisters had recovered" (46) from their encounters with physical and emotional abuse. Esperanza also believes her mother no longer needs her because her father has returned home years after abandoning the family. Esperanza, however, misjudges her own position and the source of power within her family. In turning away from her home, her mother, her sisters, she is turning away from "the great and terrifying mother earth from whom all life emerges, but to whom it likewise all returns" (Rabuzzi 51). Her sisters continue to need her and her father is as ineffective now as he has always been. Esperanza is deceived by the male values that dominate the outside world in the novel; in turning from the female world of her home space (which her mother and sisters created) to the male world of war, she is moving towards self-destruction and can only return home after she is dead, in the form of a spirit. At first she speaks through La Llorona, who is described in the novel as "a loving mother goddess" (163). La Llorona is a messenger who informs La Loca (they were on a "first-name basis" ) that Esperanza has died. After that, Esperanza is seen by all the members of the family including the father who is a bit disturbed by his "transparent daughter" (163). Sofi sees Esperanza as a little girl who "had had a nightmare and went to be near her mother for comfort" (163). Caridad has one-sided conversations with Esperanza talking mostly about politics, and La Loca sees and talks to her by the river behind their home.
As a spirit, Esperanza returns to the home space to be comforted by her mother and sisters and to also teach them. Once Esperanza becomes a spirit, she is no longer a victim or an object of the white world. She belongs to a world that Anzaldua boldly asserts exists, a spiritual world that "the whites are so adamant in denying" (38). It is no accident that the dead Esperanza communicates with La Llorona, "a woman who had been given a bad rap by every generation of people since the beginning of time ..." (Castillo 162-63). While she lived, Esperanza was also given a "bad rap." But in death, La Llorona is revisioned and so is Esperanza. Both are liberated from the boundaries of white culture. Both can finally return home--and the home can be a river or a mother's arms.
After Esperanza accepts her job in Washington, D.C., she is assigned to Saudi Arabia, a place about to erupt in war. Esperanza accepts this fate because she desires to move away from the home where the "mothers are the ones who actually have to change, feed, and connect with children for all their bodily functions," and move towards the "male saviors" whose "relative absence ... from homelife automatically places them in a privileged position" (Rabuzzi 19). It is ironic (or maybe not so ironic) that Esperanza, in choosing the male hero as her model--leaving home, participating in a patriarchal institution, war, because "'it's part of my job'" (48)--is really choosing torture and death. Esperanza is experiencing what Anzaldua aptly describes in La Frontera as "shutting down" (20). She is living with the fear of rejection from the outside culture and she is also living with the fear of losing her home, her mother, "La Raza" (20). Esperanza experiences this psychic paralysis. She is a woman of color who is:
Alienated from her mother culture, `alien' in the dominant culture, the woman of color does not feel safe with the inner life of her Self. Petrified, she can't respond, her face caught between los intersticios, the spaces between the different worlds she inhabits. (20)
It is only after Esperanza has died that she can return to her "mother culture."
Smoothing the sheets down on the bed, stroking a window pane, carrying a book to the table and I think of hands making him soup, carrying dirty underwear to the washing machine, ripping lettuce under cold water, stretching the chicken legs apart, slamming the ice tray against the table, holding, pushing, patting, kneading, punching the pillow down under my stomach and looking at the light spilling out to the street, "you are not my mother and you never will be," tasting my blood with honey on my finger, around the corners of my mouth and I wonder how I have lasted another moon cycle in this place.
Fe is another one of the daughters in So Far From God who chooses a patriarchal institution that moves her away from her home space and eventually destroys her. Fe chooses marriage and in a literal and symbolic way, it poisons her to death.
The daughter who chooses marriage, chooses to create a new domestic environment echoes the myth of Demeter and Persephone. Persephone does leave her mother but she eventually returns to her for at least some of the year's cycle:
Persephone therefore has two homes: her home of origins with her mother and her present adult home with her husband. Because the story is told from the perspective of her mother, Persephone's homecoming is her ascent to Demeter, not her descent to Hades. (Rabuzzi 135)
Anzaldua discusses her own separation and return to her origins which involves the dance of rebelling, celebrating, and defending aspects of her own Chicana culture. She asserts that it was necessary for her to leave home in order "to live life on my own." Yet she concludes, "in leaving home I did not lose touch with my origins because lo mexicano is in my system. I am a turtle, wherever I go I carry `home' on my back" (21). Fe, in marrying Casimiro and moving to the land of "the long-dreamed-of automatic dishwasher, microwave, Cuisinart and the VCR" (171), is trying in her own way to return to her mother but she cannot truly find her way back because of her inability to view her home and her culture in all of its complexity. She can only look at her mother's home and her sisters as a source of embarrassment or pity:
As it was, while Fe had a little something to talk to Esperanza about, she kept away from her other sisters, her mother, and the animals, because she just didn't understand how they could all be so self-defeating, so unambitious. (28)
Fe wants desperately to re-vision her mother's home by making it sterile, shiny, closer to the definition of home by mainstream white culture. She cannot see the spiritual richness in her home. In fact, Fe describes one of her sisters, La Loca, as "a soulless creature" (28) because she always wears the same clothes and doesn't bother with shoes. For herself, Fe insists on imitating the mainstream culture with a considerable amount of effort: "Fe was beyond reproach. She maintained her image above all--from the organized desk at work to weekly manicured fingernails and a neat coiffure" (28). Anzaldua points out that fear is the cause of this denial of home, a kind of "homophobia." She states:
We're afraid of being abandoned by the mother, the culture, la Raza, for being unacceptable, faulty, damaged ... To avoid rejection, some of us conform to the values of the culture, push the unacceptable parts in the shadows. Which leaves only one fear--that we will be found out and that the Shadow-Beast will break out of its cage. (20)
At the beginning of the novel, Fe embraces mainstream white culture; she wants to be like the white women she works with. She chooses "three gabachas" from her job to be her bridesmaids instead of her sisters (29). But instead of gaining any power, she ends up wrapped in the shower curtain, screaming her way back to the matriarchal circle of her mother and sisters. Her first boyfriend, Tom, decides he isn't ready for intimacy and commitment. And it is her mother and her sisters who become the healers and nurse, who clean and pray over Fe. Fe loses her voice as a result of her constant screaming yet she still does not learn how to integrate her home space with the world outside. Eventually, Fe marries one of her cousins, Casimiro. She still desires to live in a suburb in a house that does not smell the way her mother's house smells.
Fe's journey does end back at home and she is finally able to see her home as a source of comfort, wisdom and spirituality but it is only after the outside world has done its best to destroy her. After being exposed unknowingly to a very toxic chemical, Fe goes home to die:
A year from the time of her wedding, everything ended, dreams and nightmares alike, for that daughter of Sofi who had all her life sought to escape her mother's depressing home--with its smell of animal urine and hot animal breath and its couch and cobijas that itched with ticks and fleas; where the coming and goings of the vecinos had become routine because of her mom's mayoral calling ... Despite all this and more, Fe found herself wanting to go nowhere else but back to her mom and La Loca and even to the animals to die just before her twenty-seventh birthday. Sofia's chaotic home became a sanctuary from the even more incomprehensible world that Fe encountered that last year of her pathetic life. (171-72)
In Fe's chase for the American Dream, she only finds infertility, deception, and ultimately a death that unlike her sisters' deaths, offers no spiritual transformation or resurrection: "Fe just died. And when someone dies that plain dead, it is hard to talk about" (186).
Caridad, the other sister who leaves, like Fe and Esperanza also finds violence and ultimate destruction in the world outside the home. Early in the novel Caridad is physically attacked. It is a brutal sexual invasion, an attack on the female body:
Sofi was told that her daughter's nipples had been bitten off. She had also been scourged with something, branded like cattle. Worst of all, a tracheotomy was performed because she had also been stabbed in the throat. (33)
Caridad's attack is treated by her society as merely a cause for prayer, because "the mutilation of the lovely young woman was akin to martyrdom" (33). And it is treated with contempt by the police department who felt she deserved what she got because of her sexual promiscuity. In the end Caridad is "left in the hands of her family, a nightmare incarnated" (33). Caridad's attack is an attack on the female, on what is closest to home--death, birth, blood. According to Anzaldua in Borderlands/La Frontera:
The female, by virtue of creating entities of flesh and blood in her stomach (she bleeds every month but does not die), by virtue by being in tune with nature's cycles, is feared. Because, according to Christianity and most major religions, woman is carnal, animal, and closer to the undivine, she must be protected. Protected from herself. Woman is the stranger, the other. She is man's recognized nightmarish pieces, his Shadow-Beast. The sight of her sends him into a frenzy of anger and fear. (17)
Caridad becomes "the stranger, the other" when she is attacked, and she is only healed through her sisters and mother at home. She floats through the living room wearing Fe's wedding gown and is beautiful again; her wounds all vanish because La Loca prays for her. She moves into a transcendent world by no longer existing as an object for the world. Instead, Caridad meets an older woman, Dona Felicia, a surrogate mother who teachers her to become a healer. Dona Felicia is the one who points out the power that Caridad and her family possess:
All they did at the hospital was patch you up and send you home, more dead than alive. It was with the help of God, heaven knows how He watches over that house where you come from.... (55)
Therefore, it is through the rituals of the home that Caridad enters into a spiritual life. Caridad's renewed life "became a rhythm of scented baths, tea remedies, rubdowns, and general good feeling" (63). She makes particular chores like dusting her altar and her statues and pictures of saints, taking baths, and cleaning her incense brazier part of her spiritual life. She takes on the role of a priestess, who "enacts her purification rites primarily for her own benefit" (Rabuzzi 114).
In the outside dominant culture where "We've been taught that the spirit is outside our bodies or above our heads somewhere up in the sky with God" (Anzaldua 36), Caridad's actions may be perceived as "cultlike" or even superstitious. But for women of color, her actions not only contradict what hooks identified as "white bourgeois norms (where home is conceptualized as politically neutral space)" (47), they re-connect and re-member the home to the body to the spirit.
Caridad's mentor, Dona Felicia, creates a home in her trailer that is overflowing with the smells of beans cooking and incense burning. She is creating in her home "the spiritual life and ceremonies of multi-colored people" (Anzaldua 69) and is moving out of the "consciousness of duality" (Anzaldua 37). There is nothing neutral about her home (as there is nothing neutral about Sofi's home, filled with the smells of animals). They do not imitate the white culture with the "white sterility they have in their kitchens, bathrooms, hospitals, mortuaries and missile bases" (Anzaldua 69). Instead, Caridad and Dona Felicia's homes echo Anzaldua's words on institutionalized religions and home:
Institutionalized religion fears trafficking with the spirit world and stigmatizes it as witchcraft.... In my own life, the Catholic Church fails to give meaning to my daily acts, to my continuing encounters with the `other world.' It and other institutionalized religions impoverish all life, beauty, pleasure. (37)
Anzaldua also writes about her own home rituals and how they are strongly connected to her creative and spiritual life:
I make my offerings of incense and cracked corn, light my candle. In my head I sometimes will say a prayer--an affirmation and a voicing of intent. Then I run water, wash the dishes or my underthings, take a bath, or mop the kitchen floor. (67)
Despite Caridad's rejection of institutionalized religions and her attempts to create a protective home space for herself, whether it is in a trailer or in a cave, she is again terrorized by the outside world. The woman she loves, Esmeralda, is raped by Francisco, a man who is obsessed with Caridad. Because of this man's desire to own a woman at any cost, because of his "machismo," which Anzaldua defines as a need to "put down women and even to brutalize them" (83) (a concept which Anzaldua connects to racism and shame), Caridad and Esperanza both commit suicide at Acoma. They go to Acoma after Esmeralda's attack, and when Caridad realizes that Esmeralda was violated, and that Francisco followed them, they hold hands and jump off the mesa and are taken by Tsichtinako, "the Invisible One who had nourished the first two humans, who were also both females" (211). This spirit leads both women back to the womb, back to a safe home:
not out toward the sun's rays or up to the clouds but down, deep within the soft, moist dark earth where Esmeralda and Caridad would be safe and live forever. (211) we cannot talk, it is better to only hear the water running in the kitchen sink dreaming of rooms and you sitting across from me saying "yes, yes I will defend you, I know exactly what I will say" but after you leave your words change, you lie and eat food my dead grandmother prepares and I know I must change all my poems now, throwing books at you in front of my parents' house and you laugh and hold your breath waiting for the hysterical woman to stop so you can go on walking down the street, so you can go on driving in the car, so you can go on your horse to another town and fuck another woman with your words, your money and your gun.
As long as woman is put down, the Indian and the Black in all of us is put down. The struggle of the mestiza is above all a feminist one. As long as los hombres think they have to chingar mujeres and each other to be men, as long as men are taught that they are superior and therefore culturally favored over la mujer, as long as to be a vieja is a thing of derision, there can be no real healing of our psyches. We're halfway there--we have such love of the Mother, the good mother. The first step is to unlearn the puta/virgin dichotomy and to see Coatlapopeuh-Coatlicue in the Mother, Guadalupe. (Anzaldua 84)
The two women in the novel who do not leave home are the mother, Sofi, and one daughter, La Loca. Both women look to their home space as a source for spiritual growth and as a reconnection between their own culture and the outside dominating culture. Neither Sofi nor Loca desire the objects, the static role or the sterile, domestic environment of mainstream white culture. They are rooted in their own history and at the same time, they accept their world in its playful state of constant change, and contradictions. This tension between rootedness and flexibility is observed by Anzaldua in Borderlands/La Frontera:
Los Chicanos, how patient we seem, how very patient ... We know how to survive. When other races have given up their tongue, we've kept ours. We know what it is to live under the hammer blow of the dominant norteamericano culture. But more than we count the blows, we count the days the weeks the years the centuries the eons until the white laws and commerce and customs will rot in the deserts they've created, lie bleached. Humildes yet proud, quietos yet wild, nosotros los mexicanos-Chicanos will walk by the crumbling ashes as we go about our business. Stubborn, persevering, impenetrable as stone, yet possessing a malleability that renders us unbreakable, we, the mestizas and mestizos, will remain. (63-64) Sofi was married to a gambler, Domingo, who was: little by little betting away the land she [Sofi] had inherited from her father, and finally she couldn't take no more and gave him his walking papers. Just like that, she said, `Go, hombre, before you leave us all out on the street! (214)
Domingo returns years later and attempts to win back Soil's affection but she has no desire to share a life with him again. She will no longer accept his perceptions as law: "'And don't call me `silly Sofi' no more neither.' ... `Do I look like a silly woman to you, Domingo?'" (109-10). Sofi is participating in what Norma Alarcon describes as "the ironically erotic dance that Castillo's speaking subjects often take up with men" (94); however, Sofi is no longer allowing herself to be victimized by the dance.
Domingo makes the mistake of losing Sofi's house in a gambling bet and that is one mistake Sofi cannot forgive, for her identity, her history is her house:
But the house, that home of mud and straw and stucco and in some places brick--which had been her mother's and father's and her grandparents', for that matter, and in which she and her sister had been born and raised--that house had belonged to her. (215)
Domingo's insensitivity and carelessness concerning this loss is what finally pushes Sofi to file divorce papers. She also manages to hold on to her house. Like the matriarchal goddess, Hestia, who will not allow any god to "share her strictly matriarchal province," and who nurtures a fire in the hearth that was "the center of the earth," (Walker 400), Sofi cannot let the fires in her home go out or let the fires consume her in rage. In her book, The Sacred and the Feminine, Rabuzzi describes this balancing act of the housewife who must carefully dance between her own home rituals, which includes spirituality, and outside influence:
... all the domestic rites a housewife performs are designed to maintain Hestia's fire properly. If she allows the fire to go out, her house is no longer a home ... if a homemaker allows the fire to rage out of control, her home will vanish along with its physical embodiment. (Rabuzzi 95)
Sofi balances her dedication to her home, her duty to "La Loquita, her eternal baby" and her devotion to herself when she decides to finally bring
closure to her failed marriage. Sofi does not act in a fit of rage; in fact with a charitable and flexible nature, she offers him a small house in Chimayo (which was built for Caridad). She may not want to be married to Domingo but she refuses to see him homeless.
This balancing act is also evident when Sofi, despite the fact that her own grandparents built the house, accepts an arrangement with the judge who won the house in a cockfight. He allows Sofi to "reside in her own home after she agreed to pay him a modest rent" (216).
Like her mother, La Loca uses the home space as a source of spiritual nourishment and a source of strength. Loca does all her work, whether it is healing her sisters or talking to La Llorona, within the domestic sphere. While living in her mother's home, Loca becomes a mythic force in her own right. She becomes a player in a scene far older and larger than her individual self. No longer does she participate in profane historical time; instead she is participating in mythic time (Rabuzza 96). Loca visits hell, heals her sisters Fe and Caridad, and can smell other people's agony. She participates in a "mortal collision between the rituals of a house" (Romines 198) when she describes to Sofi how she can smell her father's spiritual pain:
`Mom,' La Loca said, `I smell my dad. And he was in hell, too.... Mom, I been to hell. You never forget that smell. And my dad ... he was there, too.' `So you think I should forgive your dad for leaving me, for leaving us all those years?' Sofi asked. `Here we don't forgive, Mom.... Only in hell do we learn to forgive and you got to die first.... Mom, hell is where you go to see yourself. This dad out there, sitting watching T.V., he was in hell a long time.' (41-42)
Loca, like Hestia, is a virgin who is "the representative of pure homelife" (Rabuzzi 95). Since her experience of death and resurrection at age three, Loca never leaves home, and she only allows her mother to come close to her. She never went to school, to mass, to any social activity. Her entire world is the house, the stalls, and the river by the house. She does not attempt to assimilate into the dominant culture like her sisters, Fe and Esperanza. She plays the violin without having to go to a teacher outside the home; she just learns using her own ability and talent. Loca doesn't rely on mainstream institutions for anything, whether it be to gain knowledge or spirituality in her life.
Yet the world comes to Loca in the shape of a disease, AIDS. Castillo does not explain how Loca contracts the disease, which adds to Loca's role in the novel as a character who is larger than her own self (Rabuzzi 96). The disease, which Castillo describes as the "Murder of the Innocent" (243), seeks Loca out.
In the end, like Caridad, Loca is taken away by a female deity, the Lady in Blue who is wearing a horsehair vest under her habit. The lady can be Guadalupe, La Llorona, "My-Mother-Who-Gives" Coatlicue--all aspects of the goddess who was "usurped of ancient feminine prerogatives" (Walker 526) by the outside culture but has found a voice within the home space. Loca, within her domestic sphere, is still disrupted by the racism and sexism of the patriarchy. She is the representative feminist healer and speaker operating from within the home. She is also the queer that Anzaldua speaks about when she says, "People, listen to what your joteria is saying" (85). And because of the disease she contracts, a disease of the postmodern world, she, like her sisters, Esperanza, Fe and Caridad, is a representative victim of the patriarchy. For only Sofi remains at the end of the novel, as the president of Mothers of Martyrs and Saints, an organization that worships another symbol of the home, the womb.
I wanted to write about this dream and call it "peeling garlic" smelling my fingers hours after I cooked and no, I do not believe women would start a war because they are not looking at the beginning or the end
What is home? Is it "the space in which you feel secure enough to be most fully yourself" (Rabuzzi 139)? Is domestic ritual only a private act? "I am writing a book, performing a public act that seems a far cry from my turkey dressing," writes Romines (293). Is it? What do women learn in the home? Is the "place where all that truly mattered in life took place--the warmth and comfort of shelter, the feeding of our bodies, the nurturing of our souls. There we learned dignity, integrity of being; there we learned to have faith" (hooks 41-42). Anzaldua writes, "I am a turtle, wherever I go I carry home on my back" (21). I stand outside, bleeding. I watch the lunar eclipse, a heavy moon pulling on my womb; the moon is slowly disappearing above my house, and I hear my baby breathing under my skin. Five months ago, home for him was my body. I want to join the voices of the private and public that will not look at what is done in the home as disconnected to what is done outside the home, that will not disconnect the female body from the female spirit. I want to join the force "making a new culture--una cultura mestiza--with my own lumber, my own bricks and mortar and my own feminist architecture" (Anzaldua 22).
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Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1987.
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Carmela Delia Lanza Crownpoint Institute of Technology
Carmela Delia Lanza is an English instructor on the Navajo Reservation, at Crownpoint Institute of Technology. She is currently working on her dissertation, which involves a study of spirituality. Some of her recent publications can be found in The Emily Dickinson Journal, Voices in Italian Americana, and Caliban.…
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Publication information: Article title: Hearing the Voices: Women and Home and Ana Castillo's "So Far from God". Contributors: Lanza, Carmela Delia - Author. Journal title: MELUS. Volume: 23. Issue: 1 Publication date: Spring 1998. Page number: 65. © 2007 The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnics Literature of the United States. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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