New Immigrant Literatures in the United States: A Sourcebook to Our Multicultural Literary Heritage

By Alpana Sharma Knippling | Go to book overview
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American life in the person of an undocumented immigrant who eventually prefers to cross the border again, this time legally, and return to Mexico. Guillermo Gomez-Pena, the performance artist and writer, clearly states his option for "borderness" as a state of mind and a way of life. More recently, with The Other Side: Fault Lines, Guerrilla Saints, and the True Heart of Rock 'n Roll ( 1993), Rubén Martinez has brought an internationalist, effervescent vision to the area.

Almost three decades after its renaissance, Mexican-American literature is certainly alive, probably in a more challenging way than ever. Echoing a heterogeneous community that lives in an increasingly complex society, the writers' response has been one of opening up to, acknowledging, the Other--be it the Anglo, the Mexican, or the Italian--and they have thus reached a truer knowledge of themselves. Together with other ethnic literatures--Native American, African-American, Asian-American--Chicano literature has successfully challenged and is revising the mainstream literary canon. The Health Anthology of American Literature displays a multiethnic perspective that acknowledges the Hispanic contribution to American literature from Cabeza de Vaca Relaciones to contemporary writers like Tomas Rivera or Sandra Cisneros. In the past ten years Chicano literature has also made a considerable breakthrough overseas. Universities in Germany, France, Spain, and Austria have been organizing lectures and international conferences on Chicano and, more generally, on Hispanic literature in the United States.

If, according to Octavio Paz, the great Latin American writers have actually transgressed the Castillan idiom, it would seem that the best Mexican-American writings are the result of a double transgression--that of English and Spanish. By explicitly and implicitly using each or both languages, the Chicano author does more than invent: he or she uncovers the latent, virtual possibilities of an interlingual-intercultural idiom. The most valuable Mexican-American writings--and the best is yet to come--actually invalidate binary oppositions. Rather, their existential, cultural, and formal raison d'être lies in a search for inter-American complementary differences and areas of confluence.


NOTES
1.
A cultural term that favorably describes the process of miscegenation, the mixture of different racial backgrounds. Chicanos in the 1960s started using the term with pride to refer to their mixed-blood heritage, European and Indian.
2.
Following the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, the terms "Mexican-American" and "Chicano" will be used interchangeably without the nationalist connotation the latter acquired during the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
3.
Originally zoot-suited Chicano youths in Los Angeles during the 1940s, pachucos came to refer more generally to Chicano "dudes" from the barrios as characterized by their dress, invented language (calo), and socially marginal behavior.

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