The Collected Stories of Maria Cristina Mena

The Collected Stories of Maria Cristina Mena

The Collected Stories of Maria Cristina Mena

The Collected Stories of Maria Cristina Mena

Synopsis

Mena's stories, written between 1913 and 1931, portray life in Mexico before and during the Revolution of 1910 in stories that depict class hierarchy and social customs under Porfirio Diaz, the changing roles of women, the influences of Spain and the United States, and the effects of capitalism and modernization.

Excerpt

Born in Mexico City, María Cristina Mena (1893-1965) emigrated to New York City at the age of fourteen before the Mexican Revolution of 1910 (Simmen 39). In the United States, she later published a series of short stories in English in prominent U.S. magazines. Although Mena’s fiction has been analyzed in literary publications and dissertations, studied in classes, discussed at conferences, and included in anthologies and criticism of early twentieth century Chicana literature, her stories have not been collected until now. This anthology includes her narratives in American Magazine and The Century Magazine, as well as stories recently recovered from Cosmopolitan and The Household Magazine. Because she wrote for a critical group of editors who expected an appealing version of life in Mexico, her stories were largely dismissed in studies of Chicano literature. However, more recent readings by Chicana theorists and literary critics, particularly those who recuperate traditional Mexican figures such as La Malinche and Coatlicue, provide a new theoretical lens through which to read Mena’s stories. She was not only a “local color” writer in the canonical sense of the term; she artfully responded to contemporary political and social issues. In particular, her characters reveal the changing roles of women in relation to U.S.

For example, see Paredes 49-50 and Tatum 33.

In Chicano Literature, Tatum characterizes Mena as a “local color” writer and criticizes her “obsequious” characters: “María Cristina Mena is a fine writer whose short stories and sketches appeared early in this century in the Century and American magazines. Unfortunately, her talents are undermined by her tendency to create obsequious Mexican characters who fit comfortably within the American reader’s expectations. This results in trivial and condescending stories” (33). For a revisionist reading of multicultural “local color writers,” including Mena, see Ammons and Rohy.

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