Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage - Vol. 2

By Erlinda Gonzales-Berry; Chuck Tatum | Go to book overview

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"We can starve too": Américo Paredes'
George Washington Gómez and
the Proletarian Corrido

Tim Libretti

In analyzing the folk base of contemporary Chicano narrative and its relation to the corrido tradition, Ramón Saldívar argues "that contemporary Chicano narratives and other forms of novelistic discourse are to problematic mid-twentieth-century society what the epic heroic corrido was to the integrated world of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: self-consciously crafted acts of social resistance" (42). Chicano narrative emerged for Saldívar as a transitional form historically situated "between an integrated but distant heroic past and a fragmented and all-too-present reality" (47). This "shift from one symbolic form to another" demarcates, he argues, "the end of one historical experience and the beginning of another historical stage" (42). This shift or transition, however, should not be understood as an historical or cultural discontinuity, for the emergent practice of Chicano narrative still finds its conditions of production, its informing cultural politics, within the residual form of the corrido. Indeed, for Saldívar, one must understand "the corrido as a vital item of Chicano cultural politics and as a substantial part of the folk base of Chicano narrative" in order to establish "the historical specificity of that narrative and its work of resistance to the conditions of advanced postmodern American capitalism" (42).

The recovery of Américo Paredes' 1930s novel George Washington Gómez offers new empirical ground and thus presents a unique opportunity for studying this shift as the novel dramatizes both the decline of the corrido in its traditional ballad form with the concomitant and tragic forgetfulness of its resistance politics, as well as the necessity for maintaining and transforming the corrido as a way of seeking a new form to meet and comprehend the changing political requirements of the 1930s. Indeed, it is precisely in response to the changes and crisis in the developing capitalist order that Pare-

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