LITERATURE of THE UNdOCUMENTEd LATINO/A: ART EMbRACiNG LifE

By Johanyak, Debra | The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, September 3, 2012 | Go to article overview

LITERATURE of THE UNdOCUMENTEd LATINO/A: ART EMbRACiNG LifE


Johanyak, Debra, The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education


Latino/a immigration literature is a growing body of writing that is drawing increased interest and readership. While Diaspora literature has existed for thousands of years in cultures around the world. Hispanic immigration lit - especially works about undocumented or "illegal" immigrants - is relatively new, having strongly emerged in a variety of genres during the 20th and 21st centuries as an artistic representation of a people in transition.

The history leading up to the influx of Hispanic immigrants is complex. The Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 resulted in the LIS. obtaining a sizable region of land from Mexico that would become part of the Southwest territory of the United States. Just 50 years later, the Spanish American War in 1898 between Spain and the U.S. over Cuba's independence served as a major impetus for immigration at the turn of the 20th century. Between 1910 and 1940, the U.S. experienced extensive immigration by European as well as Mexican and Central American peoples. But some of these immigrante, particularly those south of the border, were neither an tornati call y welcome nor encouraged to stay. Later, during the Depression, approximately one million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were expelled, along with American-born offspring. But with the start of World War II, they were welcomed back once more until the 1950s, when Mexicans - then called "wetbacks" - were again demonized as an economic bane to a flourishing post-war economy.

When Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 m Cuba, immigration from that region likewise increased. Since the late 20th century until the present, extreme poverty' along with drug activity and gang wars in Mexico have led many to leave their homeland and immigrate to the United States for personal safety and economic security.

The transnational nature of immigration, sanctioned or otherwise, has brought to U.S. society a rich infusion of Hispanic natives with their stories, real and imagined, of survival and self-expression, to reveal die humanistic experiences of exile and displacement. Themes of Crossing borders, multiculturalism, dual identity and isolation are found in the impassioned writing of Latino/a authors striving to preserve their history while assimilating to a new and often hostile environment.

It is important to understand that Latino/a immigration literature encompasses a broad range of people from Central America, South America, Mexico and other Hispanic nations, including some in the Caribbean. Hispanic immigration writing spans lime and geographical space and includes a diverse range of experiences and voices that enrich Western culture and literary study.

Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands/La Frontera describes a personal depiction of the body as boundary with meaningful psychological implications of border theory. Americo Paredes, Mexican-American author who grew up in Brownsville, Texas, won a poetry contest at age 18. In 1967, he founded the Center for Folklore Studies at the University of Texas-Austin, where be taught. He is best known for his dissertation- derived publication, With His Pistol in His Hand. He went on to win numerous other awards in his field.

Literary analysis of Hispanic immigrant literature has recently emerged as a significant body of study. One of the most respected works in this field is El Sueño del Retorno (July 2011) by Nicolás Kanellos. The author and critic explains that immigration is one of the most significant themes in the literature of Híspanles residing in this country, uniting many peoples of various backgrounds and cultures under the proud banner of Latino/a authorship. Kanellos is the director of the U.S. Hispanic literary Heritage project, a definitive study written and recorded by immigrants from the Caribbean, Cuba, Mexico and Central America, among others, representing the Hispanic immigration experience for more than 150 years. Author of 30 books, Kanellos is director of Arte Publico Press and Brown Foundation Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston. …

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