Presenting Mexican-American literature as one of the immigrant literatures produced in the United States calls for a prompt caveat. Unlike any other group of immigrants, Mexican Americans "have been here for 450 years and for 45 seconds"; hence, some of them do not consider themselves immigrants, claiming that not they, but rather the border, has migrated. As a community they locate themselves somewhere between the native and the colonial experience, recognizing a centuries-long process of (im)migration while simultaneously claiming a presence prior to Anglo-Americans. Indeed, whether directly or indirectly, today's Mexican-American community traces its physical and spiritual presence in the North American Southwest to pre-Anglo-American times. One can claim, for that matter, that a writer like Rudolfo Anaya, whose roots in New Mexico go very deep, may well be a remote descendant of the union between a Spanish conquistador heading toward the seven cities of Cibola and an Indian woman from the northern provinces of New Spain.
Given the historical precedence of Spaniards, Indians, and Mexicans in the American Southwest, the question that arises is, When did Mexican-American literature begin? For one thing, the Relaciones or Narracion de los naufragios ( 1542) by Cabeza de Vaca--arguably, the "father" of Mexican-American literature--preceded by almost a century John Smith Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles ( 1624). One can argue that the sixteenth-century Spaniard's encounter with the American Indians prefigured the