In the last few years, I have asked this question many times. I’ve sat contemplating it and its repucussions. In one way, we Chicano(a)s are so similar to our Latino brothers and sister. We have much in common. Yet, there are also many differences.
Wait a minute Ray, aren’t Chicano(a)s Latinos? Well, not to me.
People have to remember where I come from. I’m from that generation of activist Chicano(a)s, organizing in the community, in the school, and in the church. In my domain, it was not unlikely to see “Latino” and “Hispanic” within a circle and crossed out. This was not saying we didn’t like Latinos, but it was simply saying this was not us. We were Chicano(a)s. We are not immigrants.
Sure, you may say, "well Ray your parents came to the United States during the Mexican Revolution." We can say the same about others.
However, I’m one of those who follow Felipe Ortego’s scholarship. Just because they drew a border through are land, doesn’t make us immigrants. He compared it to Palestinians, their land taken away from them and then the Palestinians returning. Chicano(a)s (or before they call themselves such) are simply immigrating to back to their home.
Somehow, this has been mixed up. At the University of New Mexico, some wanted to change the name of their Chicano Studies program to Hispanic Studies, something that has happened at many universities. I heard the rumor at UT Austin that some though “Mexican American Studies” was too militant. I wonder what they thought about “Chicano Studies.” If you look back, many of the programs that chose "Mexican American" studies or some other name, as oppose to "Chicano Studies" have quickly demised.
The other thing that has happened is “Chicano Studies” being absorbed by “Latin American Studies,” two very different philosophies. Latin American Studies was historically dominated (I think even was founded) by White scholars.
Nevertheless, I’ll find Chicano(a) writers identifying themselves as “Latino.” I’m sure there is an identification question here. Of course, one may have to identify as something to sell books and do readings. But in a genre like Chicano(a) literature, Chicano(a) identification is one of the pillars. Nevertheless, this identification as “Latino” by some of our prominent Chicano(a) writers takes a stab at the foundations of Chicano(a) literature. I feel Ricardo Sanchez rolling in his grave. What is it, vato/vatona, are you Chicano or Latino? “Both” one would say…I’m still skeptical.
In editing “Pluma Fronteriza” and “Libros, Libros,” I come across this problem of identification. It’s sad to me because sometimes we don’t know who these writers are. For a long time in Chicano(a) literature, you knew who they were. Understand where I’m coming from. We started “Pluma Fronteriza” to highlight Chicana(o) writers from El Paso, Texas. However, as we went along, we knew could not tell the whole story of writers from EPT without including many of the other writers living in the area who were not Chicano(as), especially our Juarense brothers and sisters. Therefore, we included Latino(a)s in our picture. But even now, we get some corajes from some of our non-Chicano(a) writers in the tri-state region for calling them “Latino.” “Que pues Ray, why did you call me that.”
Well, back to our editing. When making a decision, it is very hard to place people into a group. Then why do it, you ask? I think it makes the reading quality better for the readers.
In addition, for our librarians and booksellers, it helps them out. Therefore, if the writer identifies as Hispanic, or the press identifies the writer as such, I place it under “Hispanic.” Most books have a section description for bookstores (e.g., “cultural studies/Hispanic,” “Chicano,” “Mexican American”), so we use that also in our decision. We sometimes place some Chicana(o) writers in the Hispanic category. Why? Well if you or your press is going to identify you or your book as such, that’s where you are going.
As for academic books, some also have a “Hispanic” identification. Most scholars I know view this with skepticism, without reading the book, “this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Before one even opens the book, for most Chicano(as), we start analyzing why the author or press used “Hispanic,” something placed on us by the Nixon administration. In addition, after questioning it, read the book with one eye open.
When we categorize, Latino has some of the same qualities. If it is an academic book, we wonder who are you talking about, Latin American in Latin America? Latinos in the US? Don’t get me wrong, there are many of our Latino(a) writers that our comfortable with that identification, especially those from south of Mexico. Then again, some are not. And this is not putting down any of our brothers and sisters from countries other than the US and Mexico.
Let’s get back to our original question: Is Chicano(a) literature becoming Latino literature? Notice I don’t say “Latino(a),” because that is seldom used. Latino lit has not gone through the evolution that our Chicana writers so graciously started in the latter part of the 20th Century. Or at least, it’s not as prominent.
I’m sure many writers who are Chicano(a)s will let themselves be identified as Latinos by their publishers for the sake of selling books. But at what sacrifice? Then what happens when you are a Chicano(a) writer and a press wants to publish you, but in their “Latino series.” Umh? I cut my writing carnales(as) some slack porque the publishing world es peor y difícil, so take any chance you get. But at what sacrifice?
I really don’t have an answer, just asking questions. Definitely there is a difference from the really good Latino writers and the post-Ricky Martin Latino writers, which I call the “Localisciensia,” after Martin removed what ever flavor “la vida loca” once had (see “Always Running,” “Locas,” and “Contigo” by Los Panchos). Now “Latino Literature” seems “pop,” chiklit. Moreover, I know there is some good chiklit out there, but by far not on the level of Castillo, Cisneros, Chavez, Lorna Dee, Demetria, etc.
I remember reading some of Felipe Ortego’s article and he wrote about how US anthologies, when they did include literature by “others” (trying to include Chicano(a) or Latinos(a)), they usually included Latin American writers like Paz, Garcia Marquez, Neruda, but seldom looked inward to what was being produced in the US.
Recently, an insert called “Hispanic Literature and Storytelling” was included in various papers like the Detroit News, Kansas City Star, San Francisco Chronicle among others. It was put together by Kathy Dahlstom and Mary Icobelli. It had an introduction by Gloria Rodríguez who works for a “Hispanic”-owned public relations firm. Rodriguez writes the introduction, and though she includes Sandra Cisneros, she writes as if the writers are foreign, indeed most are. Some are not though, but she says the insert focuses on “stories of men and women who have written and in many cases continue to write in the beautiful Spanish of their native lands.” Umh? This is more of viewing the indegenous people of this land as foreigners.
The insert is terribly outdated. It does not include many new books. There is another article called “World of Book Publishing Responds to Hispanic Influence,” which should have been titled “New York Publishers Respond to Hispanic Influence” because all then mention is New York publishers, mostly Rayo/HarperCollins. They have a little snidbit about Arte Público. I guess presses like Curbstone, U of AZ, UNM, and others have not been dong anything all these years. I’m being sarcastic for those of you in Orogrande.
Here are the writers mentioned as “Writers who have made their mark”:
Isabel Allende (Chile)
Oscar Hijuelos (Cuba)
Laura Restrebo (Colombia)
Esmeralda Santiago (Puerto Rico)
Victor Villasenor (US)
Hello??? Sometimes, I do not even know what Villaseñor is. Where is Abelardo Delgado who wrote the first Chicano collection of poems, or Estela Portillo Trambly who had the first prominent collection of short stories by a Chicana? How about Sandra Cisneros who’s House on Mango Street is in every bookstore in this country? How about Gloria Anzualdua who revolutionized the literature. Then again, to misidentify these writers a “Hispanic” would not be right either.
The insert also has short articles on Yuri Morales (Mexico) and Julia Alvarez. There is an article on “Hispanic” journalist and they mention Mirta Ojita, Maria Hinojosa, Elizabeth Vargas, Jorge Ramos, Ruben Salazar (hear the roll by Zeta), and Jose Marti. There is a short article on Don Quixote de la Mancha, Cervantes is also “Hispanic,” I guess. Another section describes “Hispanics” who have won the Nobel Prize. There is an article on some spoken word artists like Mayda del Valle. Another section focuses on novelists who also write poetry. It includes Ruben Dario (Nic.), Garcia Loca (Spain), Antono Machado (Spain), Jose Marti (Cuba), Neruda, Piñero (Puerto Rico), and Gary Soto (US).
In an article touching on memoirs, the include Judith Ortiz Cofer, Roberto Quesada (Honduras), Ernesto Galarza (US), Nicholasa Mohr (Nuyorican) and again Julia Alvarez (Dom.Rep.). It’s not until the final pages that you see “Chicano” mentioned. Gloria Velásquez and Josephina Niggli are touched upon, as well as Anaya. They mention by name only Castillo, Hinojosa-Smith, Mora, Lorna Dee Cervantes, and Richard Rodriguez. They write a little about Corky Gonsales and end the article mentioning in passing: Alberto Baltazar, Alurista, Jose Montoya, Alberto Rios, Gary Soto, Carmen Tafolla, and Bernice Zamora.
I had many problems with this insert. First, it was place in newspapers that for the most part ignore Chicano(a) writers, and Latino writers at that. Yea, you may see something occasionally, but if Kirkus or Publishers Weekly is not reviewing you, these newspapers are not going to touch you or your book. Their book review audience is White. The audience is not Chicano(as), not Latino, not Latin Americans, and should I say, not even “Hispanic.” I know the insert comes with a Spanish translation, but one can tell by the content and writing style who the audience target is. If not White, upperclass Hispanics, NCLR/LULAC types.
Second, by calling it “Hispanic Literature and Story Telling,” I do not know who the hell they are talking about. Who’s Hispanic? To this insert, Cervantes and Lorna Dee Cervantes are the same. They both grew up in the same way, same experiences. What the hell does Garcia Lorca have to do with Sandra Cisneros. Yea, both are great writers. But the carnala grew up in Chicago, a Chicana. Yea, maybe some of our Latino writers, like Cisnero's parents immigrated to the US, but where do these Spanish writers come into the picture. Hispanic Magazine, Latina Magazine, Hispanic Business, do this a lot. They focus on the Spanish-speaking world, not necessarily those people indegenous to the Americas. They focus mostly on White Hispanics. Once in a while they pull someone out like Mairia Carey who has some percentage of latinaness and a whole host of others who recently discovered their "hispanicism."
Some of these Spanish writers have nothing in common with Chicanos(as) or some of the Latino writers they mention, other than that Spain conquered, raped, and pillaged the Americas.
Though some Chicano(a) writers are mentioned, in whole, they are largely ignored. The perspective to one of “other,” we are telling you about “Hispanic” writers, writers beyond our borders. It may be that Chicano(a) writers are not “Hispanic” enough. Even our Latinos may not be Hispanic enough. Remember the targeted audience. A White audience is more likely to read what New York recommends. Therefore, New York and the book reviewers are only focusing on Latin American classic writers. Writers who died long ago. Just like “Hispanic” is a name placed on us, the insert as well as others, place the label “Hispanic literature” on us. So that instead of it being our literature (like what Chicano(a)s believe), it becomes some strange pseudo-subgenre going by a name that they decide to place on us.
It also bothers me that they focus on older writers, not only “Hispanic,” Latin American, but also Chicano(a). Hardly any writers that came out in the 1990s or the 21st Century are mentioned. Valdes-Rodriguez is mention, but how about writers with more substance. Where are your Ixta Maya Murrays, your Tim Hernández, and your Dagoberto Gilbs. The insert does not touch on the more political writers: Trinidad Sánchez, Jr., Ricardo Sánchez, Martin Espada, to name a few. Moreover, some of these people have been published in New York, so I do not know what the problem is. Why give us the the hand?
No Chicana lesbian writers are mentioned, ignoring significant changes writers like Gloria Anzaldua and Cherri Moraga brought to the literature. In fact, hardly any lesbian and gay writers are mentioned, maybe not any. Where’s your Rigoberto Gonzalez? Where’s your Carla Trujillos?
There is some good stuff about this insert, but it mostly is a bad representation. Alternatively, it could be a good representation of “Hispanic” literature. Maybe its their catch all to end all, so that they can ignore Chicano(a) and Latino writers in their book review sections for the rest of the year. If their intended audience were Chicano(as) and Latinos in the US, how about a little more on writers from here. Writers from other countries are important and should be read, but they are not us.
Then how about hiring writers who are a little more up to date on the literature.
Bueno, estas son las chingaderas que canto el rey David. At UTEP, Dr LaFarrelle use to pass this out in his classes (the Crypto Jews part is not entirely correct, but for more on Hispanos see the book Language of Blood.) I think you can find the anaysis below on the web:
Are Chicanos the same as Mexicans?
Here is a "taxonomy" that may be a useful reference for this topic:
"Spanish people"This term is used frequently in the United States to refer indiscriminately to any person that speaks Spanish. As such, it is imprecise and often inappropriate in that it includes people from more than two dozen countries, spanning the entire American continent, the Caribbean, and Spain. The term does specifically apply, however, as the proper name for the native people of Spain, and for this reason, it is as incorrect to use it to refer to all Spanish-speakers as the term "English" would be to refer to citizens of New Zealand, Australia or the United States.
This term is often used to refer collectively to all Spanish-speakers. However, it specifically connotes a lineage or cultural heritage related to Spain. As many millions of people who speak Spanish are not of true Spanish descent (e.g., Native Americans and even many so-called Hispanics in the United States), and millions more live in Latin America (cf., "Latino" below) yet do not speak Spanish or claim Spanish heritage (e.g., Brazilians) this term is incorrect as a collective name for all Spanish-speakers, and may actually be cause for offense.
LatinoThis term is used to refer to people originating from, or having a heritage related to Latin America, in recognition of the fact that this set of people is actually a superset of many nationalities. Since the term "Latin" comes into use as the least common denominator for all peoples of Latin America in recognition of the fact that some romance language (Spanish, Portuguese, French) is the native tongue of the majority of Latin Americans, this term is widely accepted by most. However, the term is not appropriate for the millions of Native Americans who inhabit the region. It also assumes that Latin America ends at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Specifically, the nationality of the inhabitants of Mexico. Therefore, the term is used appropriately for Mexican citizens who visit or work in the United States, but it is insufficient to designate those people who are citizens of the United States (they were born in the US or are naturalized citizens of the US) who are of Mexican ancestry. The various terms used to properly designate such people are described below. However, it is important to explain why these people feel it is important to make such a distinction. US citizens who are troubled by this often point out that most immigrants do not distinguish themselves by point of origin first, (i.e., German-American), but simply as "Americans" (another troublesome term, but we won't get detoured by that here). Here are some reasons why many US citizens of Mexican extraction feel that it is important to make the distinction:
*Not "Americans" by choiceA scant 150 years ago, approximately 50% of what was then Mexico was appropriated by the US as spoils of war, and in a series of land "sales" that were coerced capitalizing on the US victory in that war and Mexico's weak political and economic status. A sizable number of Mexican citizens became citizens of the United States from one day to the next as a result, and the treaty declaring the peace between the two countries recognized the rights of such people to their private properties (as deeded by Mexican or Spanish colonial authorities), their own religion (Roman Catholicism) and the right to speak and receive education in their own tongue (for the majority, Spanish) [refer to the text of the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo]. Therefore, the descendants of this population continue to press for such rights, and many hold that theirs is a colonized land and people in view of the fact that their territory and population was taken over by military force.
*Mexicans first, "Americans" second?Another and more numerous class of US citizens of Mexican extraction are either descendants of, or are themselves, people who conceive of themselves as temporarily displaced from Mexico by economic circumstances. As opposed to the waves of European migrants who willingly left their countries due to class and religious discrimination, and sought to make their lives anew in the "new world" and never to return to the "old land," these displaced Mexicans typically maintain strong family ties in Mexico (by visiting periodically, and by investing their incomes in homes or kin in Mexico), and usually intend to return to Mexico provided they can become economically secure. Therefore these people maintain and nurture their children in their language, religion and customs.
However, There is great tension within this population between those of Mexican birth who conceive of themselves as temporary guests in the US, and their descendants who are born in the US, are acculturated with the norms of broader US society in public schools, and are not motivated by the same ties that bind a migrant generation of Mexicans. This creates a classic "niche" of descendants of immigrants who are full-fledged US citizens, but who typically do not have access to all the rights and privileges of citizenship because of the strong cultural identity imbued in them by their upbringing and the discriminatory reaction of the majority population against a non-assimilated and easily identified subclass. This group of people feels a great need to distinguish itself from both its US milieu and its Mexican "Mother Culture," which does not typically welcome or accept "prodigals." This is truly a unique set of people, therefore, in that it endures both strong ties and strong discrimination from both US and Mexican mainstream parent cultures. The result has been the creation of a remarkable new culture that needs its own name and identity.
This term is commonly used to recognize US citizens who are descendants of Mexicans, following the pattern sometimes used to identify the extraction of other ethnic Americans (e.g., "African-American). This term is acceptable to many Mexican descendants, but for those who do not identify with a Mexican heritage, but rather with a Spanish heritage, it is unacceptable (cf., "Hispano," below). Also, for those who do not view themselves as "Americans" by choice, this term is problematic, and for others the implication that the identity of the bearer is unresolved, or in limbo, between two antipodal influences, belies their self-concept as a blend that supersedes its origins and is stronger, richer and more dynamic than either of its cultural roots.
This term is preferred by that subpopulation, located primarily in the US southwest, who identify with the Spanish settlers of the area, and not with the Mexican settlers (specifically, the Creole Spanish-Native American race). There is in fact an important number of these people located along the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico and in the northern Sangre de Cristo mountain range of the same state. This group has been traditionally a very closed and conservative one, and recent evidence provides important explanations for this: they seem to be descendants of persecuted Jews who fled Spain during the 16th and 17th centuries and sought refuge in what were then the farthest reaches of the known world. They survived by minimizing their contact with outsiders and by hiding or disguising their religious and cultural identities as much as possible. Historical researchers call them "cryptic Jews."
A relatively recent term that has been appropriated by many Mexican descendants as unique and therefore reflective of their unique culture, though its first usage seems to have been discriminatory. The most likely source of the word is traced to the 1930 and 40s period, when poor, rural Mexicans, often native Americans, were imported to the US to provide cheap field labor, under an agreement of the governments of both countries. The term seems to have come into first use in the fields of California in derision of the inability of native Nahuatl speakers from Morelos state to refer to themselves as "Mexicanos," and instead spoke of themselves as "Mesheecanos," in accordance with the pronunciation rules of their language (for additional details, refer to the file MEXICO on this same subdirectory). An equivocal factor is that in vulgar Spanish it is common for Mexicans to use the "CH" conjunction in place of certain consonants in order to create a term of endearment. Whatever its origin, it was at first insulting to be identified by this name. The term was appropriated by Mexican-American activists who took part in the Brown Power movement of the 60s and 70s in the US southwest, and has now come into widespread usage. Among more "assimilated" Mexican-Americans, the term still retains an unsavory connotation, particularly because it is preferred by political activists and by those who seek to create a new and fresh identity for their culture rather than to subsume it blandly under the guise of any mainstream culture.
The link I share with you today is Mariachi Cobre’s website: