"Chicano writers from El Paso are the most progressive, open-minded, far-reaching, and inclusive writers of them all."

Octavio Romano

Saturday, August 18, 2007

El Paso and WWII: On the Wings of An Angel

I don't remember how old I was, but my brother told all the kids on the block that the man living at the end of the street had said we could swim in his wading pool. My sister even questioned it, but finally we believed my brother and a few of the neighborhood kids changed into their swimming gear and walked to the end of the block and jumped in. Well, the owner of the house came home and found all these kids in his backyard and started yelling at them to get out.

My neighbor is Pete G. Flores, a graphic designer by trade, he has put out a World War II story called ON the Wings of An Angel, the story of Joe Pino, who on his seventh mission he was shot down in France, declared dead, buried in the cemetery in Willers-Cotterets, France. Through the efforts of a young boy who found a piece of the B-17 bomber aircraft, Joe Pino was found alive and well 50 years later.

Pete Flores has been a constant source for Pluma Fronteriza and my articles on El Paso's Chicano barrios.

Recently, Ken Burns completed his forthcoming documentary "The War" on WWII. It was criticism because it did not have any Chicanos or Latinos in it. Last Sunday, The El Paso Times published an article by Ramon Rentiria on how Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez a journalist and University of Texas at Austin associate professor of journalism took on PBS. Check out the article: Historian takes on Ken Burns.

In Chicano(a) Literature, there are a number of books that focus on WWII or use it as a backdrop. My favorite was one I reviewed by the late Sabine Ulibarri who served as a tail gunner in WWII, Mayhem Was Our Business.

Among the valiant: Mexican-Americans in WW II and Korea by Raul Morin was recently republished a few years ago. It has short non-fiction stories on Chicano veterans. When it came out in the 1960s, nobody would publish it until the American G.I. Forum gave their assistance.

We have stories on the homefront also. On New Mexico University Press is Coal Camp Days by Ricardo L. García describes the coalfields of northern New Mexico and the remembrances of six-year-old Matias Montaño, a fictionalized version of the author’s life in the last years of World War II.

Another homefront account is Alejandro Grattan-Domínguez' Dark Side of the Dream, which porays a Mexican family's struggles as new immigrants in Texas at the start of WWII.

For you Chicano(a) literary criticism buff, Don Luis Leal's bio/autobiography Don Luis Leal, una vida y dos culturas, has a part about his experiences in the Philippines.

Don’t Spit on My Corner by Mike Duran is a novel set in WW II-era East Los Angeles. It deals somewhat with gangs.

Down Garrapata Road by Anne Estevis gives us a taste of South Texas during the 1940s and 1950s showing men leaving to WWII and rumors of El Chupasangre (the blood sucker) staling the valley.

Other books worth taking a look at are Shadows & Suposses by Gloria Vado and The Valedictorian and Other Stories by S.D. Navarro.

El Paso and World War II: The Homefront

There are a few book that have World War II-era El Paso as a setting. One is the much university-used, A Place in El Paso by Gloria López-Stafford. The story tells of a girl growing up in the barrio with her father, who she never realizes is white. Arturo Islas Migrant Souls also has some of the novel as a backdrop.

My favorite though is
Letters to Louise by my hero, the late Abelardo B. Delgado. Delgado's award-winning autobiographic epistolary novel follows a young boys comming of age. In one part of the book, he describes the officials doing sweeps and arresting Mexican women in the Segundo Barrio so that they would not "spread disease" to soldiers at Fort Bliss.
Also, muralist Ernesto Martinez served in an armor division in Europe during WWII and helped liberate a concentration camp. His oral history was recorded by the
US Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project.

Chicanos and World War II

There are many other books dealing with the War and the Homefront. Some deal with the Zoot Suit Riots and others academic books deal with WWII-era labor movements. In Zaragosa Garcia's book Labor Rights are Civil Rights he describes has the more radical unions of the CIO were more inclusive of people of color but when the CIO merged with the more conservative AFL after WWII, many of those inclusive unions were thrown out.

Karen Brodkin's How Jews Became White Folks: And What that Says About Americas, tell how the GI Bill was passed more specifically to help White WWII veterans, not WWII veterans of color. Though many Chcianos would use the GI Bill to go to college, many applications of others for higher ed, housing, and more went unheeded or were lost (like the Congressional Medal of Honor recommendations).

Veteran journalist and poet, Joe Olvera, has written several articles on Company E, which was almost entirely Mexican.
Company E was part of the 141st Regiment of the 36th Infantry Division saw combat in Italy and France, enduring heavy casualties during the controversial crossing of the Rapido River near Cassino, Italy.

There is also books, movies, and documentaries
U.S. Army Air Force’s 58th Fighter Group, in which heroes helped in the liberation of the main Philippine Island of Luzon in the summer of 1945. The pilots flew P-47D Thunderbolt single-seat fighter aircraft carrying out tactical air support missions.

A Wikipedia article on Hispanics and World War II has some writing on Hispanic women service members.

On the Wings of An Angel is a wolcome addition to this literature. A book-signing event will be sponsored by the Veterans Business Association of El Paso:

On the Wings of An Angel: A World War II Story of Life, Death, and Resurrection

Book-signing Event

sponsored by the El Paso Veterans Business Association

Thursday, Aug. 23 2007

Vista Del Sol Conference Centere

11189 Rojas Av.

El Paso, Texas 79935

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