Hard to believe the semester is coming to an end, but alas, here are some concluding thoughts. All in all, I am very glad that I decided to take this class. I was initially looking for a class to brush up on my Spanish and was slightly disappointed that the structure would be primarily based on literature, most of which would be taught in English. However I feel that I have walked away from this class having gained a great deal of insight into the struggles of identity that people face in new cultural settings. I was moved by many of the works that we read and feel that it was the best selection of literature that I have read in a class at UBC.
Having lived 18 years in California, the Chicano experience is something that has been simultaneously close and far away from me all at once. It has been close to me in the sense that I have geographically grown up in an area with a large demographic of Latino immigrants. I have worked in kitchens with all Mexican laborers, have gone to school with Spanish speakers learning English for the first time, and have witnessed movements of solidarity that are often pushed to the margins of society or ignored by the government. I once tried to organize workers in my restaurant to participate in the Day Without a Mexican but was discovered and scolded by my boss. Needless to say, work still ran because too many of the immigrant workers were afraid of losing their jobs. I have felt far away from the experience because despite the physical proximity and certain elements of a collective experience I have shared with Chicanos in my area, I am still a representative of the dominant white English speaking demographic of my country and have lived the majority of my life feeling comfortable in my cultural environment.
Reading the books that we read in this class provided a certain bridge of understanding to the experience of immigration and identity. These books provided a voice that is often underrepresented in dominant cultural discourse. They told tales of the emotional experience of cultural assimilation, created a sense of collective identity, and asked questions of identity and the possibility of hybridizing cultures. Who Would Have Thought It? providing a historical context for Latin immigration and dealt with issues of fluidity of borders. Jose Marti provided insight into American culture as understood by someone who exists outside of it. Y no se lo trago la tierra created a mosaic of collective experience and unstable identities. Women Hollering Creek brought up many elements of the female experience and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents dealt with issues of cultural confusion, assimilation, and attempts of creating a ‘hybrid’ culture. And lastly, And a Body to Remember With dealt with the deeply emotional side of memory, uprooting, and political exile. All have offered valuable insights and I am glad to have had the experience of reading them. All in all, I felt this was a very rewarding class.