Author Archives: Maria

Lost Children Archive: part II

We’ve reached the end of the course. It seems so hard to believe it; time goes by so fast. It was such a pleasure to be in this course. I wanted to use this blog to go over what I have learnt this semester and tie it with this last book we are reading. In my opinion, I think this book really incorporates the type of mental work we have been doing this semester. We have been finding ways to record, capture, understand, archive our thoughts on Chicano literature and l think our own views on the life themes we have been finding along the way. A professor in another of my courses mentioned to me and this was probably said by many intellectuals before her, that “the more we know, the less we understand”. I think that with this course I have truly come to understand that. There is no use in trying to pass myself off as some sort of expert, some sort of “major of x or y”, in the end I don’t really intrinsically know the issues/ideas/concepts we have been studying. We read of experiences with drugs, abuse, search of identity, racism, in these books, yet I feel like the more I read the  Having been in a course that was small enough to hear each other think yet large enough to learn and be exposed to different opinions was such a pleasure, I think this class really encompasses what the true essence of university is meant to be.  And in my experience of being in university for the past four years, opportunities like this have been very few.
Like Valeria Luiselli divides her book into sections titled “roots and routes”, “archive”, “credible fears”, “stories”, “rhythm”, “family plot”, personally, reading this book has made me consider those same sections in my life. It’s not as if those thoughts existed before - I think this time, in my life at least, has been one for many thoughts – but that this book has highlighted several themes that have been on my mind for the past few weeks in social isolation. Especially those regarding archives and maps. I think this narrator exudes a lot of worry due to her high sense of responsibility. I think she lives a life with a mission, purpose, vocation and that weighs on her more for feeling like she would misrepresent those she is giving a voice to, or by not owning up to the task set ahead of her. I think this is so relatable. As she goes on this mission, this trip, she figures out what things will be like along the way. There is no plan, no fixed itinerary. I think life in general can be compared to that - at least this whole pandemic has made me rethink and notice what I have taken for granted. And what is beautiful is that despite not having a plan, the narrator seems to want to leave something in the world that is written by her, something good that changes the world for the better. Like that is the product of a structureless, zig-zag sort of a route, that in the end, ends up being her own purposeful and meaningful path, and that is what I think this book teaches. I don’t know if this last bit made any sense. It makes want to appreciate sounds more and color, and especially with the pandemic, I think it makes me want to live more. 
Going back to what I have learnt in this class, I think it really helped me overcome some fears, especially in feeling free to express my opinion by overcoming my fear of embarrassment and doubt in myself. It is hard to find places to do that. And that it really helped me learn through discussion. I am very grateful for having had this experience and for "archiving" it under my conception of university. I want to take this approach to my reading in general, and my studies. Once again, thank you very much for these past few months, and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s class.

Lost Children Archive: part II

We’ve reached the end of the course. It seems so hard to believe it; time goes by so fast. It was such a pleasure to be in this course. I wanted to use this blog to go over what I have learnt this semester and tie it with this last book we are reading. In my opinion, I think this book really incorporates the type of mental work we have been doing this semester. We have been finding ways to record, capture, understand, archive our thoughts on Chicano literature and l think our own views on the life themes we have been finding along the way. A professor in another of my courses mentioned to me and this was probably said by many intellectuals before her, that “the more we know, the less we understand”. I think that with this course I have truly come to understand that. There is no use in trying to pass myself off as some sort of expert, some sort of “major of x or y”, in the end I don’t really intrinsically know the issues/ideas/concepts we have been studying. We read of experiences with drugs, abuse, search of identity, racism, in these books, yet I feel like the more I read the  Having been in a course that was small enough to hear each other think yet large enough to learn and be exposed to different opinions was such a pleasure, I think this class really encompasses what the true essence of university is meant to be.  And in my experience of being in university for the past four years, opportunities like this have been very few.
Like Valeria Luiselli divides her book into sections titled “roots and routes”, “archive”, “credible fears”, “stories”, “rhythm”, “family plot”, personally, reading this book has made me consider those same sections in my life. It’s not as if those thoughts existed before - I think this time, in my life at least, has been one for many thoughts – but that this book has highlighted several themes that have been on my mind for the past few weeks in social isolation. Especially those regarding archives and maps. I think this narrator exudes a lot of worry due to her high sense of responsibility. I think she lives a life with a mission, purpose, vocation and that weighs on her more for feeling like she would misrepresent those she is giving a voice to, or by not owning up to the task set ahead of her. I think this is so relatable. As she goes on this mission, this trip, she figures out what things will be like along the way. There is no plan, no fixed itinerary. I think life in general can be compared to that - at least this whole pandemic has made me rethink and notice what I have taken for granted. And what is beautiful is that despite not having a plan, the narrator seems to want to leave something in the world that is written by her, something good that changes the world for the better. Like that is the product of a structureless, zig-zag sort of a route, that in the end, ends up being her own purposeful and meaningful path, and that is what I think this book teaches. I don’t know if this last bit made any sense. It makes want to appreciate sounds more and color, and especially with the pandemic, I think it makes me want to live more. 
Going back to what I have learnt in this class, I think it really helped me overcome some fears, especially in feeling free to express my opinion by overcoming my fear of embarrassment and doubt in myself. It is hard to find places to do that. And that it really helped me learn through discussion. I am very grateful for having had this experience and for "archiving" it under my conception of university. I want to take this approach to my reading in general, and my studies. Once again, thank you very much for these past few months, and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s class.

Lost Children Archive: Where to begin?

This book has been my favorite so far. It has been really challenging to read and intriguing, I am spending more time on it than I expected. Each little “chapter”/section gives a lot to think about. I found the section “Routes and Roots” to present themes that we see throughout the book. A lot of them are presented by this woman narrator, of whom I haven’t found the name of, and we basically read an exposition of her thoughts and interpretations. So far I haven’t read any book like this. With His Pistol In His Hand holds some resemblance to this book, in the way it is structures, however it is a dissertation whereas this book seems to be part nonfiction and fiction. The part that I assume is fiction is the backstory of this family, however all of the works that are mentioned in the inventory of the boxes, the places they travel to, the “lost children” are true. Is the backstory of this family, their trip, true as well? The polaroid photos correspond to scenes in the book “The picture comes out in shades of brown: sepia, ecru, wheat, and sand. (…) they look as though they are not really there, like they are being remembered instead of photographed.” (p.68)

There is this focus on capturing, recording, memory, collecting, languages and tongues, pronouns, maps, directions, the Apaches, archives, etc., and I think most importantly children. It seems as if this book exists to archive a series of experiences, concepts, the lost children, and how this family of four puts the very nature of the world into question. The very idea of family is in question, of what destiny is, of where the road takes them in life. I have reread a few sections and I always find different underlying meanings, or questions. I think so far, this book seems to present more of what seems like a series of questions and tentative answers. The children seem to possess most of the answers. The protagonist/narrator really analyzes what her daughter and stepson tell her, how they are the ones that reprimand her and make her see the world clearly.

I am still trying to understand the relationships in this family. At certain points we see how the woman and the daughter are one whole and then the separate whole being the “husband” and “the boy”. Other times she feels a maternal bond to the boy, even though he is not her biological son. The wife and the husband see themselves as “passing strangers” that live their lives in parallel. Another aspect of this unconnected existence is in the section on pronouns at the beginning of the book “(…)pronouns shifted constantly in our confused syntax while we negotiated the terms of the relocation. We started speaking more hesitant about everything (…)” (p.26). So far I only have pieces of what this book might mean to me and how it is found in the world. I don’t know if they are right, I don’t know nor do I understand this, this is completely uncharted territory for me and I find myself following the thoughts of the narrator, as they are written on paper, as if I were experiencing and thinking things over with her.

I do see purpose and meaning in this book, and the work the narrator does, I think that is something the narrator holds dear to her heart and what gives her doubt about her marriage. She wants to archive, record, the struggles of living beings whereas she describes her husband as one who follows ghosts. That is an interesting perspective, maybe it will change by the end, or maybe not. There is more to debate there.

Lost Children Archive: Where to begin?

This book has been my favorite so far. It has been really challenging to read and intriguing, I am spending more time on it than I expected. Each little “chapter”/section gives a lot to think about. I found the section “Routes and Roots” to present themes that we see throughout the book. A lot of them are presented by this woman narrator, of whom I haven’t found the name of, and we basically read an exposition of her thoughts and interpretations. So far I haven’t read any book like this. With His Pistol In His Hand holds some resemblance to this book, in the way it is structures, however it is a dissertation whereas this book seems to be part nonfiction and fiction. The part that I assume is fiction is the backstory of this family, however all of the works that are mentioned in the inventory of the boxes, the places they travel to, the “lost children” are true. Is the backstory of this family, their trip, true as well? The polaroid photos correspond to scenes in the book “The picture comes out in shades of brown: sepia, ecru, wheat, and sand. (…) they look as though they are not really there, like they are being remembered instead of photographed.” (p.68)

There is this focus on capturing, recording, memory, collecting, languages and tongues, pronouns, maps, directions, the Apaches, archives, etc., and I think most importantly children. It seems as if this book exists to archive a series of experiences, concepts, the lost children, and how this family of four puts the very nature of the world into question. The very idea of family is in question, of what destiny is, of where the road takes them in life. I have reread a few sections and I always find different underlying meanings, or questions. I think so far, this book seems to present more of what seems like a series of questions and tentative answers. The children seem to possess most of the answers. The protagonist/narrator really analyzes what her daughter and stepson tell her, how they are the ones that reprimand her and make her see the world clearly.

I am still trying to understand the relationships in this family. At certain points we see how the woman and the daughter are one whole and then the separate whole being the “husband” and “the boy”. Other times she feels a maternal bond to the boy, even though he is not her biological son. The wife and the husband see themselves as “passing strangers” that live their lives in parallel. Another aspect of this unconnected existence is in the section on pronouns at the beginning of the book “(…)pronouns shifted constantly in our confused syntax while we negotiated the terms of the relocation. We started speaking more hesitant about everything (…)” (p.26). So far I only have pieces of what this book might mean to me and how it is found in the world. I don’t know if they are right, I don’t know nor do I understand this, this is completely uncharted territory for me and I find myself following the thoughts of the narrator, as they are written on paper, as if I were experiencing and thinking things over with her.

I do see purpose and meaning in this book, and the work the narrator does, I think that is something the narrator holds dear to her heart and what gives her doubt about her marriage. She wants to archive, record, the struggles of living beings whereas she describes her husband as one who follows ghosts. That is an interesting perspective, maybe it will change by the end, or maybe not. There is more to debate there.

Hope in "The House on Mango Street": Do you need to be selfish to survive?

I think so far this is the book I have thought of the most, not only is my group working on a Wikipedia article that showcases it, but I think it has just left me thinking about its meaning. The more I read it, the more I look at articles about it or analyze its characters, the more contradictions I find. I haven’t made up my mind on whether I like it or not, I think I’ll never really know.

While I was reading it, I couldn’t help wonder what message this book is communicating, I am trying to pinpoint it amidst the other books we’ve read this semester. To start off the author dedicates this book “To the Women”. We can see that for most of the characters are women, and most of the stories about the struggles of women. However, it is simply narrating issues women face but not conveying any empathy nor hope. We simply get the idea that Esperanza wants to escape this, we see that she is different from the rest of her community, or she feels different. We notice the same in Piri, how he also seems to be facing a different struggle from that of the “group”. These stories are really about the protagonists and not the community. That is what I find unsettling in a certain way. It doesn’t mean that it is good or bad, just that I don’t get peace at the end because the struggles of these communities just persist, and the existence of these protagonist doesn’t generate any change in the lives of those around them. I find that in Esperanza’s and Piri’s stories they both come across as selfish individuals. Esperanza seems to be always dissatisfied with her state in life, only finding her “house” when she is older and by herself. This defies that saying of “home is where family is”. An article I read about this book also said that Esperanza was only able to leave Mango Street on the backs and sacrifice of many women, so in a way she benefits from the ‘system’ as well. When piecing this altogether, I see it as a mechanism adopted by Esperanza to survive, if you don’t empathize and set yourself apart from your community it makes it easier to look outside of it for an escape route. Esperanza lived her emancipation very privately, we don’t see her sharing this with friends of her age. We see her interaction with mentors, older women, but these are speaking out of regret, for they weren’t able to seize the right moment to escape, they either dropped out of school, got married, got pregnant, etc.  

Having this in mind, what does it say about Chicano culture? Why are these issues so prevalent? Specifically when portraying women as victims and men as perpetrators? This isn’t really a kink because these woes, sadly, are seen as a norm. Where can we find voices that speak out for equality and not for a disordered emancipation? I ask this last question because in this book there really isn’t a fixed model of femininity/womanhood, women are portrayed as objects and servants, and Esperanza herself thinks that by emulating the qualities of a man is how she escapes this “I am one that leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up a plate”. With this Esperanza associates being a women with being tame, with following orders, with being pretty, and a subordinate, when that isn’t what femininity is about. Here being a wife is seen negatively, being a mother is seen negatively and dismissed as almost nothing. There is no value put in motherhood. In my view, such an important role of a woman, a role only performed by women, is completely disregarded or badly portrayed. Is the book saying that to escape this culture women ought not to marry and be mothers? What does this say for the future of strong Chicana women, those to whom this book is dedicated to? If the cells of culture are families, how is it to be transmitted without a positive perception of motherhood? How is that communicated in these books? Where is the hope, the Esperanza, for Chicano culture? I haven’t seen it myself so far, maybe I missed something.

Hope in "The House on Mango Street": Do you need to be selfish to survive?

I think so far this is the book I have thought of the most, not only is my group working on a Wikipedia article that showcases it, but I think it has just left me thinking about its meaning. The more I read it, the more I look at articles about it or analyze its characters, the more contradictions I find. I haven’t made up my mind on whether I like it or not, I think I’ll never really know.

While I was reading it, I couldn’t help wonder what message this book is communicating, I am trying to pinpoint it amidst the other books we’ve read this semester. To start off the author dedicates this book “To the Women”. We can see that for most of the characters are women, and most of the stories about the struggles of women. However, it is simply narrating issues women face but not conveying any empathy nor hope. We simply get the idea that Esperanza wants to escape this, we see that she is different from the rest of her community, or she feels different. We notice the same in Piri, how he also seems to be facing a different struggle from that of the “group”. These stories are really about the protagonists and not the community. That is what I find unsettling in a certain way. It doesn’t mean that it is good or bad, just that I don’t get peace at the end because the struggles of these communities just persist, and the existence of these protagonist doesn’t generate any change in the lives of those around them. I find that in Esperanza’s and Piri’s stories they both come across as selfish individuals. Esperanza seems to be always dissatisfied with her state in life, only finding her “house” when she is older and by herself. This defies that saying of “home is where family is”. An article I read about this book also said that Esperanza was only able to leave Mango Street on the backs and sacrifice of many women, so in a way she benefits from the ‘system’ as well. When piecing this altogether, I see it as a mechanism adopted by Esperanza to survive, if you don’t empathize and set yourself apart from your community it makes it easier to look outside of it for an escape route. Esperanza lived her emancipation very privately, we don’t see her sharing this with friends of her age. We see her interaction with mentors, older women, but these are speaking out of regret, for they weren’t able to seize the right moment to escape, they either dropped out of school, got married, got pregnant, etc.  

Having this in mind, what does it say about Chicano culture? Why are these issues so prevalent? Specifically when portraying women as victims and men as perpetrators? This isn’t really a kink because these woes, sadly, are seen as a norm. Where can we find voices that speak out for equality and not for a disordered emancipation? I ask this last question because in this book there really isn’t a fixed model of femininity/womanhood, women are portrayed as objects and servants, and Esperanza herself thinks that by emulating the qualities of a man is how she escapes this “I am one that leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up a plate”. With this Esperanza associates being a women with being tame, with following orders, with being pretty, and a subordinate, when that isn’t what femininity is about. Here being a wife is seen negatively, being a mother is seen negatively and dismissed as almost nothing. There is no value put in motherhood. In my view, such an important role of a woman, a role only performed by women, is completely disregarded or badly portrayed. Is the book saying that to escape this culture women ought not to marry and be mothers? What does this say for the future of strong Chicana women, those to whom this book is dedicated to? If the cells of culture are families, how is it to be transmitted without a positive perception of motherhood? How is that communicated in these books? Where is the hope, the Esperanza, for Chicano culture? I haven’t seen it myself so far, maybe I missed something.

Bless Me Ultima: Part II

As I kept reading the story, I kept trying to contextualize this story among the broad group of Chicano literature. On the cover, the author is deemed to be “one of the nation’s foremost Chicano literary artists”. I am trying to understand why this statement was made. This story is very little like those we have read so far and yet it is placed at the heart of Chicano literature.
It is really hard to perceive these things as symbols, since through the child’s perspective is made so real. For example, Tony’s dreams, are they truly dreams or visions, or prophecies? Is time linear in the book, how are supposed to take it as readers? Would the conception of ‘magic’ found in this novel be involved in the writing of book itself? I cannot help thinking that that might be one of the reasons why this novel is so well known. This adds on to the power of the story of having a child as it’s protagonist. To further discuss the reasons of why I think this novel is labelled as a canonic piece, I believe it has to do with the journey made by the protagonist through learning and exposure to different belief systems. Anthony becoming his own man, someone outside of what other’s want of him can be translated to the integrity of the Chicano culture. That in a world of dualisms: marez/Luna, sinner/priest, nomad/settler, vaquero en el llano/farmer, llano/town, peace/war, religion/atheist, faith/superstition, this cultural expression finds its way of including both and more, of mixing, of conceiving something new. And that is what Anthony discovers for himself, that is the ‘enlightenment’ lived by the character, I think one of the pillars of the novel.
            Ultima seems to guide him through this process of acquiring knowledge slowly. When Antonio’s parent’s ask ‘La Grande’ what their son will be she replies “He will be a man of learning” not what either of them wanted him to be: neither a priest nor a llanero. In this moment Antonio sees his mother for her dreams, his father for his rebellion, and Ultima for her wisdom. Almost from the start, through his inquisitive nature, Antonio charts is way as a man of learning and Ultima is the only one that knows. One other aspect that puzzled me was why Ultima called him by his second name Juan. There I see the biblical reference, as John being the only disciple that followed Jesus when he sacrificed himself for humanity. In this case, Antonio is the only one that follows Ultima. If this is a valid interpretation, we can see this as what sets this literature apart as Chicana literature. Its very roots are embedded in both religion and indigeneity. On one aspect Antonio plays the role of John the apostle following God, but in the act of a pagan ritual of curing one of his uncles. There are many other examples of this, on how he connects with the llano, the golden carp belief. However, this is all done in harmony with a devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Catholic rituals and conceptions of sin.

Bless Me Ultima: Part II

As I kept reading the story, I kept trying to contextualize this story among the broad group of Chicano literature. On the cover, the author is deemed to be “one of the nation’s foremost Chicano literary artists”. I am trying to understand why this statement was made. This story is very little like those we have read so far and yet it is placed at the heart of Chicano literature.
It is really hard to perceive these things as symbols, since through the child’s perspective is made so real. For example, Tony’s dreams, are they truly dreams or visions, or prophecies? Is time linear in the book, how are supposed to take it as readers? Would the conception of ‘magic’ found in this novel be involved in the writing of book itself? I cannot help thinking that that might be one of the reasons why this novel is so well known. This adds on to the power of the story of having a child as it’s protagonist. To further discuss the reasons of why I think this novel is labelled as a canonic piece, I believe it has to do with the journey made by the protagonist through learning and exposure to different belief systems. Anthony becoming his own man, someone outside of what other’s want of him can be translated to the integrity of the Chicano culture. That in a world of dualisms: marez/Luna, sinner/priest, nomad/settler, vaquero en el llano/farmer, llano/town, peace/war, religion/atheist, faith/superstition, this cultural expression finds its way of including both and more, of mixing, of conceiving something new. And that is what Anthony discovers for himself, that is the ‘enlightenment’ lived by the character, I think one of the pillars of the novel.
            Ultima seems to guide him through this process of acquiring knowledge slowly. When Antonio’s parent’s ask ‘La Grande’ what their son will be she replies “He will be a man of learning” not what either of them wanted him to be: neither a priest nor a llanero. In this moment Antonio sees his mother for her dreams, his father for his rebellion, and Ultima for her wisdom. Almost from the start, through his inquisitive nature, Antonio charts is way as a man of learning and Ultima is the only one that knows. One other aspect that puzzled me was why Ultima called him by his second name Juan. There I see the biblical reference, as John being the only disciple that followed Jesus when he sacrificed himself for humanity. In this case, Antonio is the only one that follows Ultima. If this is a valid interpretation, we can see this as what sets this literature apart as Chicana literature. Its very roots are embedded in both religion and indigeneity. On one aspect Antonio plays the role of John the apostle following God, but in the act of a pagan ritual of curing one of his uncles. There are many other examples of this, on how he connects with the llano, the golden carp belief. However, this is all done in harmony with a devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Catholic rituals and conceptions of sin.

Bless Me, Ultima: part I

As I started reading this novel, I was struck by the different mixture of belief systems. Not only in different moral systems but also in terms of choice of lifestyle. In a way, how Antonio follows his “destiny”, which we learn right from the beginning, that Ultima is the only one that truly knows where his future holds “Only I will know his destiny”. Since his birth Antonio has been torn by the different expectations of his surrounding parental/mentor figures – his destiny traced for him: becoming a priest, becoming a vaquero destined to wander the llano, etc.
This for me seems to be an overarching theme of the books we have read so far. To some capacity, we are torn between the concept of a self-made destiny and a predetermined destiny. Down these mean streets presents that conflict which we discussed in class. I am interested in how this can be applied to the general idea of Chicano culture in America. Antonio seems to be torn between different beliefs, moral systems, expectation, etc. How does this occur with Chicano culture? Not only is there the Hispanic influence, but also indigenous beliefs, catholic religion, etc. How does that manifest in the books read so far? Is it seen as a predetermined culture? Are some aspects more predominant than others? How does this set these books apart from others? How does it make them a “kink” among Mexican literature, among American, among international literature? In Squatter and the Don we find the example of a community forced to integrate into American culture, in Down these mean streets we argued that Piri as following a predetermined path and then from there set his own, in With His Pistol in His Hand we find a character that defies being integrated in either society creating a completely new identity. To me, in Bless Me, Ultima, we find a mix of these. There is the set community of vaqueros which his father clearly feels more at ease in, his mother prefers a more urban setting, we have the conflict between spiritualism and catholic religion, among others. We can also say that Ultima is a symbol of predetermined destiny, to show Antonio his way, or vice versa that she defies Antonio having to ultimately choose one of the options given to him, to create a completely new one.
These are all questions that I hope I can find an answer to as we advance in the book, and in our discussions in class.

Bless Me, Ultima: part I

As I started reading this novel, I was struck by the different mixture of belief systems. Not only in different moral systems but also in terms of choice of lifestyle. In a way, how Antonio follows his “destiny”, which we learn right from the beginning, that Ultima is the only one that truly knows where his future holds “Only I will know his destiny”. Since his birth Antonio has been torn by the different expectations of his surrounding parental/mentor figures – his destiny traced for him: becoming a priest, becoming a vaquero destined to wander the llano, etc.
This for me seems to be an overarching theme of the books we have read so far. To some capacity, we are torn between the concept of a self-made destiny and a predetermined destiny. Down these mean streets presents that conflict which we discussed in class. I am interested in how this can be applied to the general idea of Chicano culture in America. Antonio seems to be torn between different beliefs, moral systems, expectation, etc. How does this occur with Chicano culture? Not only is there the Hispanic influence, but also indigenous beliefs, catholic religion, etc. How does that manifest in the books read so far? Is it seen as a predetermined culture? Are some aspects more predominant than others? How does this set these books apart from others? How does it make them a “kink” among Mexican literature, among American, among international literature? In Squatter and the Don we find the example of a community forced to integrate into American culture, in Down these mean streets we argued that Piri as following a predetermined path and then from there set his own, in With His Pistol in His Hand we find a character that defies being integrated in either society creating a completely new identity. To me, in Bless Me, Ultima, we find a mix of these. There is the set community of vaqueros which his father clearly feels more at ease in, his mother prefers a more urban setting, we have the conflict between spiritualism and catholic religion, among others. We can also say that Ultima is a symbol of predetermined destiny, to show Antonio his way, or vice versa that she defies Antonio having to ultimately choose one of the options given to him, to create a completely new one.
These are all questions that I hope I can find an answer to as we advance in the book, and in our discussions in class.