Author Archives: RachelCervantes

Lost Children Archive (part 2)

“Tday I wll owaz lov you mre than yustrday.”

Dang it Jon. Why did you have to pick this book to be the last one?

Wow. Alright where do I begin? I have so many emotions in me right now and I’m not sure if this is the right place to be pouring out all of it but hey, it’s the last one so I might as well.

I’ll start with the book. I can definitely say that this is my favorite out of all the books that we read this semester. I think it’s because I connected with it personally, not just because of the car rides that I was reminded of but also because of the relationship boy and girl have with each other. I’m sorry but here’s another life story that I’m going to share about. But it’s the last one so bear with me!

When I was reading the words up above by Memphis, I felt the urge to cry and I told my older sister about it right away (the one that I wanted to strangle haha). To give some context, my sister was in a fatal car accident last summer. I don’t know why but for some reason reading through the pages of the part of the book narrated by boy made me think of the time when I checked my phone notifications at work. When I opened them, I saw a flood of messages saying that my sister got into a car accident. I had a hard time dealing with school last semester because of it and upon reading the book, I wanted to go to my room and cry, but for some reason I just kept reading.

I know I should probably be focusing on the analysis aspect of this novel in this blog but I guess we have tomorrow’s class for that. I liked how the boy mentions how Memphis did not know how to read yet. It’s so funny because as much as I have mentioned that I hate reading, my sister is the exact opposite.

I thought the story would get better as I reached the end of the book (I mean other than the part where their parents found them again)—Manuela’s daughters passed away, their parents ended up not staying together and even they had to be separated. I guess these are things I’m just going to have to unbox in tomorrow’s class.

As I flip through the pages of this book, I am amazed as to how a rectangular compilation of words can invoke such emotions. I am reminded once again of the power of words. I’m hoping to read this book again (yes) in my spare time.

I switched from Math to Spanish because I thought the ability to speak another language helps open more doors to communicate with more people I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. This class taught me so much more, and it’s ironic because it’s taught in English.

Thank you Jon for going out of your way to get me a copy of this book. Thank you for an unforgettable last Spanish class. Thank you for pushing me to read all these books this semester and making me realize that reading can also be beautiful. Thank you for teaching me more about people.

And last but not the least, I would like to say thank you to you, my SPAN 322 class. You’ve all taught me so much and I will always remember this class of 9. It was an honor and a joy to have spent the few final months of my undergrad career with you all. This is not goodbye. I’m hoping to see all of you again in the future! (and tomorrow) ????

Lost Children Archive (part 1)

I enjoyed reading the first half of the Lost Children Archive because it reminds me of many things, of my own experiences. Even just starting out with the first few pages were enjoyable to me because it takes me back to places that I hold very close to my heart. The pages of this book brings me back to the backseat of a car driving to Arizona, or driving down the East Coast from New York to Georgia. While the narrator mentions (wait.. do we know her name?) that they were driving from New York to Arizona, it excited me because I am familiar with that route. Though we were coming from California when we drove to Arizona and we drove straight down than across the States when we drove from New York. The mention of the George Washington Bridge, Virginia and all those other places excited me. It is as if I was doing a long drive again, something that my dad loves doing.

However, there is a negative side to all this nostalgia. As I was reading the last few pages of the first half of the book last night, I realized that this book also brings images in my head that are not very exciting to me. In fact, they made me sad. I realized that as I was reading the words out of that book that it’s actually happening at that very moment- children arriving at the US-Mexican border without knowing what would be next for them in a country where they don’t speak the language and where they don’t know how to locate their parents. I am lying down comfortably under my sheets reading this book and there are literally children with bleeding feet at the border at that very moment who have nowhere to sleep.

 

It’s interesting to see the parallels of the child characters in this novel. We see the children of the narrator sitting comfortably in the backseat of their car as they drive across the States. Their needs are tended to. They have everything they need. But at the same time the narrator reads of all these “lost children”. Of course the narrator’s children are important to her but we also see that they do not have names. I’m not quite sure why that is. Does the narrator feel a disconnect with her own children but feels a connection with the “lost children”? Or is she acknowledging the fact that they are all children and it could happen to any one of them?

The House on Mango Street

This book let me a little confused when I finished reading it. I’m not quite sure as to what angle I have to take in analyzing it. It is definitely not like the other books we have read in class. The chapters are shorter and there is no linear story to follow. I noticed that there weren’t quotation marks whenever someone other than Esperanza was speaking. Since I’m not a book fanatic, I’m not sure how to look at this book. To be quite honest, I consider this book boring because there’s no “climax” and even the ending confused me.

I would describe Esperanza as a typical person coming from an immigrant family. It helps that the whole book is from her point of view. In this way, we are able to see her emotions and uncertainties. She wants to be able to process things on her own. Not just things in general but those that come as a girl turns into a woman. I believe that even if this book were to be written from a non-Chicano point of view then it can still carry out the same message, which I’m struggling with right now.

This whole time I was trying to find a significance as to why the street is named Mango. Maybe it was just a random name, maybe not. I think one thing that I got out of this book though, is for some reason I thought of the house on Mango Street as being composed of the different people we see in every chapter. There was a point that I just forgot how many people there were because of their similarities and the stories specific to one that weren’t very lengthy. Perhaps that was the whole point all along. There is this stereotype, this culture, that exists in the neighborhood of Mango Street. Esperanza is able to pinpoint those who are living a life “expected” of them and she wants to find another way to do things, to approach things a different way. Towards the end, Esperanza expresses a feeling of discontent about having lived in a house on Mango Street. She expresses that among their other places of residence, the Mango Street house is merely just another house that is part of the list. It is a house that she “belong[s] to but do not belong to.”

Bless Me, Ultima: Part 2

Alright here we go. I think this whole post is just going to be a rant how everything is so weird right now.

First of all, I’m sad (like actually) because we won’t be able to come in and do our discussions in person. It was impending but I guess I didn’t realize that our last class was probably the last class that I will get to see most of you guys. Trying to get myself to do things while sitting at home trying to stay away from the crowds has been rough so fingers crossed for the upcoming weeks.

Okay now I’m going to talk about the book. I might sound like I’m overreacting but I wish I wish I wish, oh how I wish that someone told me ahead of time that this book was going to  be “graphic”, if that is even the word to use to describe it. There were times that I would try to read the book late at night to just find myself setting it down after a few pages because some chapters just creeped me out, particularly the burial of one of the Trementinas. I find the book really interesting but the supernatural aspect of it is not sitting quite well with me.

Anotnio has had a very good coming of age in terms of experience I would say. I don’t know how I would have processed everything if I were him. Everything that he was taught or believed contradicted each other, and he has a clouded image of who God is and His character.

A scene I would relate to this is the school play. During the nativity play, the parts to be played by the girls had to be played by the boys. Maybe this is just my interpretation and I don’t know if it actually means something but it’s interesting how the boys had to fulfill the girls’ roles, but in reality it seemed like Antonio had more faith in the Virgin Mary than in God. Also, I think the whole play is a depiction of how people try to perfect religion and want to attain a certain level of morale with good deeds and “trying to be like God” when in reality, not a single person can attain that perfection.

With that being said, I don’t want to forget about the night with Ultima, Narciso, Gabriel and Tenorio. After reading this chapter and the chapter of this play, I saw the two ends of Antonio’s spectrum of beliefs almost being represented to be faulty.

 

Bless Me, Ultima (Part 1)

I have to say that this one is definitely not a sad book (this is the last one I promise :P) However, I did think that it is quite creepy. There was a time that I decided to read it before bed and I decided to put it down because it mentioned La llorona and Lupito, after he was killed.

This book reminds me so much of the way the superstitions and “traditional” ways of people in the Philippines. I’m not sure if it is more of a cultural thing or entities as such are just more present in developing countries.

I remember a time when we went to the Philippines for a vacation and my mom was doing some gardening in the backyard. A few days after, she developed a blister on her foot that got worse as the days went by. My grandmother was so concerned and went on by saying “maybe you stepped on or offended something in the backyard.” In the Philippines, it’s a thing to say “tabi tabi po” when walking around in gardens. It is a way of excusing yourself from these “creatures” because they can see you and you can’t see them so they need to dodge you. My grandma asked my mom if she said “tabi tabi po” and my mom said she was careful. Now my mom is allergic to rubber and she said that it was probably just the old pair of flip-flops that she used when she did stuff in the backyard. My grandma advised my mom to go see a witch doctor because she can see that my mom was in so much pain. Out of desperation, y mom took my grandma’s advice and she said that upon entering the witch doctor’s place, the witch doctor asked about my mom’s foot right away when and they haven’t even told him what’s wrong yet. The witch doctor “prescribed” some herbs to my mom. Her blister didn’t disappear in one snap but it did go away eventually.

I really felt uneasy with the way that situation was handled but I definitely had some questions, like “how did the witch doctor know right away that my mom hurt her foot?” I know that stories as such do not make much sense in the first world context since we are surrounded by science and we need everything to be backed up by logical reasoning. Because of my mom’s story, I did not find the story of Antonio, although fictional, hard to believe.

It’s okay to be sad :)

The most interesting aspect of two of the books that we have gone through so far is the incorporation of the role of memory in them. We see both in “With His Pistol in His Hand” and “Down These Mean Streets” the impact, of not just personal but also communal memory, holds.

We are taken back to different times as we are told about the lives of Gregorio Cortez and Piri Thomas. Paredes goes through the history and legacy that Gregorio Cortez has left behind in a community unique to the border of Mexico, having their own culture. His memory does not just die with him but lives on as people admired the way he lived his life. He has served and continues to serve as a hope to those people who are like him because it shows how ordinary people are able to stand for themselves. He symbolizes the hope that it can be done and anyone can do it. The corrido is passed on to commemorate him and to keep a sense of pride for the people who are like Gregorio Cortez.

Piri’s telling of his past and his story of “redemption” have had different effects on everyone in our class but I think that is another manifestation of the power of memory. Similar to what we have mentioned in class, our background and context affects the way we look at Piri’s life and the circumstances he had to endure. Both had committed crimes to defend themselves. Cortez might have been seen as a symbol of hope throughout his narratives but one can argue that Piri did not have that “role model” image for the most of this particular biography. However, it shows in a greater depth that anyone can redeem themselves through acceptance of others and themselves.

Even though we were not there, we are fortunate enough to have been transported back to the past through the power of words and the memories of the writer, may that be the person himself or countless witnesses to these stories. The way I would contrast these two is that Paredes’ account of Gregorio Cortez’s life has impacted generations of the “border culture” whereas Thomas’ biography has affected even us who are just in a classroom of students studying Latino/Chicano literature on a level that even we had to explain it to understand each other better. Some were sad, some were broken-hearted, and some were inspired. These books have been able to inspire simply just by recounting memories that are out of our present context and gives us a more in depth understanding of history and the “sad” reality of what people had to go through back then and even until now.

Down These Mean Streets (Part 2)

As much as I find “Down These Mean Streets” to be very interesting, I also find it to be very sad. In many chapters of the book, we see how Piri gets himself in trouble through the many things that he involves himself, whether that be selling drugs or robbing businesses. It seemed to me like he was just going in circles and not learning a thing from his experiences. As the story progresses, I found myself thinking “why doesn’t he learn? He’s getting himself in trouble”. Then, I realized that it is easier said than done. First of all, he loses his mother and finds out that his Papa is with another woman, so that just makes his situation worse. His own home feels even less like a home and he almost ends up killing his dad. And then, the outside world isn’t any better either. We wonder why there are “bad people” in this world. Well maybe they were just not given the opportunity by society. Earlier in the book, we see how he wants to do things right but it’s the recurring mistreatment because of his color that keeps him hurting the society that keeps rejecting him. He keeps being downgraded because of what he looks like.

This reminds me of one instance that my older sister got into a silly fight on social media over a post about a girl being the first black lead for the Nutcracker with the New York City ballet. Charlotte Nebres’ mom has roots from Trinidad and Tobago and her dad is Filipino. This outraged my sister (and I understand where she’s coming from), because she thinks it is a misrepresentation of ethnicities. At fist glance, I can tell right off the bat that she has Filipino blood and I wouldn’t even think of her as black, but people keep insisting that she’s black. The big question is: why couldn’t the title be “the first Asian to land the lead role in the Nutcracker” or “the first Filipina…” I guess it would have had more impact to consider her “black” because of the rejection of African Americans.

I cannot imagine how tough it must have been to live a life like Piri’s. I am glad he is able to turn things around and that he was able to learn from his mistakes. This makes me realize that however many and similar faces we see every day, each face has a profound story to share.

Down These Mean Streets (Part 1)

As I have mentioned before, I am not a big fan of reading. It still took me quite some time to read the novel but this is by far the easiest one to read out of all the ones that we have to read for the class. This novel hit close to home in so many different levels. I almost started crying as I read the first few pages of the book. I can recall so many experiences, not just mine, but also of people that I have encountered along the way, most especially those that I met when I lived in the Dominican Republic and when I went to El Salvador.

This story reminds me of a friend that I met in El Salvador. He was one of the interpreters that helped us when we were down there. When I was reading about Piri having a hard time at home and not getting along with the other kids, I see in my head what was going on and I can’t imagine myself going through something similar. Then I suddenly thought of Gabriel. He’s the first person that I’ve met who’s all tattooed up looking all macho but he cries so easily when he hears stories and testimonies of people. I remember a particular moment when I joked about him not looking like a Salvadorian but rather a Mexican and he got mad at me for doing so. Later on, he told me about his story. I found out that he was imprisoned in the States and that he was in jail for 20 years, after being released, he was deported back to El Salvador.

Gabriel told me that he hates being mistaken for a Mexican because he was locked up with Mexicans in the States. Even though he is Salvadorian by blood and he can speak Spanish because of his parents, he started sounding like a Mexican because he was surrounded by them. He told me that when he arrived in El Salvador, he couldn’t understand the accent and slang that the people had. He felt like a stranger to that country. He didn’t know where he belonged.

I believe belonging is somewhat a central theme in “Down These Mean Streets”. Piri struggles a lot with what other people think of him. When Piri says “my own is what I want. Nothing more”, he was having a “Gabriel moment.” He would be okay with how he looked if he wasn’t mistreated solely because of it. His appearance is a hindrance to his belonging, even in his own home. He is struggling with his own identity.

With His Pistol in His Hand (Part 2)

To be honest, I found the second part of the book quite boring. I know Paredes has a point in explaining why there are so many different variations of the corridos. There were times that I had no idea if I skipped a page or five because I couldn’t keep track of the people and the places mentioned in the book anymore. At the same time, it was good to see what it was like back then and also to learn a little bit about the history of Mexico. It is interesting to see how the corridos have “evolved” by being passed around as a tradition orally. While it might be impossible to know what really happened, there is something so beautiful as to how that might just stay as a mystery or rather a treasure that will be preserved by those who actually do know what happened.

I believe one of the reasons that it has been altered numerous times is the historical context behind it and what the people of a certain place perceive Gregorio Cortez to be. One can easily assume things about his personality or the role that he played back in the day.  Something I can relate to this is a recent photo of an animated movie that I have seen on social media. I remember seeing a poster of the first Spaniard, Ferdinand Magellan, that “discovered” the Philippines back in 1521 and then there is a guy on the poster on the bottom-right corner of the poster. This guy, Lapu-Lapu, is someone I learned about when I was little. His image was smaller than Magellan’s of course. It is also indicated that Lapu-Lapu is the villain in the movie. To me, it was weird because I learned about the arrival of the Spaniards from the Filipino perspective and I never looked at Lapu-Lapu as a villain. I believe that the arrival of the Spaniards was the first time that the Philippines has had colonizers. It is just intuitive for humans to protect their own, and this is where Lapu-Lapu comes in. Since the movie is probably an original in Spain, it just makes sense that those who are fighting back from the “conquered” side are named the villains or the “bad guys”. From the Spanish point of view, this is a new discovery that brought glory to the name of Spain but to the natives, it meant oppression and slavery.

The same thing might have happened with Gregorio Cortez’s story. The more the people knew about him, the more the stories about him changed.

With His Pistol in His Hand (Part 2)

To be honest, I found the second part of the book quite boring. I know Paredes has a point in explaining why there are so many different variations of the corridos. There were times that I had no idea if I skipped a page or five because I couldn’t keep track of the people and the places mentioned in the book anymore. At the same time, it was good to see what it was like back then and also to learn a little bit about the history of Mexico. It is interesting to see how the corridos have “evolved” by being passed around as a tradition orally. While it might be impossible to know what really happened, there is something so beautiful as to how that might just stay as a mystery or rather a treasure that will be preserved by those who actually do know what happened.

I believe one of the reasons that it has been altered numerous times is the historical context behind it and what the people of a certain place perceive Gregorio Cortez to be. One can easily assume things about his personality or the role that he played back in the day.  Something I can relate to this is a recent photo of an animated movie that I have seen on social media. I remember seeing a poster of the first Spaniard, Ferdinand Magellan, that “discovered” the Philippines back in 1521 and then there is a guy on the poster on the bottom-right corner of the poster. This guy, Lapu-Lapu, is someone I learned about when I was little. His image was smaller than Magellan’s of course. It is also indicated that Lapu-Lapu is the villain in the movie. To me, it was weird because I learned about the arrival of the Spaniards from the Filipino perspective and I never looked at Lapu-Lapu as a villain. I believe that the arrival of the Spaniards was the first time that the Philippines has had colonizers. It is just intuitive for humans to protect their own, and this is where Lapu-Lapu comes in. Since the movie is probably an original in Spain, it just makes sense that those who are fighting back from the “conquered” side are named the villains or the “bad guys”. From the Spanish point of view, this is a new discovery that brought glory to the name of Spain but to the natives, it meant oppression and slavery.

The same thing might have happened with Gregorio Cortez’s story. The more the people knew about him, the more the stories about him changed.