Author Archives: cynthia lightbody

Lost Children Archive (Part 2)

A couple seconds into reading this second half I realized that the point of view changed – just as I had hoped it would! I was eager to get a different point of view, and although I am still so curious about the dad and his point of view on his relationship with his wife, having the story be told by the son is equally as intriguing. Although I have to admit, I was quite confused because he kept using “you”, for example: “while you and I were at school, Pa and Ma …” (195). Of course, I quickly realized the brother is referring to his sister. Here again we see the importance of storytelling; the bother is looking into the past and remembering this road trip, and all the things that his sister is unable to remember, he pulls from his own memory. In the first half the mother was so concerned and preoccupied with the topic of storytelling, but now, while I thought the majority of this ‘overthinking’ (as I previously referred to it as) would vanish, it hasn’t. There seems to be a little bit of the same tone present in the narration. One thing that really caught my attention was when the boy was describing the time when they all first moved into the apartment together and he says: ”even though we didn’t know one another well, we all laughed a lot together.” (195). It’s interesting that relationships like this one, between 4 people, starts from nothing, and progresses into a bond strong enough to move in together, and then to be stuck in the same car together. This novel has actually made me reflect a lot on my own personal relationships with each of my family members. I think back to the countless road trips we have taken together as a family of 5; the drives always started off super fun and exciting, but as the time passed my sisters and I slowly but surely began to go crazy. I remember being so bored and all I could do was watch my parents in the front seat, while listening to whatever CD it was that my parents chose to put on; and if my parents were to argue, it was impossible to ignore them because I had nothing else to do. I think the car in this novel is really key; as we said before, it’s a safe place but it’s also an unsafe place because there is so much uncertainty as to what conversations will take place, who will end up starting an argument, etc.

It’s also interesting that the boy now calls himself a documentarist and a documentarian “at the same time” (210); he had wanted to document as much as he could, knowing his sister wouldn’t be able to remember. I stick with what I said in our last discussion about how this novel seems to be all about the idea of ‘capturing’; whether it be capturing a moment, a smile, a story, an experience, etc. It’s about capturing and storing whatever has been captured, in whatever way possible.

For some reason I get the sense that the father (versus the mother) is more immersed in his ‘work’ life; I put ‘work’ in quotations because I also get the sense that his job as a father and his job as a documentarist overlap quite a bit. The stories the father tells the children are not typical stories a father would tell his young children; they are not light-hearted, super happy nor funny, but they do relate to his ‘work’. One line that stood out to me was when the boy says: “Sometimes I couldn’t tell if he was telling stories or telling histories” (216).

I find the passing along of stories in this novel super interesting, and it reminded me of the fact that we often hear stories but never really pay attention to the backstory, or where the story came from. In the novel, the boy tells us his own stories about the past, but he also tells us stories that had been previously told to him. These are stories that involve something initially happening somewhere in he world, which is then reported on by the media, which is then presented to the public through a variety of mediums. Then someone, like the father in this novel, re-tells this same story to his children, and now the boy is re-telling the same story to us through a novel that has been written who knows how many years after the initial event (hope that made some sort of sense). The boy’s memory seems to be extremely well-functioning; the amount of detail he is able to pull from his memory is very remarkable. I also find it interesting how these stories that the father tells the children overlap with real life; what I mean is that throughout the whole novel the children are constantly asking whether something they see in the present relates to what they have heard in a story. For example, on page 231 the boy says: “I asked papa if the echoes we heard earlier that day were like the ones in echo canyon he’d told us about”. Another example when the boy says: “I could try to make the night longer, the way Geronimo had the power to stretch out time during a night of battle” (233). Then when the children leave home and fend for themselves, the boy says: “I used to only pee in toilets, but I had learned to do it in the open, just like the boy did from the top of the gondola” (269). The children’s heads seem to be constantly living in present real life, and the stories they have been told. My last point here has to do with children viewing their parents as experts, or as if they know everything. When I was younger, I used to think that my parents knew everything about everything, and it’s sort of a weird feeling to grow up and slowly but surely realize that this isn’t exactly true. I think this idea plays a role in this novel, but I’m not too sure yet exactly how it does. It does however, have to do with growing up. While I didn’t think we would see that theme in this novel, we most definitely do. On page 239 the boy says: “And when I went back inside, I felt like I was finally almost a grown man”.

I loved the way all the stories came together at the end. The way the novel ends even leaves us with the idea that there is yet another story to be told, but this time by the sister. This is definitely my favourite novel we have read this semester, and I definitely want to read it again this summer! This is the first novel we have read this semester to make me very emotional, maybe even cry a little bit!

Lost Children Archive (Part 1)

I am really enjoying this novel so far, but I can’t quite pin point exactly why – I am going to use this blog post to try and figure out why by spilling out my thoughts. If I am being honest, I am quite shocked that I am such a fun because I think a lot of people (including myself even just 2 years ago) would maybe find it too boring. I think part of the reason I like it so much is because I am constantly fascinated by the narrator, her words, and they way she delivers her thoughts. I remember Jon saying something last week about how the mother (the narrator) is an over-thinker, and even by page 1 I had made this observation myself. In a strangely pleasant way, I find myself becoming slightly anxious while reading this novel, and it’s all due to the narrator being an over-thinker, and therefore the narration being super fast-paced, as if time is moving very quickly. Actually, the mother even talks about how fast time is moving, both directly and indirectly. I find the descriptions in this novel super interesting; it seems on each and every page there was something that caught my attention, for example on page 84 the mother describes a woman as having: “Hyperthyrodial eyes”.  Another reason I think I like this novel so much is because I can somehow establish a personal connection to either the characters, the situation, etc., on pretty much each page. There are things the children say that I specifically remember myself saying as a kid; for example: “when will we get there?” (15).  This was the only thing that came out of me and my sisters’ mouths on road trips; every five minutes my parents would have to give us an answer. I also think that this novel is just beautifully written – there is so much thought and emotion in every sentence. There are so many times where I find myself rereading the same cluster of words just because of how beautifully written it is. I like how we as readers are let into all aspects of their lives; their jobs, their family, their relationship problems, etc. Interestingly though, we don’t even know any of their names. In my opinon, in this novel it seems that the narrator overcomplicates and overanalyzes things, where as in “House on Mango Street” it’s as if things are not analyzed enough. Interestingly enough, the tendencies to overanalyze and under analyze both left me with questions. Of course the ways in which sounds and space are used in this novel was also super interesting to me; something so simple like sound is turned into something to major – it’s almost as if it’s a character. Even the mother recognizes this: “Sound and space are connected in a way much deeper than we usually acknowledge” (39). I think this theme of sound extends to the narration itself; each paragraph is either filled with so much noise, or so much silence.

As much as this novel is about children, I think it is just as much about storytelling; throughout the entire first half, there are always stories being told. Whether it is the mother telling stories about her relationship/the situation at the border with the “lost children”, or the father who tells stories about the Apache children, among other things. On page 185 the mother even says: “For a long time I’ve been worried about what to tell our children, how to give them a story. But now, as I listen to the boy telling the story of this instant … / It’s his version of the story that will outlive us; his version that will remain an be passed down.” (185) It is also a story about and marriage, and relationships in general (between partners, between mother/father and child/step-child, etc.). The second paragraph on page 82 is just one of the many examples of where the mother reflects on her own relationship with her partner, and expresses how much she loves him, and how this is sometimes the problem, or rather HER problem as she likes the put it. I am fascinated by the relationship dynamics in this novel; each relationship is so unique.

I don’t really know how to explain this well but I also think this novel is sort of exclusive; what I mean is that there are so many references in this book to other songs, other books, etc.. One example is Lord of the Flies; if you’ve never heard of or read the book, maybe the parts of the novel that mention this book won’t make us much sense. This novel challenged me in this way; it was like a test of how much I know and how much I don’t.

The House on Mango Street

This blog post is going to be a bunch of random thoughts mushed together!

I remember one of my little sisters bringing home “The House on Mango Street” in grade 7 and asking me for help with the assigned questions.  She kept saying she didn’t understand the point of the book, and didn’t know why the chapters were so short.  Looking back, I can understand why someone in grade 7 might not understand the ‘point’ of this particular book.  The problem is that they are always looking for a point.  It’s interesting that at the beginning Sandra Cisneros even says that she didn’t want to write a book that “a reader won’t understand and would feel ashamed for not understanding” (xvii).  On the topic of shame, one of the biggest ‘themes’ (not sure if it’s a theme in the book but whatever) that stood out to me throughout this book was in fact shame.  Esperanza talks about her aunt being ashamed, herself being ashamed, etc.

Just like with Piri and Antonio, we are able to follow Esperanza’s  ‘journey’ and witness her growth; however with this book, for first time we are presented with a female protagonist.  One part that really stood appears in what’s perhaps one of the shortest chapters I have ever seen: “Those Who Don’t” (28). The chapter begins with the following: “Those who don’t know any better come into our neighbourhood scared.  They think we are dangerous.  They think we will attack them with skinny knives.  They are stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake.” (28).  It’s interesting that Esperanza uses “we”; she clearly identifies very closely with her community, but on the other hand, we see later on that her own community also causes her problems.  What’s clear at the beginning is that she wants to be involved and play an active role in her community.  Esperanza is also always talking about what she wants in the future; it’s as if she is rushing the experience of growing up.  I think this is a very relatable feeling for many young girls.  On page 73 she says: “I want to be all new and shiny”.  In other chapters she talks about wanting to own her own house, being held by a boy, etc.  She also doesn’t consider herself like other girls, and she makes it clear; she doesn’t even “cross the street like other girls” (72).  Esperanza seems to like having responsibilities, no matter how small or big they are.  “One day I’ll own my own house, but I won’t forget who I am or where I came from.” (87).  This is just one example where I began to think about the whole idea of ‘pride’ and the role it has played in this book, as well as the others.  My question is: what role does pride play in this book?

On page 56 we learn that her abuelito has died and because she is the oldest, the responsibility is on her to tell the others.  She has never seen her father cry before, she has never seen him vulnerable; now she is holding him in her arms. I remember seeing my dad cry for the second time when my grandmother died; it’s such a strange feeling seeing your parents in a vulnerable state, and having to comfort them instead of the other way around.  I don’t think Esperanza ever thought she would see her father like that and have to comfort him, after all, he is a ‘man’.

I was thinking about a question Jon asked us last week:  is this Esperanza’s story or is this every young female Chicano’s story?

Bless Me, Ultima (Part 2)

To be completely honest, the second half of this book caused me some confusion, so I am just going to ramble a bit in this post.  First off, does the owl symbolize Ultima?  In the first half of the book I didn’t really know what to make of the owl, but now it seems like the owl represents Ultima.   Of course, Tenorio tells us that the owl represents Ultima’s spirit: “‘It is the owl! Do you hear, little bastard! It is the owl that is the spirit of the old witch'” … but is there anything more to this?  At the end the owl dies, and shortly after that Ultima does as well.  Then, upon burying the owl, Antonio realizes that he has buried Ultima. Throughout the book however, the owl does not seem to have the “qualities” (for lack of a better word) that Ultima does.  For example, Ultima is known as the healer and we don’t see a lot of violence from her.  On the other hand, we see a lot of violence from the Owl, like when it rips out Tenorio’s eye.  There definitely are similarities between the owl and Ultima, perhaps one of the most important things that stood out to me about them both is that they are protectors; the owl protects Ultima like Ultima protects Antonio.  There are endless layers to Ultima, and her connection with nature is very obvious through the owl; it seems that the owl shares its soul with a ‘human being’ – they are both connected by the same spirit.  However, this brings me to my next question: is Ultima a human being?  I get the sense that she is, but that her strong connection to nature, especially the fact that (from my observations) she shares a spirit or soul with the owl, is what makes her appear to be non-human.  I found that my questions about Ultima distracted me from what I think this book is truly about: Antonio growing up and learning how to form his own opinions and build his own path.  At the beginning of the book Antonio seemed like a shy, somewhat anxious child who seemed to be torn between two sides that he didn’t even fully understand.  However at the end, Antonio has now learned so much more than he ever thought possible, and most importantly, has realized that his future depends on him and his actions, not anybody else’s.  He also learns how to navigate himself through the ‘magic’ that exists all around him.  It’s even weird for adults to attempt to explain spiritual or magical things, so imagine trying to figure all this stuff out as a child.  At that age, it’s hard to figure out that there isn’t just one single truth, and Antonio realizes this at the end.

Bless Me, Ultima (Part 1)

There are specific scenes in “Bless me, Ultima” that reminded me very much of the three other books we have read in this class.  On the very first page of chapter ‘Uno’, Antonio is describing his family and their home, and this reminded me of Piri talking about his family and his home; of course, both these books are written in the first person.  “From the top of the stairs I had a vantage point into the heart of our home, my mother’s kitchen” (1).  Right after this, Antonio admits that from that viewpoint he was able to see the face of Chavez when he delivered the news of the death of the sheriff, which immediately made me think about Gregorio Cortez.  Also referring to Gregorio Cortez, one scene that reminded me of him was when Antonio spots Lupito, “the man who had killed the sheriff” (18), and sees him “crouched in the reeds and half submerged in the muddy waters” (18).  Antonio then describes to us that “the glint of light was from the pistol he held in his hand.” (18).  Immediately after reading this, I wondered a) why Lupito had killed the sheriff, and b) why is he not considered a hero, like in Paredes’s book?  On that same page, Antonio even says: “I knew that the sheriff had been greatly admired” (20).  Was the sheriff that Gregorio Cortez shot greatly admired?  And by who?  Later on, Antonio speaks about Lupito’s soul and says: “He had killed the sheriff and so he had died with a mortal sin on his soul.  He would go to hell.” (27).  It’s interesting to compare the killing of sheriff in this book, versus “With His Pistol in His Hand”; Gregorio Cortez killed a sheriff and became a hero, where as Lupito committed the same act, and is not a hero whatsoever in the eyes of the characters.  At church, one young girl even says: “He’ll go to hell.  It’s the law that he go to hell for what he did.” (37); and speaking about the law, the narrator says: “God was not always forgiving.  He made laws to follow and if you broke them you were punished.” (44).  Unlike the previous books we’ve read, here for the first time we see God as a “lawmaker”.

I also found it interesting to compare Piri to Antonio; for example, Antonio thinks: “Sometimes I felt like Jason, like I wanted to shout and cry, but I never did” (10), and in many ways this kind of emotional suppression reminds me of Piri.  To me, Antonio doesn’t seem like a “normal” six year old boy; most six year old boys would shout and cry if they felt like it.  Antonio seems very smart; there are multiple times in the book where he claims to understand the actions and motives behind certain behaviours.  For example, Antonio says that he was sure that his father was going to get up and shoot the owl with the old rifle he kept, but didn’t.  Antonio says that he “accepted his understanding” (13).  Antonio also recognizes what he doesn’t understand, which is also interesting to me; he seems to be extremely aware of what goes on around him, and of other people’s feelings as well.  For example:  “It was a cry that I did not understand, and I am sure the men on the bridge did not either” (19).  It’s impossible to imagine what it would be like to witness the death of a person at the age of 6, and Antonio seems to be quite effected by it, but again, he doesn’t seem to express these emotions and let them out.  He seems shocked; for example, he thinks: “the river’s brown waters would be stained with blood, forever and ever and ever” (24).  Here we see this child-like mentality.  We also see that Antonio questions the idea of right vs wrong; for example, he thinks to himself: “The men of the town had murdered Lupito. But he had murdered the sheriff. They said the war had made him crazy” (24).   Similar to Piri, Antonio knows he must become a man: “I knew I had to grow up and be a man, but oh it was so very hard” (59).  Actually, the topic of ‘becoming a man’ appears various times throughout this first half of the book.

The Law

In this blog post I want to focus on the theme of the “law” in relation to “The Squatter and the Don” and “Down These Mean Streets”.  While the law is evident in both texts, it certainly is highlighted in different ways in each.  If we think about the law, we think about rules, regulations and their enforcement; yet we also think about it as something that citizens respect, value and use to guide their behaviour, because if the rules are not abided by, there are consequences. In “The Squatter and the Don”, the law as a theme is very evident, especially in terms of land possession, but also in the form of unwritten social rules. Interestingly, in “Down These Mean Streets”, the law isn’t necessarily as big as a theme as it is in “The Squatter and the Don”.  Of course when Piri goes to prison, he goes because he was finally caught disobeying the law, but even before this, Piri engages in activity that is also seen as disobeying the law.  Piri tends to get himself in a lot of trouble, both at school and in his neighbourhood; however, the law or the fear of breaking rules doesn’t necessarily stop Piri from engaging in “risky” behaviour, until he goes to prison.  In fact, he chooses whether or not to fight people based on their level of heart.  After Piri gets released from prison, the law stays close with him, but it is invisible.  It’s as if he has taken what he has learned and experienced in prison, and held it in his heart.  The “Squatter and the Don” was set long before “Down These Mean Streets”, and it’s interesting to compare the role of the law in the two texts.  In the “Squatter and the Don”, the law does not protect and doesn’t even work the way the law is supposed to; in fact, it reproduces and upholds systemic inequalities.  There is lots of bribery and corruption; for example with the Monopolists and judge Lawlack, who will do whatever he is told.  The following two quotes are simple examples from the text that expose the the “kinks” of the law: “When they go sticking their noses into people’s business, they do so casually” (225) and “If San Diego had been permitted to grow, to have a population, her administration of laws would have been in other hands, and outrages like breaking into the Mechlin house could not have occurred” (337).  The most interesting part about how the law works in “The Squatter and the Don” is that even if the system of justice was working, it would still be bad for the population, even the entire United States.  There are numerous lawyers and endless appeals, yet no progress is ever made.  Something like the law, that should be straightforward, strict and essentially set in stone, is the exact opposite in this novel.  The law is supposed to work, but doesn’t, and because of this, we see the law not being able to protect against monopoly capitalism, as the main culprit in this novel.  There is a kind of feud between the Squatters and the Don, because of the very one thing that should have prevented a feud like this in the first place: the law. 

Down These Mean Streets (Part 2)

Overall, I really enjoyed this book!  The last chapter in particular stood out to me: “I Swears to God and the Virgin” (327).  This chapter begins with Piri going to visit his old building number 109; he says he “always looked at her like an old novia” (327).  I thought this was a super interesting comparison; his relationship with his home/his neighbourhood/his community is just as important as the relationships he has with individuals.  At the end of the last page of the previous chapter, Piri states his thoughts: “what a blank that was.  I should have known, nothing is run the same, nothing stays the same.  You can’t make yesterday come back today.” (326).  Interestingly, on the next page (the start of the very last chapter), when Piri visits his old building, he says: “the mood was the same” (327).  He describes the dark hallways, the dirty marble steps, and he even prepares himself to watch out for the “piles of dog’s mess” (327) or anybody’s “piss water” (327).  For Piri, clearly some things DO stay the same; and in a way, when he visits this old building, he is indeed making “yesterday come back today” (326).  What is it that allows some things to stay the same?  To me, it clearly has to do with memories.  In the very last few pages of the book, Piri is conversing with Carlito (as Carlito is shooting up) and Piri tells him that he is clean.  To me, this claim of being clean has a close connection to what Piri says in the prologue.  For example, in the prologue Piri states: “I’m here and I want recognition” (ix).  Piri believes he is very much worthy of being recognized for navigating himself through the mean streets, and pulling himself out of deep holes (like drug use) that many of his old friends are still stuck in.  On the topic of recognition, in the last chapter Piri greets panín and describes the way in which panín greeted him: “the eyes blinked, straining for some kind of recognition, and then knowing set in …” (327).  Here, like in the prologue, we see the word “recognition”; which I consider to be one of the major themes in this book.  Piri and others are always interacting in ways that involve the recognition of identities; and like we discussed last class, recognizing something/someone involves an aspect of acceptance.  Acceptance, of course, is also a major theme; from the acceptance of identities, to the acceptance of social class and living situation (for example, Piri’s mother accepting that they live in the United States, and not in her beloved, warm Puerto Rico).

Down These Mean Streets (Part 1)

I am really enjoying this novel so far!  I am particularly interested in the character of Piri’s mother, and the role that identity/being an hombre plays.  So far, Piri’s mother is the most interesting character in my opinion; she has so much personality, and clearly lots of heart (I believe there are many things that make up having “heart” in this novel, and I am sure we will discuss in class).  The love she has for her children is evident in every interaction she has with them, and as the events unfold in the novel, she is faced with situations that would rip apart any mother apart. She also comforts her children in ways that the father could never, and even keeps secrets from him; for example Piri says: “The bad-o feeling came back.  About Poppa not knowing I’d cut out from home, and Momma worrying cause she knew.” (5). The relationship between Piri and his mother is incredibly important to Piri’s well-being and ability to cope with the day to day battles; without her I think Piri would be completely lost. The subtle comments he makes about his mother just show how much he trusts her, and I would argue, how much he really needs her:  “I joined her and we just laughed and laughed.  I kissed her and went into the back room feeling her full-of-love words floating after me.” (19).  Piri then says: “Caramba, it was great to see Momma happy.  I’d go through the rest of making the funnies if I was sure Momma would be happy.” (19).  It’s almost as if they have this understanding of each other that nobody will ever be able to understand or compete with; their relationship truly is special.  It is a sharp contrast to the relationship Piri has with his father, however.  

Moving onto the idea of being an hombre, something Piri said that interested me is the following: “But there was still the good WPA.  If a man was poor enough, he could dig a ditch for the government. Now Poppa was poor enough again” (8).  Not only does this emphasize the uncertainty and unpredictability of day to day life back then, to me it also suggests something about Poppa.  We learn later that Poppa hates his job with the WPA, and part of me thinks this is because he feels he’s failing to be an hombre; as if he is failing both himself and his family by not holding a steady job, etc. 

As for the topic of identity, one thing that stood out to me was this idea of turning on and off identities, depending on the particular situation.  For example, when Piri meets Rocky on the Italian block, Rocky asks him: “What nationality are ya?” (24). Piri then stares at him and “wondered which nationality to pick” (24).  Piri knows that due to his skin colour, people are going to have preconceived thoughts; and in a way, he knows that if he says he’s Puerto Rican, he’s going to be given a hard time.  However, he still chooses to do so. During this particular encounter, Rocky and Piri start throwing punches, and after the fight Piri ends up lying on the floor dizzy and all, and he says: “I just hoped my face was cool-looking”.  I noticed multiple comments throughout this first half that are related to the one just mentioned; it seems this is one if the ways in which he shows he’s an hombre, by not showing he’s hurt, not showing any signs of defeat, etc.  Clearly Piri is still just figuring everything, and this transitional phase between boy and hombre is a key point in this novel.  

I’m also interested in this connection between having heart and being an hombre; it seems to me that having heart in this novel has to do with the desire to belong, and doing what it takes to do so.  Being an hombre too, however, is also about belonging; but more so belonging to a role/identity that one is expected to take on.    


With His Pistol in His Hand (Part 2)

What stood out to me the most in this second half were the different variations of the corrido; what’s interesting to me is what details are added to/taken out of the original corrido. It seems that the variants get (for the most part) shorter and shorter, according to the way in which Paredes has organized them; “Varient I” is only 6 quatrains, while “Varient A” is 12. These changes in length fascinate me as one would think that over time they would become longer, because more and more details would be added (at least that’s what makes sense to me). I would assume that with the exaggerations, more details would be added (whether they be factual or invented doesn’t matter) but I was wrong. Some variants seem to mention at the beginning the county of El Carmen, but “Variation I” does not; it only mentions “Piedras Negras”.

In the first half of the book what interested me the most about the corrido is how direct the language is; if we think about it, it’s just telling a story. Descriptions are kept to a minimum, and that includes adjectives, figurative language, etc. I wondered about the role of imagery, and if the corrido was at all meant to provoke emotion through painting pictures in our heads. Flash forward to page 216, and my wonders were addressed: “But the corrido is not entirely bare of imagery”. We are told that in Gregorio Cortez there is figurative language used in a number of instances; the imagery used in these instances can be divided into two types. The first type is that that has its basis in real life of the Border; the other type is that which is “purely conventional and unsupported”, and even “contradicted by observation of things that the borderer knows” (216). I guess what I find interesting about this is the level of detail in the information extracted from the corrido – it reminds me of studying poetry. It made me realize that when you put words on a paper, you can analyze it in a completely different way that say, hearing it. I was also interested in what Paredes had to say about the symbol of the white dove. On page 218, the white dove is addressed: the faces of Cortez’s pursuers are said to be “whiter than a dove”. However, as Paredes suggests, it is unlikely that a white dove was ever seen; it is from religious paintings.

With a Pistol in His Hand (Part 1)

To be honest, at first this novel really confused me; however, after I went back and read the introduction (which I should have done in the first place), it did make more sense.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the novel is the narration; it’s incredibly simple and straightforward, like how we are told a corrido is.  In fact, the ‘Introduction’ states: “The corrido tells a story simply and swiftly, without embellishments”, and that is exactly what this novel does. The way Gregorio Cortez is described also caught my attention; there seems to be this sense of uncertainty as to what he was actually like/what he actually did/what he was actually capable of, for example: “Some say he was short and some say he was tall; some say he was Indian brown and some say he was blond like a newborn cockroach” (34). These discrepancies made me think about the space that exists between man and his legend, as well as how legends come to be/how they carry on for decades and centuries. The following sentence relates to this idea as well: “It was as if the Border people had dreamed Gregorio Cortez before producing him, and had sung his life and his deeds before he was born” (125).  We are also told that, “For one of the most striking things about Gregorio Cortez is the way the actual facts of his life conformed to pre-existing legend” (125).  What do we think about this?

This first half of the novel also made me think about borders and their function and impact; it’s interesting that there is such an overlap in culture (southernmost part of Texas and Mexico), due to a blurry geographical boundary.  This boundary seems to lead to further blurriness that extends into daily life, particularly in the social and political context.  It seems that it’s this blurriness that is the root cause of many problems.  

The idea of exaggeration is super important to this novel; for example the narrator claims: “The Rangers have been known to exaggerate …” (25), and he continues to speak about the exaggerations of how many Mexicans the Rangers said they killed, etc. Relating to exaggeration, different historial perspectives clearly play large roles as well; there is no ONE story when it comes to history. 

In saying this, why is it that we believe legends?  Or maybe a better question is, do we actually believe in them or do we ”believe” in them because we are supposed to believe in them?  How embellished are these stories that have been passed down through generations?  

Again, to be completely honest, I am still a bit confused by this novel, but I’m sure on Tuesday it’ll be more clear!