Category Archives: Responses

Final Thoughts…

The term is coming to an end and I am still trying to articulate my thoughts about everything that we’ve read and discussed in class. I personally would not have picked up any of these books if I had saw them in a bookstore- but after reading them I found myself enjoying each one of them! Ok, maybe not Marti as much as the others probably due to its level of Spanish .
I am very glad to have read all these books because it allowed me to explore a world that I thought I was unable to relate to. However, reading about their daily struggles and triumphs tugged at my emotions and the fact that their stories were short, and sometimes even fragmented, made me completely drawn to them because the stories were so personal. Each story about Latin-American life was unique because if its details but yet the feeling behind each story represented a whole. When I think back to all the books we’ve read, all the stories in every book seem to come together to form one giant memory. I don’t think about each book with its own title and meaning, rather, I find it hard to differentiate which story belonged to which. And that is what I found the most interesting/important.When the young boy in Y No Se Lo Trago La Tierra reflects all that has happened in the year, it is a compilation of all the fragments and everything becomes a whole. Like in Y No Se Lo Trago La Tierra, i feel that the fragmented stories represent each book that we’ve read and the final pages represents what I feel right now. All the stories come together as one because I think about how the many voices are conveying the emotion.

Which character are you?

I didn’t know what ‘Chicano’ meant before taking this course. Honestly. On the first day of class I sat down having really no idea what kind of literature we were going to read. In actual fact, I had to look up where the Río Grande was on a map! (she admits reluctantly)

Fortunately, much of the literature we read in class I was able to relate to, despite my initial ignorance of who these authors were and where they came from. I can not relate to their stories of immigration and I couldn’t grasp their feelings of identity loss, seeing as in my life I’m still trying to locate my identity in the first place; but I could experience their sense of humanity. Many of these authors wrote their stories (fiction or not) with such vividness, and oftentimes such poetic verse, that I was drawn towards them. It wasn’t a chore to read their tales of coming and going, loss and gain, crippling pains and small victories.

I’m not going to say which works I liked or didn’t like. I’m not even going to mention them specifically. I think that they have each left a mark on me, with many of the characters leaving their footprints on my mind. And those footprints are important, especially when living in a city such as Vancouver where caucasian is seen as a minority now in our ‘cultural mosaic’. Many people that live here are immigrants or the children of immigrants. It would be like having the first day of school everyday…not to mention in another language. I have never been racist or against immigration; although I now feel more enriched on the subject. I don’t feel like I can understand their situation completely or truly empathize with them; however, I do ask different questions in my mind now when I look at people of another nationality: Where were you born? Why did you move? How are you treated? Does this country feel like home to you?

And sometimes: Which character are you?

A sad goodbye

I’ll limit my sentimentality to my title.
I’ll say I am happy to explore a relatively unexplored genre in the world of literature. Although it is a smaller genre, it addresses and gives life to the experiences of millions of people. This is what I thought was most important about this class; the life given to so many unheard voices by a select few. I listened in class to the comments of people who have been immigrants, and was interested to hear how well they identified with the stories. I saw in Carmen Rodriguez a woman who wanted to represent her people, to speak out where there was silence….and I was amazed to hear that the Chilean people’s silence persisted long after the publication of the book because they were not ready to break the silence. This fact impressed me deeply; Rodriguez gave voice to the many people who had had the same experiences, because no one else had done or was ready to do so. I imagined all the Dominicans in New York, all the Mexicans in the Southwest, all the Chileans in Canada, and all the Latin Americans who look up to this big white north, which weighs heavily upon their more slender southern land. The immigrant experience is a relatively recent phenomenon, a modern expression of globalization, and as an increasing number of immigrants cross borders, an increasing number of stories need to be told. And we saw in this class that an increasing number of people are telling these stories on behalf of those who shared this experience with them. I found in Rivera’s work an encouragement for these immigrants to find strength in each other and unite their voices in order to be heard, and thought it was a message all marginalized people should hear. I found in Alvarez’ and Cisneros’ books an encouragement of the acceptance of hybridity, of being neither one thing nor another, but both. I found in all of the stories (although to a lesser extent Rivera) a weighing of good things in the new culture versus bad ones and good things in the left-behind culture and bad ones. Marti’s incredible description of the true liberty, the freedom of America countered his criticism of the materialism, the lack of class. These contrasts exist in all things.
My favourite writing was Marti, as you know, because of the beauty of the language, the power of the images, the purity of the idealism. Second place I will award to Sandra Cisneros, for the originality of her expression and imagery, and because of how much I identified with the Mexican aspect of it (how many times has my mother said, “Never marry a Mexican!”, how many Mexican women I’ve seen who’ve been hurt by their men, how I agree that to love in Spanish is one thousand times more beautiful than loving in English!). And third place goes to Tomas Rivera, again for how much I love and identify with Mexico’s culture as well as for the emotional power of his writing.
A note about the Wikipedia article, which created so much rage within me sometimes: this was an important experience for me because I am terrible at groupwork and I absolutely cannot do large projects gradually (I need pressure to function), and so I had to overcome these things. In the end, though, it feels cool to have contributed somehow to the general education of the WORLD haHAAA. I feel like I’ve done something to alleviate, if ever minutely, the massive ignorance of the modern world.
Y Basta.

everything to date

well, here we are at the last blog!

overall, this has been an interesting class, and i’m not really sure where to start.
i guess the most important theme that we covered was that of identity.  i am planning on writing my paper on something along that line… so i guess i can use this as a way of getting the wheels turning.  we saw so many characters struggle with who they are, where they come from, and why they’re out-casted and how to overcome (or be overwhelmed by) their situations.  what still stands out for me a lot in the movie that we watched.  it really concreted, in my mind, what immigrants have to deal with – and especially mexican  immigrants who were displaced in their own land (the whole ‘the border crossed us’ case).  there we saw the struggles and hardships and racism and internal problems that all of these people faced.  of course, we saw this in a lot of the readings.  
the first book of the course, who would have thought it, i found to be less of a story about chicano/a struggle and more of a story about people (no, not feminism) in an unstable country all trying to do what they thought best.  all of the women and men out for themselves, instead of each other.  this is a contrast from and a body to remember with, where we see all of the characters working for each other – in underground movements, helping with border jumping (embassy gate jumping), support from abroad (not forgetting who they left behind).  
women hollering creek had a diversity to it that helped span a wide array of readers; there was something for everyone.  i enjoyed this book a lot.  it had such a unique style to it; this, obviously, had a huge impact on the themes and the audience.  in changing how she wrote (from story to story), cisneros keeps the reader guessing and keeps them captivated… it is like an additional character, because without it the book would not work – the themes would not be a strong, and nor would the characters that we ‘see’ (or recognize).
i like the format of short stories, especially for a class like this because it allows for students to see several points of view that, often, in a novel can get lost or confused in a lengthy plot.  by having a few longer short stories that are serious allows the author to get an important part of his/her message across, and then being able to break it up with a lighter story (with no defined characters, or with characters that you don’t have to remember…) allows for the reader to not get bogged down with an overload of depressing information.
finally, i really enjoyed hearing carmen rodriguez speak.  it really helped give a face to the story (much like the salt of the earth – …y no se lo traigo la tierra), and an emotional attachment.  i have read a lot of books by chilean authors, and a lot of books that are connected to the coup; but this is one of the few books that does not incorporate the element of magical realism into, and i thought (initially) that i wouldn’t enjoy it as much as a result; luckily this was not the case.  i think that the canadian element successfully replaced the magic with a ‘new world’ element.  the new world (if it can be called that) redistributes the values of the old world and this contrast helps create its own kind of magic; i guess the most important aspect is the mixing of old and new.

Resumen final

EL tema mas importante y recurrente en todos los libros leidos este semestre es la identidad. Es interesante que durante el periodo de la conquista muy poco estaba delineado en terminos economicos, culturales, sociales y politicos. El nuevo mundo abrio una ventana de posibilidades tan amplia para europa que desubico a los europeos totalmente, exigiendoles redefinirse y redefinir sus estilos de vida. Todos los textos estan relacionados con la colonizacion del continente americano y por lo tanto cada libro tiene sus propias reglas y sus propias definiciones.

Empezando por orden cronologico, Cabeza de Vaca presenta el tema de la identidad en lo personal. Cabeza de Vaca trata de definir la identidad del espanol en las Americas y descubre que aunque quieran, los espanoles no pueden ser solo conquistadores porque ellos pueden terminar siendo influenciados por lo quienes se encuentra en las americas y pueden terminar siendo conquistados por lo que querian conquistar. En otras palabras, Cabeza de Vaca nos demuestra que los espnoles no pueden entrar y salir de america siendo los misos.

De las Casas, trata el tema de la identidad en una forma amplia, el discute la identidad cultural Espanola, aunque el describe algunas caracteristicas que definen al indigena como la humildad, la obediencia, la pasividad su enfoque es el la cultura espanola y mas especificamente la religion como el aspecto fundamental de la identidad espanola. De las casas trata de apelar a lo que el considera los valores fundamentales de la religion como el respeto a la autoriadad monarquica, la misericordia y la bondad para detener la masacre que esta sucediendo en America. De las casas trata de convencer a los espanoles en europa de que ellos no pueden llamarse cristianos si apoan o ignoran el genocidio de los indigenas.

Garcilasco de las Vega, al igual que de las Casas discute la identidad cultural de un pueblo, solo que en este caso el inca necsita incluso de definir su pueblo. De las casas tiene un publico y obejetos a discutir claros: los espanoles, pero de la Vega necesita validar la mestisidad a la cual quiere referirse, aunque, el mismo, mestizo, existe , su condicion el invisible ante la autoridad.
Garcilasco primero resume la cultura inca, desconocida por muchos, la cultura criolla ignorada por otros, espcialmente, y luego brevemente las convina en una escena final de poder.

Los ultimos dos libros, discuten el tema de la identidad en un forma mucho mas modesta. Ambos textos asumen la existencia de una sociedad criolla, con herencia espanola pero de alguna forma diferente a la espanola, lo cual muestra el desarrollo temporal de la idead de una identidad Latinoamericana si no la misma. Como cabeza de Vaca lo habia experimentado, la visita a America le cambio la vida a los exnacionales espanoles. Sin embargo, Sor Juana y Lizardi representan la herencia espanola de Latinoamerica y por lo tanto descubren la realidad de los indigenas y de los negros quienes terminan como los oprimidos de la nueva sociedad.

Sor Juana dicute diferentes aspectos sociales, como el papel de la mujer en la sociedad, la seriedad de la institucion catolica, especialmente es su respuesta a sor filotea. De Lizardi tambien discute aspectos especificos de la sociedad como la ineficiencia de la burocracia en los gremios, la inigualdad entre las clases sociales, la necesidad del cambio.

En conclusion, creo que la conquista de America tubo un gran impacto en el orden de europa pero sobre todo creo una nueva sociedad con mucha personalidad pero tambien con muchos porblemas desde el principio

a little late !!

Hello I know this is late, but here are my comments on Carmen RODRIGUEZ. I can say that the book is not a hard book to read, but I do believe that it is directed to a very specific audience. I believe we that live in Vancouver could relate a lot to the book because it has specific details that only people that live here can really understand for example when she tell about bus routs and stops she takes. In the same way i think that there are details about Chile that you need to know Chile to really understand. SO the book is more for someone who was from Chile that came to Vancouver. I did not like the fact that she critizied Canada and Vancouver calling it a black whole also she mentions “The Vancouver beaches had no waves. The chilenian coast is more beautiful. That the Mountain in Vancouver were quite big and lovely. That the Andes were bigger and more lovely.”(pg22) I like the stories individually and the fact that she is experimenting with new styles but as a whole i believe the book lacked a little bit of structure. But I really commend the fact that she wrote in English.

Corporal memory

I might have to go out there and just say it: Carmen Rodríguez’ work has been my favourite of the course selections. It kept my attention easily riveted and provided much insight into a country’s political struggle of which I was largely ignorant. More importantly than this, I found her style of writing very conducive to emotional connection with the pain felt by her characters. Interestingly, what a lot of other students expressed as frustrating or confusing aspects of the book, were part of what intrigued me so. I wasn’t bothered by the apparent overlaps in the accounts or of the characters, and didn’t try to cling to a linear storyline, nor attempt to guess how much of the narrative was her own. Simply knowing (or feeling) that the events described happened to someone, somewhere, was more than enough to captivate, shock, and at times repel but ultimately attract me to the stories.

Of course, the identity of a political activist in Chile exiled to Vancouver, is a fairly unique experience, and the details are what make it so striking, but as I mentioned in class, I don’t think that too much import should be placed on setting. As far as I’m concerned, one of the great things about the book is that it does allow many different people from many different origins to relate to the basic human struggle of going through political turmoil at home and then having to face emotional estrangement in a new environment amid a new language. The detailed account of “her” story is a great vehicle for the message, and will certainly educate many a reader on the situation in Chile, but I think her work goes far beyond the boundaries of a Chilean woman living in Vancouver.

Anyone who has been forced to leave their home, and even some of us who have done so willingly, understands the anguish of inescapable memories. Some you hold on to for dear life, some you would much rather leave behind, but ultimately, the sum of your personal experience rests inside you forever. Whether you actively recall history or not, it will never cease to exist, and whether through your mind or your body, it will manifest itself in your actions and personality for as long as you live.


Remember it!

I find myself bound in appreciation of the legitimacy of Rodriguez’s story. It is, without a doubt, an intimate portrayal of family life, personal emotions, and conflict within a person who has been given no opportunity to anticipate assimilation.

While I often find many emotional narrations of authors to be more or less contrived, hers do not seem to be so. Though I may disagree with certain sentiments concerning our acceptance of foreigners in Vancouver, I cannot argue with or against the immigrant experience within this context.

That being said, her use of metaphor in “Black Hole” is one I can only appreciate at an emotional level, not an artistic one. While the sentiment of blackness and morbidity may manifest itself in her, I find it a tad too generic to be one I might consider compelling on a literary level. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, and I don’t think that my view is compulsory, but the “black hole” concept is one I associate with a lack of objectivity and irrational negativity.

Of course, her story is still a personal one despite the more broad aspects of it. Descriptions of torture are powerful regardless of context, and I did feel a painful discomfort while reading them.

As in Alvarez’s novel, the book straddles the line between autobiography and fiction, but obviously this book does not amount to a start-to-finish, or rather finish-to-start method. However, I take this book as a more literal approach to immigration and political exile than that of Alvarez’s, in that it is more black and white and less personal. Alvarez combined politics and identity with a coming of age tale, while this is more of a fragmented telling of events within less plausible characters. It is, I find, less personal that How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, though probably more factual in content.

I’ve always thought that Vancouver was a place where art wasn’t recognized, but Rodriguez gives me hope!