La Bloga posts and comments this year have gotten me rethinking what's Chicano Lit and what's Latino Lit. Each author pushed me to revamp my perspective and raised more questions than I could answer. Maybe others could help me sort this out.
I limit this piece to the arena of Chicano Lit (and exclude the question of who or what is a Chicano writer). Bloguistas and others made we reexamine its relationship to what's called Latino Lit.
Chicano Lit is about Chicanos, somehow. I'll dare say that books written about non-Chicanos, even though written by a Chicano (e.g., Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series) are not Chicano Lit, in the sense they are not part of a body of works more or less directly expressing perspectives on the Chicano experience. (Nevertheless, I might enjoy an analysis like "Chicano themes and perspectives in Gabaldon's Scotland.")
I'd add that books about Chicanos, even though written by a non-Chicano, should be considered Chicano Lit, when they successfully, empathically portray that experience. It would seem that, on the other hand, books about Chicanos written by a Chicano and not successfully portraying that experience are still Chicano Lit; they're just badly written.
Chicano Lit has affinities with Latino Lit. For instance, in the case of Boriqua Lit, they share historical affinities due to the similar subjugation by the U.S. Our affinities to Cubano Lit are at least dualistic. Chicano (not Hispanic) Lit connects to works still done on the island when we acknowledge shared connections to Che Guevara, also a hero of the Chicano Movement. Expatriated Cubanos centered in Florida understandably don't necessarily share that experience with us, anymore than all literature from the island does.
Along both sides of La Frontera, shared experiences reflected in Chicano and Mexicano writing merge even more, but tend to blur the further one moves into interior Mexico, and literature more "Mexican" than "Border".
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who writes of Colombia and Latin America, makes his own mold for his work. Several Chicano works obviously or subconsciously owe something to the influence of his works. But one would expect a Nobel Prize winner's obras to have wider influence than most writing.
There is other Latino Lit--Dominican, etc.--that could be examined in the same light, but I don't need to go into that here.
By definition--that of mestizaje--Chicano Lit has its limits and indistinctiveness. A literature about a subjugated people denied their culture and language suffers from that loss of native language. Thus, much of Chicano Lit discussions are forced to discuss in the realm of the English language, since we may not speak, read, much less write in Spanish. Our inability to appreciate, for instance, writing composed in Spanish--no matter that it includes the Chicano border experience--leaves a significant weakness in such discussion. Likewise, lists of Greatest Chicano Lit often include few works in Spanish.
This language gap, and history itself, combine to argue against our including literature from Spain as Latino, no matter that one would think half our mestizaje heritage should work to encompass the conqueror-Hispano experience. However that's a gap we seem to welcome.
A list of Greatest Chicano Works seems a good thing. I understand why 100 Years of Solitude couldn't be on that list, no matter how great a "Latino" work it is. Seems a natural.
What wouldn't seem called for is widening such a list to include Latino, non-Chicano works. Why go along with the U.S. monopolist publishers' Latinization--the corporate, brown melting pot where the Chicano experience gets blender-ed into the experiences of all others subjugated by the criollos.
Good literature is good literature, sí. But La Bloga could make a distinctive contribution in reviews and discussions of non-Chicano Lit; particularly if such reviews explained how said non-Chicano work related to the Chicano experience, something I think few literati attempt. Perhaps, too, it is something corporate publishers would rather have us not do; for the sake of sales, they might prefer reviews that blurred a work's political and cultural, historical threads to Chicanismo.
Great literature does more than entertain: it explores the human psyche, builds on traditions, opens new paths, and redefines those around it. Its roots spread deeper and its branches reach higher than what is written on an author's birth certificate.
I think La Bloga could help deconstruct even the all-encompassing genre of "Latino", at least in how it relates to the Chicano experience--a guide to how/why it is that Bloguistas choose to discuss or review particular non-Chicano works. We don't often see that.
If I sound like I'm just rhetorically questioning, remember how Chicano Lit is sometimes dumped in university Romance Language depts. with Portuguese, how in bookstores it can be found alongside anti-Castro books, or next to Jennings' Aztec series. For these institutions, the reasons for the categorization vary, from academic paradigms to those of profit motive.
I'm not suggesting La Bloga or others need to hammer out a new literary consensus, but only that exploring whatever makes up our present Chicano-Latino Lit mindset might tell us things about ourselves we didn't know. It might give us literary perspectives we never noticed.
As I said, I throw these questions out because of recent blogger posts, here and elsewhere. My suggestions might help sharpen the direction of "Latino" critique, including of Chicano works. They are not intended to add to history's muddled legacy or corporate publishers' clouding of that great body of work that will always be called Chicano Lit.
Rudy Ch. Garcia