Saturday, March 25, 2006, I joined 499,999--heck, maybe there were a million of us-- other gente in the area around Los Angeles' City Hall. Our massive reaffirmation of the US Constitution was one of many such manifestations of community, and concern that the nation's growing repression of people like us requires critical attention.
From Milwaukee to Chicago to Phoenix to LA, one peaceful protest followed another. Friday afternoon, I happened across a high school walkout in Huntington Park, which was a warm-up for the next day's elation. Undoubtedly, you've seen the images in the papers; I hope you'll enjoy these two QuickTime movies I made of the HP and LA gatherings.
How many Chicana Chicano novels address immigration, per se? Not many, to the best of my recollection, and I'm not having another bout of CNS Syndrome. I think. Not many novels, if any, can say, like Gregory Nava's wonderful 1984 film El Norte, "this is a work about immigration and immigrants". So many writers choose not to deal with roots in the first place. In a preponderance of Chicana Chicano novels, Mexico may loom in the background of a plot--or not at all.
Several works make the act of immigrating part of the plot. For instance, there's Richard Vasquez' Chicano, a family saga that begins in the Mexican desert then plots its way through California's rural farmworker colonias, culminating in tragedy and despair in 1950s East Los Angeles (reviewed by both Daniel Olivas and me, shortly after the novel was reissued after a 30 year absence).
Then there's Victor Villaseñor's family saga that spreads across Rain of Gold and Wild Steps of Heaven, relating less to immigration than the family's motivations to come North. Immigration is a crucial fact of the characters in Demetria Martinez' Mother Tongue, and Hector Tobar's The Tattooed Soldier. But for the most part--and I hope La Bloga readers will expand on this notion--Chicanas and Chicanos write about immigrants' lives and deaths after they've immigrated and are learning to deal with what they have, here, al este lado. For example, Helen Viramontes' Under the Feet of Jesus recounts the lives--and one boy's miserable death from pesticides--of migrant farmworkers. More often, a novelist who ventures into familial history just plops down gente in the US after a few chapters depicting their former lives, and uses that past to illuminate the present. For example, Graciela Limon's The Day of the Moon, where the characters' Mexican and Rarámuri past helps a woman unravel a family secret.
Somewhere in this perplex may lie the germ of an answer to that most enduring of questions, "What is Chicana Chicano Literature"? However one approaches the answer, why should immigration play any role at all? I, for example, am the third generation of my family in this country, a son of US-born parents (and one grandmother born in this country back in the 19th century). Then again, I remember being asked time after time, "What are you?" American. "No, I mean, where are you from?" Here. "No, I mean, where was your father from?" Here. "You know what I mean!" Or, the time my primos (also 3d generation) and I were cavorting home from a movie in San Bernardino when a white Chrysler Imperial pulled to the gutter, the window rolled down, and an Anglo woman leaned over to scream at us, "You filthy little Mexicans!" Then she drove away, leaving us squealing in laughter and delight. Of course we were!
golondrinas cortando betabel,
americanos de papel,
o nomás mejicano
que migra con toy familia
a los campos de colorado,
illinois, califa, y michigan
se me hace que no es más que puro gitano.
salmones en el desaije
con un ojo a las colonias
a las cuales muy pronto volverán,
no les voy
a decir porqué lo hacen
porque la verdad ni ellos saben,
quizá el cariño a la tierra
mamado de una chichi prieta,
quizá el corazón libre
que dicta la jornada,
aunque el carro esté muy viejo
y la gasolina cara.
turistas sin un centavo
de vacaciones en nebraska,
es un descanso de tejas.
bumerangas que la mano de dios
por este mundo tiró,
gente víctima de su necesidad de migrar,
la lechuga o la justicia es lo que van a sembrar.
Saben que, that's Tuesday, March 28, a day like any other day, except, you
Hay les wachamos, or, as we filthy little Mexicans say, Read!