Sunday, February 02, 2014

Wise Latinas and the Richness of Their Experiences in Art and Literature


"Cama para Sueños" (Bed for Dreams) by Carmen Lomas Garza
“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Today’s La Bloga is dedicated to three talented and wise Latinas:  Carmen Lomas Garza, Jennifer De Leon, and Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez.

Carmen Lomas Garza’s artwork depicts quotidian family events with vibrant and powerful details.  These are important Chicana and Chicano cultural moments: dancing in the backyard with un conjunto 

"Empanadas" by Carmen Lomas Garza
that features a female guitarist and singer; a familia coming together in the kitchen to make empanadas; two sisters up on the roof watching the moon.  
Carmen Lomas Garza in front of her papel picado art
Lomas Garza is also known for her papel picado artwork—equally stunning.  This April, Carmen will be coming to the Midwest, to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, to give a lecture and meet the art students. In the meantime, I bring her to La Bloga so that if you, Querida or Querido reader have not heard of her, here’s a chance to get acquainted:  (click here for her website). 

Jennifer De Leon
Jennifer De Leon teaches seventh and eighth graders in the Boston public school system.  She says in one of her blogs:  “I love teaching.  I love how one day last week my student Angel, fourteen, sat slouched in the back of the classroom with his hood on, immersed in the pages of Drown (a book I had given him essentially to challenge his claim that all books sucked), laughing so hard that tears filled his eyes.”  (Click here for De Leon’s blog.)

De Leon nourishes her students with literature and now she is contributing to the bookshelf by adding a book she has edited:  Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education (University of Nebraska-Press).  Here’s an excerpt from her introduction to the book:

For me, when I hear the words wise Latina, I immediately think of my mother.  She came to the United States at a young age, alone, speaking no English.  Four years passed before she returned to Guatemala with platform shoes, a new hairstyle of pressed waves, and a black-and-white television as a gift for the family.  Then, she left again for Los Angeles and eventually Boston, where she married and had three daughters.  All her life my mother wanted more.  She learned English, became a U.S. citizen, and bought a house.  Education, she believed, provided a set of master keys that unlocked multiple doors—career, monty, travel, health, relationships, even love. 
           
Through her daughters, she would live the lives she had imagined for herself, and every one of these included a college education.  A Latina housekeeper who drives her caravan full of daughters to admissions tours at Brown, Alfred, TCU (yes, we drove to Fort Worth, Texas) . . . We are encouraged to laugh at Latina housekeepers on sitcoms, to ignore the invisible Latina workers in public restrooms.  The term wise Latina continues to unfold preconceptions and stereotypes of what it is to be wise and what it is to be Latina.
published by University of Nebraska Press
This book is a must read!  The anthology features Latina writers, Julia Alvarez, Ruth Behar, Norma Cantú, Joy Castro, Sandra Cisneros, Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Daisy Hernández, Lorraine López, Beatriz Terrazas, y muchas mas.  Their diverse perspectives make this anthology a rich collection—we need to hear so many of these experiences! (Click here for the enthusiastic Kirkus Review)

Professor Nicole Guidotti-Hernández
 Another wise Latina, Professor Nicole Guidotti-Hernández, recently received a prestigious award for her book, Unspeakable Violence:  Remapping U.S. and Mexican National Imaginaries (Duke University Press).  The award is the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies.  Dr. Guidotti-Hernández is currently an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is also the Associate Director of the Center for Mexican American Studies.  Unspeakable Violence addresses the epistemic and physical violence inflicted on racialized and gendered subjects in the U.S. – Mexico borderlands from the mid-nineteenth century through the early twentieth. 
published by Duke University Press
[She argues] that this violence was fundamental to U.S., Mexican, and Chicana/Chicano nationalisms . . . “ (from the book description). Guidotti-Hernández takes the reader on a historical journey while also reminding the reader how these historical markers have shaped our present moment in history.  
She deftly connects both while also calling “for a new, transnational feminist approach to violence, gender, sexuality, race, and citizenship in the borderlands.” Guidotti-Hernández’s careful research brings to life moments in the nineteenth-century not previously examined:  the lynching of a Mexican woman in California (1851), or attempted genocide of the Yaqui Indians in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands (1876-1907). 

We are made of many stories, many lives, many historical moments, and these women depict these events on canvas and on paper, for us to view, to see, to consider.

And so, Querida La Bloga reader, I leave you with this important artwork, these groundbreaking books. 

Afterword:  I also leave you with a special note about today, February 2nd.  Yes, it’s Groundhog’s Day and maybe by the time you read this, we shall know if the woolly mammal has seen its shadow.  However, it is also Candlemas Day—an ancient festival which originally marked the midpoint of winter:  halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. It was known as the “Feast of Lights”—celebrating the increasing strength of the life-giving sun:  winter giving way to spring. Enjoy this liminal day “in the midst of winter.”  Warm wishes to you all!  
"Baile" by Carmen Lomas Garza

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