Racial Ideology of Latinas / dissertation

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The novel opens seven years after Gabo's mother, Ximena, was murdered by coyotes -- or paid traffickers -- during an attempt to cross the border. Her mutilated body was found, her organs gone -- sold most likely. Because of the fear surrounding this border town and the lure of the other side, all of the characters become consumed with finding Rafa. These people are neglected and abused. Like other fiction works on this topic (such as Cisneros's The House on Mango Street), The Guardians (2008) is rich in symbolism and flavored with Mexican aphorisms. The novel also shows the reader how complex and perilous border life is when you're living in between the United States and Mexico.

The book is important when attempting to understand the challenge of the border town life and it is, at the same time, a testament to faith, family bonds, cultural pride, and the human experience in general. "The guardians" in this novel are guarding love and they are guarding their own dignity as people.


Castillo, Ana. (2008). The guardians: A novel. Random House Trade Paperbacks.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros (2003) is a novel about identity -- and, specifically -- what it means to be Mexican. In fact, the overriding theme of the novel is identity with all the references to skin color, language, family and point of origin. The narrator, Lala Reyes, in searching for her place in the world (or her own identity) turns to her roots, her past, and thus her family, for both inspiration and guidance. She refers to the players in her life as Aunty Light Skin, Awful Grandmother and Uncle Old and tells the story of what it is like to grow up in two cultures as well as the challenges of class and racial strife.

Lala's story is replete with the question "Where does she fit in?" She doesn't like Awful Grandmother, but over time she comes to realize that the Awful Grandmother is bossy and stubborn and she is a woman who always does what society expects of her. One shouldn't walk alone, talk to strange men, etc. Lala would like more freedom than the rules her grandmother lives by -- for example, she would like to go to college, have a career and live alone before finding a husband.


Cisneros, Sandra. (2003). Caramelo. Vintage.

Cisneros's (1992) collection of fictional works, Woman hollering Creek: And other stories, is comprised of 22 short pieces, all self-contained, and set in different places -- Texas, Chicago, and Mexico, mainly from the 1960s to the late 1980s (with one exception, "Eyes of Zapata," which is set in the early years of the 20th century.

Cisneros's 22 stories and sketches are grouped into three sections, each with a story that shares the same title as the section: "My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn," "One Holy Night," and "There Was a Man, There Was a Woman." The stories are all first-person narratives of individuals who have been assimilated into American culture but who feel a divided sense of loyalty to Mexico.

The first section, "My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn," concerns younger girls of about 11-years of age, growing up in the Mexican barrios of the United States. The girls feel a significant amount of tension between their Mexican heritage and the demands of the American culture. The second section, "One Holy Night," concerns adolescent girls who are experiencing an initiation or some kind of sudden realization. Finally, the third and the largest section of writing, "There Was a Man, There Was a Woman," explores the challenges of mature women struggling to act against familial and cultural pressures as well as traditional gender roles.

Some of the major themes of Woman hollering creek are poverty and cultural suppression, the search for self-identity, and the role of the woman in Mexican-American culture. Misogyny, spousal abuse, violence, rape, and the limitations of traditional gender roles are recurring issues for Cisneros's female characters in her stories. These woman, many who realize the soul-killing restrictions of familial and cultural expectations, struggle toward self-definition and control over their own lives. In several of Cisneros' stories, the heroines try to escape the patriarchal limits of their culture through education and self-expression.

Border themes are also a major part of this work's focus as is border crossings -- functioning as a metaphor for various characters attempting to cross cultural and artistic boundaries. Cisneros attempts to depict the situation between two cultures -- Mexican and American -- a sort of cultural borderland.


Cisneros, Sandra. (1992). Woman hollering creek: And other stories. Vintage; 1st vintage contemporaries edition.

Julia Alvarez's (2010) work, How the Garcia girls lost their accents," uses fifteen stories to chronicle a Dominican family's exile in the Bronx. The stories focus on the Garcia daughters' rebellion against their immigrant elders. The conflict begins within the Garcia family during the point of political and cultural break when the family had to leave the Dominican Republic. The fragmentation of the extended family in 1960 due to immigration lead to a spiraling dissolution of the Garcia nuclear family. As the girls get older and mature, they grow increasingly distant from one another, their parents, and their relatives on the island. Their integration into American culture tears them further apart from their family roots and leaves them badly prepared to deal with their parents' more traditional perspectives.

Language has a different meaning -- both cultural and literary -- for each member of the Garcia family. Laura uses assumed idioms recklessly, yet she always effectively communicates what it is she wants to say, even if she mixes up the very certain or specific images. Yolanda would never use words recklessly because she think of herself almost like a poet with highly discriminating literary tastes and notions about the world. Her husband John's monolingual restrictions annoy her massively and are the impetus for the final break of their relationship, after they finally lose the ability to communicate successfully. The weakening of Sandra's ability to make sense of language signals her looming mental collapse. This collapse is preceded by the aching fear that she will lose the aptitude to read and reason with language, demonstrating that humanity for her is represented by language itself. Carla's difficulties fitting into American society and communicating with authorities, such as teachers and the police, come from her restricted English capabilities. For her, language has the power to prohibit and segregate, in addition to the power to connect and smooth the progress of interactions.


Alvarez, Julia. (2010). How the Garcia girls lost their accents. Algonquin Books; reprint edition.

Anzaldua's book entitled Making face, making soul: Haciendo caras: Creative and critical perspectives by feminists of color (1995) is an anthology of essays and poetry by women of color. In the introduction to this anthology, Anzaldua says that the reader "must do the work of piecing this text together," (1995) because it is then that the text may communicate a feeling for the "fragmented and interrupted dialogue" (1995) with which feminists, particularly the feminists of color, must compete in the challenge against patriarchal discourse and the problems that it creates -- for example, racism, myopia, ethnocentricity, and blatant hatred for women. When the book is read from this perspective, the experience, she notes, will be therapeutic as well as a very distinct experience like no other. There are more academic as well as anachronistic essays by feminists as well as "simpler" works by students, activists and artists who speak on many different topics of feminist interest. Some of the essays combine theoretical essay with poetry and personal narration, which reflects a span of emotion. The book gives thoughts and words to topics that have been, for the most part, excluded.


Anzaldua, Gloria. (1995). Making face, making soul / Haciendo caras: Creative and critical perspectives by feminists of color. Aunt Lute Books; first edition; highlighted.

The bridge we call home: Radical visions for transformation by Gloria Anzaldua (2002) is another anthology with over 80 contributors consisting of academics, artists and activists. The book is modeled after Anzaldua's book entitled This bridge called my back (1981) and it continues exploring different aspects and challenges when it comes to feminist thought. Contributor and co-editor Keating says that this book isn't meant to be any kind of commemorative but it sets out "to examine the current states of multicultural feminist theorizing." This book is much more academic than the previous book but it still consists of poems, letters, essays and stories from contributors of different races, sexual orientation, and nationalities (including men). The writers explore different issues such as sexism, racism and homophobia. Some of the writers include Max Wolf Valero, Shefali Milczarek-Desai, and Evelyn Alsultany. Australian anthropologist Helen Johnson writes that "the Bridge" has given her the opportunity to offer global perspectives on issues of…[continue]

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