LITR 5831 Seminar in World / Multicultural Literature
American Immigrant Literature


any issues with midterms? questions or corrections?

ideally all midterms in by tomorrow (Friday), then read and return by Sunday evening



Nash Candelaria, "El Patron" (IA 221-228)

voluntary participation?

226 how old when you left Mexico?

color code

221 brown-skinned kewpie doll

law (generally speaking, "the law" works for the dominant culture, but a minority culture may see the law as only more trouble.)

222 the law!

223 Pancho Villa

(Identification with Pancho Villa would be resistance)


gender inequality

222 "woman"


Dominant culture moment--Candelaria:

extended family vs. individualism


221 Dios, El Papa, y el patron > traditional culture = hierarchy of decision-making, not left to individual freedom of choice

[cost of extended family, "village community," may be hierarch]

223 men + duty

Patron 227-8--reason and conscience override traditional social structures


p. 224--Tito + college experience / protest against American corporate imperialism

How does Tito's status declare some degree of dominant culture status?

228 Junior and Lolita were squabbling over what channel to watch on TV


Nash Candelaria, "El Patron" (IA 221-228)

221 Dios, El Papa, y el patron > traditional culture = hierarchy of decision-making, not left to individual freedom of choice

221 descending order (hierarchy)

221 bus in San Diego > L.A. and us

221 Southwestern U

221 brown-skinned kewpie doll

221 you macho, chauvinist jumping bean!

222 go to the kitchen with the other women

222 "woman"

222 the state university

222 the law!

223 My father fought with Pancho Villa

223 fought los Jaqpones in the Pacific

223 men + duty

223 "No blood for Mideast oil! Boycott the Exxon army!"

223 rich college boys

223 [cf. Big Fat Greek Wedding]

224--Tito + college experience / protest against American corporate imperialism

225 just as stubborn as his father and sister

226 Sons are supposed to obey their fathers

226 how old when you left Mexico? What did your father say? [preview Pilgrims and dominant culture]

227 only the older children had hear Papa's story of how he left Mexico

227 el patron in Washington


227-8--reason and conscience override traditional social structures

228 Junior and Lolita were squabbling over what channel to watch on TV


Potential advantage of Mexican and Hispanic Literature

de-emphasis on race

fresh attention to class?



Will Mexican Americans assimilate and join dominant culture? Or remain separate and distinct as a minority culture?

Short answer: trends in both directions


What's at stake for educators?

Do we "celebrate difference" and emphasize multi-culturalism?

Or do we emphasize "a common culture?"

Recall controversies over bi-lingual education vs. English-only education.

Are we concerned with maintaining cultural diversity, or helping our students improve the economic quality of their lives?

Both? Mexican America as interesting cultural variation on immigrant-minority division


Third way? Neither immigrant nor minority, or both?

bi-lingual, bi-cultural society, esp. in the Southwestern United States--examples: "the Valley" in Texas culture, El Paso / Nuevo Laredo, San Diego / Tijuana in California

metaphor of "borders" often appears in Mexican-American identity: crossing and recrossing borders is parallel to maintaining outsider and insider identity

Mexican Americans may remain in the "divided" second-generation position for longer than other immigrant groups, owing to the special considerations below. In other words, all immigrant groups go through a stage of being both "native-land" and "American" before becoming "American," but Mexican Americans may prolong this indefinitely.


Special consideration

Mexican American population may increase so dramatically (especially in the Southwest) that there may not be as much of a dominant culture to assimilate to.


2. Are Mexican Americans immigrants or minorities?

Answer: some of both

"Mexican American" an inclusive term, potentially including Mexicans as well as any American of Mexican descent.

alternative term: Chicano (many local & historical variations on meaning)

also "la raza"--"the people," esp. Mexican Americans but may include other Hispanics


Among all Hispanics . . . Mexican Americans may have the best claim on "minority" status.

LITR 4332 American Minority Literature (Minority) studies Mexican Americans as at least potentially a minority group comparable to African Americans and American Indians.

That course does not study all Hispanic or Latino groups of Non-Mexican Hispanics as minority groups. Each of these groups has their own story, but generally that story more closely resembles the "immigrant narrative" of the dominant culture than the "minority narrative" of African and Native America (definitely not immigrants). 

To answer the immigrant-minority question . . .

 the dominant culture of the United States, itself formed by immigration, primarily interprets the Mexican presence as immigration . . . .

This interpretation is justifiable according to statistics and contemporary national boundaries, laws, and definitions.

How do Mexican Americans fit the immigrant model?

Movement of large numbers of people across national boundaries, into USA for economic opportunities

"In 1970, the Mexican immigrant population [in the USA] was less than 800,000, compared to nearly 8 million in 2000."

Some shifting of national allegiances (i. e., increasingly, immigrants or their children or grandchildren would no longer regard themselves as "Mexicans" but as "Americans.")

Some tendencies toward assimilation, though assimilation may take additional generations. Spanish > English

naming of children: Carlos > Kevin; Maria > Kristin.

Intermarriage with other ethnic groups (including dominant culture) appears more prevalent than for African Americans (maybe reflecting different Hispanic attitudes toward racial mixing)--cf. "Like Mexicans" + Japanese girlfriend

Mexicans have range in intermarriage, esp. compared to dominant culture


But divorce rate increases with every generation in USA

After some generations, numbers of Mexican Americans or Hispanics no longer identify themselves as such but simply consider themselves as "whites" or "Americans." (These numbers are indefinite and hard to track because such identifications are voluntary.)

Such assimilationist trends may increase beyond the Southwest; e. g., in parts of the Midwest a Latino surname may mean no more than an Italian or German surname.



White people of my generation or age-group tend to panic that United States is "turning into Mexico"

Southwest USA may become Hispanic-majority < immigration + high birth rates

Mexican Americans may assimilate more slowly than "model immigrants"--esp. in terms of language acquisition

But evidence is that they do assimilate eventually--children or grandchildren become primary English-speakers


Reyna Grande (1975- )

83 father N > $ < house in Mexico

Family to predominantly Latino Highland Park, Los Angeles

Immigration history Mexico

Circular migratory pattern


83-4 U.S. Immigration and Reform Act of 1986

Legal permanent residents


84 The Distance Between Us 2012

Dedicated to father and all DREAMers


84 my cousin Felix, Abuelita Chinta


85 Carlos, Mago > Abuela Evitaís [extended family]

Mango grove, sugarcane field

Grandmotherís neighborhood, La Guadalupe

Drunks like Tio Crece


I could kiss Juan Gabrielólyrics of song


86 Elida smirked, rags, beggars

The Man Behind the Glass, in the flesh



87 Looking back . . . how awkward for him as well

Mila . . . woman who had broken up my family

El Otro Lado

Light-skinned, light makeup x Mamaís olive skin + pants


88 baby dolls with blue eyes

Mami, understood her anger


89 losing my hair once again fnf

Chata, special nickname

Inspected house he had built for us

Which . . . your room?


90 go home? Home?

Even though the house is finished, no jobs here

Carlos . . . job? > school

[extended family]

Mila naturalized U.S. citizen

Flying back x coyote

Not coming back . . .

A new life in El Otro Lado

Have a father


91 my motherís constant comings and goings

If Mago left me

Photograph on a wall

Only person who truly loved me


92 school, lied, envy, shame


93 bad things come to women who donít know their place fnf

Mila looked furiously at my grandmother fnf

Itís different for women in the U.S. . . . not treated like servants

Betty . . . fly . . . U.S. citizen

Born in the U.S. a privilege


94 la migra

Tio Gary: the opportunity to have a better life

ďShe has never had a good vision of the future.Ē


95 Laws in the U.S.


94 thief 95 stealing fnf ?


95 If you had just listened to your mother . . . .

Mago: canít leave our little sister behind

Record shop, different side to Mami

Ever since El Otro Lado had taken her away

It was there, except not when she was with us


96 the mother she was before she left


97that other mother, the one who left . . .

Attempts across the border

Blame myself

Toothache fnf


98 too young to fully grasp the danger

Thousands who had died

My fault

Lose my job


99 an unwanted, parentless child [children]

Feeling torn about oru situation

Why does it have to be so hard?


100 sounds coming from la migra


101 helicopter . . . animals . . . . lizards

I want to live in that perfect place . . . . to have a family

Carlos (characterization fnf )


102 what El Otro Lado looked like

Palm trees

The freeway . . . amazing so enormous fnf

Golden arches fnf


103 sunflower seeds . . . Mago reached out her hand

Exit to Disneyland

Do everything . . . like speak English

Did what El Guero said


104 Mami and I had switched places

Your home now, Chata

Umbilical cord buried in Iguala

I promise Iíll never forget [where I came from]