Last Updated September 5, 2023.
In Richard Rodriguez' Days of Obligation, he puts forward ten essays which collectively deal with the transmigration of peoples. This includes Mexicans to America, and (occasionally and temporarily), Americans to Mexico. Another sort of transformation, according to Rodriguez, is that of Mexicans into Indians, as a result of Americans thinking that they found India in the when they discovered the New World. This fruitful dialogue adduces a number of important quotations. From his first chapter, titled "India," we learn that
whereas the United States traditionally has rejoiced at the delivery of its landscape from "savagery," Mexico has taken its national identity only from the Indian, the mother. Mexico measures all cultural bastardy against the Indian; equates civilization with India--Indian kingdoms of a golden age; cities as fabulous as Alexandria or Benares or Constantinople; a court as hairless, as subtle, as the Pekingese. Mexico equates barbarism with Europe--beardlessness--with Spain," (12).
Rodriguez' subsequent chapters are less theoretical and more anecdotal. For example, when discussing his experience as a young adult in Sacramento, his name was changed from "Ricardo" to "Richard." On this point he explains that,
European vocabularies do not have a silence rich enough to describe the force within Indian contemplation. Only Shakespeare understood that Indians have eyes. (23)
In one of his adult anecdotes included in the fourth chapter, "In Athens Once," he explains,
There is the father in Tijuana who worries that his teenage son is living under the radiant cloud of American pop culture, its drugs, its disrespect, its despair. San Diego's morning paper quotes officials in Washington concerning corrupt Mexican officials and an unchecked northern flow of drugs. Washington does not credit America's hunger for drugs with raising drug lords south of the border. (90)
According to Rodriguez, Mexico's and America's San Diego have a fraught relationship whereby Tijuana citizens with green cards routinely travel over the border to work in San Diego, and, in one of history's ironies, has become a very Californian city, the self-avowed, "'most visited city in the world,'" (91). As this quote demonstrates, San Diego has itself been transformed (perhaps in part by Tijuana) into a drug-infested city.