How does Rodriguez view his own dark skin in chapter 4, "Complexion," of Hunger of Memory?

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Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez is the autobiography of the Mexican-American author, who does not know more than fifty words of English and yet gets an education in Sacramento, California. The book deals with the themes of assimilation, dominant culture, and otherness.

In the latter half of chapter 4, "Complexion," the author draws a connection between the complexion of one's skin and one's financial status. "Los pobres," or "the poor," are considered to have darker skin, on account of the physical labor associated with working-class Mexican-Americans entailing a lot of time spent under the sun. The author, having darker skin himself, struggles with this internalization of inferiority. However, by the end of the chapter, he notes that the pride with which the Black students he encountered regarded their own skin with phrases like "Black is beautiful" helps him find confidence about his complexion as well. Yet at the same time, this newfound pride comes at the cost of distancing himself from any association with being "los pobres"; in other words, he can only find pride in his skin tone as far as he can disassociate it from connotations of poverty. At the end of the chapter, he comes to the conclusion that he is, in fact, the true "los pobres" for never having known "real work" like his father, embracing the culture and class he came from and empathizing with the struggles of the Mexican-American laborers who came before him.

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