Latino Long Fiction Analysis

Mexican American/Chicano long fiction

In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded all Mexican territories north of the Rio Grande to the United States. One year later, all former citizens of Mexico who still resided in the area automatically became U.S. citizens. These new citizens were a diverse group engendered principally from a mixture of European, Aztec, and indigenous North Americans; from each ethnocultural wellspring the group derived myths, values, religious and cultural traditions, laws, and literary models. In the ensuing years the overlay of Anglo influence enriched the mixture. The resulting culture came to call itself Chicano, a term used to designate the distinct history, culture, and literature of the American Southwest.

Chicano long fiction, like Chicano language and culture generally, derives from three distinct sociohistorical sources: Mexican Indian, predominant prior to 1519; Spanish Mexican, predominant from 1519 to 1848; and Anglo, emergent after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. These sources provide a richness of myth, legend, history, and literary models and techniques, both oral and written, from which Chicano writers have drawn inspiration and material, the reactions to which have constituted the conflicts and tensions that drive all forms of Chicano literary expression.

Chicano long fiction is multilingual, employing Spanish, English, and Pocho, a hybrid blend of linguistic elements. Used together, these language options allow the Chicano novelist to express the full range of his or her experience, encompassing the dominant Anglo culture, the culture of origin, and the culture of the home and the barrio. Chicano novelists are conscious of their linguistic and ethnic heritage and depict a people proud of their history and culture, aware of their uniqueness, and committed to preserving their familial, social, and literary traditions. Their novels portray men and women who accept themselves as they are and resist pressures to become more closely aligned with the mainstream Anglo culture that threatens to Americanize them. Proximity to Mexico and movement both north and south across the border continually reinforce the Hispanic and mestizo ways, creating a cultural dynamic, unique to Chicano literature, which continues to influence the Chicano novel’s vital, energetic, and creative momentum.

The first significant Chicano novelist was José Antonio Villarreal. His Pocho (1959) was the first Latino novel issued by a major publishing firm, and it is frequently regarded as the first work of real literary or historical value to reflect the Chicano experience. The protagonist is a boy who seeks self-discovery, but as a Chicano he also must decide which of the ideals,...

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Puerto Rican long fiction

The population of Puerto Rico is a blend of the cultures and races of Europe, Africa, and the Americas. From 1493 until 1898, Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony. Puerto Rican fiction assumed a mestizo identity, in opposition to Spanish pressures to assimilate; this emphasis evolved to reflect a more Latin American character in the twentieth century, when Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory. After World War II, almost one-third of the island’s population immigrated to the United States, dispersing to points as far apart as Hawaii and New York. This distribution complicated the process whereby Puerto Ricans sought to define and protect their cultural and literary identity. Furthermore, by physically separating family and community members, the immigration reduced the efficacy of the oral tradition as a means of propagating values and traditions, making long fiction the culture’s principal mechanism for articulating its vision of its own reality.

The language of the Puerto Rican American novel reflects the diversity of Puerto Rican ethnic and linguistic origins, a product of the melding of European (Spanish, French), African, and Native American cultures overlaid with an American patina. Puerto Rican American fiction has retained diverse elements of myth, culture, and value structures. Most Puerto Rican American fiction is bilingual, and it employs grammatical elements and vocabulary of the Caribbean patois and the Native American elements of its linguistic heritage.

The development of Puerto Rican literature has been constituted in part by a series of reactions. The reaction...

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Cuban American long fiction

Cuban literary influence in the United States can be traced to the early 1800’s, when José Martí and other patriots worked from the United States for Cuban independence. After Fidel Castro’s 1959 victory in the Cuban Revolution and the large-scale emigration that followed, however, Cuban Americans emerged as a major contributing force to Latino culture and literature. Unlike Puerto Ricans, Cubans came as refugees rather than immigrants. Furthermore, although Cuba had been a U.S. protectorate since 1898, it was never a political colony of the United States in the same sense as Puerto Rico. At the time of the Cuban Revolution, then, Cuban writers, having felt no assimilationist pressure, had developed no literary expressions of defiance or protection against the imposition of mainstream American culture onto Cuban American identity. In fact, because it was sparked by a political and social revolution, the emigration involved a cross-section of Cuban society: workers, middle-class service personnel, professionals, intellectuals, and the wealthy. Many subsequently adapted to and became a part of U.S. and Hispanic mainstream culture.

The fiction of Cuban Americans in the 1960’s was primarily written in Spanish. One reason may be that the audience targeted by these first-generation exiles was primarily Spanish-speaking, either Cuban or Latin American. Another reason may be found in the essentially political, often propagandistic nature of the material. The themes were less concerned with discovery and preservation of an ethnic, cultural, or literary identity than with criticizing Cuba’s communist economic and political system. Therefore, the Cuban American novel of the 1960’s was almost devoid of the kinds of ethnic and linguistic self-consciousness that marked Chicano, Puerto Rican, and other minority ethnic fiction.

Fiction written by Cuban American novelists of the 1970’s was less preoccupied with exile and looking back to the island past than with meeting the demands of the Cuban...

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Bibliography

Allatson, Paul. Key Terms in Latino/a Cultural and Literary Studies. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2007. Indispensable encyclopedia of hundreds of key concepts in Latino literary and cultural studies. Good starting place for students new to the literature.

Brady, Mary Pat. Extinct Lands, Temporal Geographies: Chicano Literature and the Urgency of Space. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2002. Thorough and insightful discussion of the role of space and memory in Mexican American writing. Includes extensive footnotes and a bibliography.

Carlito, Delores M. Cuban American Fiction in English: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2005. Comprehensive listings and annotations of Cuban American fiction (novels, anthologies, and short-story collections) from 1963 into the first decade of the twenty-first century.

Caulfield, Carlota, and Darién J. Davis, eds. A Companion to U.S. Latino Literatures. Woodbridge, England: Tamesis, 2007. Guide to Latino writers in the United States and the Caribbean, notably Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Includes commentary on native-born Latino writers and Latin American immigrants to the United States.

Christie, John S. Latino Fiction and the Modernist Imagination: Literature of the...

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