Latino Long Fiction Analysis

Mexican American/Chicano long fiction

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

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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