"Chicana Feminisms comes alive with theoretical and emotional responses from some of the most exciting thinkers in Chicana feminist social thought. This book is a truly momentous achievement. It will stand the test of time." —Laura I. Rendón, author of Educating a New Majority: Transforming America’s Educational System for Diversity
Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Readerby Patricia Zavella, Gabriela F. Arredondo, Aida Hurtado, Norma Klahn, Olga Najera-Ramirez
Chicana Feminisms presents new essays on Chicana feminist thought by scholars, creative writers, and artists. This volume moves the field of Chicana feminist theory forward by examining feminist creative expression, the politics of representation, and the realities of Chicana life. Drawing on anthropology, folklore, history, literature, and psychology, the distinguished contributors combine scholarly analysis, personal observations, interviews, letters, visual art, and poetry. The collection is structured as a series of dynamic dialogues: each of the main pieces is followed by an essay responding to or elaborating on its claims. The broad range of perspectives included here highlights the diversity of Chicana experience, particularly the ways it is made more complex by differences in class, age, sexual orientation, language, and region. Together the essayists enact the contentious, passionate conversations that define Chicana feminisms.
The contributors contemplate a number of facets of Chicana experience: life on the Mexico-U.S. border, bilingualism, the problems posed by a culture of repressive sexuality, the ranchera song, and domesticana artistic production. They also look at Chicana feminism in the 1960s and 1970s, the history of Chicanas in the larger Chicano movement, autobiographical writing, and the interplay between gender and ethnicity in the movie Lone Star. Some of the essays are expansive; others—such as Norma Cantú’s discussion of the writing of her fictionalized memoir Canícula—are intimate. All are committed to the transformative powers of critical inquiry and feminist theory.
Contributors. Norma Alarcón, Gabriela F. Arredondo, Ruth Behar, Maylei Blackwell, Norma E. Cantú, Sergio de la Mora, Ann duCille, Michelle Fine, Rosa Linda Fregoso, Rebecca M. Gámez, Jennifer González, Ellie Hernández, Aída Hurtado, Claire Joysmith, Norma Klahn, Amalia Mesa-Bains, Olga Nájera-Ramírez, Anna Nieto Gomez, Renato Rosaldo, Elba Rosario Sánchez, Marcia Stephenson, Jose Manuel Valenzuela, Patricia Zavella
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By Gabriela F. Arredondo
Duke University PressCopyright © 2003 Gabriela F. Arredondo
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCartohistografia: Continente de una voz
Cartohistography: One Voice's Continent
ELBA ROSARIO SANCHEZ
* * *
It began with a dream where I was physically transformed. I was no longer body and flesh, eyes, hair, and teeth, but hills, valleys, orchards, forests. I had metamorphosed into a mountain range with caves and volcanoes and bodies of water surging through me. As I extended my arms, I was a whole coast, and then I stretched into a continent. I was my own continent with many geographies. I could see lush forests, fields of abundance, the sands of desert terrain that were me. This was my physical landscape.
I began to think about that continent in my dream, that self, and about how my writing and poetry have been a discovery, an ongoing exploration of that self-territory. My writing has been a way to name the landscapes of emotions, to recognize those layers of experiences that have sculpted my ecosystem and have chiseled my herstory. As well, writing has been a path to forging my spiritual cosmology.
I began to write because I love to read, and because I remember vividly as a young readerscanning library shelves and listings, looking for authors with Latino-sounding names who might come close to describing and feeling my reality, who might connect me with my own identity. Octavio Paz could never do that for me, but he was guaranteed to be in almost every library I checked out. I wanted to read about the everyday life of other young Mexicanas, Chicanas-others like me who live between, entre culturas, languages y lenguas, friends, families, worlds. I wanted and needed to write as a way to fill the void of voices that didn't speak to my experience. I wanted to write porque en mi familia, yo no hablaba, unless I was spoken to. And what was I going to do with all my feelings, ideas, dreams, and turmoil? I wanted to chronicle biographical and fictional relatos, to make real, to give flesh to the word, to my and our story. I had to write because clearly, for our voices to be heard through time, they need to be passed from mouth tomouth, and they also need to be written. That is why our Chicana writings are vital. Because they enter into the realm of historical and creative documentation of who we are and have been, all at the same time. Our writings, en nuestros idiomas, are the testament of our vibrant resistance, as our metaphors, code switching, theories, visions, and worlds-real and imagined-give shape, texture, and human depth to the history of our very presence and resistance.
"Cuando desaparezcan los libros, las lenguas recontaran las historias." Eso es lo queme dijo mi "aguelita" una vez. He cargado sus palabras y consejos tucked in my rebozo, desde que las senti, es decir, desde que las entendi. Espanol es y ha sido mi primera lengua. It is my conscious resistance en este English-only state. Espanol es otra conciencia, otro mundo. Spanish is the language of my cognitive self, of my dreams y recuerdos. Aprendi a cantar en espanol, to play adivinanzas and other games. De chica aprendi a inventar cuentos para que mi hermanita por fin se duermiera. Al terminar el quinto grado, a la edad de once anos ya contaba, multiplicaba, dividia, sumaba y resolvia problemas matematicos en espanol. ?Ingles?, eso fue despues, when I came to the United States.
I remember well my aching jaw, my face muscles hot and tight, tongue feeling twisted, contorting in strange ways, as I learned to mimic with my new English-speaking tongue. Before I learned to speak English, to understand it, the world was a confusing and frustrating blur of face, body, and hand gestures. I felt totally isolated outside of my home. I learned to speak English in six months. This was due in part to my awareness of the urgent need to survive in what I perceived to be, almost immediately, a hostile environment. English became even more critical when I realized how limited my father's own English really was. My mother didn't speak English at all. Within a year, I learned to spell and write English well enough to become the official family translator and secretary.
My English, Spanish, Spanglish, and other lengualidades have danced around each other and together en mi boca, casi forever, like seasoned partners on the dance floor, se siguen bien, sus vueltas y pasos bien coreografiados. Otras veces, chocan y hasta se tropiezan, una lengua con las otras. As a Chicana, mis lengualidades y sus hermanas culturas have been energized and expanded by the urgency, the positive, heart-pulsing beats and and spoken word world of hip hop culture that is a part of my son and daughter. My life has been enriched by these constant encuentros con otras y otros whose espanol y cultura are distinctly different from my own. El dialogo que hemos compartido ha expandido no solo mis horizontes linguisticos sino mi sentido y entendimiento del mundo, de mi gente y mi misma.
I trust that readers of this work will be linguistically and culturally savvy, polylingue, comfortable with a certain amount of code switching (in English, Spanish, standard and nonstandard varieties, and others). Despite what many literature profs and editors out there skeptically say, I am confident that there is a significant and, dare I say, large reading audience that is comfortable with an array of lenguas. I am talking about an audience que vive una realidad mestiza, en el sentido de mezclada, que se ha expuesto a varias culturas y gentes, one that eats, breathes, dreams, and lives every day en diferentes y multiples mundos y habla en code-switching, multilingual conciencias. My Chicana voice is singular or unique by its "Chicano" definition, its sociopolitical and historical context. At the same time, even in its Chicananess, my voice may strike a familiar chord with those who have experienced immigration, those who on a daily basis switch and juggle identities and tongues and tangle with cultural conflicts, as they skillfully maneuver making a living, being with family, having a personal life, y todo lo demas.
My exposure to multilingualismo and my experience as an interpreter and translator have shown me that there are some words that encompass such complex concepts or realities in one language that they cannot be translated into another. Something definitely gets lost in the translation! One such word is tepalcate. It is impossible to translate the deep stirrings that are elicited inside me by the musical sound of the Nahuatl word tepalcate. It is the feel of the word on my tongue, the history, the senses, the emotions that the word evokes, that give it meaning and definition. The English-Spanish dictionary translates tepalcate as "shard." How can "shard" possibly translate or give meaning to a word that is my umbilical cord, that links me to my mestizo reality? How can the sounds and smells of the water as it fills the jar, the vivid red of the wet clay, that are deeply imprinted in my mind and heart when I hear that living breathing word, become a real experience for someone else in the translation?
Tepalcate a Tepalcate estos hombres de ojos palidos llegaron un dia queriendolo todo nos forzaron de nuestro lugar sagrado nuestra naturaleza sabia donde hasta la mas chiquita yerba tiene su lugar su alma nos arrojaron a este frio hostil pavimento gris de mediocridad donde miedo nos tienen y donde nos hostigan y aqui como en muchos otros lugares solo rotos pedazos dispersados les parecemos de nuestra naturaleza quisieron apartarnos y nosotros de todos modos pasamos de mano a mano capas de ceniza que arraigamos entre huesos piedras y caracoles bajo nuestro techo entre diente y lengua vuela la pajara amparada de nuestra naturaleza somos tepalcates de barro y fisica fuerza perduramos en la montana en los barrios en la selva tepalcate a tepalcate nos reconocemos somos caras en relieve de una misma pieza
I will not translate poems like "Tepalcate a tepalcate." I could not do justice a la realidad de la palabra. At times, translation is frustration; there is no discourse to turn to. Even after breaking the word down, the greatest challenge to the translator or interpreter is to come as close as possible to a dignified expression and meaning of the word. There are times, therefore, when I refuse to translate. This is a deliberate act on my part. The untranslatable has to be approached in a different manner. La palabra desconocida necesita amore sensual "reading," one that challenges the reading or listening audience to be open and resourceful, to resort to other ways of "reading" the words or of "listening" for other meanings.
There has to be more than one way to experience a voice and a poem. That is why I sometimes say that you don't have to speak or understand the language in order to feel poetry. Poetry is not just the act of putting the thought on paper or the linear reading and approach to the poem. Poetry is about engaging the senses, the lilt of the words, the rhythm of the verse, the musicality and tone, the energizing and vivid delivery of the poet, his or her body language and movement. It's about the smells in the room as you listen to the poem (or the smells that the poem itself elicits); it's about the live audience's reaction, about "listening" with a different ear, about "feeling" and imagining at another level.
In the process of detailing my creative landscape, my voice has renamed and defined my own language and "individual" experience. Yet this "individual" voice has reached others along the way and I have been privileged to engage in a meaningful dialogue with people who see themselves reflected in my poems. Through this encuentro I found that my reality is in some significant way a part of theirs too, que compartimos una esencia humana. Al escribir mi cartohistografia, what I once believed were individual relatos have become encuentros of shared emotion(s), a link that forms and connects my path with the meeting and merging of others. In this encuentro between writer and reader/listener, ser a ser, there occurs the possibility of a powerful process. Como escritora y poeta, es mi lengua, la todo poderosa, la que hace y deshace. My polylingual lengua habla mi realidad, es mi realidad. Cuando digo cilantro, lo pruebo. Mi lengua es como unametafora, viste colores vibrantes, define mi identidad en espanol, en English y en espanglish, y sprinkled with other stuff, my tongue questions and explains my pocha reality, da voz a mi conciencia, protesta en las marchas. Es mi lengua la que besa apasionadamente en varios idiomas (pa' que se entienda la traduccion). My tongue names injustices I witness, a veces en voz de poeta, a veces en mi native lengua pocha, from my pocha perspective. Sometimes I use my university-trained and degreed tongue, when it is necessary. My lengua recuenta en color y olor de carne propia. It is my tongue that boldly translates those injustices in English, para que entiendan los que no las viven y los que por miopes no las ven. Mi lengua es un organo vital. It is a gift, my power.
A Gift of Tongues this tongue of mine sets fires licking hot all in its path scorches the old announces the new this tongue of mine breaks through walls setting free imagery of feelings odors of dreams tasting the bitter the rancid quenching its thirst this tongue of mine invents the words creating familiar signs draws my days in bold hues celebrates affirming my world this tongue of mine opens wounds heals the hurt with warm breath savors the other the you that is also me this tongue of mine
The aim of this essay is to set a framework that looks at Chicanas' work and, more specifically, my own Chicana work. I want to see, for example, how the development of my identities as Mexican, immigrant, Chicana, Latina, mujer, ser natural y espiritu, and so on reflect in that work.
Because my writing has been a way of mapping a life, necesitaba tomar de varias palabras y conceptos para nombrar este proceso. The first word I began to take apart was cartography. From cartography I borrowed cartoas the art or technique of making maps or charts-el arte de trazar mapas geograficos. I then took histo- from history / historia: (del griego historia), en su sentido de relato de los acontecimientos y de los hechos dignos de memoria. In other words, a narrative of events, a story, a chronicle. Tambien reclamo histo de historia en el sentido de desarrollo de la humanidad. En este caso, desarrollo de mi propia humanidad. I wanted to utilize a distinct meaning of histo-: as a chronological record of events of the life or development of an individual, a people. In this case, my own chronological development as a woman, a Chicana, the development of my political conscience, and my humanity.
My work is a part of history. Yet, by nature, it is herstory, one that seeks to encompass other women's stories and, further, might possibly encompass the story of a community. When it is recorded, herstory has the potential of being both individual and collective biography. The last part of this constructed termconsiste de la palabra: grafia, del griego, graphe, accion de escribir. Significa un sistema de escritura, o el empleo de signos determinados para expresar las ideas. In English, -graphy: a process or method of writing or other graphic representation.
It is through the reconstruction of these terms that I arrived at the term cartohistografia or cartohistography. Its definition follows: Documentacion de una historia o experiencia individual pormedio de escritos, dibujos, u otra representacion cuyos signos y significados son compartidos; amplia la geografia del espacio individual al espacio comunal. The historiography of an experience is chronicled and shaped through the writer's use of language, metaphor, cultural signifiers, the content of the work, the sociopolitical, historical, and cultural context in which the work is produced. The instant the cartohistographer's experience or vision is documented, it creates a physical, material space with its own geography, ecology, and cosmology.
Cartohistographymay be useful as ameans to gain understanding about the development of multiple identities and the political consciousness that is a part of each level of identity development. For example, in my case, cartohistography may be useful in revealing the development of the political conscience in my work, as my identities expanded from the former Mexicana to the Chicana, madre, poeta, colega, educadora, entre otras.
Mi trabajo, "el nuestro," me y nos afirma a si mismas. Our work confirms our constant migrations, transformations, visions, and will. Our Chicana production, both literary and critical, exposes myriad voices and a purposeful dialectic; it is a testament to our resistance as we move and act on our future. Our production delineates our heritage. Es una expresion de quienes somos, de nuestro ollin omovimiento, our sociopolitical, cultural, and human development. This cartohistographical frame fits the expression of my work, theory, and my Chicana feminist framework.
As cartohistography, my writings explore the longitudes and latitudes of an ever-shifting map of life, where my conciencia is affected by physical elements and vice versa. My landscape is at times eroding, but rebuilding as well, always renewing, changing once again. Each time I or we write and chronicle our real and imagined spaces, we are consciously naming, putting on the map, so to speak, previously unknown territory. My objective as cartohistographer is to explore, to understand the depth and range of this terrain.
Como cartohistografa, estoy observando y definiendo cientifica y sensiblemente todo eso que llena mi espacio. I am making real herstory by placing my voice, mis escritos, in the context of a timeline of the cartohistography of the Mexicano Chicano and polycultural peoples or pueblos to which I belong. Digo pueblos o comunidades porque mi geografia se mueve, se expande, es flexible. My borders are fluid and I am an active member ofmany comunidades. Por ejemplo, pertenezco a las comunidades Chicana y Latina, soy de familia trabajadora, mujer, educadora, madre, trabajadora cultural, y agrego a estas, varias otras comunidades. As Chicana artists and writers, our work and expression become a physical mediation of our herstory. Nuestros escritos consideran, miden y explican experiencias individuales que forman parte del rompecabezas de nuestra comunidad. Al publicar estos escritos exigimos reconocimiento de esa realidad.
Excerpted from Chicana Feminisms-CL by Gabriela F. Arredondo Copyright © 2003 by Gabriela F. Arredondo. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Gabriela F. Arredondo is Assistant Professor of Latin American and Latina/o Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Aída Hurtado is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and author of Voicing Chicana Feminisms: Young Women Speak Out on Sexuality and Identity.
Norma Klahn is Professor of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz and coeditor of Las Nuevas Fronteras del Siglo XXI/New Frontiers of the 21st Century.
Olga Nájera-Ramírez is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and coeditor of Chicana Traditions: Continuity and Change.
Patricia Zavella is Professor of Latin American and Latina/o Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz and coauthor of Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios, published by Duke University Press.
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