MFS Modern Fiction Studies 51.3 (2005) 561-591
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The Unsustainable Hacienda:
The Rhetoric of Progress in Jovita González and Eve Raleigh's Caballero
Caballero: A Historical Novel, set in South Texas at the close of the Mexican-American War (1846–48), was published posthumously in 1996, after the manuscript by Texas-Mexican folklorist Jovita González was recovered. Coauthored with Eve Raleigh, Caballero was composed in the 1930s, when González was already a professional authority on her native culture in Mexican South Texas. As editors José Limón and María Cotera point out, González had written a master's thesis on Texas-Mexican history and society ("Social Life in Cameron, Starr, and Zapata Counties") and published articles on Mexican folklore 1 when she received a Rockefeller fellowship in 1934, which resulted in Caballero and another book of literary sketches, entitled Dew on the Thorn (1997). 2 Around 1937, she invited Margaret Eimer (pen-name Eve Raleigh), a white female, to coauthor Caballero. After unsuccessful attempts at publication with major US presses in 1938–39 (Macmillan, Houghton-Mifflin, and Bobbs-Merrill), the manuscript was abandoned and virtually forgotten. 3 In parallel ways, six years after its posthumous publication in 1996, González's "new" historical novel still awaits major readings that steer it toward a place within Chicano/a and Am(é)rican literary and cultural conversations. 4 As Cotera notes, González does not emplot her work [End Page 561] with the resistance narrative characteristic of other Chicano scholars, such as her near contemporary and fellow Texas-Mexican folklorist and writer, the renowned Américo Paredes. 5 The readings that suit González's work best (as I will show) are those that will shed new light on her cross-cultural affiliations. Under this reasoning, Raleigh's coauthorship of Caballero is no longer an opaque and ephemeral feature, as seen from within a Chicano studies optic. Rather, the figure of "Eve Raleigh," about whose creative contribution little concrete is known except the fact that it was substantial, can appear as the gateway toward difference. 6
While the relative lack of information about Raleigh/Eimer remains a problem requiring further fact-finding, cross-ethnic interest in Mexican-American culture was not without precedent during the 1930s. New Mexico saw a "proliferation of nonnative, Anglo-American cultural discourse . . . between 1900 and 1940," as writers and artists (such as Charles, F. Lummis, Georgia O'Keefe, Willa Cather) flocked to New Mexico, attracted by its landscape and its Hispano (a regional term) and Native American character (Padilla 207). As Genaro Padilla and Tey Diana Rebolledo report, nuevomexicana writers of the early twentieth century such as Cleofas Jaramillo and Fabiola Cabeza de Vaca were sought out as native informers by nonnative artists and researchers eager to work on New Mexican themes. Not surprisingly, in their own writings (autobiographies, folklore) Jaramillo and Cabeza de Vaca absorbed the principal characteristics of the dominant nonnative discourse on New Mexico, romantic and antimodernist in its portrayal of a place outside of history identified with the lost Indian and Spanish past. 7 Yet importantly, nuevomexicana writers published their work at the time, whereas Texas-Mexican writers González and Paredes did not—a situation related to the presence, or absence, of a contemporary regional Anglo-American discourse romanticizing the "Spanish" roots of the Southwest. While the nostalgic and exoticizing New Mexican discourse runs counter to González and Raleigh's rhetoric of progress and uprooting of Mexican tradition (as we shall see), the common element in early-twentieth-century representations of Texas-Mexican and New Mexico history are cross-ethnic exchanges in their makeup, documented in Caballero 's coauthorship. (González's forward-looking assimilationist South Texas rhetoric contrasts with the backward-looking nostalgic New Mexico discourse—a judicious reminder that Anglo influence cannot be identified with any particular political message: nonnative discourse is present in both.) As a folklorist in Texas in the 1930s, González would have been aware of Anglo-American interest in...