Narrative Strategies for Navigating Latino Identity
Publication Year: 2011
Just as mariners use triangulation, mapping an imaginary triangle between two known positions and an unknown location, so, David J. Vázquez contends, Latino authors in late twentieth-century America employ the coordinates of familiar ideas of self to find their way to new, complex identities. Through this metaphor, Vázquez reveals how Latino autobiographical texts, written after the rise of cultural nationalism in the 1960s, challenge mainstream notions of individual identity and national belonging in the United States.
In a traditional autobiographical work, the protagonist frequently opts out of his or her community. In the works that Vázquez analyzes in Triangulations, protagonists instead opt in to collective groups—often for the express political purpose of redefining that collective. Reading texts by authors such as Ernesto Galarza, Jesús Colón, Piri Thomas, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, Judith Ortiz Cofer, John Rechy, Julia Alvarez, and Sandra Cisneros, Vázquez engages debates about the relationship between literature and social movements, the role of cultural nationalism in projects for social justice, the gender and sexual problematics of 1960s cultural nationalist groups, the possibilities for interethnic coalitions, and the interpretation of autobiography. In the process, Triangulations considers the potential for cultural nationalism as a productive force for aggrieved communities of color in their struggles for equality.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
Series: Critical American Studies
Title Page, About the Series, Copyright
Introduction. Notes on Triangulation: Navigating Latina/o Identity
In Piri Thomas’s 1967 autobiography Down These Mean Streets, the protagonist cites a curious exchange he has with Brew, his African American comrade. As a dark-skinned Puerto Rican, Piri’s phenotypic similarities with Brew would indicate a likely affiliation.1 Yet a perplexing conflict arises, setting up a fascinating negotiation of the meaning of Piri’s racial identity: ...
1. Zigzagging through History: Ernesto Galarza, Jesús Colón, and the Development of Insurgent Consciousness
Many Latina/o cultural nationalist movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s envisioned new social relations and alternative formulations of community. But the politics of these movements were not without predecessors. Indeed, cultural nationalism owed a debt to the leftist social movements of the 1930s, ...
2. Crazy for the Nation: Piri Thomas, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, and the Urban Outlaw
As we have seen, Latina/o authors like Jesús Colón and Ernesto Galarza link the activism of the 1930s with the radical politics of the 1960s. In the late 1960s and early 1970s a new generation of Latina/o authors drew from these oppositional strands, further transforming them in their personal narratives. ...
3. Remaking the Insurgent Vision: John Rechy, Judith Ortiz Cofer, and the Limits of Nationalist Morality
In previous chapters I examined Latina/o first-person personal narratives that triangulate alternative formulations of identity as the basis for projects of community efficacy. By matrixing the narration of the self with the history and culture of their communities, authors like John Rechy and Judith Ortiz Cofer respond to similar literary and political impulses. ...
4. I Can’t Be Me without My People: Triangulating Historical Trauma in the Work of Julia Alvarez
As we have seen, Latina/o authors often use first-person personal narratives to triangulate new forms of individual identity and plural models of group formation. Julia Alvarez works in this vein by complicating the stability of history, personal memory, and fiction in her literary construction of a Dominican Republic ...
Conclusion. New Millennial Triangulations
Thus far, my analysis of Latina/o triangulations has focused on first-person personal narratives written during the last third of the twentieth century. I have attempted to highlight how the works I consider posit communal identities that contest liberal individualism, racism, and white supremacy. ...
A colleague and friend recently shared with me that writing her acknowledgments was one of the more difficult aspects of her book. As I sit down to write my own, I realize that this is undoubtedly the case. I am overwhelmed by the gratitude I feel when I think of the intellectual and emotional debts this book owes. ...
About the Author
David J. Vázquez is assistant professor of English at the University of Oregon. Triangulations is his first book.