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Shakin' Up Race and Gender

Intercultural Connections in Puerto Rican, African American, and Chicano Narratives and Culture (1965–1995)

By Marta E. Sánchez

Publication Year: 2005

The second phase of the civil rights movement (1965-1973) was a pivotal period in the development of ethnic groups in the United States. In the years since then, new generations have asked new questions to cast light on this watershed era. No longer is it productive to consider only the differences between ethnic groups; we must also study them in relation to one another and to U.S. mainstream society. In “Shakin' Up” Race and Gender, Marta E. Sánchez creates an intercultural frame to study the historical and cultural connections among Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and Chicanos/as since the 1960s. Her frame opens up the black/white binary that dominated the 1960s and 1970s. It reveals the hidden yet real ties that connected ethnics of color and “white” ethnics in a shared intercultural history. By using key literary works published during this time, Sánchez reassesses and refutes the unflattering portrayals of ethnics by three leading intellectuals (Octavio Paz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Oscar Lewis) who wrote about Chicanos, African Americans, and Puerto Ricans. She links their implicit misogyny to the trope of La Malinche from Chicano culture and shows how specific characteristics of this trope—enslavement, alleged betrayal, and cultural negotiation—are also present in African American and Puerto Rican cultures. Sánchez employs the trope to restore the agency denied to these groups. Intercultural contact—encounters between peoples of distinct ethnic groups—is the theme of this book.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Chicana Matters


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

This book is the product of several years of research aimed at establishing intercultural connections among three literatures and cultures. The immediate time period on which it focuses is 1965 to 1973, eight crucial years in the historical evolution of modern Puerto Rican, African American, and Chicano literature. I look back at these literatures from the perspective...

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pp. xiii-xvi

Langston Hughes wrote what became his most famous poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” on a train trip from St. Louis, Missouri, to Mexico.1 In this poem, Hughes mentions the Mississippi, the Euphrates, the Congo, and the Nile, a gesture, I believe, to situate African Americans within international culture. Although he does not name the...

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Introduction: Intercultural Connections

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pp. 1-21

In the prelude, I began with two anecdotes—one about Langston Hughes, another about Piri Thomas—in the spirit of inviting my readers to entertain connections among continental Puerto Rican, African American, and Chicano (Mexican American) cultures.1 These three cultures are the points of the intercultural triangle that this book aims to build. Since new...

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Chapter 1: “In Bed” with La Malinche: Stories of “Family” à la Octavio Paz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Oscar Lewis

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pp. 23-38

Almost forty years ago, three mainstream intellectuals— Octavio Paz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Oscar Lewis—provided cues for how the American public should think about Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans, and African Americans. When Paz looked at Mexicans in Mexico and pachucos1 in Los Angeles, when Moynihan looked at the African American family in...

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Chapter 2: La Malinche at the Intersection of Puerto Rican and African American Cultures: Piri Thomas and Down These Mean Streets

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pp. 39-54

In the prologue to Down These Mean Streets, the Puerto Rican protagonist stands on a tenement rooftop looking over Spanish Harlem. Exploding with frustration, feeling rage in his blood and bones, he cries out against a world that refuses to take note of his existence. Down These Mean Streets is Piri’s cri de coeur. He is so invisible to people outside...

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Interlude 2: La Malinche: Shuffling the Puerto Rican Border in Spanish and Black Harlem

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pp. 55-70

By the 1940s1 African Americans and Puerto Ricans had settled in communities in New York and were living adjacent to each other in Harlem.2 Piri Thomas’s parents, for example, came to New York, as did many others, in the early 1920s, after the United States granted citizenship status to Puerto Ricans in 1917, facilitating movement between the island and the mainland. Many Puerto Rican...

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Chapter 3: Of Nutshells, Frogs, and Men in Manchild in the Promised Land

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pp. 71-84

“Run!” is the first word of Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land. Claude “Sonny” Brown,1 the protagonist, is running on the streets of Harlem, at 7th Avenue and 146th Street. He is not far from his home, which is in the same area the 1943 Harlem riots occurred. It is 1950 now, and a woman with a double-barreled shotgun is in hot pursuit. Sonny has stolen sheets...

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Interlude 3: Grandma Knows Best: The Women in Manchild in the Promised Land

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pp. 85-100

There is an incident in Manchild in the Promised Land that illustrates the pivotal role of black women in shaping black masculinity. At the time of this incident, Sonny’s mother has sent her seemingly incorrigible ten-year-old son down South in the hope that his grandparents will banish the “too much devil in him” (42). She has...

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Chapter 4: Overcoming Self-Loathing, Learning to Love Brownness: Oscar Zeta Acosta and The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo

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pp. 101-120

So speaks author and protagonist Oscar Zeta Acosta1 in the coda to The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo. What is refreshing about Acosta’s phrasing is that he does not oppose Chicano to Mexican or Chicano to American, as was the usual practice of ethnic political action in the 1960s and 1970s.2 Rather, he allows Chicano to stand in relation to...

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Interlude 4: The Brown Buffalo Puts On Blackface

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pp. 121-131

I turn once again to the text examined in the previous chapter, The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo, but my focus here is Oscar’s exploitation of one of the permutations of the La Malinche trope. This permutation is the Chicano pachuco.1 The broadest historical meaning of the term “pachuco” refers to Mexican American marginalized male youths...

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Epilogue: La Malinche Comes Home

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pp. 132-135

This opinion—evidently stubbornly held by some French citizens, who presumably are unidentified by Geertz because Gide, I assume, did not identify them either—was, according to Gide, of widespread currency during the occupation of France. Gide wanted to make the point that the accusation that certain intellectuals were to blame for the “fall” of France...


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pp. 137-173


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pp. 175-187

Copy Right Acknowledgments

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p. 189


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pp. 191-202

E-ISBN-13: 9780292796805
E-ISBN-10: 0292796803
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292706934
Print-ISBN-10: 0292706936

Page Count: 220
Illustrations: 3 line drawings
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Chicana Matters
Series Editor Byline: Deena J. González and Antonia Castañeda series editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 62763423
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Shakin' Up Race and Gender

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Subject Headings

  • African Americans in literature.
  • Mexican Americans in literature.
  • American literature -- Minority authors -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Mexican Americans -- Intellectual life.
  • Race in literature -- Congresses.
  • Sex role in literature
  • Puerto Ricans -- United States -- Intellectual life.
  • Narration (Rhetoric) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Puerto Ricans in literature.
  • Ethnic groups in literature.
  • Minorities in literature.
  • African Americans -- Intellectual life.
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