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Area and Ethnic Studies > American Studies > Hispanic American Studies

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Creating Aztlán Cover

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Creating Aztlán

Chicano Art, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Lowriding Across Turtle Island

Dylan A. T. Miner

In lowriding culture, the ride is many things—both physical and intellectual. Embraced by both Xicano and other Indigenous youth, lowriding takes something very ordinary—a car or bike—and transforms it and claims it. Using the idea that lowriding is an Indigenous way of being in the world, artist and historian Dylan A. T. Miner discusses the multiple roles that Aztlán has played at various moments in time, from the pre-Cuauhtemoc codices through both Spanish and American colonial regimes, past the Chicano Movement and into the present day. Across this “migration story,” Miner challenges notions of mestizaje and asserts Aztlán, as visualized by Xicano artists, as a form of Indigenous sovereignty. Throughout this book, Miner employs Indigenous and Native American methodologies to show that Chicano art needs to be understood in the context of Indigenous history, anticolonial struggle, and Native American studies. Miner pays particular attention to art outside the U.S. Southwest and includes discussions of work by Nora Chapa Mendoza, Gilbert “Magú” Luján, Santa Barraza, Malaquías Montoya, Carlos Cortéz Koyokuikatl, Favianna Rodríguez, and Dignidad Rebelde, which includes Melanie Cervantes and Jesús Barraza. With sixteen pages of color images, this book will be crucial to those interested in art history, anthropology, philosophy, and Chicano and Native American studies. Creating Aztlán interrogates the historic and important role that Aztlán plays in Chicano and Indigenous art and culture.

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The Cristal Experiment

A Chicano Struggle for Community Control

Armando Navarro

Amidst the turbulence and militancy of the 1960s and early 1970s, the Mexicano population of the dusty agricultural town of Crystal City, Texas (Cristal in Spanish), staged two electoral revolts, each time winning control of the city council and school board. The landmark city council victory in 1963 was a first for Mexican Americans in South Texas, and Cristal—the “spinach capital of the world”—became for a time the political capital of the Chicano Movement.
     In The Cristal Experiment, Armando Navarro presents the most comprehensive examination to date of the rise of the Chicano political movement in Cristal, its successes and conflicts (both internal and external), and its eventual decline. He looks particularly at the larger and more successful “Second Revolt” in 1970 and its aftermath up to 1981, examining the political, economic, educational, and social changes for Mexicanos that resulted. Drawing upon nearly 100 interviews, a wealth of secondary materials, and his own experiences as a political organizer in the Chicano Movement, Navarro offers a shrewd and insightful analysis not only of the events in Cristal, but also of the workings of local politics generally, the politics of community control, and the factors inherent in the American political system that lead to the self-destruction of political movements. As both a political scientist and an organizer, he outlines important lessons to be learned from what happened in Cristal and to the Chicano Movement.

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Crowding Out Latinos

In this groundbreaking analysis, Marco Portales examines the way in which education and the media act as immobilizing social forces to shape the Latino world that exists despite the best efforts of many Mexican Americans and other Latinos. The delicate relationships between what Latinos are and what they seem to be, as perceived both by the larger society and by Latinos themselves, create and craft a culture that students of American culture have not sufficiently studied or understood.

As bandidos or gigolos, drug users or unwed mothers, Latinos continue to figure in the public consciousness primarily as undesirables. Despite decades of effort by Spanish-speaking Americans to improve their image in the United States, Mexican Americans and other resident Latinos are still largely perceived by other Americans as  poverty-stricken immigrants and second-class citizens. Accordingly, the great majority of Latino citizens receive substandard educations, equipping them for substandard jobs in substandard living environments.

The lives of Mexican Americans and other Latinos, Portales contends, can best be illuminated by looking at the history of Chicanos and particularly Chicano literature, which dramatizes the impact of education and the media on Latinos. Like Irish literature, Chicano literature has sought to articulate and to establish itself as a postcolonial voice that has struggles for national attention. Through psychological and sociopolitical representations, Chicano writers have variously used anger, indifference, fear, accommodation, and other conflicting emotions and attitudes to express how it feels to be seen as an immigrant or a foreigner in one's own country.

Portales looks at four Chicano literary works -- Americo Paredes' George Washington Gomez, Anthony Quinn's The Original Sin, Sandra Cisnero's House on Mango Street, and Ana Castillo's Massacre of the Dreamers -- to focus attention on social issues that impede the progress of Latinos. By doing so, he hopes to engage both Latino and non-Latino Americans in an overdue dialogue about the power of education and the media to form perceptions that can either empower or repress Latino citizens.

The Cubans of Union City: Immigrants and Exiles in a New Jersey Community Cover

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The Cubans of Union City: Immigrants and Exiles in a New Jersey Community

As a result of the conflicts between Cuba and the United States, especially after 1959, Cubans immigrated in great numbers. Most stayed in Miami, but many headed north to Union City, making it second only to Miami in its concentration of Cubans. In The Cubans of Union City, Yolanda Prieto discusses why Cubans were drawn to this particular city and how the local economy and organizations developed. Central aspects of this story are the roles of women, religion, political culture, and the fact of exile itself. 

 

As a member of this community and a participant in many of its activities, Prieto speaks with special authority about its demographic uniqueness. Far from being a snapshot of the community, The Cubans of Union City conveys an ongoing research agenda extending over more than twenty years, from 1959 to the 1980s. As a long-term observer who was also a resident, Prieto offers a unique and insightful view of the dynamics of this community’s evolution.

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Cultural Residues

Chile In Transition

Nelly Richard

A complex portrait of postdictatorial Chile by one of that country’s most incisive cultural critics, this book uses memoirs, photographs, the plastic arts, novels, and other texts—the “residues” of a culture—to analyze the political-cultural Chilean landscape in the wake of Augusto Pinochet’s seventeen-year military rule. Such residual areas reveal the flaws and lapses in Chile’s transition from violent military dictatorship to electoral democracy.

Nelly Richard's analysis ranges from an exploration of false memories of the recent past—especially memories of violence—to a discussion of the university under neoliberalism; from debates about the use of the word “gender” to an examination of refractory texts and cultural activities such as Diamela Eltit’s “testimonio” of a schizophrenic vagabond, Eugenio Dittborn’s use of photography in art installations, and transvestite performances. In Cultural Residues, each instance becomes a suggestive metaphor for understanding a rapidly modernizing Chile attempting to re-democratize its public life.


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The Culture and Politics of Contemporary Street Gang Memoirs

Josephine Metcalf

The publication of Sanyika Shakur's Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member in 1993 generated a huge amount of excitement in literary circles--New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani deemed it a "shocking and galvanic book"--and set off a new publishing trend of gang memoirs in the 1990s. The memoirs showcased tales of violent confrontation and territorial belonging but also offered many of the first journalistic and autobiographical accounts of the much-mythologized gang subculture.

In The Culture and Politics of Contemporary Street Gang Memoirs, Josephine Metcalf focuses on three of these memoirs--Shakur's Monster; Luis J. Rodriguez's Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A.; and Stanley "Tookie" Williams's Blue Rage, Black Redemption--as key representatives of the gang autobiography. Metcalf examines the conflict among violence, thrilling sensationalism, and the authorial desire to instruct and warn competing within these works. The narrative arcs of the memoirs themselves rest on the process of conversion from brutal, young gang bangers to nonviolent, enlightened citizens.

Metcalf analyzes the emergence, production, marketing, and reception of gang memoirs. Through interviews with Rodriguez, Shakur, and Barbara Cottman Becnel (Williams's editor), Metcalf reveals both the writing and publishing processes. This book analyzes key narrative conventions, specifically how diction, dialogue, and narrative arcs shape the works. The book also explores how the memoirs are consumed. This interdisciplinary study--fusing literary criticism, sociology, ethnography, reader-response study, and editorial theory--brings scholarly attention to a popular, much-discussed, but understudied modern expression.

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Curanderismo

Mexican American Folk Healing

Robert T. Trotter II and Juan Antonio Chavira With a foreword by Luis D. Leon

The practice of curanderismo, or Mexican American folk medicine, is part of a historically and culturally important health care system deeply rooted in native Mexican healing techniques. This is the first book to describe the practice from an insider's point of view, based on the authors' three-year apprenticeships with curanderos (healers).

Robert T. Trotter and Juan Antonio Chavira present an intimate view of not only how curanderismo is practiced but also how it is learned and passed on as a healing tradition. By providing a better understanding of why curanderos continue to be in demand despite the lifesaving capabilities of modern medicine, this text will serve as an indispensable resource to health professionals who work within Mexican American communities, to students of transcultural medicine, and to urban ethnologists and medical anthropologists.

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Curious Unions

Mexican American Workers and Resistance in Oxnard, California, 1898-1961

Frank P. Barajas

César E. Chávez came to Oxnard, California, in 1958, twenty years after he lived briefly in the city as a child with his migrant farmworker family during the Great Depression. This time Chávez returned as the organizer of the Community Service Organization to support the unionization campaign of the United Packinghouse Workers of America. Together the two groups challenged the agricultural industry’s use of braceros (imported contract laborers) who displaced resident farmworkers.

The Mexican and Mexican American populations in Oxnard were involved in cultural struggles and negotiations long before Chávez led them in marches and active protests. Curious Unions explores the ways in which the Mexican community forged intriguing partnerships with other ethnic groups within Oxnard in the first half of the twentieth century and the resulting economic exchanges, cultural practices, and labor and community activism. Frank P. Barajas examines how the Oxnard ethnic Mexican population exercised its agency in alliance with other groups and organizations to meet their needs before large-scale protests and labor unions were engaged. Curious Unions charts how the cultural negotiations that took place in the Oxnard ethnic Mexican community helped shape and empower farm labor organizing.

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The Daring Flight of My Pen

Cultural Politics and Gaspar Pérez de Villagrά's Historia de la Nueva Mexico, 1610

Genaro M. Padilla

In this engaging study Genaro Padilla enters into Villagrá’s epic poem of the Oñate expedition to reveal that the soldier was no mere chronicler but that his writing offers a subtle critique of the empire whose expansion he seems to be celebrating. A close reading of the rhetorical subtleties in the poem, Padilla argues, reveals that Villagrá surreptitiously parodies the King and Viceroy for their failures of vision and effectively dismantles Oñate as the iconic figure he has become today. Padilla’s study is not simply a close reading of this challenging work; it is also a lucid critique of our modern engagement with foundational documents, cultural celebrations, and our awareness of our relationship with New Mexico’s complicated multicultural legacies.

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Daughters and Granddaughters of Farmworkers

Emerging from the Long Shadow of Farm Labor

Barbara Wells

In Daughters and Granddaughters of Farmworkers, Barbara Wells examines the work and family lives of Mexican American women in a community near the U.S.-Mexican border in California’s Imperial County. Decades earlier, their Mexican parents and grandparents had made the momentous decision to migrate to the United States as farmworkers. This book explores how that decision has worked out for these second- and third-generation Mexican Americans.Wells provides stories of the struggles, triumphs, and everyday experiences of these women. She analyzes their narratives on a broad canvas that includes the social structures that create the barriers, constraints, and opportunities that have shaped their lives. The women have constructed far more settled lives than the immigrant generation that followed the crops, but many struggle to provide adequately for their families.These women aspire to achieve the middle-class lives of the American Dream. But upward mobility is an elusive goal. The realities of life in a rural, agricultural border community strictly limit social mobility for these descendants of immigrant farm laborers. Reliance on family networks is a vital strategy for meeting the economic challenges they encounter. Wells illustrates clearly the ways in which the “long shadow” of farm work continues to permeate the lives and prospects of these women and their families.

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