- Otras Voces: Nuevas identidades en la frontera sur de California (testimonios)
Social realities manifest identities in multiple, complex ways. These complexities are often compounded when dealing with individuals and communities whose lives spread across two (or more) cultures. The degree to which these social realities factor into the formation and [End Page 172] (re)negotiation of individual identities is arguably at the forefront of current social and cultural research. In this context, the editors of Otras Voces bridge the gap between the—more often than not—long and demanding scholarly focused readings full of multifaceted, exigent theoretical discussions and the usually shorter and more straightforward readings sought by the occasional reader. Nonetheless, Otras Voces adds in nontrivial ways to the existing literature on Latin American communities in the United States with a collection of essays that relate the unique experiences of twelve Latin American immigrants, mainly from Mexico and El Salvador, living in Southern California. Ranging in topics from sex to family to violence, these stories are personal declarations of social injustice; windows of opportunity that allow us to appreciate some of the social, economical, and cultural difficulties that are part of the day-to-day reality of immigrants living in the bordering areas of the United States.
Otras Voces takes off with a captivating introduction in which Solomianski contextualizes the manuscript in light of the topics and stories that are to be presented. Thus, this first section, “A un entramado de pequeñas voces testimoniales y profundas discordancias sociales,” includes preparatory background and theoretical information as well as necessary methodological details providing the reader with an adequate preamble to the remainder of the book which, in turn, is effectively divided into five major sections corresponding to the themes of sexuality, family, dreams, violence, and biculturalism. The stories presented in each section reveal the reality of economic immigration from the perspective of those whose voice is not usually heard. In a sense, these stories give the informants a way to express their inner conflicts as a reaction to living in an already conflicted reality; one that expands across two worlds and rarely matches the immigrants’ Hollywood-like red carpet dreams. The second section, entitled “Sexualidad en el borde,” illustrates two harrowing stories about some of the social intricacies (e.g., prejudice and discrimination) of homosexual Hispanic immigrants who, in addition to coping with linguistic and cultural differences, as well as possible social discrimination, may also encounter barriers related to their sexual orientation. The third section (“Desintegración familiar”) depicts the stories of three informants and the thorny relationships existing within their family ties, ultimately leading to the dissolution of their respective nuclei. The fourth section (“Migrantes, tierra prometida y paraísos perdidos”) represents social injustice and the hardship suffered by those who risk their lives to come to the United States only to find that not everything is as they had pictured. The fifth section (“Violencia en los bordes”) portrays the dramatic stories of three individuals who have experienced physical and psychological abuse as a result of both intra- and intercultural conflicts. The last section, entitled “Entre la ‘biografía’ y el ‘testimonio,’” contains the story of distress and misery of an individual who leaves everything behind in search for a better life. This story is one of many that embody the struggles and great efforts that economic immigrants face in order to prosper in life.
Otras Voces brings a fresh perspective to the composite issue of Latin American immigration in the United States. As a glimpse into the inner workings of the social, psychological, and cultural features of those who generally go unnoticed and whose voice is not usually heard, the volume emerges as a reaction to scholarly focused essays, but still contributes to the existing literature on identity at the border by delivering the testimony of real-life traumatic memories of individuals searching for a better life. Notwithstanding the absence of more detailed critical discussions in each...