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CARLOTA CARDENAS DE DWYER University of Texas, Austin CulturalRegionalism and ChicanoLiterature In the introduction to his collection of critical essays about William Faulkner for Prentice-Hall’s Twentieth Century Views series, Robert Penn Warren speaks of his response as a Southerner to his first reading of Faulkner and the South he found dramatized there. He says: . . . What happened to me was what happened to almost all the bookreading Southerners I knew. They found dramatized in Faulkner’s work some truth about the South and their own Southerness that had been lying speechless in their experience. Even landscapes and objects took on a new depth of meaning, and the human face, stance, and gesture took on a new dignity. . . . With this fiction there was not only the thrill of encountering strong literature. There was the thrill of seeing how a life that you yourself observed and were part of might move into the dimension of art.1 It is interesting to note that Robert Penn Warren uses the more expansive term “a life” rather than the more limited “way of life” to refer to what is surely the distinct cultural and historical regionalism of Faulkner’s South. A critical excursion into the cultural regionalism of Faulkner or any other author could easily produce nothing more than a literary travelogue of spectacular scenic vistas, dramatic historical encounters, 1Robert Penn Warren, “Introduction: Faulkner: Past and Future,” in Twen­ tieth Centruy Views of Faulkner, ed. Robert Penn Warren (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968), p. 1. 188 Western American Literature and vignettes of romantic life styles. However, the words of Penn Warren draw us away from the allure of exotic and colorful aspects of local details to the deeper levels of meaning achieved by important works of art. The purpose of this discussion is to show how the life and ways of life experienced by Chicanos of the Southwest have been incorporated within the dimension of art by Chicano authors. Works by Tomas Rivera and Rolando Hinojosa are chosen as examples because each author uses the Chicano way of life to fulfill an important narrative purpose. The work of each lacks the familiar and conventional bonds of a unified narrative form; in the extended fiction of both Tomas Rivera and Rolando Hinojosa the reader fails to find the central protagonist traditionally integrating the various fragments of action, dialogue, and description. In . . y no se lo tragd la tierra” / ■and the earth did not part”2 of Rivera’s (1971), Rolando Hinojosa’s Estampas del Valle/Sketches of the Valley3 (1973) and Generaciones y Semblanzas* (1977) one cannot help but be struck by the gradual disappearance of a single narrator or protagonist and, consequently, the familiar sense of unity that results from such a character. In the absence of the unifying bond traditionally furnished by a central character, the continuity of Rivera’s disparate narrative fragments emanates from elsew'here. It comes instead from the constant presence of the Chicano migrant farmworkers’ way of life and culture found throughout the narrative. To convey the importance, the ambiance, of a Chicano community in . y no se lo trago la tierra” Rivera constructed an unusual frame­ work, consisting of two narrative series into which twenty-seven com­ ponents are divided: fourteen stories and thirteen briefer forms variously termed anecdotes, miniatures, sketches, or vignettes. The series of briefer selections is printed in italics and, therefore, is typographically distin­ guished from the stories. After the first story, which serves as an opening frame, an anecdote and a story appear as if paired together — both in Spanish, then both in English translation. However, while the so-called 2Tomas Rivera, . y no se lo tragd la tierra” and the earth did not part” (Berkeley: Quinto Sol, 1971). 3Rolando Hinojosa, Estampas del Valle y Otras Obras, (Berkeley: Quinto Sol, 1973). 4Rolando Hinojosa, Generaciones y Semblanzas, trans. Rosaura Sanchez (Berk­ eley: Justa, 1977). Carlota Cárdenas de Dwyer 189 “anecdotes” differ from the stories in two obvious respects — they are shorter (usually only one paragraph in length) and untitled — the anecdotes, contrary to expectation, do not differ significantly in form or content from the stories. The anecdotes do not consistently bear a preparatory...


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