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John Valadez. THE WEDDING. 1985. Oil pastel on paper. 38" x 50". Courtesy of the artist. The artwork of John Valadez is in every way realistic. His work often confronts and responds to volatile issues within the Chicano com­ munity such as sexual tension, death, racism, and classism. In The Wedding, “the portrayal of the mother-in-law seated on the wedding dress recasts the patriarchal tenets of the wedding ceremony, as the daugher is shown to belong not to her father but to her mother, and signifies that the groom is marrying not only his novia, but the train of her entire familia, represented by the mother” (from Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Chicano Art: Inside/Outside the Master’s House [1998]). E n lig h te n m e n t Id e o lo g y a n d t h e C r is is o f W h ite n e s s in F r a n c is B e r r ia n a n d C a b a l l e r o A n d r e a T i n n e m e y e r During the first part of the nineteenth century, the U.S. publish­ ing world created the dime novel, a new literary form capitalizing on the nation’s relatively high literacy rate and its appetite for adventure and romance situated, among other things, on the frontier and the battlefields of the Mexican War (1846-1848). Timothy Flint’s 1826 dime novel Francis Berrian initiates this genre and its romance of the frontier in former Mexican territory; written in the 1930s and ’40s, but not published until 1996, Jovita González and Eve Raleigh’s Caballero derives from this tradition. In both novels, the West figures as a mythical, romantic topos for male adventure, but rather than encountering what historian Robert Johannsen refers to as “dark, skulking, ‘inferior’ Mexican rancheros,” the “‘superior,’ good, and patriotic American volunteers” in both Francis Berrian and Caballero recognize an uncanny resemblance between themselves and the “incredibly beautiful señoritas” in the narratives (189). This uncanniness stems from the recognition of whiteness in the gente de razón, Mexicans bom of Spanish (European) ancestry. 1 These “white” Mexican heroines possess an allied nobility, performed or otherwise signified through a display of finer feeling, that signals their propensity for an Enlightenment education in autonomous subjectivity involving, in the case of Francis Berrian, lit­ eral instruction in the theories of Locke and Rousseau and, in Caballero, a narrative reframing miscomprehended experience. This a priori readiness differentiates them from the more “savage” male members of the antiquated patriarchy who not only lack such emo­ tions, but also fail to honor them in their daughters and fiancées. The stark contrast between the antiquated, semifeudal patriarchy of Mexico and the relatively young, democratic one of the United States marks the implicit link between Rousseauian Enlightenment ideology and whiteness.2 Dime novels and the West enjoyed a symbiotic relationship— the popular fiction produced the literary West, and the intrigue surround­ ing the West’s territory and affairs, in turn, manufactured the demand WAL 3 5 .1 S P R IN G 2 0 0 0 dime novels satisfied. Francis Berrian and Caballero both inherit other traits recognizable in the literary field as distinctly western, in particular the interracial conflict occasioned by the captivity of a white woman. Mexicans, Native Americans, and Anglo-Americans people the landscape of these two novels, but against the conventional con­ flict between Native Americans and Anglos, which has been the focus of numerous texts beginning with Mary Rowlandson and extending through James Fenimore Cooper, the complicated and often contra­ dictory relationship between Mexicans and Anglos is central to the border version of the Western.3 The West was won in part through the brutal act of Manifest Destiny, a belief that the United States was fulfilling its God-given fate by doubling its territory in the Mexican American War. Prior to John O ’Sullivan coining the term “Manifest Destiny” in the Democratic Review, Enlightenment ideology was detached from expansionist pro­ jects but was instead the bastion of Western philosophy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 20-32
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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