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T e a c h in g t h e H a c ie n d a : J u a n R u l f o a n d M e x ic a n A m e r ic a n C u l t u r a l M e m o r y V i n c e n t P é r e z In this essay, I wish to explore a question that first arose when I decided to include a novel by a Mexican writer, Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo (1959), in a Chicano/a literature course. After examining Rulfo’s novel as a modernist narrative that demystifies the social con­ tradictions of the prerevolutionary hacienda period, I recognized that by teaching it alongside a recently recovered Mexican American his­ torical romance, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton’s The Squatter and the Don (1885), I faced the task of reconciling two divergent representa­ tions of the Mexican hacienda. Under the presidency of Porfirio Diaz (1878-1911), the hacienda system came to dominate Mexican soci­ ety, creating the social and economic conditions that led to the Mexican Revolution (1911-1920). The prerevolutionary era, as many historians have noted, forms the foundation of modern Mexican and Mexican American social history (see Gutiérrez 13-68, Cardoso and Faletto 124-46). It is a particularly crucial period for the study of Mexican immigration to the United States, a migration which many Chicano and Chicana fiction writers and autobiographers have depicted (see Galarza, Morales, Villarreal, and Villaseñor). I therefore hoped that in the early weeks of the semester, students in my course would acquire a clear conception of what the hacienda system had meant historically for both Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Discussions immediately identified two opposing ideological and historical frameworks. While Rulfo’s book foregrounds an Indian and mestizo campesino viewpoint in the tum-of-the-century hacienda society of central Mexico, Ruiz de Burton’s book privileges the per­ spective of the Californio rancher class of the mid-nineteenth century in the frontier North. Notwithstanding the latter narrative’s inter­ vention in the dominant discourses which, beginning in the 1850s, sought to justify the illegal appropriation of Mexican land, The Squatter and the Don romanticizes the Mexican ranching society of Alta California by nostalgically recuperating the genteel culture of the land-owning elite. Whereas Pedro Páramo suggests an identification with Indian and mestizo campesino communities living under an 34 WAL 35.1 Spring 2000 James Walker (1819-1889). ROPING WILD HORSES. 1875. Oil on canvas. 30" x 44". Private collection. Photo courtesy the Gerald Peters Gallery. Walker lived in Mexico City but left at the outbreak of the Mexican War. He went on to establish studios in South America and California. Walker’s historical canvases include Battle of Chapultepec, painted for the U.S. Capitol. Cowboys Roping a Bear, also by Walker, was featured in our summer 1999 issue. exploitative hacienda social structure, Ruiz de Burton’s portrayal, which drew from her experience as a member of the rancher class dur­ ing the 1850-1875 period when it was defrauded of its land, betrays sympathy for the hacienda elite. Confused by the divergent hacienda histories inscribed in the two narratives, students asked me to account for the differences. Although stimulated by the complexity of historical representation in Pedro Pâramo, I had not yet resolved, in my own research, the contradictions that were now being raised by students— nor the possible implications of these questions for Chicano/a historical and literary criticism. 1 began to come to terms with the historiographic puzzle inscribed in the two narratives when I was led to reflect on an analogous contradiction in my own family history. The oral stories of my grandfather, Francisco Robles Pérez, provided a key of sorts to understanding the dialectics of early Chicano/a and Mexican history as depicted in Mexican American fiction. My family history illustrated that when interpreting V in c e n t P é r e z and analyzing the hacienda, Chicano/a writers and scholars must invariably engage with a desire, rooted in an ethnic identification with the dispossessed...


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