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;ESTA NOCHE TE VAS CONMIGO! Black and white photograph of María Dolores Cárdenas Aréchiga. An autobiographical history of her days as a runaway bride and mayorcita (majorette) in Pancho Villa’s army is recorded in Con Zapata y Villa: Tres relatos testimoniales (1991). Cárdenas Aréchiga later went on to be an artist and instructor in the InstitutoNacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura. T h e G e n e r a l ’s P a n t s : A C h ic a n a F e m in is t (R e )V is io n o f t h e M e x ic a n R e v o l u t io n in S a n d r a C is n e r o s ’s “E y e s o f Z a p a t a ” B a r b a r a B r in s o n C u r ie l In the opening scene of Sandra Cisneros’s 1991 short story “Eyes of Zapata” from her collection Woman Hollering Creek, the protagonist Ines narrates a textual nude portrait of Emiliano Zapata, the great gen­ eral of the Mexican Revolution. One notable feature of this description is its specifically sexual context. I put my nose to your eyelashes. The skin of the eyelids as soft as the skin of the penis, the collarbone with its fluted wings, the purple knot of the nipple, the dark, blue-black color of your sex, the thin legs and long thin feet. For a moment I don’t want to think of your past nor your future. For now you are here, you are mine. (85) This description startles some readers because Zapata is best known not in this private posture, but for his public role in the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920, which established him as an important cul­ tural and political figure in Mexico. Lola Elizabeth Boyd affirms suc­ cinctly that “Emiliano Zapata is the best representative of the spirit of the people, because he incarnates the suffering and the hope of the oppressed and exploited” (15). For this reason, the right to evoke his image is still contested by various Mexican political factions.1 Like Francisco “Pancho” Villa, Zapata also became an object of the American gaze both in mass culture and in the counterhegemonic political and cultural efforts of the Chicano movement. In Mexico and in the United States, Zapata has embodied resis­ tance to economic and political injustice as well as idealized Mexican manhood. Even though there is no unified vision of Zapata in either of these locations, his persistent importance in the culture of both nations, and in the border culture of Mexican Americans, makes him a figure through which cultural and political critiques will resonate in these his­ torically intertwined nations and cultures. Within Chicano culture and in the Chicano movement, writers like Luis Valdez, Alurista, and Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales have invoked Mexican revolutionary heroes 4 0 4 WAL 3 5 .4 W IN T E R 2 0 0 1 in order to promote the dignity of the Mexican origins of Chicanos/as. However, idealizations of warrior heroes have triggered an impassioned response among Chicana activists and artists. Cisneros’s Woman Hollering Creek is part of an ongoing critique by Chicana feminist writ­ ers who take issue with the gendered definitions of nationalism and heroism that have been prominent in the Chicano movement since the 1960s. In her discussion of the early days of the movement, historian Vicki L. Ruiz points out that “[t]he ‘gender objectification’ inherent in cultural nationalist ideology had painful, concrete manifestations for women ... who openly articulated a Chicana feminist vision” (112). In response to this tension, Cisneros’s short story collection idealizes heroic women who resist patriarchal domination by defying conven­ tional gender roles and by embracing especially the marginalized roles of the artist and the sexually free woman. Erlinda Gonzales-Berry has observed that for women sexual freedom indicates a “refusal to abide by patriarchal dictates of ownership.” Through identification with the stig­ matized image of the “bad” woman, women “shun the machinery” of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 403-427
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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