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M u j e r e s Te s t i m o n i a n d o : N o N e u t r a l P o s itio n S o n i a S a l d í v a r - H u l l I ’d like to thank the Western Literature Association for this tremen' dous recognition, the Distinguished Achievement Award for Literary and Cultural Criticism. It is also an honor for me to stand here next to my two incredible brothers. Years ago we had agreed that we would never be on a panel together, but your recognition of our familial efforts to tell secrets finally made us rethink our earlier position. The current Western Literature Association President Krista Comer had hinted that a sort of intellectual biography would be a good topic for us to address today, hence the “family matters” title of the session. But I have already included some of my more interesting stories in “that” chapter of my book; and the chapters of my Memorias Fronterizas manuscript in perpetual process seem to be more explicitly about sexual­ ity on the border, and I didn’t want to further embarrass Ramón and José with some rather raw stories. But I do want to remark that it is indeed somewhat of a miracle that I’m here today, standing next to my brilliant brothers. Thanks to the misogyny of the patriarchy in my Brownsville, Texas, of the late 1950s and the ’60s, as well to the internalized misogyny that I so easily took on, the only family configuration that mattered to me at one time was to reign as the family matriarch. The siblings were to come to my house for the holidays. The new boyfriends, girlfriends, and fiancés had to pass my scrutiny before my sister and five brothers could have my blessing. While I was living the life of a female elder as dictated by the customs of el valle de South Texas, I had the political, feminist sophistication of a (Valley) girl in her twenties. By the 1980s, I was living in Austin when José invited me to join him at a reading by some Chicana writers. I learned later it was the annual conference of the National Association of Chicano Studies. I heard for the first time the voices of Sandra Cisneros, Ana Castillo, Pat Mora, and Evangelina Vigil. They changed my life. With the encourage­ ment of all five of my brothers, but mainly from the two in academia, and with my sister’s help, and my husband Felix’s always-generous support, I returned to school. I was fortunate to enter graduate school W e s t e r n A m e r i c a n L i t e r a t u r e 4 0 .3 ( F a l l 2 0 0 5 ): 3 3 2 -4 1 . S A L D iv A R P l e n a r y 3 3 3 at a time when Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street (1985), Cherrie Moraga’s Loving in the War Years (1983), Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera (1987), and Helena Maria Viramontes’s The Moths and Other Stories (1985) had just been published. Rather than become the woman I was raised to be, a woman like Gualinto’s sisters, I instead imagined I could find a place where Chicana stories and testimonios could be told and honored. While poor Carmen and Maruca in Americo Paredes’s George Washington Gomez may not be good feminist role models, I can personally testify that they are accurate portrayals of the women I knew, the woman I almost remained. My first teaching position as an assistant professor of Chicana litera­ ture took me further away from my Texas roots. I ended up at UCLA, where some of the nationalist Chicano students complained of my tejanacentric syllabus. (I suspect that they were really complaining about the feminist slant of the courses.) I never felt more tejana, more of a “bor­ derer” than during those years in L.A. I recently returned to Texas— a bit closer...


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