- The First Last GenerationQueer Temporality, Heteropatriarchy, and Cultural Reproduction in Jovita González and Eve Raleigh’s Caballero
Let the world whirl in madness. Rancho La Palma would never change. The Mendoza line never die.—Jovita González and Eve Raleigh, Caballero
In her second collection of prose and poetry Cherríe Moraga exposes her reasons for titling the book The Last Generation (1999). Moraga sits on the sofa in the front room of her family’s home and ruminates upon the political and temporal distance from the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s. During el movimiento Chicanas/os forged a political consciousness of cultural pride and resistance to white supremacy, taking to the streets, fields, and ballot boxes to fight for equality. In the 1990s Moraga looks back with nostalgia, for the future is marked by an end to ethnic heritage and energized political consciousness (8, 148). She laments the phenotypic erasure of la Mexicana in her niece and the gradual Hispanicization of Mexican Americans:
My family is beginning to feel its disintegration. Our Mexican grandmother of ninety-six years has been dead two years now and la familia’s beginning to go. Ignoring this, it increases in number. I am the only one who doesn’t ignore this because I am the only one not contributing to the population. My line of family stops with me.(9)
This moment reverberates with the loss of political potential as it gestures toward the future. Moraga’s words capture the anxieties that mark the post-movement era, particularly with the rise of Reagan [End Page 351] conservatism, soft multiculturalism, and colorblindness. Yet Moraga’s observation and its logics are not an isolated moment in the field of Chicana/o studies. Indeed, Chicana/o history has been indelibly shaped by parallel moments: the end of one social order and the coming of another. Thus, Moraga’s observation may be heard as echoing with little alteration the anxieties that permeate Jovita González and Eve Raleigh’s novel Caballero (1996). Such a reading exposes the centrality of heterosexuality in imagining the nineteenth-century conquest of Texas and its aftermath. It may seem an odd choice to yoke these texts together, for they are separated by time and political vision. But these differences make the commonalities all the more striking. The lens of Moraga’s observation opens for analysis how queerness may trouble notions of the future and the making of the social world.
Coauthored during the 1930s by Jovita González and Eve Raleigh (the pseudonym for Margaret Eimer), Caballero was discovered in manuscript form and posthumously published through the efforts of José Limón and María Cotera.1 The novel tells a historical romance of the shifting social order as Texas is annexed by the United States and the US-Mexican War unfolds. The narrative explores these tumultuous times through the lives of the Mendoza y Soría family, headed by Don Santiago. With the US occupation of South Texas, Don Santiago and other elite Mexicanos travel to Matamoros to decide how they will respond. There these Tejanos come into greater contact with Anglo Americans in the form of the US Army, the Texas Rangers, and settlers. While Don Santiago forbids his children to consort with “Americanos,” it is too late—interethnic romances soon follow for three of his children.2 And despite his efforts to maintain the social order, by the end of the novel those interethnic relationships thrive, and Don Santiago dies tragically clutching “a scoop of earth, brown and dry,” from his hacienda, Rancho la Palma de Christo (337).
Heretofore scholars have paid close attention to two of the interethnic romances: the marriage of Susanita to Robert Warrener and that of Angela to Red McLane. Approaching a consensus, many have followed the lead of Limón, who drew upon Doris Somer’s scholarship to contend that these romances forge “foundational fictions” [End Page 352] that imagine an interethnic union with new ideal citizen subjects (Limón, “Mexicans”).3 In this interpretive vein the assimilative move of Susanita and Angela is juxtaposed to the resistive impulses of Don Santiago and his favorite son, Alvaro...