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US English-The House on Mango Street: Chicano Literary Renaissance

What Defines Latino Literature?

What Defines Latino Literature?
In compiling the latest anthology in the Norton series, professor Ilan Stavans researched the themes explored by Latino authors

Latino writer Martín Espada is one of many mentioned in The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature who say Walt Whitman influenced them and consider him as a godfather. (AP Photo / Daily Hampshire Gazette, Kevin Gutting)

By Chloe Schama
DECEMBER 2, 2010
“Right now, being a Mexican in the United States is very scary,” says Ilan Stavans, Professor of Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and editor of the recently published Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. “You are often at the bottom of the scale, and there is a lot of animosity.” Literature, Stavans says, can help smooth interactions among the diverse ethnic groups and cultures in the country. The 2,700–page anthology, which includes 201 authors, arrives at a pertinent moment. According to recent census statistics, more than one out of every two people added to the U.S. population between 2008 and 2009 is Hispanic, and by 2050, the group will increase to 30 percent of the U.S. population. Stavans recently discussed with me the exhaustive project of assembling the collection and the evolving role of Latino culture in the United States.

Can you describe the genesis of the project?

The project started 13 years ago. By then, a number of Latino writers had crossed from the margins to center stage. There was a lot of interest in how people would articulate this new literature that was emerging. Would it be a literature of specific groups, for example, Puerto Rican literature or Cuban American literature? Or, was there one single river that had a number of tributaries? Henry Louis Gates, Jr. had just published The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, and I thought that it was time for something similar to be done with Latino writers. Latino literature has now consolidated its presence. It is clear that it is here to stay and that it is pushing the limits of its own conditions, with novelists of all sorts reaching beyond what I would described as Latinidad— or what it means to be Latino in the United States. In the last several decades, Latinos finally have been entering the middle class. This anthology not only explains the forces behind that economic move but justifies the move. It is a book that all middle-class Latinos need, proof that we’ve made it: We’ve arrived.

How did you and fellow editors decide to use the term “Latino” in the title instead of other appellations such as “Hispanic”?

Two prominent terms, “Latino” and “Hispanic,” refer to people living in the United States who have roots in Latin America, Spain, Mexico, South America, or Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries. “Hispanic” is a reference to Hispania, the name by which Spain was known in the Roman period, and there has always been strong ambivalence toward Spain in its former colonies. Hispanic was the term adopted by the government—by the Nixon government in particular— and that made the community feel it was being branded. The term “Latino” has emerged as more authentic, although it’s gender specific. In any case these two terms, at present, keep on fighting for space. Newspapers will sometimes use both in the same article as if editors chose not to choose. The anthology’s editorial team endorsed the community-preferred word and made that clear in the preface.

Given that so much of the material included in the collection is political or historical and not necessarily what we think of as literature, how did the editors define literature?

To read the full article, click HERE.

How Sandra Cisneros's 'House On Mango Street' Influenced 5 Latinx Authors


I first picked up Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street in the summer of 1998. I was nine years old, just two months away from starting the 6th grade, and I was attending an advanced summer class with middle school students from across the city. As one of the youngest there, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up with the other kids, and I arrived at orientation feeling more dread than excitement. Then I met Esperanza Cordero. The House on Mango Street was our assigned reading, and as I devoured the novel, I realized that this was the first time I'd read about a girl with a last name like my abuela's, who lived in a neighborhood like mine. Esperanza's story felt like home.

Since its publication 35 years ago, The House on Mango Street has become one of the most influential works in modern literature. It has sold over six million copies and been translated into over 20 languages. And for many Latinx readers like me — including authors Elizabeth Acevedo, Angie Cruz, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Lilliam Rivera, and Erika L. Sánchez — that influence is personal.

"It was one of the first times I’ve ever felt seen," Erika Sánchez, the author of National Book Award finalist I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, tells Bustle. "Her neighborhood was so similar to the one I grew up in — full of both beauty and despair. The way that Cisneros was able to capture and celebrate Mexican culture was so magical to me."

Written in a series of poetic vignettes, Cisneros's seminal work follows Esperanza as she comes of age in Chicago in a primarily Latinx neighborhood. She struggles with her family's poverty, her desire to find a space of her own, and the plight of growing up as a young woman in a world where danger and disappointment seem to lurk around every corner.

"Cisneros taps into the truth of what so many Latinx young people and their families face," Elizabeth Acevedo, author of the National Book Award winner The Poet X, says. "She is honest about language, neighborhoods, aspirations, and so many other themes and truths that are not only universal but timeless. You can tell Cisneros loves her characters and that she loves her reader. That kind of care and respect means she doesn't write stereotypes, but she also isn't going to sugarcoat people or experiences. When you read Cisneros you trust her."

To read the full story, click HERE.

A Chicano Renaissance? A new Mexican-American Generation Embraces the Term


SAN DIEGO — The signposts of a Chicano renaissance are everywhere. On streets and college campuses, in fashion and in art, there's renewed energy around a term associated with 1960s civil rights and farm worker activism.

“Being Chicana means you have a responsibility to your people,” said Olivia Parraz, 22, as she strolled along San Diego's Chicano Park in a tank top emblazoned with the word "Chicana."

Chicano is a word popularized by an older Mexican American generation, but it has been experiencing a revival at a time when an expanding, young Latino population is asserting its place as the country wrestles over issues of race, rhetoric and identity.

“Here in Southern California we’re having a cultural and political renaissance of the term,” said Alexandro José Gradilla, associate professor of Chicana/o Studies and African American Studies at California State University, Fullerton.

The backdrop for the resurgence includes a Golden State where Latinos now are 39 percent of the population and represent California's largest racial or ethnic group. More than a third of them are age 20 or younger, according to the California Senate Office of Research.

The recharged movement is a metaphorical safe space for young Mexican-Americans and Latinos who feel battered not only by President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric regarding south-of-the-border immigrants but also by a far right emboldened by his rhetoric. In San Diego's Chicano Park, demonstrators twice stood up to far-right protesters who targeted the National Historic Landmark's flag, which includes a slogan, “This is my land.”

The park, with its large collection of murals andi ts own Chicano activism roots, is in Logan Heights, San Diego's oldest Mexican-American neighborhood.

“The gloves are off with the alt-right,” said University of San Diego ethnic studies professor Alberto López Pulido, a longtime member of the Chicano Park Steering Committee. He has volunteered as a community organizer in nearby Logan Heights for more than a decade.

To read the full story, click HERE.

Chicano Literary Renaissance: Texas State Historical Association

The Chicano literary renaissance, a flowering of all forms of literature by Mexican Americans throughout the Southwest, started in 1965 with the Teatro Campesino (Farmworkers Theater) in California. In Texas, however, the renaissance started in 1969, with the publication of poet Abelardo Delgado's 25 Pieces of a Chicano Mind, and lasted for about ten years of renewed literary activity among Mexican Americans in the state. The writers reaffirmed their ethnic identity and addressed their community through fiction, poetry, essays, and works of drama that responded to its political, economic, and social history. They also pioneered in Texas literature the use of "Spanglish," which combines English and Spanish into new words or mixes words of the two languages in the same passage. The literary movement in Texas achieved national stature with the 1971 publication of the novel ...Y no se lo tragó la tierra (translated as And the Earth did not Part) by Tomás Rivera of Crystal City. The book was awarded the first Quinto Sol Award from Quinto Sol Publications, a Mexican-American publishing house in California. In 1973 Rolando Hinojosa-Smith of Mercedes won the prize for Estampas del valle y otras obras (Sketches of the Valley and Other Works). He received international recognition in 1976, when the Latin-American literary world honored him with the Casa de las Américas Award for Klail City y sus alrededores.

Other important works written by Tejanos during this period were Hay Otra Voz Poems (There is Another Voice Poems) by Tino Villanueva of San Marcos (1972) and Viaje/Trip by Raúl Salinas of Austin (1973). In 1975 Angela de Hoyos brought out Arise Chicano! and Other Poems, and in 1976, Carmen Tafolla, Reyes Cárdenas, and Cecilio García-Camarillo jointly issued Get Your Tortillas Together, a collection of their poetry. All these works depicted Mexican-American life in a style both lyrical and realistic. Other important writers to emerge in Texas were poets Evangelina Vigil Piñón, Rosemary Catacalos, and Ricardo Sánchez and playwrights Estela Portillo Trambley, Nephtali De León, and Carlos Morton.

Some of these writers were also published in Chicano literature anthologies produced in the Southwest and in the literary journals established in Texas. Two important periodicals were Tejidos, a quarterly published in Austin from 1973 to about 1978, and Caracol, a journal issued in San Antonio between 1974 and 1977. Tejidos and Caracol gave a voice to many working-class Tejano writers, who brought to their pages penetrating themes and innovative writing styles. The influence of Caracol in particular was felt throughout the state because it published a large amount of poetry, as well as novel excerpts, criticism, and political articles. It also served as an important forum for announcing literary events. Its editor, Cecilio García-Camarillo, was an important poet of the movement. The establishment of Caracol also brought about the first network of Chicano writers in the state and helped them to find an audience. Poet Angela de Hoyos set up her own publishing house, M&A Editions, in San Antonio for this purpose as well.

Tejano writers participated in other Chicano renaissance events in the Southwest and organized some of the Flor y Canto festivals, which were named for the Aztec poetic vision of literature as a fusion of "flower and song." These events facilitated the emergence of additional writers. Tejanos attended the first Festival de Flor y Canto, which was held in Los Angeles, California, in 1973, and sponsored the second and third festivals, respectively, in Austin in March 1975 and in San Antonio in June 1976. Starting in 1976, anthologies based on these gatherings were published in California and Texas. The festivals later became known as Canto al Pueblo, and at least one such festival was held in Corpus Christi in 1978; that same year an anthology featuring works from the event was published. The Chicano literary renaissance also included dramatic performances organized by the Teatro Nacional de Aztlán, the Texas affiliate of which sponsored the sixth annual celebration in San Antonio in July 1975. The presentations allowed theater groups to continue the tradition of Mexican theaters and circuses, which had flourished in Mexico and later in Texas between the 1850s and 1950s.

The renaissance began to end when the annual literary gatherings moved from Texas to other states after the 1970s. Tejidos and Caracol ceased publication in the late 1970s. With the demise of these tools to nurture new and often self-taught writers (both hallmarks of the renaissance), this important period in Chicano literature in the state was complete. Nonetheless, its legacy was felt in subsequent decades. Mexican-American feminists continued to challenge traditional views. Their work provided the impetus for the 1981 This bridge called my back: writings by radical women of color, coedited by Cherríe Moraga and Texan Gloria Anzaldúa. In 1987 Anzaldúa followed this book with her own work in prose and poetry-Borderlands = La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Portillo Trambley, whose collection of short stories, Rain of Scorpions and Other Writings, was published in 1975, saw her plays produced throughout the Southwest and in New York, where her Blacklight won second place at the Latin American Theatre Festival in 1985.

Poet Rosemary Catacalos and poet-novelist Sandra Cisneros of Chicago both held Dobie Paisano writing fellowships (see PAISANO RANCH), as did novelist Genaro González. Rolando Hinojosa-Smith continued to write many well-received works in his Klail City Death Trip Series. He also was recognized as an outstanding prose stylist. Tino Villanueva established an international Mexican-American poetry journal, Imagine, on the East Coast in 1984. In Houston, Nicolás Kanellos continued to produce the Americas Review and established Arte Público Press, both of which introduced many Tejano writers. Some of the works produced during the Chicano literary renaissance in Texas were incorporated into university literature courses and found an audience outside the Mexican-American community; some also received scholarly attention. The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin has become a major repository of Chicano literature.

Handbook of Texas Online, Teresa Palomo Acosta, "CHICANO LITERARY RENAISSANCE," accessed June 16, 2020,


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