Book Review - Chicano Nations: The Hemispheric Origins of Mexican American Literature

Tiny - Posted on 17 December 2015

Editors Note: Mr. Jose Villarreal is one of several power-FUL PNNPlantation prison correspondents. As currently and formerly incarcerated poor and indigenous peoples in struggle and resistance with all plantation systems in Amerikkka, POOR Magazine stands in solidarity with all folks on the other side of the razor wire plantation.

Chicano Nations: the Hemispheric Origins of Mexican American Literature by Harissa K Lopex. New York University Press 2011. 208 Pgs.

This book seeks to identify and translate today’s chican@ literature and traces its history. Lopez takes a different approach to arly writing and the birth of chicanismo is literature. Not enough has been written about Chiano literature in a political context, yet this work is necessary in order to take Aztlan deeper in understanding todays Chicanismo, where we have been and our future in literary world.

As I read ‘Chicano Nations’ I wondered why such emphasis was layed on Sarimiento, Zavala and Perez and their tamed approach to Amerika, which I later found could not be thoroughly contrated except with the critiques of Vallejo’s views toward Amerika. 

Lopez explores a “post nationalism” for chican@s. What she overlooks is that in society everything is stamped with a nation Class and Gender character- including literature. Throughout history, there has always been some who in the comfortable confines of stability, view the Chicano Nation via integration lenses. This phenomenon is mirrored in the Black bourgeoisie who see the nomination of Obama as a sign of “post racial” Amerika or that the U.S. has entered the age of color blindness. This, of course, is absurd. So long as national oppression exists there will be a need for national liberation struggle. U.S. Imperialism continues to keep a boot on our necks and on poor people all around the world. This is reflected in the courts, prisons and particularly in the SHU’s where we are kept in solitary confinement, which has been defined as torture.

The most unity I have with Lopez is found in her description of Alurista where she says on pg 203: “Chicanas/os cannot be truly free until they recognize that the struggle in the United States is intricately bound with the anti-Imperialism struggle in other countries”.

Lopez alludes to the interconnection of the oppressed nations as a whole as up against our common oppressor. This is essentially the principal contradiction in the world today.  That is, the oppressed nations vs. the oppressor nations and, of course, the US today serves as the world Imperialist center. It is true that today’s Aztlan needs to clip the tethers of bourgeois nationalism and take on a revolutionary nationalism which, I think, cuts to the heart of our oppression or identifies the main source: Imperialism. Only in this way will we see national liberation for Chican@s as a step toward the liberation of all humanity. What I and my study group have come to understand is that we are for the self-determination of Chican@s and Internationalists at the same time. Indeed, we understand that true internationalism cannot be fully achieved until all nations are fully liberated as Lenin stated.

Where I find the most disagreement with Lopez is oddly on that same page (203), where she states: “The struggle against racism and injustice is a global, historical struggle, and we are all – Chicanas/os, Anglos, World citizens – imbricated in a global network within which we feel the tug and pull of these small battles that are more visible and pressing post 9/11”.

Such vague phrases promote the Amerikan apologist line where some feel we are all somehow at fault or responsible for causing such oppression. This of course downplays the oppressor’s role in national oppression. What’s more dangerous in this approach, is that it then gives birth to the idea of somehow the oppressor will come to understand we are all “imbricated” in this network and allow Aztlan to stand up or support our full liberation, rather than the more correct approach of understanding that the oppressor will never relinquish their power and privilege willingly and thus the need for Chican@s to do our own Nation building.

Ultimately Literature plays a huge part in what path the Chicano nation takes in the future, thus it is up to our Chican@ cultural workers to scratch out the path word by word and letter by letter so that this body of Chican@ literature serves as the bricks in our future road to a liberated Aztlan, a socialist Aztlan. This book is one of those bricks that add to the building this path. 


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