Mexicanas y chicanas

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Mexicanas and Chicanas Author(s): Elena Poniatowska

Mexicanas and Chicanas
ElenaPoniatowska, Mexico's writerandjournalist, leadingwoman gave at in thefallof 1991,whenshewas lecture Hampshire thefollowing College at Her writer-in-residence theFiveColleges Western in Massachusetts. adChicana writershas not lessened the interveningfive in mirationfor years, is where mouth by translating herSanand,as usual,shehasput hermoney dra Cisneros's now-canonical novel,The House on Mango Street early (1989), into Spanish(New York: Vintage,1994;MexicoCity:Alfaguara 1995 [withJuanAntonioAscencio]. novelwas previously The Literaturas, translated published Spainin 1992.). and in I met Sandra readCisneros 1991as well,whenshegavea memorable in Bothwomen Woman Hollering Creek at MountHolyoke College.ing of to with charm humor, I hadthegoodfortune coincide and haveimmense and bothof themin MexicoCity in January 1994,just whenElenawasfinof hertranslation The House on Mango Street.Wespenttwoanda of ishing It hotel,laughinguntil oursidesached. halfhoursin the lobbyof Sandra's was a rareprivilege. It ElenaPoniatowska MELUSpermission publishthis lecture. is to gave to see that someof her remarksthenare now out of date,especially good whenshe referred thefactthatno Chicana to writerhadeverbeenpublished in Mexico.Sheherself seento that. has NinaM. Scott Massachusetts Amherst at University of

Chicanos and Chicanas have always been in New Mexico, Texas, California, Colorado, Illinois and other North American states. The Gonzalezes, the Dominguezes, the Garcias, the Fernandezes have lived inthese states ever since they can remember.Their great, great grandmotherhad a house in SanAntonio, or in San Diego, or in Sante Fe, long before 1836 and 1848 when these territoriesbecame American. Land usually characterizespeople and gives them their major traits. Argentinians feed themselves on meat like we Mexicans eat
MELUS, Volume 21, Number 3 (Fall 1996)

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ELENA PONIATOWSKA

beansand corn; corn tortillas are our daily bread. Western culture can be called the culture of wheat, while Spanish-speaking America is the culture of corn. The story of the border between the United States and Mexico has been a long and painful one. Even when Santa Ana sold half of our country, territories were already in the hands of many North American pioneers who worked the land. When a land isdepopulated, or unpopulated, it is the country that settles it that becomes the owner. Texas was never integrated into Mexico. Tijuana only integrated itself during the time of ex-President Echeverria, twenty-four years ago, when his government finished the road that crossed the whole peninsula of Baja California. If one country does not populate a region, and another one does, the one who loses itis the one who has no settlements. Now the limits between our two countries are recognized internationally. Two small islands off the coast of San Diego will never be given back to Mexico, especially because on one of these islands there are military installations. In the nineteenth century, Mexicans living in the northern territories complained that, when the American government took over theland, they felt abandoned by Mexico. Mexico had never done anything for them, and, in the years in which the United States appropriated these lands, Mexico was a country that had been defeated by America. How could Mexico help or protect anyone if it could not even control the rest of the Mexican Republic which was torn apart? Texans of Latin origin, or Hispanics as they are called now, had no timeto become Mexicans, and Juan Rulfo used to say that the territories that were lost were the ones that had no bishops. Catholicism as an institution was very strong at keeping a people together. As there were no bishops and no practice of this faith in these lands, adventurers like Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone were the lawmakers. To say that Mexico abandoned its people would not be false,...
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