1 DIVIDED LOYALTIES: LATINA FAMILY SAGAS AND NATIONAL ROMANCES By JESSICA MAGNANI A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007
2 2007 Jessica Magnani
3 Para Papi y Mami, quienes inspiraron este pr oyecto con sus esfuerzos y sacrificios.
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This dissertation would not have been comple ted without the help of my family, friends and mentors. I would especially like to thank Dr. Tace Hedrick for her invaluable help. I am profoundly grateful for her thoughtf ul guidance and encouragement. Special thanks also go to Dr. Efran Barradas, whose suggestions and c onstructive criticism helped me to better conceptualize my arguments. I also thank Dr . Malini Schueller and Dr. Phil Wegner for their insightful questions and suggestions. I would also like to thank the many friends who supported and encouraged me along the way. Annette Gonzalez, who has been watchi ng over me since high school Geometry, was an incomparable source of chisme and relief from the rigors of gra duate work. Special thanks go to Rob Schachel; we both began the journey in New Jersey only to wind up in Gainesville. This project also reflects the early guidance and support of Dr. Alfred Lopez and Dr. Erik CamaydFrexias, under whose direction I completed a masterâ€™s thesis at Florida International University. Most importantly, my family has been a c onstant source of encouragement and support over the years. I am grateful to my parents fo r believing that I could achieve my goals and for their unwavering support. Special thanks go to my sisters and to Be rti Lozano Adams, for reminding me that there is life outside of grad uate school. Finally, I would like to thank Danny Waters and his parents for including me in their family circle. They have been a much-needed source of comfort and â€œhomeâ€ here in Gainesvill e. I could not imagine having completed this project without Dannyâ€™s love and support.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ..............7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: WRITING NATION, IMAGINING HOME........................................... 9 Ethno-National Histories and Globalization...........................................................................11 Doubled Identities: Pan-Lati nos and Diasporic Nationals......................................................14 At the Intersections of Gender, Race and Class: Latinas and Feminist Poetics.....................17 Archival Histories in the Postmodern Period.........................................................................21 Anxiety of Origins: Migran ts, Exiles and Latino/as in the National Imaginary.....................23 Resurrecting the Romance: National Narratives and Family Sagas.......................................24 Imagining Nation and History................................................................................................27 2 IMAGINING DOMINICAN HISTOR Y: WOMEN, RACE AND PRIVILEGE IN JULIA ALVAREZâ€™S HISTOR IOGRAPHIC NOVELS....................................................................30 Historiographic Strategies and Relational Politics in In the Time of the Butterflies ..............37 â€œSquinting at the Dominican Crowdâ€: Blanqueamiento in In the Name of Salom ...............58 3 FAMILY FEUDS, NATIONAL STRIFE AND PATRIARCHAL LEGACIES IN CRISTINA GARCIAâ€™S NATIONAL NOVELS....................................................................77 Between Family and Nation: Gender Politics in Dreaming in Cuban ...................................83 Buried Histories, Violence, and Forgetting in The Agero Sisters .........................................94 Chinese-Cuban-American Identities, Hegemonic Masc ulinity and Exile in Monkey Hunting ............................................................................................106 4 THAT RED RUBICON: ANXIETY AND NAT IONAL NOSTALGIA IN SANDRA CISNEROSâ€™ CARAMELO ....................................................................................................121 Rescripting Romance Paradigms..........................................................................................128 Footnoting Imagined Histories.............................................................................................143 5 COLONIAL SUBJECTS, IMPERIAL DISCOURSES: ROSARIO FERRâ€™S THE HOUSE ON THE LAGOON AND JUDITH ORTIZ COFERâ€™S THE LINE OF THE SUN ...............153 Failed Romance in Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon .........................................................159 Colonial Identities in Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun ......................................................177 Conclusion: National and Colonial Ambivalence................................................................193
6 6 EPILOGUE...........................................................................................................................195 Caught between Here and There: Latinas in the Americas................................................... 195 Recovering Our Histories / Re-Valuing Ourselves..............................................................198 WORKS CITED.................................................................................................................... ......201 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................208
7 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy DIVIDED LOYALTIES: LATINA FAMILY SAGAS AND NATIONAL ROMANCES By Jessica Magnani May 2007 Chair: Tace Hedrick Major: English This project examines the national narratives of U.S. Latinas as they negotiate their position(s) between home and homeland. By exam ining the works of Julia Alvarez, Cristina Garca, Sandra Cisneros, Judith Ortiz Cofer and Rosario Ferr, I identify the motivations and the representations implicit in cons tructing national romances of Latin American countries from positions within the U.S. In a sense their nove ls become textual homelands which bridge the spatial and temporal disparities between imagin ed homelands and the homes which they have made in the U.S. Not surprisingly, many of these authors write about dislocation, alienation, exile, and migration in re-imagi ning national histories of Mexic o, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. This interest in history as a vehicle for narrati ng a specifically female identity reflects negotiations Latinas have had to make both with the U.S.â€™s history of economic and cultural imperialism, as well as with the seemingly more patriarchal cultures of â€˜home.â€™ These national narratives attempt to recover hist ories at the historical and geographical margins of the U.S., namely in Latin America, while at the same time positing women as legitimate producers and agents of those histories. This project proceeds primarily through analysis of Julia Alvarezâ€™s historiographic novels, In the Time of the Butterflies and In the Name of Salom ; Cristina Garcaâ€™s Dreaming in
8 Cuban , The Agero Sisters , and Monkey Hun ting; Sandra Cisnerosâ€™ Caramelo or Puro Cuento ; Rosario Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon ; and Judith Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun . These novels are critical in their questio ning of the silences of the hi storical record and complicit in their often inadvertent reproductions of the hege monies characteristic of U.S.-Latin American relations. As this study demonstr ates, adopting a genre with a l ong tradition in Latin American literature confers a certain amount of cultural legitimacy onto these pr ojects, yet at the same time often hinders their ability to fully challe nge the patriarchal structures of nationness.
9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: WRITING NATION, IMAGINING HOME Since the 1990s, a decade that marked an incr easing interest in La tina narratives on the part of large publishing houses, there has been a shift from the 1970s a nd 80s popular coming-ofage novels such as Rudolfo Anayaâ€™s Bless Me Ultima and Esmeralda Santiagoâ€™s When I Was a Puerto Rican to the more recent publication by large pre sses of historical na rratives like Julia Alvarezâ€™s In the Time of the Butterflies (1995), Cristina Garcaâ€™s The Agero Sisters (1997), Sandra Cisnerosâ€™ Caramelo (2002), Rosario Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon (1998), and Judith Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun (1989), among others. While the coming-of-age narrative remains a popular one in Latino/a fi ction, the recent interest in hi story as a vehicle for narrating a specifically female ethnic-national identity reflec ts the negotiations that Latinas have had to make both with the U.S.â€™s history of economic a nd cultural imperialism, as well as with the more patriarchal cultures of ethnic â€˜origin.â€™ These na rratives attempt to recover histories at the historical and geographical margins of the Un ited Statesâ€”namely in Latin Americaâ€”while at the same time positing women as legitimate producer s and agents of those histories. The shift from the individual, semi-autobiogra phical â€œIâ€ to the historically constituted collective is also, in part, the result of the increased mi grations from Latin America in th e last fifty years, as well as of the growing U.S. Latino populations. The turn to history in more recent Latina fic tion also calls attention to the positions from which historians, intellectuals a nd writers produce discourses. What we write about the past has been and continues to be a product of our positioning within and between societies, cultures and discourses. As Stuart Hall explains, representation necessarily â€œimplicate[s] the positions from which we speak or writeâ€”the positions of enunciation â€ (â€œCultural Identity and Diasporaâ€ 237). In other words, â€œ[w]e all write and speak from a particular place and time, from a history
10 and a culture which is specific. Wh at we say is always â€˜in context,â€™ positioned â€™â€ (Hall, â€œCultural Identity and Diasporaâ€ 234). Alvarez, Garca, Ci sneros, Ferr and Ortiz Cofer call attention to those positions of power which have tended to reinforce myths about U.S. â€˜good neighborâ€™ policies and about womenâ€™s roles in national and gl obal histories. Moreover, their novels reveal the varied historical, national, cultural, and class positions from which they emerge. The specificity of national imaginings in these text s suggests that despite (pan-)ethnic labels or increased globalization, Latinas continue to think in national terms. This project undertakes an examination of the historical impuls e in Julia Alvarezâ€™s In the Time of the Butterflies and In the Name of Salom ; Cristina Garcaâ€™s Dreaming in Cuban , The Agero Sisters , and Monkey Hunting ; Sandra Cisnerosâ€™ Caramelo or Puro Cuento ; Rosario Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon ; and Judith Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun . Each of these novels recovers the national history of a Latin Am erican country in an effort to evaluate the circumstances of exile and/or emigration, the e ffects of dislocation a nd discrimination, and the identities to which Latina subjects may lay claim. Yet this movement toward reclaiming the past as a way of reconstructing an historicized identi ty is also paradoxical. While these novels search for pasts different and/or separate from the United States, they al so move toward the realization that they cannot locate a Latin America divorced of colonial and imperialâ€”Spanish and U.S.â€” influence. And although many of these texts enga ge critiques of U.S. policy in Latin America, they are often unable to avoid re producing the same relations of power. In other words, while these novels remain critical of U.S. hegemony, they often (perhaps inadvertently) reiterate hegemonic ideas about class and r ace. As a result, my analysis of these historical romances considers the ways in which these texts resist and revise imperial a nd/or state ideas about
11 national belonging, as well as the ways in whic h they conform to imperial and/or national stereotypes about Latin American countries. Ethno-National Histories and Globalization The movement into the past within each of the novels under consideration accompanies a look at the present which reveal s a tension between the ways we construct national history and the economic and political realities that have fo rced us to rethink and rewrite histories on a global scale. The narratives themselves attemp t to resolve the tension inherent in thinking nationally in an increasingly globalized environment by opening a dialogue between U.S. and Latin American history. The return to national hi story as a literary performance is particularly revealing during a climate in which critics continue to insist on the demise of the nation as a viable means of cultural/social identity. In â€œThe Question of Cultural Identity,â€ Stuart Hall, however, argues that localism in the form of na tionalism, ethnicity and religious fundamentalism appear to be on the rise in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries (310-314). In the U.S., in particular, examples of ethnic nationa lism have been increasing, especially within diasporic communities that have retained clos e ties with a homeland. At the same time, however, as we have seen an increase in the specificity of national identifications within particular communities, we have also seen politi cal and popular appeals to pan-ethnicity in an effort to subvert historically constituted national identities. The â€˜Latino/aâ€™ and â€˜Hispanicâ€™ labels often subsume continental, nationa l, cultural, class, linguistic, and racial differences into a politically â€˜manageableâ€™ framework. Yet despite this neat ethnicity, many within minority communities resist homogeni zation and reassert historical an d national identities through history, art, literature and other mediums. As a result of this new global climate, Arj un Appadurai explains, th e nation-state is giving way to a post-national period wh ich necessitates new forms of (often deterritorialized)
12 allegiances and identities (169). Yet these de territorialized nationalis t productions suggest not the demise of the nation-state, but rather, it s transformation into a much larger field of negotiations. While the na tional continues to include the nati on-state, the national has also gone beyond the scope of territorial boundaries. Alth ough national territory of ten remains necessary for nationalist movements, nationalist longings and productions no longer require that national community be limited to the nation-state. In fact, nationalist productions about nations other than the U.S. have been increasing among ethnic mi norities living in the United States. The shift from coming-of-age and/or migrant narratives to national histories within Latina literature, for instance, suggests not homogenization or the de mise of the national, but a resurgence of nationalist sentiment/longing as a response to th e effects of dislocation and globalization. Novels like Cisnerosâ€™ Caramelo demonstrate that the desire for Mexican national belonging remains powerful even among those born within th e borders of the Unite d States. As Robin Cohen explains, â€œ[i]n contrast to the past, when nation-states we re defined in terms of a people sharing a common culture within a bounded territory, this new conception of nation-state includes . . . those who live physically dispersed within the boundaries of many other states, but who remain socially, politically, culturally, and of ten economically part of the nation-state of their ancestorsâ€ (136). The Latin American stateâ€™s attempts to adapt to the widespread increases in emigration and diasporic communities result in normalizing forei gn negotiations or interventions to safeguard the rights of emigrants. The Mexican governme nt has a long history of negotiating worker contracts with the U.S., but more recently we have seen increased instances of vocal condemnation and/or negotiation of the treatment of Mexicans and Mexican Americans living in the U.S. (seen as recently as their condemnati on of Texasâ€™ Proposition 71, as well as in recent
13 debates about border violence). Thus not only is the general view of the national changing, but so is the role of the nation-stat e itself and its relationship to its nationals residing outside the state. The idea that some species of global cultu re is eroding the viability of the nation-state and/or the national seems less likely than that th e migrations of the twen tieth century along with globalization have spurred the expansion of (fragmented and deterritorialized) nationalist sentiments throughout the world. And although th ere is undoubtedly a s ubstantial amount of cultural transference, it by no means excludes or eliminates nationalist sentiment among ethnic minorities or among the majorities with which they reside. Given the literal and imaginative expansions of the national, it should come as no surprise that growing Latino/a populations residing in the U.S. construct al ternatives to the older nationstate brand of nationalism whose territories they no longer inhabit. Novelists like Julia Alvarez, Cristina Garca, Sandra Cisneros, Judith Ortiz Cofer and Rosario Ferr write national novels which reproduce the historical and territorial sp ecificity of the nation-state, but which also engage the dynamics of deterritorialization with in the last century. In a sense their novels become textual homelands which bridge the spat ial and temporal disparities between imagined homelands and the homes which they have made in the U.S. Not surprisingly, many of these authors write about dislocation, alienation, exile, and migration in reimagining national histories of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Appadurai astu tely notes that â€œvery few of the new nationalisms can be separated from the anguish of displacement, the nostalgia of exile, the repatriation of funds, or the brutalities of asylum seekingâ€ (165). The national and historical in Latina texts seems to fulfill a need to establish a narrativeâ€”historical, political, genderedâ€”of national longings and collective identity for dislocat ed people denied historical identities within mainstream/public discourses in the U.S. These novelistic histories become
14 necessary to a deterritorialized people unable to call their homel and a home, and unable to call their home a homeland. Consequently, many of these narratives also reconstruct national histories in order to expand th e boundaries of the national comm unity, and thus make room for the emigrant/exile as a legitimat e member of the imagined nation. Doubled Identities: Pan-Lati nos and Diasporic Nationals In stressing the importance of the clashes betw een the global and the national, as well as the increased migrations characteri stic of the shifts in the labor market, I do not wish to suggest that these are the only reasons, or even the primary motivations for this new interest in historical and national novels among Latinas in the United Stat es. Much of the success of the new global market comes from technological advances, pa rticularly in communi cations and travel. Advances in communication technol ogy in particular have helped Latino/as to remain connected to cultures and communities outside of the U.S. They also remain much closer geographically to their countries of origin, whic h facilitates frequent visits and interaction. Much of the communication between North and S outh is also a product of economic factors. In his work on Latino/as in the U.S., Juan Gonzalez notes th at not counting consumer goods or products, immigrants send remittances to Latin America th at approximate $7 billion a year (200). And in El Salvador, he points out, these remittances are the primary source of foreign income (Gonzalez 200). The connections between Latino/as and thos e still living in Latin America are economic as well as cultural. Latino/a co mmunities are often transnatio nal populations who â€œmaintain multiple relationsâ€”familial, economic, social, organi zational, religious, and political that span bordersâ€ (Schiller et al. 26). Many who have migrated North rely on fam ily and friends, as well as on productions geared toward Latino/as, to keep them up-to-d ate on trends, movies, music and news. Although money tends to move largely from North to So uth, cultural products move in both directions.
15 The Spanish-language media reinforce a real or imagined sense of connection to Latin America through various programming formats. If, as Be nedict Anderson claims, print facilitated the growth of nationalism by allowing people to imagine their relation to a larger community, today the Spanish-language media is responsible for en couraging and preserving a sense of national community, as well as for reproducing the image of a pan-ethnic Latino/ a community within the U.S. In other words, the media today emphasi ze national and regional specificity in order to attract heterogeneous Latino/a view ers, yet they also uses this type of marketing to promote a sense of pan-Latino unity based on a supposedly sh ared cultural heritage. A look at Univisionâ€™s programming and advertising demonstrates the networkâ€™s need to adapt to regional markets based on ethnic nationalisms while still promoting pa n-Latinoness. As Arlene Dvila points out, â€œrepresentations [of Latino/as] are in fact produced in convers ation and often in complicity withâ€”rather than as a response or challenge toâ€”dominant hier archies of race , culture, and nationalityâ€ ( Latinos, Inc . 5). Yet Dvila also notes th at viewers frequently identify representations and cultural product ions as coming out of specific national contexts, rather than as simply instances of a pan-Latino culture or community. Despite it s limitations, the Spanishlanguage media perform a vital function in re producing Latin Ameri can national sentiment within the United States. In fact, a mainstay of Univisionâ€™s programmi ng includes paying tribute to the national independence days of Latin Amer ican countries through brief, advertising-like segments, a move which recogni zes cultural spec ificity within the c ontext of pan-ethnic programming. Like these media productions or re presentations of national and ethnic identity, the novels in my study also underscore the importa nce of national identifi cations among Latino/a populations. However, these novels also cha llenge the homogenization of Latino/as which pervade U.S. discourses and Span ish-language media productions.
16 In using the label â€˜Lat ino/aâ€™ throughout my discussion of the novels of Julia Alvarez, Cristina Garca, Sandra Cisneros, Rosario Ferr a nd Judith Ortiz Cofer, I do not wish to efface the historical differences which characterize thes e writers, their experiences, and the experiences of their respective communities. Like â€˜H ispanic,â€™ which emerged from government bureaucracies in the 1970s as a way of labeling pe oples of Latin American origins, â€˜Latino/aâ€™ also sacrifices the accuracy of historical and national differences . My discussions of the novels and the writers themselves, however, remain gr ounded in the historical, cultural, racial and national specificity of the nations which they rec onstruct. As such, I use â€˜Latinaâ€™ as a way of organizing a broad range of political and national experiences which include but are not limited to colonial domination, emigration, exile, disc rimination, racializati on and gender oppression among women of Latin American de scent and/or ancestry and who re side in or identify with the U.S. For Chicanos and Puerto Ricans in partic ular, colonialism remains necessary to discussions of Latina histories. As Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon and Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun demonstrate, colonialism is inextricable from na tional imaginings. Thus, as Juan Flores argues, â€œ[f]rom the perspective of â€˜Puerto Rican/Latinos,â€™ then, the cate gory â€˜Latinoâ€™ . . . has utility only if it can account for the colonial dimension of â€˜differenceâ€™ in the U.S. setting and as an international backgroundâ€ (11). Likewise, the term is useful only if it can incorporate an awareness of the different class, race and emig ration experiences of Cubans and Dominicans. Although the inclusion of Rosario Ferr in a st udy of Latina writers ma y raise considerable debate, given the colonial implications of incl uding an island writer within the context of ethnic American literature, I am not sugge sting that all island writers be r ead as U.S. Latinas. Instead, I wish to emphasize the ways in which ethnic labe ls like â€˜Latinaâ€™ can sometimes be a matter of choice. Because Ferr chooses to identify as a La tina, she offers us an opportunity to examine
17 the ways in which performance, coloniality, an d complicity intersect in Puerto Rican national imaginings. At the Intersections of Gender, Race a nd Class: Latinas and Feminist Poetics The novels in this study also demonstrate the overwhelming influence of feminisms in rethinking national histories. For most of thes e writers, imagining na tion and history remains inextricable from the task of locating and le gitimating womenâ€™s positions of enunciation. As Robert Holton explains, â€œthe legi timacy of social groups depends on their ability to articulate publicly a perspective, to assert with legitimacy their view of the world and their position in itâ€ (67). In order to legitimate their positions within specific Latin American communities and within the United States, these writers often trace literary and national ancest ors. In fact, writers like Alvarez, Ortiz Cofer and Sandra Cisneros frequently draw from Virginia Woolfâ€™s A Room of Oneâ€™s Own as a means of calling attention to the ways in which the absences in the historical recordâ€”both in Latin American countries a nd in the U.S.â€”have tended to reinforce the marginalization of women and Latino/as. Woolfâ€™ s quest for literary and historical ancestors, thus, takes on two parallel meanings within the writings of Latinas; it points to the need for women as historical and literary models within Latin American countries, and to the desire for Latino/a models within U.S. literary hist ory. In fact, Ortiz Cofer explains, I did not grow up in Puerto Rico, I did not go through a Latino Studies Program, and I was exposed to the women writers of Spanish a nd Latin American traditions only after I became a writer. . . . in my studies of Englis h Literature, also male-dominated, I found few models that I could adapt. Virginia Woolf opened my ey es. Here was a woman who was defying her time by saying that a woman has to have a room of her own and an independent income to become a writer (Ocasio 732). Likewise, Julia Alvarezâ€™s search for literary and historical ances tors becomes manifest in her recovery of the lives of Dominican women like poet Salom Urea and educator Camila Henrquez Urea. In this way she not only recl aims a literary precursor, but she also finds in
18 Camila Henrquez Urea a Dominican intellectual whose life in the United States approximates her own. Although A Room of Oneâ€™s Own foregrounds the economic constraints which often prevent women from literary and intellectual endeavors, it nevertheless remain s grounded in the class positioning of its author. In many ways, writers like Cisneros expand Woolfâ€™s vision by making room for working-class women. For inst ance, the young protagoni st of Cisnerosâ€™ The House on Mango Street yearns for a space of her own, free from the impositions of gender roles: â€œNot a flat. Not an apartment in back. Not a manâ€™s hous e. Not a daddyâ€™s. A house all my own. . . . Nobodyâ€™s garbage to pick up afterâ€ ( House 108). Likewise, Celaya, the primary narrator of Caramelo , often articulates a desire for independen ce and personal space that contradicts her familyâ€™s expectations of women. However, Cisneros also acknow ledges the different ways class privilege informs the works of writers like Virginia Woolf. In discussing the influence of Emily Dickinson on her own writing, Cisneros notes that Dickinson enjoyed privileges which facilitated her writing, namely 1) an education, 2) a room of her own in a hous e of her own that she sh ared with her sister Lavinia, and 3) money inherited along with the house after her father died. She even had a maid, an Irish housekeeper who did, I suspect, most of the household chores. . . . I wonder if Emily Dickinsonâ€™s housekeeper wrote poetry or if she ever had the secret desire to study and be anything besides a hous ekeeper. (â€œNotesâ€ 75) Yet while these writers call attention to the ways in which race and/or class intersect with gender oppression in the United States, they often fail to fully engage these class/race/gender hierarchies in their re-writing of Latin American nationalis ms. Instead, these hierarchies are frequently folded into critiques of gender oppression. S o, for example, while Alvarez emphasizes the racism of U.S. society in her novels, she often replaces discussions of racism in the Dominican Republic with critiques of womenâ€™s oppr ession. Likewise, Cisnerosâ€™s novel, Caramelo , recounts the deprivations, racism and alienation of Mexi cans and Mexican Americans living in the United
19 States; however, the text offers a much less critical look at the different forms of racism in Mexico. This impulse to repl ace racism with womenâ€™s oppressi on in Latin American histories seems to come out of a desire to reconcile the relative freedoms available to women in the U.S. with the seemingly more stringent gender role s of â€˜homeâ€™ countries. Their positions of enunciation heighten their awar eness of the different gende r expectations of multiple communities and cultures. Moreover, because Latin as write and speak from positions within the U.S., they are perhaps more keenly aware of racism in the United States than of racism in Latin America. That the writers I will be di scussing tend to construct nationa l histories of the privileged classes reflects not only their own subject positions as â€˜white women of color,â€™ but it also suggests that perhaps these histories are meant to reconcile the discon tinuities between their social standings in the U.S. and their more priv ileged beginnings/roots in Latin America. After all, despite the economic, educational and/or raci al privileges of these writers within Latino/a communities, they remain marginalized and racia lized by mainstream society in the U.S. As a result, many of these historical romances re-ima gine histories of white/w hitened Latin American nations. In fact, Frances Ne grn-Muntaner argues that Rosari o Ferrâ€™s English-language novels often become â€œnon-confrontational history le sson[s] for mainland Amer icans while seductively whispering into their ears that the Islandâ€™s upper classes have a Hist ory and a Cultureâ€”with capital lettersâ€”just like they doâ€ (191). The result, she argues, is a reenactment of â€œthe traditional elitesâ€™ anxiety of always putting the best (white) cheek forwardâ€ (Negrn-Muntaner 191). The Latina writers in this study demonstr ate a similar anxiety about their own race and class status within U.S. hegem ony. Novels such as Alvarezâ€™s In the Time of the Butterflies , Cisnerosâ€™ Caramelo , and Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon , for instance, articulate alternatives to
20 the stereotypes of La tino/as as poor, backward, non-wh ite immigrants from pre-modern communities. However, their emphasis on their own (upper) class positions in Latin America tends to obviate the class and race issues whic h inform gender oppression and national politics in Latin America. Although racial systems in Mexico, the Domi nican Republic and other Latin American countries tend to be more flexible than they are in the United States, they are also more clearly bound to class hierarchies. In many Latin American countries, cl ass has historically been an indicator of race, and race an i ndicator of class status. Although wealth and intermarriage offers non-whites in Latin America access to class mob ility, this mobility remains grounded in the rhetoric of whiteness. Thus, as Julia Alvarez explains, â€œa rich Bl ack is a mulatto; a rich mulatto is a white manâ€ (â€œBlack Behind th e Earsâ€ 43). Money, as Alvarez, suggests, can buy â€˜whitenessâ€™ in many Latin American countries. U.S. discour ses, however, tend to homogenize Latino/as as an racial/ethnic category rooted in Spanish culture and/or ancestry; these practices ignore class, race, national, and historical differences. For La tino/as who identify as â€˜white,â€™ or who identify with the upper classes of th eir respective Latin American countries, homogenization and racialization in the U.S. can be particularly disorienting. Suzanne Obolerâ€™s study of ethni c labels explains that Lati no/as tend to define their identities relative to their status in countries of origin, rather than by racial dynamics in the U.S. In fact, many of Obolerâ€™s study participants articulate their desire for equal access to the privileges they might have enjoyed as members of the privileged classes in Latin America (131135). In both the U.S. and in Latin America, ho wever, whiteness continues to be equated with social privilege. For those Latinos born and/or educated in the U.S., status is frequently transmitted through family and/or through acquire d educational privilege. Cisnerosâ€™ young
21 narrator, Celaya, for instance, identifies with th e middle class beginnings of her fatherâ€™s Mexican family despite (or perhaps because of) her own pove rty in the U.S. In this context, imagining privileged beginnings in Latin America becomes an alternative to the oppression and alienation of minority life in the United States. The priv ileging of gender and of the middle/upper classes in rewriting Latin American na tions also underscores the ways in which national imaginings continue to be classed and raced despite efforts to rescript national romance. Archival Histories in the Postmodern Period We cannot, however, investigate this turn to the historical and th e national in Latina narratives without considering the ways in which this literature responds to the postmodern crisis in epistemology. This crisis in the ways we construct, represent and understand knowledge begins to take shape at the end of World War II as the old empires begin to meet the nationalist challenges of oppressed peoples. In this country, the last forty y ears have exacerbated the crisis in knowledge, particularly in historical know ledges, through the growth and visibility of feminist, civil rights and other lib eration movements. Enlightenment notions of objectivity, truth and universal reason found vocal opposition in those formerly sile nced peoples excluded from universalizing ideals. The deconstruction of th ese universalizing tendenc ies and their supposed independence from the historical context of thei r origins became a centra l concern of postmodern productions, and the notion of objectivity as a politically and ideologically independent phenomena became increasingly suspect. Conseque ntly, the postmodern era has been concerned with the reevaluation of history and the ways it has been represen ted, as well as with historical contexts which continue to determine the contou rs of textual representations and knowledges. While the idea of questioning the objectivity of epistemologies is certainly not a new phenomenon, the postmodern period, unlike other eras, has not succeeded in locating a widely accepted alternative to modernist modes of thinking. Instead, skepticism seems most
22 characteristic of the postmodern period and its pr oductions. Jane Flax notes that â€œ[p]ostmodern discourses are all deconstructive in that they seek to distance us from and make us skeptical about beliefs concerning truth, knowledge, power, th e self, and language that are often taken for granted within and serve as legitimation for contemporary Western cultureâ€ (41). Many postmodern productionsâ€”literary, artistic and/or theoreticalâ€”challenge long held beliefs about knowledge cons truction. Yet, as Nancy Hartsock poi nts out, why at this particular moment when women and mi norities seek to turn themselves from the objects of history to its subjects, are knowledge, subjectivity, and histor iography suddenly proble matic (163)? In large measure one grows out of the other; the voices from the margins which have contested the universalizing perspectives of Western scholarship have unleashed more complex investigations of epistemologyâ€™s relationship to power. The resulting backlash is an inclination to abandon epistemology altogether, a move which amount s to discrediting attempts at knowledge construction rather than transforming episte mological processes. Rethinking power means rethinking its epistemological grounding, a process essential to oppressed peoples. Rather than pursue another universalizing epis temology or discredit local knowledges, Hartsock suggests that we consider situated knowledges as knowledges which come from specific cultural, historical, and spatial positions, and which are capable of conveying perspectival meanings/truths (172173). Novels such as Alvarezâ€™s In the Name of Salom , Garcaâ€™s The Agero Sisters , and Cisnerosâ€™ Caramelo unconsciously respond to what Jameson calls the â€˜waning of affectâ€™ in the postmodern period by engaging history as a mean s of challenging the public discourses which continue to privilege a Eurocentric conception of American history, as well as those discourses which abandon the quest for historical recovery and reconstruction alt ogether. For this reason,
23 many of these novels reprodu ce the generic strategies of history and histor iography. In order to emphasize the â€˜truth-valueâ€™ of th eir respective histories and expe riences, these novels frequently take the form of histories, incl ude historical marginalia, and in sert authorial testimonials into narrative structures. Thus, not onl y do these authors engage histor ical subjects/topics, but they also appropriate the tools and techniques of th e historian as a means of legitimating their own narratives. Rather than abandon history, these novels foreground the importance of historical reclamation within Latino/a communities. More over, this return to national history borrows from Latin Americaâ€™s literary traditions. A lthough many of these writers were not formally trained in Latin American letters, writers like Cristina Garca, Sandra Cisn eros and Julia Alvarez often acknowledge their familiarity with Latin American literature. Anxiety of Origins: Migrants, Exiles a nd Latino/as in the National Imaginary For people or groups who have migrated to the United States in recent history, the turn to the past must and usually does involve a return to a country of origin. Fo r these writers, who are first generation Americans, their histories and th ose of their communities begin in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico. This is as close as they can come to beginnings; the stories they recount and th e histories they resurrect are clearly national. In The Agero Sisters , for instance, Garca reconstructs the natural hist ory of Cuba as she writes the Agero family saga. Likewise, Alvarezâ€™s In the Time of the Butterflies borders on historiography in reimagining the lives of national icons. These national-hist orical imaginings constitute what Anthony Smith calls â€˜ethno-histories,â€™ a nationâ€™s â€œdistinctive cultural contribution to the worldwide fund of what Weber called â€˜irreplaceable cultur al valuesâ€™â€ (181). As he goes on to explain, these ethnohistories take on the role of â€œassuring collective dignity (and through that some measure of dignity for the individual) for populations which have come to feel excluded, neglected or suppressed in the distribution of values and opportunitiesâ€ (Smith 182). Resurrecting an ethnic
24 history which locates cultural uniqueness spurs a sense of community and/or simultaneity among those marginalized by the majority. It also returns those communities a sense of self-worth. Perhaps because of this desire to revalu e culture and nation, ma ny of the novels under consideration tread very lightly on Latin Ameri can nationalisms. Despite the movement to include women and emigrants as part of the nationâ€™s history and commu nity, these romances frequently mimic the limited national imaginings a nd nostalgia of the state. In Sandra Cisnerosâ€™ Caramelo , for example, the narrator constructs a te xtual nation which includes those who have migrated as well as those who remained in Me xico. And despite the narratorâ€™s success in challenging the limitations imposed on women by ro mance paradigms, she fails to fully question the racial hierarchies which characterize Mexicoâ€™s imagined community. Instead, the end of the novel leaves those hierarchies in tact. Likewise, Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun fails to challenge U.S. politics in Puerto Rico or the island eliteâ€™s complicity in colonial nationalism. In calling attention to instances of complicity in these narratives, howev er, I do not wish to minimize their efforts to re-imagine exclusionary notions of nation and identity. In fact, I argue that these instances of nostalgia or complicity with state-brand nationalisms are the result of a desire for (re)inclusion within the imagined na tion. Because they write from the U.S., these writers demonstrate a certain amount of anxiet y about their place in, and claims to, Latin American nations. Thus, the tendency to overl ook problems that may plague Latin American nations or to reproduce those problems seems to stem from an anxiety about their relationships to those countries of â€˜origin.â€™ Af ter all, most migrants and ch ildren of migrants are rarely considered â€˜authenticâ€™ nationals by those residing in Latin American nations. Resurrecting the Romance: National Narratives and Family Sagas The Latinas included in this study borrow and transform the tradition of Latin American national narratives in part to au thenticate their own claims to na tional belonging within countries
25 of ethnic origin. Sandra Cisner osâ€™ adaptation of recognizably Mexican genres, for instance, becomes one of many strategies he r narrator uses to au thenticate her claims to Mexico/nation. Likewise, Julia Alvarezâ€™ histor ical novels about the Dominica n Republic have been at least partially accepted as belonging to the natio nâ€™s literary and hi storical tradition.1 As Doris Sommerâ€™s Foundational Fictions explains, Latin Americaâ€™s post-independence national romances imagined national unity through lovers destined to overcome re gional, religious, class and/or racial differences (20-24) . Imagined classical pasts became the subject of novels like Manuel de Jess Galvanâ€™s Enriquillo (1882), which centered on the rebellion of one of the last Taino royals. In many countries, indigenous past s and/or culture became a post-colonial strategy to articulate national difference or uniqueness. Contemporary Latina national novels differ from these early romances in that they are not writing to authenticate a territorial difference, nor are they, for the most part, seeking to establish a natio n-state. Instead their intent seems to involve establishing historical nationa l identities denied by raci alization and homogenization of Latino/as. Consequently, many of these texts re-produce national histories which foreground the unique conditions that lead to emigration a nd exile for Cubans, Do minicans, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. Perhaps the most prevalent st rategy for articulati ng cultural and nationa l belonging in these novels is through the use of family as a metaphor for the imagined nation. Each of these national novels is also a family saga, one which narrates the nation simultaneously with the family. But rather than function as merely national allegory, these novels suggest that community and culture imagined as intrinsic to th e state are, in fact, overwhelmingly determined by familial relations. In other words, the family, not the state, remains the most important 1 It is my understanding that the Spanish translation of In the Time of the Butterflies has become a â€˜national novelâ€™ and is used in some high schools in the Dominican Republic.
26 transmitter of culture and community in these nov els. The family retains and reproduces the national imaginary, and it can comply with as well as resist state practices . It does not, however, simply reflect the happenings of the nation-stat e. Family and nation, in fact, often become competing forms of social identif ication. In Cristina Garcaâ€™s novels, for instance, family and nation become contradictory forms of social identification, neither of which necessarily promises the individual acceptance or inclusion. Likewise, Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon and Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun stage a similar tension between national belongingâ€”in this case to the U.S.â€”and familial identification. The nation as family is a particularly power ful image in the nati onal imagination. The state has historically used familial metaphors to create community and to reinforce social hierarchies. Anne McClintock ex plains that â€œthe fam ily offers a â€˜naturalâ€™ figure for sanctioning social hierarchy within a putative organic unity of interestsâ€ (91). In this way, states could represent social differences as â€˜n atural.â€™ Yet â€œ[t]he metaphoric de piction of social hierarchy as natural and familial . . . depended on the prior na turalizing of the social subordination of women and children within the domestic sphereâ€ (91). The Latina narratives und er consideration alter the structure of familial imaginings in order to challenge the subordination of women within the nation-state. Many of these romances attempt to restructure the patriarchal nature of both the family and the state. They also revise thos e nineteenth and early twentieth century national romances which tended to script women as iner t symbols of Latin American nations. However, as I already noted, the focus on gender inequa lity frequently obvi ates other forms of subordination and oppression. In many cases, the wr iters in this study are unable to completely rescript the terms of the family romance, an outcome which underscores patriarchyâ€™s pervasiveness as a complex web of social relations and processes.
27 Imagining Nation and History The first part of this diss ertation examines Julia Alva rezâ€™s historiographic novels, In the Time of the Butterflies and In the Name of Salom . In this chapter I examine the strategies that Alvarez employs to situate her narratives as altern ate â€˜histories,â€™ particul arly in the context of U.S. and Dominican patriarchy. By recovering a nd rewriting the histories of women involved in nationalist movements, Alvarez challenges the gaps in the hi storical record. Her use of historiography suggests that the possibilities of historical r ecovery remain necessary for oppressed and/or marginalized peoples. Althou gh Alvarez effectively in corporates women into national formations, she often does so at the expens e of discussions of race and class politics in the Dominican Republic. Feminine/feminist unity frequently obscures the very real racial differences between most Dominicans and Al varezâ€™s privileged protagonists. Next, I look at Cristina Ga rcaâ€™s historical novelsâ€” Dreaming in Cuban , The Agero Sisters , and Monkey Hunting . Garcaâ€™s novels trace the effect s of alienation, exile and national politics on the family and the individual. A lthough they frequently turn on the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the novels also engage political turm oil and familial loss over the course of a much longer history. In doing so, the novels make ev ident that although the national and the familial function interdependently, they also operate comp etitively. In these novels , loyalty to the state often means alienation from famil y. Yet despite the polemical nature of family and state in Garcaâ€™s novels, they often reinforce family as the most viable means of cultural/national identity. In this chapter I argue that legacies of patriarchy in both the family and the nation fuel personal and political traumas in Garcaâ€™s narra tives. For men and women protagonists, changes in access to privilege mean changing re lationships to family and to nation. The third chapter considers Sandra Cisnerosâ€™ nostalgic national novel, Caramelo or Puro Cuento . I discuss the strategies a nd generic experimentation Cisner os employs to construct an
28 imagined Mexico. The novel takes the form of both telenovela and bildungsroman as a means of writing the narrator into the national imaginary. I compare Caramelo to romance paradigms like the telenovela , fairy tale and national novel in order to examine Cisnerosâ€™ rescripting of womenâ€™s roles in nation. This chapte r also argues that the use of popular cultureâ€”movies, music, fotonovelas or comicsâ€”and the inclusion of histor ical footnotes allow the narrator to â€˜authenticateâ€™ her Mexicanidad . Caramelo, in fact, demonstrates more anxiety about claiming nation than do the novels of Garca or Alvarez, perhaps because Ci sneros was born in the United States. I argue that this anxiety results in representations of Mexico /nationness which often reproduce state-based nationalisms. In the final chapter, I compare the works of two Puerto Rican writersâ€”Rosario Ferr and Judith Ortiz Cofer. Although Ferr is an island wr iter, her decision to claim a Latina identity and her support for continued colonialism on the island position her works somewhere between mainland Puerto Rican writers and other isla nd writers. I argue that both Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon and Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun write the nation ambivalent ly. The first part of the chapter examines Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon and the ways it bolsters colonialism on the island. The narratorâ€™s history of the island attempts to represen t colonialism as a â€˜civilizingâ€™ mission, yet it is often unable to resolve the cont radictions inherent to conquest and domination. By writing the narrative conflic t as a gendered struggle betwee n husband and wife, Ferr also underscores the complexities Latinas face as they attempt to reconcile gender freedoms in the U.S. with the U.S.â€™s history of imperialism in La tin America. In the second half, I argue that Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun turns Puerto Rican-ness into culture/ethnicity vacated of a political or colonial present. As such, the novel inadvertently bolsters assimilation and colonialism. Representations of a pastoral a nd pre-modern Puerto Ri co repeat colonialist
29 thinking about the island; they also allow the na rrator to separate herself from the alienated and â€˜Otheredâ€™ Puerto Ricans on the mainland. Her repres entations of Puerto Rico as edenic paradise divorced of political context faci litate her negation of the island and her subsequent assimilation into U.S. society. Both novels also suggest that colonialism has had some success in naturalizing its own discourses among the colonized.
30 CHAPTER 2 IMAGINING DOMINICAN HISTOR Y: WOMEN, RACE AND PRIVILEGE IN JULIA ALVAREZâ€™S HISTORIOGRAPHIC NOVELS In her historical novels, In the Time of the Butterflies (1994) and In the Name of Salom (2000), Julia Alvarez undertakes the recovery of womenâ€™s partic ipation in Dominican national history. These novels reclaim peri ods of particular unrest in Do minican history by recreating the private lives of public figures. As such, these novels shift the historic al lens from public institutions of the state to private spaces often deemed â€˜domesticâ€™ and excluded from state histories. In the Time of the Butterflies reimagines Rafael Lenidas Trujilloâ€™s thirty-one year regime (1930-1961) in the Dominican Republic through the lives of the historical womenâ€” Patria, Minerva and Mara Teresa Mirabalâ€”who helped overturn that regime in 1960. The novel foregrounds relationships, love, a nd personal experiences seemingly marginal to state politics. Likewise, In the Name of Salom fictionalizes the lives of Dominican poet Salom Urea and her daughter, Camila Henrquez Urea. These womenâ€™ s experiences serve as a point of entry into post-Independence Dominican history, 1844, thro ugh the 1960s. Both novels fictionalize the lives of historical figures as a means of revea ling the relationships between womenâ€™s agency and national movements. In doing so, Alvarez also undermines more traditi onal views of history which insist on representations of the nation as contiguous with representations of men and masculinity. While the limitations of traditional history have been the subject of much debate among intellectuals from many di sciplines, the project of wome nâ€™s history has often been practiced as separate or supplemen tal to history at large. Alva rez attempts a â€˜historyâ€™ of the Dominican Republic which makes women central rath er than supplemental to national history. In positioning women as (universal) represen tatives of the national body/people, however, Alvarez merely reinscribes the notion of univers ality which women of color have struggled to problematize and destabilize. In â€œSisterhood : Political Solidarity Among Women,â€ bell hooks
31 argues that â€œsisterhoodâ€ has, in the past, been us ed as a means of unifying women under the false sense of a common enemy and a common victim ization (44-46). This notion of shared victimization, however, has excl uded many women from active pa rticipation and identification with feminist movements. The emphasis on gend er inequalities and on patriarchy in Alvarezâ€™s novels often forestalls any discussion of class and race politics, even in relation to gender issues. In fact, Alvarezâ€™s foregrounding of gender effectiv ely erases the possibility of other social conflicts which may have informed national histor y and nationalist discours es. Incidents like the Massacre of 1937, when Trujillo ordered the slau ghter of thousands of Haitians living in the Dominican borderlands, become in these novels me rely examples of the dictatorâ€™s wickedness, rather than avenues to expose negrophobi a as an element of state policy. While In the Name of Salom attempts to re-evaluate the terms of Dominican national inclusion by recovering the hi stories of two women of co lor, the novel often winds up reproducing the whitening or blanqueamineto of Dominican society. Al varez calls attention to the whitening of poet Salom Urea in both na tional and familial imaginings, yet she often represents race as merely a diffe rence of skin color. As such, racial difference becomes deAfricanized and de-politicized wi thin the context of Dominican na tionalism. In fact, the novel often addresses the whitening of Salom Urea la rgely in relation to Camilaâ€™s search for a connection to her mother. Despite Camilaâ€™s reco nnection with the spirit of her mother through education reform in revolutionary Cuba, Cam ila does not seem to resolve her own racial uncertainty. The authorâ€™s silences on race and cl ass in relation to nineteenth century positivism, which often integrated eugenici st thinking, become glaring in light of Salom Ureaâ€™s mixed racial ancestry and her implementation of positiv ist educational reforms in late nineteenth century Dominican society. Moreover, both In the Name of Salom and In the Time of the
32 Butterflies often subtly repeat or igno re the stateâ€™s anti-Haitian rhetoric, which began in the nineteenth century and became fixed as a marker of national difference in the twentieth century. While Alvarezâ€™s attempts at her-story can and sh ould be construed as counter-hegemonic, I argue that they should also be read as instances of situated knowledge. Although Alvarezâ€™s novels are not histories per se , they insinuate themselves as such both through their affinities to published biographies and histories of the periods she reconstructs and through the authorâ€™s inclusion of sources and research methods. In the Time of the Butterflies and In the Name of Salom also follow in a Latin American tr adition of historical novels which attempted to create a history for emerging nations in a â€˜Newâ€™ world and consolidate heterogeneous populations within those nations . For example, novels like Miguel de Jess Galvnâ€™s Enriquillo (1882) imagined a memorial indigenous past for the Dominican Republic at a time when nationals were struggling to define them selves in contrast to their Haitian neighbors. These novels, as Doris Sommer explains, often ca st women as passive metaphors for land and/or nation, over which national str uggles were fought by men ( One Master xiii). Alvarezâ€™s novels intrude upon the gendered char acter of these national nove ls. In fact, her novels recover/memorialize Dominican history while simu ltaneously redefining womenâ€™s roles in that history. Consequently, domestic spaces often id entified with women and often outside the scope of â€˜officialâ€™ history become, in her novels, poli tically charged spaces necessary to nationalist movements. If in the founding fictions of Latin America, women and families were often little more than inert symbols for national unity, in Al varezâ€™s rewriting they become agents capable of overturning corrupt regimes, poets inspiring national unity and allegiance, and activists participating in national reinvention. Alvare zâ€™s emphasis on womenâ€™s spaces and roles in the context of constructing a nation ca ll attention to the gendered silen ces of the historical record.
33 At the same time, her attempts at historical re covery often fall back on some of the polarities characteristic of â€˜officialâ€™ histor ies. Her invocations of the dome stic often repeat binaries which fixed representations of women and men. Thus, the symbols and meanings linked to women in these novels tend to challenge ma sculine-identified representations of patriarchy by polarizing masculine/feminine as destructive/creative, as well as by erasing race and class differences within nationalist movements. Much of the appeal of Alvarezâ€™s work am ong US readers comes from its non-threatening consumability. The historical dimension of In the Time of the Butterflies only lightly treads, if at all, on critiques of U.S. imperial policies in Latin America. In the Name of Salom , which broaches U.S. foreign policy more closely, though also more ambiguously, subsumes its historicity more deeply than In the Time of the Butterflies . Thus, even though In the Name of Salom critiques U.S. occupations throughout Latin American, it also buries its own historicity more deeply in fiction. More over, although the novels are often marketed as ethnic and/or cultural narrativesâ€”â€˜Otherâ€™ histor iesâ€”they are only so in relati on to the U.S. mainstream. I think it is important to qualify the position(s) from which these narratives emerge and to note that while Alvarezâ€™s novels are marginal to more mainstream American literature, they are in the wider scope of things characteri zed by specific politics which reflect the authorâ€™s privileged class and racial positions. Although wealthy and white, Alvarez is marketed as a woman of color in the U.S. In the Dominican Republic, however , she is a wealthy, white woman with U.S. privilege. The marketing of her ethnicity, he r Dominican-ness, elides her whiteness in the context of Dominican, and to a lesser extent, U.S ., society. Even before her emigration to the U.S., Julia Alvarez belonged to a wealthy Domi nican family; her uncles attended Ivy league schools, her mother attended schools in the U.S., and her grandfathe r served as a cultural attach
34 to the United Nations. The family traveled to and from the U.S. at a time when most Dominicans could not afford such luxuries. Her fatherâ€™s contacts with other medical doctors in the U.S. facilitated their escape from Trujilloâ€™s dictatorship in 1960, when her father received a grant to study medicine in New York. Alvarezâ€™s commitment to the Dominican Republic and the class position which shapes that commitment, is evident in one of he r most recent projec tsâ€”Caf Altagracia2. This coffee company, which she began with her husband, inte nds to return use value to deforested Dominican lands and to improve â€œthe qua lity of life for our farm communityâ€ ( www.cafealtagracia.com ). Still, as the website for the co ffee company makes clear, the project itself romanticizes farm work. The website goes so far as to explain that â€œcoffee tastes better when birds sing over itâ€ and that Our land, coffee plants and ripe cherries are cared for by workers who have grown up tending coffee. Everything is done by hand: fr om picking through the delicate processes of depulping . . . Skill, experience and loving atten tion to detail are essential to guarantee that only top grade beans are bagged for export. ( www.cafealtagracia.com ). While the coffee company/farm built a school and a library to educate men, women and children in the area, the project itself presents an idyllic, if slightly paternalistic, view of life for these workers. Certainly there is li ttle on Caf Altagraciaâ€™s website that might suggest poverty and hardship without a pastoral representation; foreig ners/tourists are even o ffered the opportunity to host small gatherings on the farm. The farm, in fact, only supports four full-time employees with the rest of the labor coming from seasonal work ers. Likewise, Foundati on Alta Gracia, which funds the education program, holds that the â€œintermingling [of fore ign students and local farmers] can inspire a better way of life.â€ While Alvarezâ€™s project is clearly meant to improve 2 The name comes from the Virgin of Altagracia, patron saint of the Dominican Republic and a very powerful religious-national symbol on the island. Julia Alvarez reco nstructs the legend of the Virgin in her childrenâ€™s book, A Gift of Gracias: The Legend of Altagracia (2005). The repetition of the Virgin of Altagracia th roughout Alvarezâ€™s novels also functions to reinforce Alvarezâ€™s Dominicanness despite her positioning in the U.S.
35 the conditions of some farm workers and well as to promote sustainability , the project itself is often couched in paternalistic rhetoric which to some extent recalls the â€˜civilizingâ€™ rhetoric of imperialism. Caf Altagracia demonstrates mo re vividly, I think, the distance between Alvarez and most of the Dominicans she claims to speak for/about when she writes them into her novels. How the Garca Girls Lost Their Accents (1992), Alvarezâ€™s first nov el, likewise affirms the authorâ€™s tendency to overwrite race with ethnic ity as a means of positioning herself as a voice for and from the margins. Garca Girls recounts the coming of age stor y of four sisters who must flee the trujillato with their family after the regime lear ns of their fatherâ€™s involvement in an underground movement. This is a story which in f act bears striking similarities to Alvarezâ€™s own life. As with her historical novels, the protagon ists of this story have access to privileges unavailable to most Dominicans in the 1950s and 60s. Like the author, the Garca sisters are white, wealthy, educated immigrants when they arri ve in New York. In fact, their connections to the U.S. government and the CIA secure their esca pe from the island. Racism appears largely in the context of the U.S.; the girl s meet with discrimination at their American schools because of their foreignness and their accents. Alvarez, in f act, aligns the wealthy Ga rca girlsâ€™ exile with that of their â€œblue-blackâ€ Haitian maid, Chuc ha, who escapes the Massacre of 1937 by finding refuge as a servant in the Garca-de la Torre estate. Having Chucha narrate her own story and the potential similarities between her exile and that of the girls she cares for is an attempt at minimizing the differences which exist between these women. It also points to Alvarezâ€™s tendency to overlook class and ra ce as essential markers of both national and immigrant experiences. While the Garca sisters are sent to boarding schools with wealthy American girls and take vacations in the Dominican Republic , their former maid, Chucha, remains on the abandoned estate to look after the familyâ€™s inte rests. The major source of conflict and turmoil
36 for the Garca sisters comes not from race or cla ss, but from the contradictions between womenâ€™s roles in the Dominican Republic an d those which are available to them in the U.S. As a result, much of the novelâ€™s focus is on resisting cultural forms of patriarchy which follow the sisters to their new country. As with her later histor ical novels, Garca Girls limits discussion of â€˜othernessâ€™ and resistance to gender difference. Alvarezâ€™s class position shapes her choice and representation of women protagonists. Like the author, the historical women Alvarez recreates also had greate r access to privilege than most Dominicans. The Mirabals of In the Time of the Butterflies belonged, ironically, to the middle class made wealthy by Trujilloâ€™s land reforms a nd modernization projects. These women were educated in the 1940s and 50s, and two went on to study at the university. Similarly, the historical Salom Urea (1850-1897) was a natio nal poet during a period in which few women could read or write. Her daughter, Camila Henrquez Urea (1894-1973), had two doctorates and was a professor in Romance Languages at Vassar and at the University of Havana. In fact, these were extraordinary women both in terms of their accomplishments a nd in terms of their difference from most Dominican women of the time. So while we can argue that Alvarez in fact recovers some of the silences of the historical record in her n ovels, we need to situate those silences relationally. She rec overs silences which emerge fr om specific class/race/gender positions. In claiming her novels as representative of particular periods in Dominican history she repeats the errors of â€˜officialâ€™ histories wh ich claim to capture the past objectively and completely. Like these histories, her own fictionalized histories emerge from specific ideological/political positions which become mani fest within the subtex t of the narratives. Despite her claims to the contrary, Julia Alvarez situ ates her novels, In the Time of the Butterflies and In the Name of Salom , as histories of the margin alized, and in doing so, she
37 inadvertently reproduces some of the exclusions a nd ideologically loaded binaries characteristic of traditional historiographic wr iting. While I am not denying that her novels recover womenâ€™s roles in nationalist movements, I am suggesting we read the nove ls, not as histories, but as instances of situated knowledge recounted from a position of privilege. In what follows, I will first look at the ways in which Alvarez positions these novels as alternative histor ies and how in doing so, the novels frequently po larize gender relations while at the same time effacing race and class in nationalist discourses. Historiographic Strategies a nd Relational Politics in In the Time of the Butterflies Julia Alvarezâ€™s historical novel, In the Time of the Butterflies , explores the lives and politics of four sisters during Raf ael Lenidas Trujilloâ€™s thirty-one year regime in the Dominican Republic. Three of the four Mirabal sistersâ€” Minerva, Patria and Maria Teresaâ€”found an underground movement to overturn the trujillato . The surviving sister, Ded, becomes Alvarezâ€™s entry into fictionaliz ed portrayals of these womenâ€™s lives. Trujillo, who moved up through the ranks of the military during the U. S.â€™s eight-year occupation of the Dominican Republic, seizes power in 1930 and manages to reta in control of the island and U.S. support by alternating his own presidential term s with that of puppet presidents.3 His regime became especially successful at quelli ng dissent through a number of disc ursive, symbolic and physically oppressive maneuvers. His relationship with the Catholic Church, particularly his patronage throughout this period, guaranteed their public support; over the years, the Church often preached submission and prayer rather than act ive resistance to the regime. Moreover, the elaborate system of associations Trujillo inst ituted between himself and God, epitomized in the 3The U.S. Marines occupied the Dominican Republic from 1916 until 1924, on the pretext that the threat of WWI left weak nations vulnerable to foreign powers. The training and expanding of the Dominican military during the occupation resulted in a shift in power from civilian to m ilitary, making it much easier for Trujillo to establish his military dictatorship. See Russell Crandallâ€™s Gunboat Diplomacy: U.S. Interventions in the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Panama . Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006.
38 state slogan, Dios en el cielo y Trujillo en la tierra4, shaped the ways Domi nicans perceived state power. The military intelligence service, or SIM (Servicio Inteligencia Militar), established a network of spies and informants who regularly reported on perceived enemies of the state. Families never knew if their friends, neighbors, or servants were reporting on their activities or their conversations. Dominican society throughout this period lived in what Walter Benjamin elsewhere called a perpetual state of emergency (257). Alvarez recounts the horrors and tensions of the trujillato through the lives of the Mirabal sisters, who take turns narrati ng the novelâ€™s chapters. In ad dition to the traumas of state violence, the women also record the realities of everyday lifeâ€”births, weddings, birthdays, first loves, and other household activities. The depict ion of historical figure s who were active in the resistance movements during the trujillato , however, also emphasizes the tensions between imaginative writing, or fiction, a nd the historiographic tradition. Some critics contend that Alvarezâ€™s novel is an instance of what Linda Hutcheon calls historiogr aphic metafction, selfreferential novels which â€œproblematize the . . . possibility of histor ical knowledgeâ€ (106).5 Hutcheon explains that â€œ[t]he in teraction of the historiographic and the metafictional foregrounds the rejection of the claims of both â€˜authenticâ€™ representation and â€˜inauthenticâ€™ copy alike, and the very meaning of artistic originality is as forcefully challenged as is the transparency of historical referentialityâ€ (110). While In the Time of the Butterflies often points to th e inadequacy of â€˜officialâ€™ history, it does not de ny the possibilities of representi ng history through language. In â€œA Postscript,â€ Alvarez suggests just the oppos ite; she asserts the pr imacy of the novel over 4God in the heavens and Trujillo on earth. 5 For discussions of In the Time of the Butterflies as historiographic metafic tion, see Isabel Z. Brown, â€œHistoriographic Metafiction in In the Time of the Butterflies .â€ South Atlantic Review 64.2 (1999): 98-112. See also Trenton Hickmanâ€™s â€œHagiographic Commemoration in Julia Alvarezâ€™s In the Time of the Butterflies and In the Name of Salo m.â€ MELUS 31.1 (2006): 99-121.
39 historiography in the ques t to rethink womenâ€™s relationships to the past and to the nation. She writes that â€œa novel is not a histor ical documentâ€ but that this peri od in history â€œcan only finally be understood by fictionâ€ ( In the Time of the Butterflies , ITB, 324). While her comments allude to the absences of the historical record, especially in writing the trujillato , they do not deny the possibilities of historical recove ry. Her recourse to fiction suggests the formâ€™s potential for resistance and revision in the reconstruction a nd reinterpretation of history. Rather than contesting the discourses of history, the novel presents itself as a hist ory, or at least as a means of recovering the â€˜spiritâ€™ of history. On the pages preceding the actual narrative, Alvarez highlights the ambiguity of her historiographic novel by referri ng readers to historical information about the fictionalized Mirabals. In the epigraph she explains that wh at follows is a â€œwork of fiction . . . based on historical facts,â€ explained in â€œA Postscriptâ€ at the end of th e novel. However, Alvarezâ€™s own presence frames the fictionalized history, a move which suggests her role as witness, participant, and transcriber of this â€˜history.â€™ As she explains in the postscript, the Mirabals were members of the same underground movement as her father, who es capes the regime with his family just four months before three of the sisters are murdered. Her family history attests to the validity and â€˜truthâ€™ of the narrative despite its novel form . In â€œChasing the Butterfliesâ€ Alvarez again recounts her personal connection to these women as she reveals her journey to recover the history of the Mirabals. These women and the trujillato allow her to return to a personal trauma occasioned by her own familyâ€™s exile. She explains: â€œAs I read the article [an old Time article about the Mirabalsâ€™ murder], I recovered a memory of myself as I sat in th e dark living room of our New York apartmentâ€ (â€œChasing the Butterfli es,â€ â€œChasing,â€ 197). That memory includes
40 her fatherâ€™s involvement in th e Fourteenth of June Movement6 as well as her own sadness and homesickness upon their arrival in New York. Th e novel then becomes as much a project of memory and personal history as it is a feminist and nationalist project to recover silenced histories. By making herself a part of the narrati ve and its history Alvarez lends the text a â€˜truthâ€™ value which calls attention to hi storical content/subj ect-matter rather than to form. Although she acknowledges that her text is neither a biogr aphy nor a history, she in sists that the novel is â€œtrue to the spirit of the real Mirabalsâ€ ( ITB 324, my italics). In addition to her personal connections to the Mirabal sisters, Alvar ez also appears in the opening chapters as â€œla gringa dominicana,â€ a jour nalist who returns to her country of birth to interview the surviving sister, Dde. Once again Al varez becomes the transcri ber or translator of this â€˜history.â€™ Although she departs from the tran sparency characteristic of historiographers in recording the past, she performs a similar f unction in shifting narrative perspective from the journalist/herself to Ded. Framing the narrative this way at once calls attention to the authorâ€™s role as translator of the witnessâ€™ discourse. So me critics have even noted that Alvarez uses the techniques of the testimonio to emphasize the communal nature of the â€˜historyâ€™ which she fictionalizes in the novel. In he r young adult novel about the regime, Before We Were Free (2002), Alvarez draws attention to the parallels between her own fiction and testimonio : â€œThere is a tradition in Latin American countries known as testimonio . It is the responsibility of those who survive . . . to give testimony. To tell the st ory in order to keep alive the memory of those who diedâ€ (166). Her novel, she claims is a â€œf ictional way to keep my promise. To give testimonyâ€ ( Before We Were Free 167). Because Alvarez suggests that the Mirabalsâ€™ story is a 6Movimiento 14 de junio was an underground movement founded in 1959 by the Mirabals and other middle class opponents of the trujillato . The movement was named to honor those killed as a result of the invasion which took place on June 14, 1959. Cuban-traine d Dominican guerillas invaded the island to overthrow the regime and were wiped out by Trujilloâ€™s forces. The event later triggered massive arrests throughout the island.
41 collective one, evidenced in the inclusion of he r own related story, the class, gender and race particularities of this narrative make such a posi tion problematic at best. In addition, Alvarezâ€™s interjections and appearances w ithin the novel problematize a read ing of the novel as fiction. Instead, the ambiguity of author, witness, and fic tionalized historical pers onages implies that the text is in fact more pe rsonal history than fiction. Although Alvarez distinguishes between the â€˜realâ€™ Mirabals and the women of her invention, she is reticent as to what these differe nces might be. Her postscript vaguely mentions collapsed names and dates, as well as condensed hi storical events, yet she seems to suggest that these changes do not alter the general â€˜truthsâ€™ of the regime. For instance, Sinita Perozoâ€™s character is actually a composite of two women active during the trujillato . Lina Lovatn, also an historical personage who became Trujilloâ€™s mi stress and was later sent to Miami with their children, is transformed in Alvarezâ€™s rewriting in to a schoolmate of the Mirabals. In the novel, she functions as a means of calling atte ntion to the sexualized dangers of the trujillato for young women, particularly for Minerva. Alvarez ofte n revises history to emphasize her own feminist politics, yet at the same time these revisions sometimes fail to avoid romanticizing womenâ€™s motivations for and participation in political move ments. One of the most problematic revisions of history in Alvarezâ€™s novel is perhaps her de piction of Mara Teresaâ€™s entry into political activism. The novel stipulates th at Mate, as the youngest of the Mirabal sisters was often called, awakens to the need for active resistance when she meets Leandro Guzmn, her future husband and a member of the same political cell as her sister , Minerva. When Leandro asks if she is â€œone of [them],â€ Mate realizes she wants â€œt o be a part of whatever he wasâ€ ( ITB 142). This desire â€œto be worthy of Palomino [Leandroâ€™s alias]â€ ( ITB 142) contrasts sharply with the way in which biographer Miguel Aquino Garca r ecounts Mateâ€™s relationship with Leandro. He explains that
42 Leandro Guzmn courted Mate for two years before she accepted him and only after he revealed his political allegiances. Acco rding to Garca, a 14-year old Ma te asked Leandro, â€œFirst, I need to ask you what your family thinks with respec t to the regime, because the members of my family are enemies of the regimeâ€ (72). Hi s representation of a politically conscious young woman is inconsistent with Alvarezâ€™s depicti on of a naive, young schoolgirl more preoccupied with love and romance than with the oppressive di ctatorship. As her portr ayal of Mara Teresa Mirabal reveals, Alvarezâ€™s nove l frequently resorts to a roma nticized view of women, emphasizing their association with socially c onstructed ideas of femininity rather than challenging these preconceptions. Although her novel recounts ma ny of the same events which biographers William Galvn and Miguel Aquino Garc a record in their own reconstructions of the Mirabals, the discrepancies in Alvarezâ€™s novel reveal the authorâ€™s tendency to privilege a rather limited feminism while excluding other so cial issues which shaped nationalism at this particular period. Additionally, Alvarezâ€™s use of â€˜re alâ€™ in reference to the Mirabals often alternates between references to their historical iden tities and references to her â€˜real isticâ€™ portrayal of these women. While Alvarezâ€™s postscript claims that the novel captures â€œthe spirit of the real Mirabalsâ€ ( ITB 324 my italics), her essay about these wo men explains â€œthat only by making them real , alive, could [she] make them mean anything to the rest of usâ€ (â€œChasingâ€ 203). While she asserts that the novelâ€™s project centers on bringing the wome n out of myth and legend to make them relevant for us today, her objective also incl udes revealing the â€˜realâ€™ (historical) women. Similarly, her goal of â€œdeepen[ing] Nort h Americansâ€™ understandingâ€ of the trujillato suggests that the novel in fact contains and conveys an accurate depic tion of this period and of the Mirabals. Consequently, form becomes both nece ssary to her project and incidental. While
43 fiction offers her â€˜historyâ€™ a much larger reader ship than biography or tr aditional historiography, it also becomes secondary to her historical proj ect. She essentially av oids the commitment to facts associated with traditional historiogr aphy by taking the novel as the form for her reconstruction. Yet her foregroundi ng of historical materials, re ferences and testimonies helps establish the textâ€™s historicit y. The novelâ€™s semi-epistolary form suggests that the narrative content is more than mere fiction. Consequently , the novel form becomes in cidental to Alvarezâ€™s larger project of disseminating â€˜h istoryâ€™ to North American reader s. Her epigraph and postscript, as well as her inclusion of a dedication page in memoriam to the Mirabals and their chauffeur successfully position the narrative as an alternative â€˜history.â€™ Narrative techniques such as the inclusion of jo urnal entries and letters turn into historical artifacts when read along with Alvarezâ€™s essay on researching the historical Mirabals. In â€œChasing the Butterflies,â€ Alvar ez notes that Minou, Minerva Mira balâ€™s daughter, allows her to read her parentsâ€™ letters, one of which Alvarez translates in her essay. Similar letters reappear in the body of the novel, suggesting their possible vera city. The results of her interviews with witnesses, friends and family members of the hi storical Mirabals also often reappear in her novel. One such example comes from a snippet of Alvarezâ€™s journal, which she includes in â€œChasing the Butterflies.â€ In it she recount s Marcelo Bermdezâ€™s story about the day Mara Teresa and Minerva were brought into the prison: The men were already there, naked, packed in ce lls behind thick walls of stone . . . All of a sudden, the girls spoke out in code and the pr isoners took heart. â€œWe are the Butterflies!â€ (Las Mariposas, their code name). â€œWe ar e here with you. If any of you would like to identify yourselves, do so now.â€ . . . Thatâ€™s how the group found out that people believed long dead were still alive. (â€œChasingâ€ 202) In the Time of th e Butterflies fictionalizes this testimony in Mar a Teresaâ€™s journal entries, tuning it to her perspective: â€œThey marched us down the corridor past some of the menâ€™s cells. . . . The men started calling out their code names so weâ€™d know who was stil l alive. (We kept our eyes
44 averted, for they were all naked.)â€ (228). Althoug h the viewpoint shifts to Mara Teresa, the episode remains largely the same. We might even be tempted to write off the discrepancies, such as the national anthem Alvarez has Minerva sing as they pass the imprisoned menâ€™s cells, as typical of a â€˜historyâ€™ composed from multiple perspectives and testimonies. In fact, the author explains that in the course of her fieldwork, â€œE verywhere we went, it seemed we could reach out and touch history. And always th ere were plenty of living voic es around to tell us all their individual versions of that historyâ€ (â€œChasingâ€ 207). In the Time of the Butterflies posits its narrative as another â€˜versionâ€™ of that history, one composed of co llective testimonies and stories. Despite the â€œliving voicesâ€ which Alvarez enco unters and includes in her reconstruction of Dominican history, however, her novel bears little resemblance to the testimonial literature of Latin America. In the Time of the Butterflies clearly reflects her ow n politics and personal history. Testimonios like Elena Poniatowskaâ€™s Massacre at Tlatelolco do not merely incorporate the stories of the disenfranchised, but, rather, attempt to give the oppressed an avenue through which to speak. Poniatowskaâ€™s text, for ex ample, is a collection of eyewitness accounts, newspaper articles, graffiti, police records, and speeches by government officials about the 1968 student massacre in Mexico. The documents a nd accounts are fragmented and reordered so that the reader hears multiple versions of the same events. Moreover, Poniatowska distinguishes her own voice by signing the sections sh e writes. While the editorial process is not neutral or transparent, the author clearly incorporates multi ple voices into her text. Alvarezâ€™s version of testimonio , on the other hand, seems to mean merely selectively revisi ng and incorporating testimonies and other research as objects in her ow n discourse; their voi ces do not reach us unfiltered through the text. Butterflies not only privileges one perspective of the trujillato , but also one experienceâ€”middle classâ€”of Trujilloâ€™s despotism. Despite Alvarezâ€™s attempts to
45 align her novel with a tradition of testimonial literature in Latin America, In the Time of the Butterflies has more in common with nove ls like Isabel Allendeâ€™s The House of the Spirits . This historical romance recounts Chilean history, and in par ticular, Augusto Pinochetâ€™s rise to power in 1973. In both novels, upper-middle class women b ear witness to and record a collective Latin American past. Both novels also assume these women can and must speak for subaltern subjects, and neither Allende nor Alvarez problematizes the limitations of their speaker/protagonists. Thus, although Alvarez capt ures the trauma of the trujillato in her novel, as we are coming to see, she does so from a position of privileg e which often submerges class and racial difference within gender differences. For this reason, we should read the novel not as a collective recounting of Dominican history, but as one shaped and produced from a specific location. The author identifies women as the group particularly oppressed by the regime/nation. As her novel demonstrates, women suffer the double burden of soci al inequality as well as the oppression of a paternalistic regime. Yet there is a difficulty in identifying educated women of the landowning class with women and men disenf ranchised by poverty and/or race. While she notes that the Mirabalsâ€™ servants were often bought off by the SIM, she pays littl e attention to the social and economic factors which made this ne twork of spies possible during the trujillato . In this sense, the economic becomes entirely removed from th e political happenings within the state. Likewise, the novelâ€™s attempts to identify and work through the differences of race and class among women fail to move beyond forced instances of sisterhood. Instead, the women in the novel share similar problems seemingly because th ey are biologically different from men. The Mirabals of Alvarezâ€™s invention, like the historical Mirabals, we re not representative of the Dominican population in general or even its wome n. The â€˜historyâ€™ which this novel fictionalizes
46 emanates from a particular class, racial a nd gender perspective which becomes increasingly apparent in Alvarezâ€™s depictions of the Mirabals as they interact with women of other classes. While In the Time of the Butterflies often uses images associated with the feminine to challenge the patriarchy of the trujillato , it does so in ways whic h only superficially touch on differences of class and/or race. Sisterhood amo ng the fictionalized Mirabals, as well as that which they establish across clas s lines counters the de structiveness of the regimeâ€™s policy of turning families and friends against one another, or more specifically of men killing other men. Still, the sisterhood which Alvarez deploys in the novel often cannot overcome or erase social and economic differences between the Mirabals and the women they encounter. That the revolutionary movement is one organized by the Dominican elite becomes evident not only through Minervaâ€™s observations th at friends and faculty at the University are already becoming active in the struggle, but also through the order in which Alvar ez has the Mirabals themselves join in the movement. Minerva and Mara Tere sa, both of whom attend the University, are the first of the Mirabal women to participate in anti-Trujillo movements sprouting up throughout the country. All of the women Alva rez writes into the Fourteenth of June Movement come from privilege; most attended the university with Minerva or Mara Teresa. Although Alvarez depicts Minerva as particular ly conscious of class differences, in the novel Minerva has few interactions with women out side her class until she and her sister are imprisoned. Mara Teresaâ€™s journal entries narrat e the majority of their time in prison and their interactions with women from other social cla sses. Upon their entry to their assigned cell, Alvarez has Mate note, with some hesitation and discomfort, that â€œwomen politicals were locked up . . . [with] Prostitutes, thieves, murderersâ€ ( ITB 228). Over time Mate comes to see and appreciate the womenâ€™s generosity as well as their part icular kinds of suff ering. She explains
47 that â€œthe more time I spend with them, the le ss I care what theyâ€™ve done or where they come fromâ€ ( ITB 230). In the novel, Minerva even starts hol ding classes for the women in the cell, often encouraging free discussions of philosophical and political id eas, as well as of poetry and literature. Still, women like Dinorah, a nonpolitic al often associated with sexual promiscuity and prostitution, continue to characterize politic als like the Mirabals as â€œrich womenâ€ ( ITB 229). Although both Minerva and Mate befriend the nonpolitical women in their cell, with Minerva depicted as the most so cially aware of the two, differen ces in education, experience, and political awareness become mo re obvious in this chapter. Many of the nonpolitical women cannot read or write. Unlike the Mirabals w hose family connections secure them towels, journals, chocolates, hair brus hes and other small conveniences, nonpolitical women must often rely on themselves and their own labor, often sexu al, for necessities or luxuries while in prison. Additionally, many of the women are imprisoned not for their political beliefs, but for their attempts to survive and/or protect their families in a system which relies on class hierarchies to maintain itself. For instance, Magdalena rec ounts her sexual abuse by a wealthy employer, her subsequent pregnancy and unemployment when the family finds out, and, later, her attempts to get her daughter back from this family. Not until the fictionali zed Mara Teresa hears Magdalenaâ€™s story does she understand the extent of her own privilege: â€œIâ€™ve been going around for months thinking no one has suffered like I ha ve. Well, Iâ€™m wrong. Magdalena has taught me more about how privileged I re ally am than all of Minerv aâ€™s lectures about classâ€ ( ITB 248). Although this story allows Mara Teresa to see her life from another perspective, Alvarez does not make it a part of Mateâ€™s consciousne ss within the rest of the novel. The barriers which keep Alvarezâ€™ s Mirabals from their illegiti mate half-sisters again point to a social system which for Alvarez remains la rgely intact as these women articulate their
48 resistance to the regime. Of the four legitimate Mirabal dau ghters, only Minerva and Ded, spurred by Minervaâ€™s actions, take an interest in the four da ughters their father has with a campesina . The two take a portion of their inheritance after their fatherâ€™s d eath and help put the oldest, Margarita, through school. Still, afte r years of patronizing a local pharmacy where Margarita works, Patria wonders whether Margarit a knew all along that they were related. In the novel, when Margarita first approaches her with a letter from the imprisoned sisters, Patria remarks, â€œI knew Minerva had stayed in touch w ith them over the years, but I had always kept my distance. I did not want to be associated with the issue of a campe sina who had no respect for . . . the good name of Mirabalâ€ ( ITB 209). She also expresses shock to see that her half-sister also goes by the name, Mirabal. Only after Marg arita offers to help smuggle supplies to Minerva and Mara Teresa in prison does Pa triaâ€™s attitude toward her half-sisters begin to soften. The network of sisterly solidarity which Alvarez imag ines here succeeds in delivering supplies to the women in prison, but other than Ma rgaritaâ€™s role as a facilitator, there is little mention of her improved or improving relationship with Ded, Pa tria, Minerva or Mara Teresa Mirabal. Consequently their â€˜reunionâ€™ or â€˜sisterhoodâ€™ seems on the whole ra ther superficial. In this context, a â€˜sisterhoodâ€™ grounded in shared victim ization fails to acknowledge the ways in which class, race, sexuality and education position women differently (and hierarchically) within patriarchal networks. Instead, it seems to functi on merely as a useful tool in countering the patriarchal imagery which the nove l associates with the regime. Since biographers make no menti on of the half-sisters which Al varez writes into her novel, their addition seems motivated by a desire to expose even subtler forms of patriarchy during this period in history. Alvarezâ€™s alle giance to a feminist politics em erges in her associations of Enrique Mirabal with Trujillo. While Enrique Mirabalâ€™s adultery woul d have been common for
49 a man of his class during the 1940s, Alvarez parallels his relati onship with a peasant woman to Trujilloâ€™s seduction of the school girl Lina Lovatn. During his regime, Trujillo was notorious for seducing and sometimes raping young women whose families he threatened or bought off to secure his whims. In the novel, Alvarez drama tizes one such relationship between the despot and Lina Lovatn, whom he eventually sends to Miami with their two ch ildren. While Enriqueâ€™s relationship with Carmen Mara is perhaps less overtly marked by power than Trujilloâ€™s with Lina, both appear to take advantag e of their privileged positions to secure these relationships. In fact, Alvarez has Minerva note that, â€œIn his own way, Papa was a trujillista â€ ( ITB 179). On a trip to deliver money to her fatherâ€™s mistre ss, Minerva notes the economic differences which separate her from her half-siste rs. Upon seeing the oldest of Ca rmen Maraâ€™s daughters, Minerva explains, â€œThe sight of her in her wet, raggedy dr ess tears my own heart to shreds. . . . a knotted rag in her free hand, a poor girlâ€™s purseâ€ ( ITB 104). And when Minerva offers to put her sisters through school, their mother agrees, acknowledging, â€œâ€˜I never had a chance . . . I want better for my girlsâ€™â€ ( ITB 105). Alvarezâ€™s inclusion of Mirabal half -sisters functions both as a means of highlighting the gender inequality characteristic of patriarchy, as well as of emphasizing the class forms that these inequalities often take. Alvarezâ€™s expos of the imbalances between men and women is, however, problematic because she tends to couch her critiques in term s which naturalize rather than deconstruct gender differences. When asked for an explanation for his adultery, Alva rez has Enrique respond, â€œ Cosas de los hombres . . . Things a man doesâ€ ( ITB 92). Likewise, Alvarez has Minerva explain her own interest in and kindness toward her half sisters as â€œThings a woman doesâ€ ( ITB 92). In this scene Alvarez associates adultery and patriarchy with men while at the same time naturalizing charity and forgiveness as specificall y female characteristics. Much of the imagery
50 linked to the Mirabalsâ€”sisterhood, maternity, (re) birthâ€”not only counters th e destructiveness of the regime, but also polarizes masculine and femi nine within the novel. This polarization of male/female also functions as a means of subsumi ng class differences. In the exchange between Minerva and her father, gender difference overwrite s the social imbalances evident in Enriqueâ€™s relationship with Carmen Mara. Thus father and daughter cannot engage in a discussion which moves beyond gender inequality. Similarly, Lina â€™s relationship with the dictator becomes problematic in the novel largely because Truj illo is married and not because the power differential amounts to statutory rape. Likewise, the novel itself remains virtually silent on the ways in which class shaped oppression and privation during the trujillato . Instead, gender becomes the common/shared marker of difference or marginalization which resists the patriarchy of the regime. In the Time of the Butterflies describes Trujilloâ€™s regime in the Dominican Republic as overtly paternalistic. Names such as Jefe , Benefactor, Patrn , and slogans such as Dios y Trujillo , which were all common throughout the regime , reappear in the novel as a means of emphasizing the ways power was often re presented as strictly masculine. Jefe and Patrn both denote boss and are associated with class division, specifically the relationship of landowner to laborer. In a Dominican Republic where Trujillo controlled more that fifty percent of the nationâ€™s wealth and seized the assets of all â€œen emies of the state,â€ the designation was not far from the mark (Hartlyn 22-25). The repetition of the slogan Dios y Trujillo reinforces the manufactured relationship between the dictator and God and serv es as a means of establishing Trujilloâ€™s power as a type of divine right. In the novel, Alvarez counter s this view of power reiterated throughout the period of the trujillato with one located specifically in female networks, female saints, and in female agency. Often, the Mirabalsâ€™ power to withst and the atrocities and
51 persecution of the regime is the result of their association with these imagesâ€”namely images of the Virgin of Altagracia, of fe male cycles, and of sisterhood. Li kewise, their efforts to resist patriarchy speak through these images of the feminine. Ho wever, in polarizing gender differences, Alvarez fixes the meanings of male and female and of masculine and feminine. While she attempts to liberate her protagonists from the constraints of gender systems, she also often reinscribes the stereotypes of that system. Moreover, given her repe tition of the dictatorâ€™s many titles and nicknames, the novelâ€™s failure to address the class/race dimensions of paternalism seem all the more apparent. In the Time of the Butterflies presents itself as the type of â€˜her-storyâ€™ which Joan Scott explains â€œseeks to illuminate the structures of ordinary womenâ€™s lives as well as those of notable women, and to discover the nature of the feminist or female consciousness that motivated their behaviorâ€ (19). Such an approach focuses on challenging patriarchy th rough female agency examined in â€œpersonal experience, familial a nd domestic structures, collective (female) reinterpretations of social defini tions of womenâ€™s roles and networ ks of female friendshipâ€ (Scott 20). The novel in fact approximates this method of historical recovery, often relying on female solidarity, female-oriented religious imagery, and domestic spaces and experiences to resist the oppressiveness of Trujilloâ€™s regi me. As I already mentioned, im ages of sisterhood, literal and metaphorical, abound in the novel. Transforming re presentations of the Vi rgin of Altagracia, patron saint of the island, also challenge the male-centered natu re of a Church which, in the novel, continues to support dictatorial power. Likewise, domestic space s such as kitchens, bedrooms, and coffee tables often becomes safe spaces necessary for organizing a resistance movement. Still, as Scott notes, th is type of â€˜her-storyâ€™ also runs the risk of reinforcing rather than questioning the idea of separate sphere s for men and women. Despite its success at
52 dramatizing and dispersing the history of the Mirabals, In the Time of the Butterflies often polarizes public/private and political/domestic. Attributing womenâ€™s activism to their experien ces as women implies an essentialist notion of women which can easily lead to the assumption that women respond in certain ways because as women they are biologically different from men. Although Alvarez re-evaluates womenâ€™s roles and their representations, she often fails to avoid polarizing gender. Her use of domestic spaces within the novel emphasizes their importan ce to revolutionary movements in climates where state power permeates all fa cets of life. In the novel, Mi nerva, Mara Teresa and Patria frequently use kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, closets and coffee tables to construct and store weapons for the movement. Alvarezâ€™s Mirabals of ten only plan their revolutionary activities in these spaces. Biographer William Galvn, however, argues that the historical Minerva in fact spent much of her time in guerilla training, learni ng to fire weapons and preparing for a physical as well as an ideological battle. Galvn explai ns that on many occasions the historical Minerva Mirabal participated in the tes ting of bombs and other explosives , as well as in coordinating the acquisition of munitions for the armed struggle ah ead (273). Alvarezâ€™s only allusion to this guerilla training takes the form of Minervaâ€™s anguish at having to leave her children with Patria and with her mother-in-law while she travels th e countryside organizing the movement. Alvarez chooses to foreground the Mirabalsâ€™ â€˜woman-ness,â€™ in the context of domes tic(ated) and femaleidentified spaces. In the novel, Minerva and Mate even transfer a sense of home to the prison cell they share with other women. Upon their discharge, Mate explains that â€œthis has become my home, these girls are like my sisters. I canâ€™t imagine the lonely privacy of living without themâ€ ( ITB 253). Although In the Time of the Butterflies is not a history, Alvarez positions it as a â€˜historyâ€™ capable
53 of recovering female agency in national m ovements. Her foregrounding of personal experience and domesticity attempts to revise the standards which determine what can and cannot enter into â€˜officialâ€™ history. Her separation of these womanidentified spaces from what have traditionally been conceived of as public and national spaces , however, reinforces th e notion of separate spheres for men and women. Although Alvarezâ€™s treatment of the domestic emphasizes its potential for counter-hegemonic agency, her silen ce about the ways gender functioned within the â€˜officialâ€™ state discourses of the time leaves little room to inte grate women or gender relations into discussions of â€˜officialâ€™ Dominican history. The trujillato relied on representations and construc tions of gender difference to inculcate a sense of nationalism after a history of internal strife, civil war, Haitian and US occupations and Spanish (re)colonization. Appellati ves like Benefactor reinforced Tru jilloâ€™s role as father of the nation. Consequently, men and women were cas t into the roles of children who needed protection and guidance. Trujilloâ€™s overtures to women included legalizing female suffrage and allowing women to attend the university. Despite these concessions, however, Trujillo often used women as a means of articulating his pow er and his sense of masculinity. Historian Valentina Peguero explains that â€œTrujilloâ€™s roma ntic and sexual relationships were occasionally interconnected with his political manipulation. He used his mistresses not only for personal gratification but for political purposes as well. Trujillo seduced and used women to punish enemies, to humiliate functionaries and to te st and reward loyaltyâ€ (50). Although Alvarez dramatizes Trujilloâ€™s advances on Minerva Mirabal, as well as her fatherâ€™s arrest after she refuses the dictator, she does not address the wa ys in which the regime often used gender difference as a means of consolidating power. In the case of the Haitian massacre of 1937, which killed thousands, nationalist discourses often feminized and obj ectified Haitian â€˜othersâ€™ as
54 a means of defining Dominican identity. Pequero explains that as a result of the massacre, Dominicans living along the border we re integrated more fully into the nation and imbued with a sense of mission to protect national borders (525). That the majority of victims were women and children furthered Dominicansâ€™ feminization of Haitians. This massacre receives only a brief mention in Alvarezâ€™s novel, even though the proj ect of nationalization and modernization which Trujillo was enacting at the time clearly relied on paternalistic constructions and representations of gender difference, which feminized men as we ll as women. In Alvarezâ€™s novel gender often pertains only to specific relati ons between men and women rather to an historical system which permeates multiples sites and relations. Alvarezâ€™s emphasis on gender/women as th e central subjects of her nationalist reimaginings obscures the racial and racist elem ent of the nation-stateâ€™s history. If her novel succeeds in confronting the masculinized memory of national history, particularly in its literary form, it treads lightly, if at all, on the an ti-Haitianism and negrophobia of the countryâ€™s nationalism. Some historians ar gue that Dominican antipathy toward African culture is perhaps the result of their atypical i ndependence. While most of La tin America secured independence from Spain through some internal form of early nationalism, the Dominican Republic was liberated from Spain by Haiti after the latter had secured its independence from France. Haiti then unified the island and occupied the Do minican Republic from 1822 to 1844. Michiel Baud contends that â€œthe fact that th ey had to wrest it [independence] from a fellow ex-colony and not from a colonial power has tainted Dominican na tionalism ever sinceâ€ (126). The Dominican Republicâ€™s proximity to Haiti and their competi tion in the nineteenth century with a more economically advanced Haiti helped shape th e nationâ€™s, particularly the eliteâ€™s, (mis)representations of Haiti. Dominicans have e ssentially constructed their national identity as
55 the antithesis of their ideas about Haiti. If Dominicans regarded Haitian s as primarily African, black, and â€˜primitive,â€™ then Dominicans em phasized their own national identity as overwhelmingly Hispanic, white, and Catholic. David Howard explains that Dominican literature, in fact, never devel oped an Afro-Dominican aesthetic or political movement like other Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean. In stead, they either ignor ed the African cultural aspects of Dominican history or else participat ed in the anti-Haitianism of the nation-state by exoticizing and primitivizing the African elemen ts of Haitian culture (150-151). Moreover, Dominican rejection of blackness rests on the myth that mulatto and black Dominicans are actually indios . Alvarezâ€™s novel evades discussions of race while at the same time reproducing indigenizing imagery to account for racialized â€˜others.â€™ Race as a signifying factor in national discour se becomes apparent in Alvarezâ€™s depiction of Fela, the Mirabalsâ€™ faithful, Haitian servant. Fela is one of few characters in the novel identified specifically as black; often, the only ch aracters identified as such are also associated with Haiti. In the novel, Ded expels Fela from her home years after the murders, because she discovers Fela practicingâ€”publiclyâ€”a form of voodoo/spiritualism to communicate with the deceased sisters. Fela becomes the racialized other, the feared African ist/Hatian presence who threatens the â€˜sanctityâ€™ of the Mirabalsâ€™ martyr dom by allowing the living to communicate with them â€œthrough this ebony black sibylâ€ ( ITB 63). While Alvarez has De d concede that she too has felt her sistersâ€™ presence, she cannot allow th ese national icons to be associated with the Haitian other. Although Mara Teresa learns to cast spells from Fela in the novelâ€”love spells as well as spells against the regimeâ€”these transpire during Mateâ€™s childhood and early adolescence. As a result, they appear largely as a young girlâ€™s childish at tempts at resistance, which she later leaves behind as she â€˜maturesâ€™ into political activism. Felaâ€™s and Mateâ€™s practice
56 of non-Catholic spiritualism rep eats an opposition often used to stereotype non-Western religious practices: childish â€˜primitivismâ€™ and feared occult ism. Haitian religious practices in the novel, however, become marginal to Alvarezâ€™s depi ction of a devoutly Ca tholic Mirabalâ€”and nationalâ€”family. The religious calling which Alva rez writes into her po rtrayal of Patria does not appear in either Galvnâ€™s or Garca â€™s biography, although both do stress her devout Catholicism. I am not discounti ng the veracity of Alvarezâ€™s port rayal; however, I would like to point out its function as a means of countering Haitian religious practices and as a way of reemphasizing an important element of Dominican na tional identityâ€”Catholicism. In contrast to Felaâ€™s and Mateâ€™s ineffectual spells against th e regime, Alvarez recounts the Churchâ€™s militant activism, which began in 1959, along with the Virgin of Altagraciaâ€™s role as a potent symbol for facilitating nationalism and politic al activism. The authorâ€™s fo regrounding of Catholicism as a component of Dominican nationalism reiterates the stateâ€™s use of relig ion as a â€˜civilizingâ€™ marker of their difference from Haiti. The Mirabalsâ€™ potential as symbols of a Ca tholic Dominican nationalism counters the novelâ€™s depiction of Trujilloâ€™s â€˜othernessâ€™ as loca ted in his alleged African/Haitian ancestry. Alvarezâ€™s Mirabals repeatedly note that the dict atorâ€™s â€œmade-upâ€ face conceals his dark skin. In the novel, Minerva explains that Trujillo met Manue l de Moya, the regimeâ€™s secretary of state, â€œon one of those shopping trips he periodically makes to the States to order . . . his skin whiteners and creams,â€ and that the dict ator hires him to whiten his staff ( ITB 96). The dictator as African â€˜otherâ€™ reappears in his association with voodoo/brujer ia when Minerva remarks that â€œheâ€™s been drinking a special brew his brujo cooks up to keep him sexually potentâ€ ( ITB 95). Trujilloâ€™s sexual exploits are essentialized here as a condition of his blackness/Haitian-ness. The
57 sexualized masculinity of blackness functions as a means of â€˜otheringâ€™ Trujillo by employing a problematic racial stereotype which associat es blackness with abnormal or hyper-sexuality. While Alvarez describes Trujilloâ€™s foreignness as having African/Haitia n roots, she aligns the Mirabals and their husbands with an indigenous ancestry whic h attempts to legitimize their claims for national change. In denying an Afri can presence and/or a ssociating it with the oppressive regime, while also emphasizing th e indigenous character of the national body, Alvarez participates in those f ounding fictions which constructed indio as a racial category to replace/displace African ancestry.7 Minervaâ€™s husband, Manolo, ta kes the name of a Taino chieftain, Enriquillo, as his code name in the m ovement. Likewise, much of the imagery within the novel recalls an indigenous presence or claim to the land/nation, which Alvarez appropriates to naturalize the Dominicanness of the Mirabals. Trujilloâ€™s regime, in fact , instituted the racial category of indio to identify peoples of darker B African B skin color. Consequently census polls show that more Dominicans identify as indio than as black, African, or mulatto. In the Time of the Butterflies reproduces this racial-national myth, building on Manuel de Jess Galvnâ€™s indigenization of the island in his novel, Enriquillo . In addition to indigenization, Trujilloâ€™s regime also instituted a policy of â€˜whiteningâ€™ the nation by welcoming fleeing refugees from Europe after World War II. Yet the subject of racial differen ce/conflict remains buried within the narrative. Instead what emerges is a Domini can history almost void of an African presence. 7 See Doris Sommerâ€™s discussion of Galvnâ€™s Enriquillo in One Master for Another . Examples of indigenist Dominican literature include Jos Joaqun Prezâ€™s Fantasas Indgenas (1877) and Salom Urenaâ€™s poem â€œAnacaona,â€ among others.
58 â€œSquinting at the Dominican Crowdâ€: Blanqueamiento in In the Name of Salom If In the Time of the Butterflies forgoes any mention of class and race which might underscore the Mirabalsâ€™ (or the authorâ€™s) privileged social position, In the Name of Salomâ€™s ambivalent treatment of race makes the novelâ€™s ideo logical perspective much more transparent. Set alternately in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, In the Name of Salom fictionalizes the lives of Dominican national poet, Salom Urea, and her daughter, Camila Henrquez Urea. Dominican civil wars, despotism, U.S. occ upation and other political upheavals frame the womenâ€™s narrative search for a relations hip between womanhood and nation. Once again Alvarezâ€™s use of gender oppression, in this case womenâ€™s struggl es to carve a space from which to speak/act within the nationstate, overwrites â€˜otherâ€™ forms of oppression within the nationbuilding project. In fact, much of the novelâ€™s discussion of race/b lackness as it pertains to the Henrquez Urea family remains relegated to U.S. contexts. For example, Camila and her brother, Pedro Henrquez Urea, confront racism during their gr aduate studies in Minnesota, during Camilaâ€™s visit to N. Dakota, when Pedro becomes Norton Lecturer at Harvard, and when Camila and her brother are refused service at an ice cream shop in 1920s Washington D.C. Although Alvarez notes Salomâ€™s self-consciousne ss, especially in relation to the much whiter Dominican elite, the author also part icipates in the whitening (or lightening) of Dominican national identity. In failing to addr ess race/racism in Domi nican history, Alvarez tacitly complies with the stateâ€™s policy of blurring racial distinction to create the illusion of a predominantly white and Indian population. Mo reover, by ignoring the racist undertones of positivism, embodied in her fictionalization of E ugenio Mara de Hostos, Alvarez also ignores the ways in which race often functioned as a determinant of Dominican national belonging. Although Alvarez attempts to re-present the raci al make-up of the nation by calling attention to Salom Ureaâ€™s African ancestry, she often writes blac kness as merely a difference of skin color.
59 In this context, race appears to function out side of, and/or independently from, national imaginings. Consequently, the novelâ€™s treatment of race denies the ways in which race/racism continue to delimit national identity. The indigenization of the Dominican Republic was a project which early on attempted to reimagine blackness and African ancestry as me rely the vestiges of a Taino presence. Dominican anti-Haitianism, in fact , grew out of a desire to establ ish a distinct national-cultural identity. In order to do so, politicians and in tellectuals would attempt to dissociate the nation from the African diaspora which dominated Haiti. Jorge Duany explains that racist and xenophobic ideology in the Dominican Republic â€œh as produced an idealized view of the indigenous elements in Dominican culture, a systematic neglect of the contributions of African slaves and their descendents, increasing animosit y toward Haitians and other black immigrants . . . and a marked preference for Hispanic customs and traditionsâ€ (â€œReconstructing Racial Identityâ€ 150-151). Manuel de Jess Galvnâ€™s novel, Enriquillo , and Salom Ureaâ€™s poem, â€œAnacaona,â€ epitomized the nationâ€™s longing for a lost Taino â€˜ori ginâ€™ which would replace their African roots. Doris Sommer explains that â€œ[b] y pushing his story so far back th at blacks seem not to figure in Dominican origins, by squinting at the Dominican crowd to create the optical illusion of racial simplicity, Galvn manages to write a national identity by erasingâ€ ( Foundational Fictions 251). While Alvarez acknowledges Salomâ€™s blackness, it does not become a part of her discourse on Dominican politics, gender or nationalism. Li ke Galvnâ€™s Enriquillo, whose manners and dress whiten (or Hispanicize) him, Salomeâ€™s privileg ed education, her family connections, and her association with positivism manage to once again erase African origins from Dominican nationalism.
60 The different racial systems at work in th e U.S. and in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean give meaning to the ways Alvarez writes (or does not write) race in her novel. While the U.S. model of racial hegemony emphasizes two categoriesâ€”white and non-whiteâ€”the Dominican Republic tends to use three categoriesâ€”white, black and mixed, or indio . Duany explains that â€œ[w]hereas North Americans classify most Cari bbean immigrants as black, Dominicans tend to perceive themselves as white, Hispanic, or otherâ€ (â€œReconstructing Racial Identityâ€ 148). Despite the racial demographics of the Domi nican Republic, few Dominicans willingly identify as black; the nation instead represents itself as essentially white, Hispan ic, and Catholic. The association of negritud and Af rica with Haiti has prevented Dominicans from developing an identification with African culture or history. Instead, blackness has come to denote foreignness in Dominican national usage. Th e adoption and widespread use of indio as a racial category/identity among mulatto and black Domini cans underscores the way in which denial of African ancestry has been intern alized and naturalized by the na tion. Torres-Saillant contends that Dominicans possess a deracialized consciousn ess which prevents them from developing â€œa discourse of black affirmation that would serv e to counterbalance inte llectual negrophobiaâ€ (136). Alvarezâ€™s familiarity with both system s of racial hegemony, however, makes her perhaps more aware of inferential racism within the Do minican Republic. In â€œBlack Behind the Earsâ€ (2003), she explains the seemingly innocent ways her Dominican family transmitted and valorized whiteness: Growing up in the Dominican Republic, my cousin s and I were always encouraged to stay out of the sun so we wouldnâ€™t â€œlook like Hait ians.â€ . . . As we girls grew up, we had endless bedroom comparison sessions of your good hair versus my bad hair, my fine nose versus your flared one, your light shade of caf con leche versus a potential boyfriendâ€™s full-strength cafecito color. (â€œBlack Behind the Earsâ€ 43). In addition to noting the valorizat ion of whiteness in Dominican society, Alvarez points out the possibilities of racial mobility: â€œa rich Black is a mulatto; a rich mulatto is a white manâ€ (â€œBlack
61 Behind the Earsâ€ 43). Despite her awarene ss of the naturalized forms racism can take, however, Alvarez remains virtuall y silent on the racial dynamics that may have shaped Salom Ureaâ€™s education, poetry and activism in the Do minican Republic. Instead her novel seems to reproduce, uncritically, Do minican social practices. While Alvarez takes up the gaps and omissions of the historical record in recreating Salom Ureaâ€™s life and contributions , she also repeats the fallacies of In the Time of the Butterflies , and of those histories she finds lacking. In the Name of Salom often falls prey to a limiting vision of womenâ€™s motivations, if not their place, within nationalist projects. Likewise, the authorâ€™s inability to move beyond writing wome n into history and to consider the relational politics of race, class and gender as they pertain to the nation results in a limited view of Dominican (womenâ€™s) history. Thus the move to ward recouping womenâ€™s history, particularly of Latin American women of color, while itse lf counter-hegemonic, al so repeats ideologies which emanate from the authorâ€™s social position as a successful â€œwhite woman of color.â€ In a sense, Alvarezâ€™s brand of feminism seems unc onscious of the discour ses on difference which have become so important to the ways we think and write about women. In fact, it is precisely the authorâ€™s emphasis on an almost monolithic womanhood which often subsumes any attention to race or class that might reveal a more nua nced vision of women in the Dominican Republic. Alvarezâ€™s fictionalized counter-h istory appears to re-envision Latin American founding fictions like Galvnâ€™s Enriquillo merely by attributing more active roles to women nationalists. As Doris Sommer explains, these founding fictions often took the form of historical novels which consolidated heterogeneous populations thr ough romances and marriages. In bridging fictionalized differencesâ€”class, race, religionâ€”these novels, how ever, also preserved existing hierarchies. In the Name of Salom revises the inertia of roles written for national heroines,
62 while also preserving those hierarchies which va lued specific forms of knowledge, culture and history. Although the story of a mu latta who participated in the nation revises the indigenization of earlier national narratives, it also ends up reinforcing privilege by effacing it. Unlike In the Time of the Butterflies , In the Name of Salomâ€™s historicity does not intrude upon the narrative. Instead, the historical nature of the story Alvarez transcribes lies buried within the â€œAcknowledgmentsâ€ at th e end of the novel. Taking its cue from nineteenth century Latin American historical novels, In the Name of Salom offers a â€˜historyâ€™ to those who are already familiar with the poet and her family. Yet de spite the novelâ€™s dedication to â€œQuisqueyanas valientes,â€8 the language of the novel makes English-speaking, U.S. readers its primary audience. The lack of authoria l intervention, which wa s so prevalent in Butterflies , also makes the critiques of U.S. foreign policy much more palatable. Unlike Butterflies , which directs readers to an explanation of its historicity, In the Name of Salom buries the historical nature of the subject within the â€œAcknowledge ments,â€ allowing readers unfamiliar with history to read the text as merely fiction. In the Name of Salom rescues historical women from obscurity, yet the text also limits their potential for representation as historical subjects. On the one hand, she refuses to include ove rt indicators that her subjects are historical figures, which perhaps makes her novel more easily consumable. On the other hand, she closes the text with a discussion of the sources she used to recreate the Henrquez Ureas as well as of her motivations for doing so. The authorâ€™s â€œAcknowledgmentsâ€ di sclose the sources which â€œenabled [her] to recover the history and poetry and presences of the pastâ€ ( INS 357). Along with Salom Ureaâ€™s collections of poetry, Alvarez notes that â€œthe two volume Epistolario containing much of the correspondence of the Henrquez Urea family, provided enormous insights into Salomâ€™s 8The dedication to A brave Dominica n women @ reiterates the indigenization of the nation by utilizing the Taino name for island, Quisqueya.
63 relationship with Pancho a nd the dynamics of this talented, complicated familyâ€ ( INS 356). Loose translations of Salom Ureaâ€™s poetry appear throughout the narrative, the titles serving as chapter titles for Salomâ€™s and Camilaâ€™s ficti onalized narratives. The fictional letters which appear in the narrative itself allude to the actual family letters published in the Epistolario and suggest an underlying historicity. Although Alvarez notes that â€œ[t]he Salom and Camila you will find in these pages are fictional characters based on historic al figures,â€ she also explains the novelâ€™s historical project as â€œan effort to understand the grea t silence from which these two women emerged and into which they have disappearedâ€ ( INS 357). Once again, her motivations stem at least in part from an effort to bring these women out from the obscurity of a male-centered vision of national history. In an interview after the novelâ€™ s publication, Alvarez explains that she became interested in Salom Ureaâ€™s story because â€œshe was the first person ever to win a national medal in poetry in a country where machismo is STILL rampantâ€ (S iciliano). As a result, the novelâ€™s heroines engage with the nation-state in the context of a larger struggle with patriarchy. Yet as I noted with In the Time of the Butterflies , Alvarezâ€™s representations of nation and gender often become limiting. While Alvarezâ€™s recreation of Salom Urea and her daughter Camila, frequently calls attention to the problematics of racial ambiguity for women who identify with nationalisms constructed as white, the novel often participates in the whitening of Dominican history. By whitening I do not mean the litera l whitening of Salom Urea, but the whitening that results from her elevated class and intellectual position w ithin the country, as well as that which results from the authorâ€™s shifts away from race in favor of gender or sexuality at crucial moments within the text. For instance, Alvarez has Salom pub lish her first poem under the pen name, Herminia,
64 in the context of the Baez dictatorship in the Dominican Republic and of a U.S. commission to deport African Americans to the island. Salom remarks that President Grant to our north was sending a commission of Am erican senators to study the idea of buying off part of the island and shippi ng some of their own negro people to live here. A group calling itself the Klu Klux Klan was burning cro sses in front of these negro peopleâ€™s houses, so maybe they wouldnâ€™t mind coming. ( INS 61) While Alvarez notes racism in terms of the U.S., she vacates it from her discussion of the island. Instead, the novel parallels racial violence in the U.S. with womenâ€™s oppression in the Dominican Republic. In doing so, however, the au thor fails to acknowledge the different yet relational ways in which race, class and gende r shape oppression and violence. Rather than foreground the complexities of domination and patriarchy, the novel instead subsumes discussions of race and racism within a limited vision of feminist praxis. Consequently, the novel emphasizes writing as Salomâ€™s path towa rd gender liberation. As her political poetry finds its way to the newspapers and her fatherâ€™s fears increase, Salom explains that â€œHerminia worked at setting la patria free. And with ever y link she cracked open for la patria, she was also setting me freeâ€ ( INS 62). The author raises race/racism as an issue but effectively dismisses it by diverting the readerâ€™s atten tion to the social constraints which attempt to silence womenâ€” fathers and dictatorships. Like her motherâ€™s narrative, Camilaâ€™s chap ters also displace race/ racism by emphasizing gender and/or sexuality. Upon lear ning that her former lover, Ma rion, is moving to Florida with a man, Alvarez has Camila resurrect the memory of her friendâ€™s father and of a burning cross which the family was surprised with during Camilaâ€™s first visit to North Dakota. Yet rather than address the possibility of race as a reason for her inability to commit to Marion, Alvarezâ€™s narrative turns back to family commitments and losses, as well as to gender inequality, as Camilaâ€™s reasons for not joining herself to Marion: â€œAll her life sh e has had to think first of her
65 wordsâ€™effect on the important roles her father an d brothers and uncles and cousins were playing in the worldâ€ ( INS 85). Yet as several of Camilaâ€™s later ch apters make evident, the incident with the burning cross continues to play an important role in her memo ries of her relationship with Marion. In fact, she explains th at â€œher outspoken friend Marion has always avoided the subject of Camilaâ€™s race. As if to mention it were to bring up the unmentionableâ€ ( INS 160). The â€˜unmentionableâ€™ becomes literally so as Camila quickly refocuses her narrative on finding her own voice in the midst of famous parents, a fa mous brother, and the pressures of family responsibilities. Likewise, Alvarez notes that Camilaâ€™s rela tionship with Cuban sculptor, Domingo, fails because â€œ[t]he word become flesh is not always an appealing creatureâ€ ( INS 166). Her focus on Camilaâ€™s sexuality, however, is also bound to Ca milaâ€™s fascination a nd repulsion for Domingoâ€™s blackness. During their initial meeting, Alva rez has Camila describe Domingo as â€œa large mulatto with a handsome, big-featured face and a body that . . . she instantly thinks of â€˜all in capital lettersâ€™â€ ( INS 148). In a sense he represents a connection to her black mother not available to her through her father, who whitens her motherâ€™s portrait and her memory. At one point in the novel, she shares with Domingo a pict ure of Salom, â€œthe dark oval of the face, the full-lipped mouth, and broad nose . . . th e discernible kink at the hairlineâ€ ( INS 160). Although she feels that with Domingo she may â€œbe apprehe nded fully,â€ Alvarez has her resist the racial implications of being apprehended in this way. In fact, Camila frequent ly notes that Domingo is much darker than even her brother, Pedro, who most resembles their mother. Throughout her meetings with Domingo, who is sculpting a bust of her father, Alvarez has Camila associate him with an essentialized sexuality: â€œrecently when her thoughts stray . . . she is thinking about Domingo, but not just the innocent replay . . . after their first meeti ng, but vividly sensual
66 thoughts that make the color rise in her f ace and her hands sweat inside her glovesâ€ ( INS 153). Her turn to Domingo thus takes on two interr elated meaningsâ€”freedom epitomized in the essentialized sexuality of mascu linized blackness and a return to her motherâ€™s roots through the black Other. But as Steven Knadler notes, â€œ[a]lthough Camila goe s through with the sexual act . . . she has once again kept in play part of her fatherâ€™s anti-Haitianism: the primitivist myth of black sexuality, and, as importantl y, the reduction of th e multi-layered Afro-Caribbean heritage . . . to a commodified male sexualityâ€ (22). De spite Domingoâ€™s ability to make Camila confront her own blackness, the crux of this chapter rema ins Camilaâ€™s struggle for womenâ€™s suffrage in Cuba, as well as her desire for liberation from the social constraints accorded the daughter of a former president and of a national icon. Alvare z writes Camilaâ€™s reasons for rejecting Domingo as sexualâ€”given Camilaâ€™s homosexualit yâ€”and politicalâ€”given Domingoâ€™s decision to abandon the protest when Batistaâ€™s men arrive. Ye t race seems as much a problem for Camila as are her sexuality and her attempts at activism. If in the novel Domingo represents the potenti al acceptance of Camila â€™s African ancestry, Alvarez turns Scott Andrews, a Ma rine Camila meets while petitioni ng for her fatherâ€™s return to the presidency, into an unwelcome reminder of her â€˜otherness.â€™ Despite her â€˜unmentionableâ€™ difference from Marion, Camila also participates in the effacing of her African ancestry. In fact, many of her reflections on mulattez within the narrative are couched in descriptions of her motherâ€™s blackness, not her own. Even when she speaks to Domingo about her race, she speaks of it in terms of her mother, using Salom as way to connect to her Africa n ancestry, as well as a means of separating herself from it. In the novel, her relationship with Scott Andrews, however, forces her to acknowledge not only her moth erâ€™s blackness, but also her own. Although Alvarezâ€™s Camila often hears that she is â€œtaller th an her mother, more attractive . . . she has never
67 know if this compliment is a euphemism for â€˜wh iter, paler, more Caucasianâ€™ in her looksâ€ ( INS 204). Scottâ€™s whiteness intrudes upon this perception of herself as somehow â€˜whiter, palerâ€™ than her mother. Early in their relationship, Scott make s a point of explaining th at his ancestors were early abolitionists ( INS 195), a fact which Camila repeats in her unmailed letters to Marion as well as to her brother, Pedro. She seems to want to assure herself and others of Scottâ€™s tolerance. Yet as their relationship progres ses, Camila is often made aware of her â€˜unmentionableâ€™ difference, something which seems to trouble Camila more than it does Sco tt. At a local jazz club, Camila momentarily sees he r connection to the musicians: She thought jazz was the sassy music of white fl appers . . . But jazz belongs to us, she thinks, colored people, as they are called here . . . Of course, the only apparently colored people in the room are up on stage, and no one would guess that Camila, pale-skinned with her wavy, marcelled hair, is one of them. ( INS 198) Yet despite her initial feeling that she may share more with the musicians on stage than with the fair-skinned Scott Andrews, Camila distances herself enough from the musicians to note the characteristics that allow her to pass. Even t hough â€œthey could be her brothers,â€ Alvarez cannot give Camila completely to this identification, wh ich is why the narrative shifts from speaking of â€œus . . . colored peopleâ€ to speak ing of the musicians as â€˜them. â€™ Ironically, Camila and her family are in a position similar to that of th e jazz musicians who must enter and exit the club through the back door. Scottâ€™s atte mpts to help Camilaâ€™s father gain a meeting with President Harding consist in inviting Camila to one of Mr s. Hardingâ€™s garden parties. Pancho, however, complains that â€œâ€˜We will not go in the back door!â€™â€ ( INS 199). Alvarez writes Camilaâ€™s relationship with Sco tt Andrews as one which retains vestiges of colonialism and conquest apparent in the U.S.â€™s relationship with the Dominican Republic, with nationalism as that which will not allow the potential lovers to become lovers. The author, in fact, entangles Camilaâ€™s attempts to arrange a me eting for her father with President Harding with
68 Camilaâ€™s fantasy of a future with Scott. When the Marine asks her for an answer to his marriage proposal, Camila refuses to separate her commitment to family/nation from her romantic desires. Instead, Alvarez has Camila reply with an ultimatum: Before we went any further, I decided to te ll S.A. [Scott Andrews] that it is absolutely necessary to arrange an interview be tween Papancho and President Harding. Absolutely necessary . . . . I looked him straight in the eye an d said, â€œIf you want a future for us, you will not refuse me.â€ ( INS 206) When Camila later slaps the officer for betray ing her confidence and he r country, she repeats a symbolic gesture of national resistance. Alva rez echoes the stories of Mencia, the wife of Enriquillo, who rebukes the advances of a Spanish c onquistador with the same gesture, as well as that of the Dominican woman who slaps a Hait ian soldier during the 22 -year occupation. In addition to the emphasis on nationalism, these national myths also clearly have a racial dimension repeated in Camilaâ€™s rejection of Sc ott, a member of the occupying force in her country. Race, in a sense, becomes that unm entionable difference which neither author nor protagonist can internalize and acc ept. Alvarez, in fact constr ucts â€œLove and Yearningâ€ as a potential romance; letters detailing a romanticiz ed relationship between Camila and Scott intrude upon the third person perspective of the chapter. The political dimension of their relationshipâ€” Panchoâ€™s attempts to persuade the U.S. to withdraw from the Dominican Republicâ€”and the reminders of Camilaâ€™s blackness disrupt the fantasy of a romance with the officer. In an unsent letter to her friend Marion, Camila writes: S.A. invited us all for refreshments at an el egant caf nearby. Ay, Marion, what a painful moment. The establishment would not serve us. They said they did not have enough room for such a large party, but there were many em pty tables . . . Pedro immediately turned on his heels and took Isabel home. . . . we found a nearby stand and sat on park benches, S.A. beside me, silent and shaken. Before we part ed, he turned to me and said in the most feeling way, â€œCamila, I am so sorry,â€ I cannot tell you how moved I am by this demonstration of S.A.â€™s support. ( INS 206)
69 In the passages that follow this excerpted lett er, Alvarez has Camila c ontemplate being in love with Scott. Yet, as she does so, Camilaâ€™s t houghts in the novel also turn back to race, her motherâ€™s darker complexion and her fatherâ€™s wh itening of Salom in a posthumous portrait. While Alvarez appears to privilege the nationalist dimension of this failed romance, race clearly has a role in separating the lovers. Alvarezâ€™s Salom, on the other hand, seems mu ch more aware of the ways in which her talents and privileges accord her a measure of acceptance among Domini can elites, who might otherwise have been intolerant. As the novel ex plains, the historical Salom Ureaâ€™s father, Nicolas, was from a prominent family with Sp anish roots. He was a lawyer, a poet and a statesman. Salomâ€™s unconventiona l education and her fatherâ€™s c onnections allow her to meet and interact with some of the most prominent intellectuals and statesmen of the period. In the novel, when she first reveals herself to be the poet Herminia, Salom realizes that â€œItâ€™s as if I had on a disguise, a famous face behind which I watc hed people who just a few months ago would not have said good day to me on the stre et suddenly smile with deferenceâ€ ( INS 87). Fame in a sense masks her African ancestry. And yet despit e the famous face which disguises â€œthe same eyes, mouth, big ears . . . the nose [she] wished were a little less br oad, the springy hair,â€ Salomâ€™s self-consciousness in the novel frequently takes the form of a discourse on beauty. When she spots Pancho, her future husband, speaki ng to Trinidad Villeta, she immediately notes her rivalâ€™s â€œrosy skin and dark eyes and black ha ir, which she wore in si lky ringlets at her earsâ€ ( INS 131). The rosy complexion and silky ringlets of her rival contrast Salomâ€™s admission that the â€œcolor to their skinâ€ makes her and Ramona look â€œlike somebodyâ€™s chaperonesâ€ ( INS 129). Here she reiterates the connection between whiteness and elite society in the Dominican Republic. Likewise after meeting Hostosâ€™ wife, Al varez has Salom reali ze that â€œ[e]ven if we
70 had not pledged ourselves to others, I was not beautiful enough to attr act a man like Hostosâ€ ( INS 173). Race, particularly Afri canness, becomes as unmentionable for Salom as it is for Camilaâ€™s friend, Marion. The racialized underpi nnings of a Western standard of beauty lie beneath the surface of Salomâ€™s observations. Gi ven Salomâ€™s sudden entry into the intellectual circles dominated by a predominantly white el ite, and the racism characteristic of antiHaitianism in Dominican national discourses, Salo mâ€™s discomfort only with women who vie for the attention of men she cares for seems rather s uperficial. Given the ab sence of a discourse on Dominican blackness, Alvarez redirects Salomeâ€™s concerns about race onto a discussion of beauty. As Alvarez recounts in the novel, Salomâ€™s fa ther was one of many intellectuals who felt that Spanish recolonization was preferable to Haitian annexation. Th e novel repeatedly notes that Salom and her family fear Haitian invasions , but, instead, what materializes in the novel is a prolonged period of civil wars from 1844 until 1861, when the nation-state becomes a Spanish colony once again. Historically, politicians and intellectuals ju stified annexation to Spain by reiterating the threat of anot her Haitian occupation. Yet the struggle for independence from Haiti in 1844 was met with some resistance from th e masses. Race factored prominently in the first stages of Dominican nationalism; in order for intellectuals and members of the elite to arouse popular resistance to Haiti, they were firs t required to allay the fe ars of that population by putting into law the abolition of slavery. By the War of Restor ation in 1861, when the nationstate once again becomes independent, anti-Haitian rhetoric was firmly entrenched in Dominican society, and much of this took the form of negrop hobia. Alvarez deflects much of this in the novel by effacing race/racism as a determining fact or for her protagonists. Although she clearly identifies Salom Urea as a mulatta, she remains silent on the ways race/racism shaped
71 nationalism during the nineteenth and twentieth century. For inst ance, General Ulises Heureaux, referred to as Lils in the novel, was the illegitimat e son of a Haitian father. He was subject to a variety of racist political attacks for his skin co lor and his Haitian ancestr y during his presidential terms (1882-1884, 1887-1899). These are silenced in Alvarezâ€™s narra tive and might have revealed something about the historical Salom Ureaâ€™s perspectives on racism during this period. Instead, only Heureauxâ€™s oppressive regime becomes a part of the novel. Alvarezâ€™s fictionalized portrayal of Eugenio Mara de Hostos and of positivismâ€™s influence on Salom effectively revises the racist underton es of this ideology. Hostos, a Puerto Rican nationalist, educated in Europe , settled in the Dominican Repub lic in 1879 and began a campaign of education reform incorporating positivist views of scientific methodology. Positivismâ€™s slogan of order and progress emphasized gradua l change, which was often welcomed by the ruling classes. Alvarez has Hostos facilitate Salomâ€™s awareness and acceptance of positivism, an inaccuracy often repeated in critical works on Salom Urea. In fact, the novel turns Hostos into the poetâ€™s â€˜moralâ€™ lover; Salo m explains that Hostos â€œwas a true companion for [her] soulâ€ ( INS 173). In the novel, Hostos motivates Salom to give up her poetry in order to join his project of education reform. She subsequently opens the first school for Dominican girls. Yet Alvarezâ€™s emphasis on positivismâ€™s valuation of education and science also conceals the racism of many positivists. Alvarez explains that posit ivism â€œheld that mankind was evolving toward a higher, perfect state. . . . to replace the dark cloud of unreason and violen ce and religion with reason and progress and scienceâ€ ( INS 134). Positivists valued scientific knowledge and methodology and favored a progressive view of history which included modernization. But many positivists also supported racist policies/pract ices for bringing about â€˜progress,â€™ some of which included extermination of unwanted races and miscegenation as a means of arriving at a
72 more civilized race of peoples. Torres-Saillant explains that Hostos â€œcould not relinquish the notion that Caucasians were the owners of the wisdom and ability necess ary for civilization and progressâ€ (138). In the 1880s he supported the Dominican govern mentâ€™s efforts to encourage immigration from Russia and Germany, arguing that they would bring with them â€˜civilizing valuesâ€™ (Torres-Saillant 138). Historian Ernesto Sag s notes that most of Hostosâ€™ supporters used racist arguments; Hostos hims elf participated in the racial at tacks on then dictator Ulises Heureaux, calling him â€œthat blackener of Quisqueya nismoâ€(qtd in Sags 38). This aspect of positivism, however, does not make its way into In the Name of Salom . Instead, Alvarez writes out the racist undertones of positivism in favor of Hostosâ€™ attempts at education reform in the Dominican Republic. This has the effect of both writing racism out of late nineteenth century Dominican nationalism and of writing out Salomâ€™s race as a part of her nationalist efforts. If Alvarezâ€™s motivations stem from a desire to voice a history which has often remained silent in and outside of the nation, she is also guilty of reinscribing certa in silences into her â€˜historyâ€™ of the Henrquez Ure as. In fact many of Salomâ€™s chapters instead emphasize the different and seemingly antithetical responsibilit ies of woman and national poet. Early in the novel, her fame becomes a disguise with which to mask herself, her race and her gender. Salomâ€™s patriotic poetry often disassociates her from her womanne s, so much so that when she receives the national medal, an observer exclaims, â€œwhat a man that woman isâ€ ( INS 141). Likewise, when she decides to publish a more personal poem about womenâ€™s desire and longing, Salom aligns her motivations with womenâ€™s liber ation from social constraints. A young girlâ€™s unplanned pregnancy motivates the poet to publish her poem, â€œQuejas.â€ Salom wonders why it is â€œall right for a man to satisfy his passion, but for a woman to do so was as good as signing her death warrant?â€ ( INS 144). She realizes that â€œ[t]here was another revolution to be fought if our
73 patria was to be truly freeâ€ ( INS 145). The public scandal that follows emphasizes the nationâ€™s desire to see the poet (and woman) divorced of a physicalâ€”s exual and racialâ€”body. Later, when she writes two poems for her absent husband, he responds with an exhortation that she not â€œâ€˜squander away [her] talent by singing in a minor keyâ€™â€ ( INS 177). Her daughterâ€™s chapters also reveal a continued concer n with separating the national poe t from her womanâ€™s, perceived as personal, voice. In the novel, Camila notes that her brother, Pedro, excludes many of their motherâ€™s â€˜personalâ€™ poems from his edited reissue of their mother â€™s poetry. Consequently, much of the novel hinges on precise ly this effort on the part of mo ther and daughter to recover and validate their voices. For Salom, public participation comes early on as long as she silences the personal. Camila, on the other hand, must stru ggle to make herself heard in public forums, especially in light of the famous men in her family. In writing this struggle as one rooted almost exclusively in gender, Alvarez minimizes race an d class as essential components in their quests to vocalize/locate a female nationalism. Consistent with her attempts at re-valuing th e â€˜personalâ€™ in writing the national past is Alvarezâ€™s more complicated task of plotting the do mesticâ€™s relation to the nation. The result is a portrait of the ways in which th e turbulence of the late nineteen th and early twentieth centuries shape family relations and political activism in the Henrquez Urea households. Yet, as with her silences on race/racism, the separation of the domestic (and women) from the national remains largely intact. That the national fi gures in the domestic is less a breakthrough in feminist thinking than how the domestic and the national function together. Despite Salomâ€™s better known political/nati onal poetry, the novel includes few desc riptions of intellectual or political anecdotes which support the writing of th ese poems. Instead, much of her poetry in the novel becomes bound to love and romance. The idea of romantic loveâ€™s entanglement with love
74 of country is a relic of the f ounding fictions which Doris Sommer so artfully decodes and which Alvarez attempts to revise. Making women centr al to nationalist str uggles destabilizes the masculinized character of earlier Latin American narratives; however, In the Name of Salom really offers only a limited view of womenâ€™s nationalism. In the novel, the publication of Salomâ€™s first poems come as a consequence of her brief romance with Miguel Romn ( INS 5960). Alvarez writes the publica tion of poems like â€œRecuerdos a un proscrito,â€ â€œContestacin,â€ and â€œLa Gloria del Progresoâ€ as the result of a liaison between the poe t and her tutorâ€™s younger brother. When her parents forbid contact wi th the young man, Salom manages to get him her poems, which he in turns sends out for publicatio n. Alvarez provides li ttle context for the writing of these poems, much less explanations fo r the dedications which the historical Salom Urea included to express/explain her political intentions. â€œContestacin,â€ for instance was dedicated to Temstocles Ravel o, a poet who fought for Cuban independence and was exiled as a result. â€œLa Gloria del Progre ssoâ€ includes positivist undertones , even though the poet had not yet met Hostos when she wrote it, a fact whic h contradicts Alvarezâ€™s depiction of Salomâ€™s introduction to positivism through Hostos. Rather than focus on the political context of her poetry, Alvarez chooses romance as a vehicle for her fictionalized Salomâ€™s entry into intellectual circles. Likewise, Alvarez writes Salomâ€™s re-entry to political poetry after her fatherâ€™s death as the result of her romance with Francisco Henr quez y Carvajal, who w ould later become her husband. In fact, Alvarez characterizes their ro mance as one which results from Panchoâ€™s love of Salomâ€™s poetry. Alvarez carries this enta nglement further when she describes Salomâ€™s creativity as issuing fr om a desire for love: . . . random phrases would sometimes pop into my head, and I would go over them and over them in mind . . . All day for day, I would work those lines over in my head, and then
75 one night, after we had swept the parlor and put the chairs back in their places . . . I would get up and write down the entire poem, and wh en I was done, I would dream that now he would come, the great love that would fill the vacant space left inside me by this creation I had made of love. ( INS 92) Her poetry goes through a period of gestation and birth, but also desires a physical love to take the place of that creation. The poems whose writing become anecdotal within the novel are primarily those which her husband and son later call â€˜personalâ€™ poems, such as â€œQuejasâ€ and â€œVespertina.â€ Later, her part icipation in Hostosâ€™ campaign fo r education reform seems provoked partially by her â€˜moralâ€™ love for th e Puerto Rican intellectual. While the historical Salom Urea may have had political and intellectual incentiv es for her poetry, Alvarez does not explore these possibilities within the novel. The result is a novel which while attempting revisionist history, winds up reinforcing a gender system which continues to polarize male/ female and personal/political, while at the same time evading blackness. As Joan Sc ott explains, history does not merely record changes to gender but is also a â€œparticipant in the production of knowledge about sexual differenceâ€ (2). As such, In the Name of Salom often fails to part with representations of women rooted exclusively in the maternal, th e romantic and the personal. Both In the Time of the Butterflies and In the Name of Salom recount histories of women active in nationalist movements. Both novels al so make women central ra ther than supplemental to national history. Yet as the novels demonstr ate, writing women into history often requires more than a discussion of patr iarchy and/or gender simply in terms of men and women. Alvarezâ€™s position as a wealthy, white woman of color shapes her representation of Dominican history as one centered on women with access to privilege. Gender, however, includes much more complex interactions with class, race and sexuality than the author includes in these two novels. The result is a situated representa tion of Dominican histor y, one produced from the outside and often unconcerned with racial and class inequalities within the na tion. In fact, In the
76 Name of Salomâ€™ s attention to racism in the context of th e U.S. suggests that perhaps the authorâ€™s knowledge of racism in the U.S. and her life out side the Dominican Republic prevent her from inscribing Dominican varieties of racism and/or classism.
77 CHAPTER 3 FAMILY FEUDS, NATIONAL STRIFE AND PATRIARCHAL LEGACIES IN CRISTINA GARCIAâ€™S NATIONAL NOVELS The nation as family is a familiar metaphor in the national imagin ary. The imagery of family suggests both the naturalness of social hierarchies and of cultu ral unity. Nationalist rhetoric relies on and reinforces the naturalizing of subordinate roles for women and minorities in order to â€œguarantee social difference as a cate gory of natureâ€ (McClintock 91). Benedict Anderson notes that nationalism, in fact, rose out of and replaced ol der social systems of unification like kinship. Rather th an see nationalism as an ideol ogy, he suggests that â€œone [treat] it as if it belonged with â€˜kinship â€™ and â€˜religionâ€™ rather than with â€˜liberalismâ€™ or â€˜fascismâ€™â€ (Anderson 5). National narratives often reinforce the affinity of families and nations by figuring the state as homeland, motherland, and/or fatherland. In this wa y, the nation-state, like the family, becomes naturalized as an unchosen, a nd therefore innate, soci al organization (Anderson 143). Nationalist literatures have often invoked the image of the family as a means of writing the nationâ€™s imagined homogeneity. Latin American literature, particularly during the postindependence period, used the family, or the pros pects of constructing a family, to write the future prosperity and unity of emerging nationa lisms. By marrying off couples from diverse social, cultural, religious and/ or ethnic communities, these narratives projected cultural unity onto heterogeneous populations.9 Yet the familyâ€™s role in nati onalist rhetoric has not, as Anne McClintock notes, prevented the family itself from being â€œfigured as the antithesis of historyâ€ and modernity (91). McClintock explains that â€œ[t]he family as a metaphor offered a single genesis narrative for national hist ory while, at the same time, the family as an institution became void of history and excluded from national powerâ€ ( 91). In fact, the family as an institution has 9 For more about this, see Doris Sommerâ€™s Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America
78 often competed with the nation-state in the latterâ€™s attempts to gain and legitimize its primacy in the national subjectâ€™s allegiances. Ferdinand M ount contends that emergi ng state ideologies and doctrines often call for loyaltie s greater than and in opposition to the family (6). By appropriating the imagery of the family and th e symbolism of home, co mfort, and kin, states often seek to reinforce national loyalties. Mountâ€™s assertion that the family is perhaps â€œthe only consistently subversive organization,â€ however , also emphasizes the familyâ€™s potential to threaten or undermine state power/allegiance, and, thus, explains the stateâ€™ s interest in curbing access to power. Families, however, have also of ten served as repositories of social behaviors and attitudes, such as those consistent with se xism, paternalism and racism and condemned those within the unit who transgressed these codes. So while families frequently compete with the state for the individualâ€™s loyaltie s, they may also reinforce beha viors and ideas consistent with the state. This chapter proposes to undertake a study of th e tensions implicit in national narratives written as family sagas. In particular, I will be looking at the ways in which Cuban American author, Cristina Garca, represents the tensions that characterize competitive forms of social identification like the family and the nation-stat e. Her novels borrow from a Latin American literary tradition of using family romances to writ e and later critique nationa l history. In fact, she often cites writers and poets such as Gabriel Garca Mrquez, Jo rge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz, and Pablo Neruda as inspiration for her works. Rather than foregr ound the construction of nationalisms so prevalent in early Latin American literature, Garca examines the extent to which nations and families can fail i ndividuals. In her novels, Dreaming in Cuban , The Agero Sisters and Monkey Hunting , the family functions not as merely a nother allegory of the state, but as an interdependent social process/practice necessary in the (re)constructi on of historically constituted
79 identities in and outside of Cuba. Garcaâ€™s characters frequently find that neither family nor state offers them a complete or consistent history th rough which to come to terms with alienation and loss. Instead, nation-state and family become polemical, and allegian ce to one necessarily becomes alienation from the other. Although Ga rcaâ€™s texts seem to suggest the familyâ€™s potential as a unit capable of pr oviding her characters with a se nse of cultural identity, the characters are rarely able to form anything but su perficial reconciliations with family members. My contention is that legacies of patriarchy na turalized in state and family institutions doom attempts at both national and familial identificat ions/reconciliations for the characters in these novels. Garcaâ€™s novels repeatedly st age the parallel polemics of political and personal traumas, both of which frustrate her charactersâ€™ attempts to reconcile state loyalties with those to the family. In many cases, the nation-as-family rhetoric comes at the expense of blood/kin relationships. Families remain divided over the fate of Cuba, as well as over the representations which emerge both from exile groups and from the state itself. In her novels, disagreements over who has the authority to represent the familyâ€™s past frequently parallel disagreements over who has the authority to repr esent the nation. As each of the nove ls unfold, a discursive struggle over historyâ€”familial and nationalâ€”fuels a movement to ward reconciliation which only hesitatingly, if at all, materializes through family connections. Garca, in fact, often exchanges political reconciliations for familial acceptance, forgiven ess and/or partial reunification, a move which points to the impossibility of uniting oppositional di scourses on Cuban politics at this historical moment. While families are sometimes able to resolve or accept difference in these novels, political unions are often entirely forestalled. This seems to s uggest the familyâ€™s impotence in generating or inciting national accord. At the same time, for many of Garcaâ€™s characters, family
80 unity remains fragmented, partial and, ultimatel y, incomplete. While family and nation in Garcaâ€™s novels function interdependently, one clearly affects and is affected by the other, the reasons for their failures are perhaps less clea rly identifiable. Although her novels examine the costs of the 1959 Revolution, as well as the lo sses which result, Garcaâ€™s emphasis on the interdependence of family and state highlights th e ways patriarchy, despite its modernization and transformation in contemporary ideologies, fuel th ese political and personal traumas. For the women in particular, neither of these social organizations offers them an ultimate sense of belonging. In her first novel, Dreaming in Cuban (1992), Garca writes personal and political divisions through the voices of Celia, the matria rch who has embraced communism in Cuba, and her daughter, Lourdes, an exile committed to U.S. capitalism. Yet much of what haunts these women stems from a lack of understanding of the tr aumas they each endure as a result of social and sexual violence. Pilar, Lourdes' daughter and a first generation exile who grows up in NY, narrates the ways in which patriarchy and sexism recur despite her mother's and grandmother's attempts to restructure their lives. In The Agero Sisters (1997), Constancia and Reina Aguero, two sisters ambivalent to politics, illuminate th e differences which divide the novel's exiles from those on the island. The two women repress a history of domestic vi olence and neglect, as well as the 'secret' of their mixed racial ances try by immersing themselves in opposing state ideologies. For the women of both novels, national traumas compound already problematic family relationships. In fact, one might argue that family tensions in these novels often highlight greater nation-state inequalities which Garca's ch aracters are unable or unwilling to overcome. Reina's and Constancia's differences, for instan ce, typify the differences which separate the racially mixed Cubans on the island from the much whiter professional class who migrated in the
81 early 1960s. Monkey Hunting (2003), perhaps Garca's most pessimistic novel, takes a global look at past and present interna tional economic systems and the damage they wreak. Family is once again divided physically and ideologica lly, this time among the marginalized Cuban descendents of Chinese coolies and African sl aves. Domingo and his fa ther, Pipo Chen, make their way to New York, splintering the family between three countries â€”China, Cuba and the United States. Their disillusionment with the American dream leaves them despondent and eventually leads to Pipo's suicid e. In China, Pipo's half sister, Chen Fang, can find acceptance neither in traditional Chinese society, nor in the communism of the People's Republic. Her gender and her education impede full accep tance into a patriarchal society. Monkey Hunting highlights the costs of the revol ution on men in particular and the ways in which communism's courting of the oppressed often meant havoc for those formerly with access to privilege. Although Garca's earlier novels point to the ways men with privilege were often unable to adapt to changing social structures in the midst of the Cold War, Monkey Hunting seems to more acutely emphasize the ways in which race and gender inequalities can doom organizations, like the family and the nation, which once helped to defi ne a subject's identity. That this novel ends without the possibility of even a partial familial (or national) r econciliation seems to underscore the continued fragmentation of national co mmunities and families produced not only by competing modes of production, bu t also by the remnants and transformations of an older, patriarchal order. For those una ble to re-envision family connec tions within changing social systems, nationalism becomes oppr essive and identity elusive. Although Garca often deploys the family as a means of representi ng the fissures of an ideologically divided national consciousness, it also makes evident that shifting modes of production, from colonialism to emergent capita lism then abruptly to communism, undermine
82 social practices and organizations. While thes e changes often begin as a means of remedying social inequalities, Garca's texts suggest that state and family organiza tions frequently wind up reproducing these inequalities in ne w, and perhaps, subtler ways. Patriarchy, sexism, and racism often pass from one generation to the next and from one regime to the next. Images of the nation as family reinforce the gendered and racialized divisions of patriarchy. In Garca's novels, the shifts in social and political life both in C uba after 1959 and in the U.S. mean greater and perhaps more abrupt challenges to these remaining patriarchal struct ures. This is not to suggest that patriarchy does not exist in the U.S. or in Cuba after 1959, but that both capitalism and communism in these respective countries, offere d greater opportunities for freedom for peoples formerly oppressed by the previous social organization. In Cuba, for instance, the redistribution of wealth and the nationaliza tion of many formerly foreign co mpanies meant that people had greater access to the promotions and wage incr eases that had been reserved for American employees. Likewise, although the Revolution di d not initially organi ze around the issue of racial discrimination, many of the changes it ins tituted benefited greater numbers of blacks than it did whites, mainly because the former constituted a larger percentage of the lower classes (de la Fuente â€œRace and Politicsâ€ 61). Moreover, Al ejandro de la Fuente explains that some â€œdiscriminatory practices were eliminated as early as 1959, giving blacks immediate access to former private and racially exclusive facilities such as schools, beaches and social clubsâ€ (â€œRace and Politicsâ€ 61). For women, the revolution meant increased opportunities for education, professional work and public visibility. Yet desp ite the Revolution's reforms, racial and gender inequality remains, perhaps in more naturalized forms. Garca's novels examine these freedoms and the ways in which they have often led to new manifestations of inequality.
83 Between Family and Nation: Gender Politics in Dreaming in Cuban Dreaming in Cuban narrates the stories of three ge nerations of Cuban women as they struggle and fail to reconcile personal differen ces which become calcified in their opposing political worldviews. Although c onflicting political allegiances are the most clearly visible barriers which separate Celia, Lourdes, Felicia a nd Pilar from one anothe r, personal betrayals and tragedies underlie thei r individual politics. As the nove l demonstrates, the family has not been an apolitical source of comfort and acceptance. Even before the Revolution, misunderstandings, abuses and inequalities associat ed with a patriarchal order plague the del Pino family. Celiaâ€™s problematic relationship with Lourdes, and to some extent with Felicia, stems from a mental breakdown which her husband facilitates early in th eir marriage. After having pursued Celia tirelessly a nd married her despite her lovesi ckness for another man, Jorge asserts his authority over her by ab andoning Celia to his motherâ€™s hous e. In a sense, he repeats the actions of her former lover, Gustavo, who l eaves Celia for his wife in Spain, and of her parents, who abandon her to her auntâ€™s care afte r their divorce. Celiaâ€™s physical confinement with Berta and Ofelia Arangoâ€”w omen who reinforce strict id eas about womenâ€™s place in societyâ€”only heightens her anxiety about the lack of available roles for women of her time. Phyllis Chesler explains that patr iarchal culture upholds the idea th at â€œfor a woman to be healthy she must â€˜adjustâ€™ to and accept behavioral nor ms for her sex even though these kinds of behaviors are generally regarded as less socially desirableâ€ (756). Ce liaâ€™s inability to â€˜adjustâ€™ or to protest her lot hastens her ment al illness. Only after his de ath does Jorge acknowledge his role in Celiaâ€™s breakdown, and subsequently, in Lourde sâ€™ alienation from her mother. He admits, . . . I left her with my mother and sister. I knew what it would do to her. A part of me wanted to punish her. For the Spaniard. I tried to kill her, Lourdes. I wanted to kill her. I left on a long trip after you were born. I want ed to break her, may God forgive me. When I returned it was done. (195).
84 Jorgeâ€™s betrayal, however, is compounded by his d ecision to order shock therapy for his wife after her internment. In order to complete her â€˜forgettingâ€™ he buys her a house by the sea and a piano. His motivations stem fr om a desire to erase Gustavo from Celiaâ€™s memory, and by so doing, erase Celiaâ€™s sexual history. Although Jorge is ultimately unable to make Celia his in the way he wants, he does manage to take their daughter, Lourdes, away fr om her mother. In a sense, Lourdes fills in where her mother cannot; she extends and receives the affections which Jorge cannot lavish on his wife. When he dies, Jorge vi sits Lourdes, not Celia, repeatedly in order to he lp her reconcile with her mother and to discuss their disdain for El Lder. As a child, Lourdes waits for her father expectantly in a party dress each time he return s from a business trip. The incestuousness of their relationship also points to the ways in which Lourdes substitutes for Celia. When Rufino initially courts Lourdes, her father becomes increasingly jealous and antagonistic to the courtship. Later, when her father arrives in New York for cancer treatment, Lourdesâ€™ sexual appetite increases so much that her husband must â€œ[beg] his wife for a few nightsâ€™ peaceâ€ (21). Because he cannot conquer Celia, he takes possessi on of Lourdes instead. As Jorge explains to his daughter, â€œI wanted to own you for my self. And youâ€™ve always been mine, hija â€ (196). Jorge, however, not only disrupts Celiaâ€™s rela tionship with Lourdes, who cannot forget her early abandonment, but he also transfers his polit ical and social views to his daughter. Lourdesâ€™ disagreements with her own daughter, Pilar, of ten turn on attitudes about sexual propriety inherited from her father. Lourdes reiterate s the stereotypes and social conventions of womanhood through her consistent attacks and paranoia over what she perceives as Pilarâ€™s sexual promiscuity. The narrator explains that
85 Lourdes was a virgin when she married, and very proud of it. The hip-splitting pain, the blood on the conjugal bed were proof of her vi rtue. She would gladly have hung out her sheets for everyone to see. Pilar is like her grandmot her, disdainful of rules, of re ligion, of everything meaningful. (168) Her midnight phone calls to Pilar at art school, her intrusions while Pilar is showering, and her reading of her daughterâ€™s journal proceed from a desire to control her daughterâ€™s sexual behavior. Lourdes internalizes the stereot ypes which compelled Jorge to abandon and then intern Celia after their marriage. She also belongs to her father in the sens e that she espouses a similar ideologyâ€”American capitalism. Like her father, who traveled all over the island working for an American company, Lourdes too upholds the ideals of an American work ethic. Her Yankee Doodle bakeries, in fact, come to dominate her life in the U.S. Both Lourdes and Jorge essentially neglect their families in their pursuit of capitalist success. Ironically, Lourdes utilizes an employment system similar to the system of U.S. imperi alism on the island; sh e relies on low-paid, immigrant labor to maximize her business profits. Her bakeries al so become a meeting place for exiles whose politics lie with American interests on the island. Lourdesâ€™ s admiration for â€œAmerican moguls . . . like Irne du Pontâ€ further emphasizes her al ienation from her mother and her lack of understanding of the ways American imperialism pave d the way for Castroâ€™s rise to power. Thus for both Jorge and Lourdes, entrenchment in cap italism and idealization of U.S. culture does not mean the abandonment of sexist or racist attitu des. The tensions apparent in Lourdesâ€™ relationship with Pilar, as well as in her relati onship with her mother, Ce lia, are not only the result of systems of domination which oppress wome n and people of color, but also the result of their inability to understand the subtleties of oppr essions which emanate as much from the state as from within the family.
86 Celia and Lourdesâ€™ different political views also underscore the ways in which competing modes of production affect women disproportionate ly. Unlike Celia, who is abandoned by most of the men in her family and has few outlets for personal fulfillment in 1930s and 40s Cuba, Lourdes enjoys the doting affections of he r father and of her husband until the upheavals occasioned by the Revolution. Moreover, Lourde s embarks on a career which keeps her from feeling the same sense of confinement as her mother. The narrator ex plains that after her marriage to Rufino, Lourdes â€œgot right to work on the Puente ranch. Sh e reviewed the ledgers, fired the cheating accountant, a nd took over the books herselfâ€ (130). Through her marriage to Rufino, whose family owns large farms and casi nos on the island, Lourde s also gains access to wealth and social status, both of which she loses at the onset of the Revolution. Pilar notes that â€œ[b]ack in Cuba, everyone used to treat mom with respect. . . . like their lives depended on the bolt of fabric she choseâ€ (63). The nationalization of businesses and lands, the closing of casinos and the expulsion of American businesses on the island are catas trophic for the Puente family, who must eventually migrate to Miami. These changes also mean a loss of wealth and social standing for Lourdes. More significantly, she be gins to associate the Revolution with violence and genocide. Her miscarriage and her rape be come entwined with the stateâ€™s efforts to nationalize businesses and appropria te large estates. Lourdesâ€™ miscarriage follows immediately after she resists the stateâ€™s e fforts to appropriate the Puente estate. The loss of property compounds the much greater loss of a son. Like wise, Lourdesâ€™ rape by a soldier of the new regime suggests that the system remains one in which gender functions as a means of articulating power relations. The expropriation of the Puente es tate essentially parallels the soldierâ€™s forced sexual appropriation of Lourdesâ€™ body. In a fina l act of territoriality, the solder carves an unreadable message on Lourdesâ€™ stomach, an ac tion which mimics the haphazard carving up of
87 continents in the early years of the Cold War. The rape scene illustrates the ways in which women become a means of contesting and arti culating power between men, and specifically between the state and the family. If for Lourdes the Revolution epitomizes the violence of patriarchal power, for Celia it means just the opposite. The Revolution offers Celia the opportunity for a life beyond the confines of her house by the sea and the little resistances of pl aying Debussy on her piano. She becomes a community judge, settling local and domes tic disputes; she also takes part in various national microbrigades which incl ude building nurseries for infant s, inoculating children against malaria, and later, harvesting sugar in the summ er of the ten million. While some critics note that the â€˜domestic natureâ€™ of Celiaâ€™s public partic ipation often calls for re directing her maternal instincts (Oâ€™Reilly Herrera 77), I would argue that her activities in fact point to the limitations which the state imposes on feminist praxis. As Muriel Nazzari points out, the Revolutionâ€™s efforts to recruit women into the workforce have met with challenges rooted in patriarchal ideas about women being primarily responsible for domestic and care-giving duties (254-255). Although the state created and subsidized free child care for working mothers in the early years of the Revolution, workers at these facilities have remained predominantly women. Likewise, primary responsibility for childr en and â€˜domesticâ€™ chores continues to reside with women. Although volunteering for these campa igns, especially in the early years of the Revolution, was regarded as a means of slowly integrating wo men into the workforce, it often reinforced stereotypes about â€˜appro priateâ€™ employment for women. Nico la Murray explains that voluntary labor in Cuba â€œis very definitely a political action . . . but it is nearly all in typically â€˜feminineâ€™ areas of work: running childrenâ€™s in terest circlesâ€™ . . . helping out in schools, hospitals, and in hygiene and inoculation campaignsâ€ (71). However, the nature of some of the campaigns Celia
88 takes part in, which benefit wo rking women who continue to be the primary caregivers on the island despite the Cuban Family Code10, also suggests her commitment to expanding available roles and professions for younger women. Her gr anddaughter, Luz, notes that â€œAbuela Celia tells [her and her sister] that before the revolution, smart girls like [them] usually didnâ€™t go to college. They got married and had children whil e they were still children themselvesâ€ (121). Despite the â€˜domesticâ€™ character of much of Ce liaâ€™s political work, it liberates her from the anxiety and restlessness of her married life. Perhaps the most revealing aspect of Celiaâ€™s transformation after the Revolution is that she stops writing her annual, unmailed letters to he r former lover, Gustavo. She announces in her last letter, which also closes the novel, that â€œ[ t]he revolution is eleven days old. . . . I will no longer write to you, mi amor . She [Pilar] will remember everythingâ€ (245). After the Revolution begins, her letters become historie sâ€”personal and nationalâ€”which will allow Pilar to preserve the past. That she stops writing â€˜gloomyâ€™ letter s to Gustavo also signals her transformation from an observer of history to an actor in that hi story. Years later she explains that â€œshe feels part of a great hi storical unfolding. What would ha ve been expected of her twenty years ago? To sway endlessly on her wicker swin g, old before her time? . . . She remembers the gloomy letters she used to write to Gustavo before the revolution, and thinks of how different the letters would be if she were writing todayâ€ (111). The Revolution takes the place of both her id ealized ex-lover and her paternalistic husband. Celia even replaces her husbandâ€™s photogr aph with one of El Lder, an action which suggests the overlapping of sexual and political de sire. That she replaces her husbandâ€™s picture rather than merely supplementing another photo graph suggests that for Celia, sexual/physical 10 The Cuban Family Code (1975) made husband and wi fe equally responsible for housework and childcare.
89 desire is bound to political emancipation. A revol utionary who seemingly enacts what in the past was only the rhetoric of equality becomes her idea l mate. Celia articulates an early awareness of the relationship between desire and equality in a letter to Gustavo: . . . when I applied for a job at El Encanto, the director wanted me to be a model, to walk up and down the aisles in gowns and hats dr aped in chiffon. The salesmen bought me perfume and invited me to lunch. But they couldnâ€™t talk to me about why families of guajiros slept in the cityâ€™s parks under flashing Coca-Cola signs. Those men only whispered sweet nonsense to me, trying in vain to flatter me. You were different, mi amor. You exp ected much more of me. That is why I loved you. (206) Her years of letters to Gustavo reveal not only intimacies about he r life and her children but also observations about the islandâ€™s grow ing political and social problems, especially in light of the U.S.â€™s influence. Her letters supply the novelâ€™s hi storical context; however , they also affirm her desire for an equal and intellect ually stimulating relationship with a mate. The letters perhaps stand in for conversations which Celia could not have with Jorge, especially given his dedication to American business ethics. The Revolution opens a space for her beyond the confines of the patriarchal family structure and the exigencies it placed on women. It also alleviates her sense of inadequacy in meeting the standa rds of womanhood. Yet, this liber ation comes at the cost of her relationships to other family me mbers, primarily her husband and her daughters. Neither of her daughters understands that for Ce lia, the Revolution has meant the expansion of available roles for women and a substantial libera tion from patriarchy. Likewise, she fails to understand that for many, the Revolution becomes another system of domination. If Lourdes and Celia epitomize the extremities of allegiance to the state, despite its subtle rearticulations of paternalism, Feliciaâ€™s and Pilarâ€™ s stories function as a foil to these idealizations. Pilarâ€™s narrative in particular contrasts her mo therâ€™s American success story. She points out the ways in which Lourdesâ€™ success hinges on the expl oitation of immigrants, as well as the ways in which U.S. culture perpetuates its own brand of paternalistic and sexist ideologies. Pilarâ€™s
90 immersion in and knowledge of U.S. cultural pr actice allows her the pe rspective to see its failures, something which her mother is unable to do. Discussing the ar t world, Pilar explains that Even supposedly knowledgeable and sensitive people react to good art by a woman as if it were an anomaly, a product of a freak nature or a direct result of her association with a male painter or mentor. Nobodyâ€™s even hear d of feminism in art school. The male teachers and students still call th e shots and get the serious attention and fellowships . . . As for the women, weâ€™re supposed to make extra money modeling nude. What kind of bullshit revolution is th at? (140) Like her grandmother, Celia, Pilar feels the constraints of a culture which places certain limitations on women. The ambiguity of her refe rence to a â€œbullshit revolutionâ€ also plays on the failures of the Cuban Revolu tion to guarantee women equalit y. Moreover, the punk version of the Statute of Liberty that Pilar paints in he r motherâ€™s bakery is not only ironic commentary on her motherâ€™s political views, but also a rejection of the emptiness of signifiers like liberty and equality for the political Other. Although Lourdes defends her da ughterâ€™s artistic vision from a crowd of New Yorkers, she does so as a result of maternal instinct, rather than from an understanding of Pilarâ€™s political views. Despite Lourdesâ€™ success and independence in the U.S., it remains a system in which gender functions as a means of articulating power relations. That Lourdes and Pilar are both victims of sexual violen ce in different countries and at different times, points to the limitations of those transformations effected by the Revolution and/or by the move to the U.S. Like her niece, Felicia too demonstrates that Cuba remains a country in which men exercise power over women. Her first husband, H ugo, abuses her and infects her with syphilis, the results of which are bouts of insanity and permanent aliena tion from her daughters. Hugoâ€™s violent encounter with Jorge after their ma rriage also highlights Feliciaâ€™s position as a
91 trophy/conquest over which men of different races /classes compete in order to establish or contest power relations. Maria Teresa Marrero e xplains that in marrying a black man, Felicia . . . does what white women usually don't do: sh e marries "down." Her fa ther's rejection of such a union bespeaks an anta gonistic attitude toward the marriage. Celia, her mother, detests the "hocus pocus" of Santera, and goes so far as to desecrate the images on Felicia's altar. Therefore, while Felicia's life unfolds in post-re volutionary Cuba, the judgment of her actions by her family is h eavily coded with the prejudices of a prerevolutionary, racist bourgeoisie. Felici a's open embrace of Afro-Cuban culture is specifically coded as an inte rfacial act. (153) Her subsequent attempts to create or hold t ogether her family after this violent marriage ultimately fail. Her relationship with her father becomes strained after her marriage to Hugo, her relationship with her mother is marred by their different experi ences of oppression under the new regime, and her brother and sister no longer live on the island. Felic iaâ€™s inability to â€˜see colorâ€™ makes her a liminal character in a society sti ll entrenched in bourgeois notions of European whiteness. Marrero notes that Feliciaâ€™s limina lity, occasioned by her marriage as well as by her dedication to an Afro-Cuban religion, â€œcan only be resolved by her deathâ€ (153). In a move reminiscent of the generation which precedes them , Luz and Milagro, Feliciaâ€™s daughters, fail to understand their motherâ€™s lack of political dedicati on or her violent rejection of their father. Political ideology stands in for Luz and Milagroâ€™s failed relationship with th eir mother; they take refuge in state ideology because it is a means of resis ting Felicia, who makes her disdain for the Revolution apparent. They do not understand the ways in which domestic abuse, illness, and bourgeois stereotypes destroy their mother. Feliciaâ€™s awareness of the regimeâ€™s methods for maintaining power through militarized propaganda prevents her from bei ng able to take part in the ch anges. After one of Feliciaâ€™s episodes with insanity, she is sent to a guerilla camp with other social malcontents, where she notes that â€œall she sees is a country living on slogans and agita tion, a people always on the brink of warâ€ (107). The stateâ€™s polar ization of masculine/feminine c ontinues to reinforce a hierarchy
92 in which men retain power. Moreover, the st ateâ€™s emphasis on war as a condition of everyday life on the island underscore s the â€˜needâ€™ and â€˜primacyâ€™ of the state and of the men who make up a large majority of both military and government administration. Cold War politics, in fact, often relied on the imagery and rhetoric of m ilitarization, something which Castroâ€™s regime continues into the twenty-first century, to mainta in masculinized images of power. The regime frequently transforms â€˜domesticâ€™ chores into duties necessary for the advancement of the state, but by doing so, it also attempts to blur the ways in which it propagates sexist stereotypes about the division of labor. Herminia Delgado, a bl ack santera who befriends Felicia, notes that despite some changes in power dynamics, the state continues to reinforce male power: Things have gotten better under th e revolution, that much I can say. In the old days, when voting time came, the politicians would tell us we were all the same, one happy family. Every day . . . it was another story. The whiter you were, the better off you were. . . . Thereâ€™s more respect these days. . . . One this hasnâ€™t changes; the men are still in charge. Fixing that is going to take a lot longer than twen ty years. (185) As Herminia explains, the rhetoric of nation as family often contradict s social and political practice, particularly with rega rd to gender, class and racial difference. More significantly, despite some changes to society since the Revol ution, it remains one in which men determine womenâ€™s status and well-being. In a 1994 interview, Cristina Garca suggests that Dreaming in Cuban explores the effects of the Revolution on women and the ways it shaped their relationships both to the state and to their families: â€œI wanted to examine how wome n have responded and adapted to what happened to their families after 1959. I al so was very interested in exam ining the emotional and political alliances that form within familiesâ€ (Lpez 609) . One might also add that her treatment of family and nation-state make evident that cha nging political and/or na tional allegiances do not mean an end to the patriarchal st ructure of family and nation. Davi d Mitchell, in fact, argues that family and nation necessarily coexist in this no vel because neither syst em succeeds in fulfilling
93 the promise of unity to which both systems aspi re (52). This elusiv e â€˜unityâ€™ predates the Revolution, and, in fact, originates in the patriarchal order which continues to characterize both the nation-state and the family. As Garca ma kes evident in her novel, women may acquire a sense of political independence as a result of Revolution or exile; however, the disproportionate effects of these changes of ten mean continued oppressi on and increased alienation. The del Pino women do not recogn ize that their alienation from one another, and from the state, springs from the misunderstandings, abuses, and repetitions of forms of patriarchy. These women fail to communicate to one another how their experiences as women determine their political and personal allegiances. So while Pi lar can sense her motherâ€™s restlessness and her resentment for Celia, she does not understand th at Lourdesâ€™ nightmares, her hatred for the regime, and her obsession with Pilarâ€™s sexuality stem from her persona l experience of the Revolution, and more specificall y, the rape and loss that accompanied Castroâ€™s regime. Her move to colder climates in a sense allows her to numb that pain; it also frees her from the conventions of Cuban society wh ich her in-lawâ€™s re-establish in Miami. Likewise, Celiaâ€™s commitment to the regime heightens what Lourde s perceives as her motherâ€™s lack of dedication to her children and husband. Celiaâ€™s experiences with U.S. interven tions in the islandâ€™s political and economic past, however, motivate her disdain fo r the materialism of U.S. society. More importantly, her commitment to the Revolution ri ses out of the unhappiness of her experiences with paternalism and socially constricting gend er roles. Neither woman understands that the violence and unhappiness of gender and race oppressi on shapes the otherâ€™s political allegiances. Although ideology often becomes a battleground on which Lourdes and Celia enact their differences, it also fills in for the lack/loss of viab le family connections. In the case of the del Pinos, the family has ceased to represent a cohe rent means of identification and unity. Both
94 women in fact immerse themselves in state ideologi es in order to redirect and repress what they can not or will not resolve. Yet as the novel dem onstrates, this immersion in a culture of politics, both in the U.S. and in Cuba, comes at the cost of memory, history a nd alienation passed from one generation to the next. Celia, for instance, fills her life with responsibilities to the state after her daughter, son and husband leav e the island. When her husband, Jorge, dies and her daughter, Felicia, becomes ill, Celia joins in the Revolutio nâ€™s campaign to harvest sugar. She explains, â€œTen years or twenty, whatever she has left, she will devote to El Lder, give herself to his revolution. Now that Jorge is dead, she will vo lunteer for every projectâ€ (44). Lourdes too immerses herself in an ideology as she struggles to acclimate to life in the U.S. and to repress the violence of a miscarriage and a rape. So abso rbed is she with accumulating and with working, that she alienates her husband and her daughter. Moreover, Lourdesâ€™ obsession with eating the baked goods she sells, especially the cinnamon buns, points to this need to accumulate, if only through foods, in order to â€˜fill upâ€™ her sense of loss. Her excessive eating emphasizes the excesses of American societ y and its capacity to overwr ite history and loss through accumulation. A large part of what separate s these women stems from their lack of understanding of the ways that oppressi ve systems have altered their lives. Buried Histories, Violence, and Forgetting in The Agero Sisters Cristina Garcaâ€™s second novel, The Agero Sisters , centers on the effects of Blanca Ageroâ€™s murder on her daughters, Constancia and Reina. Although the murder remains a mystery to the two sisters until th e end of the novel, when they discover their fatherâ€™s journal confession, the narrator opens the novel with a description of Ignacio murdering his wife on a scientific expedition in the Zapata Swamp. The text that follows intersperses the third person narratives of Constancia and Rein a with their fatherâ€™s first pers on chronicle in an effort to unravel the motivations and causes which lead to Blancaâ€™s murder and to her daughtersâ€™
95 alienation from one another. As in her earlier novel, which traced the codependence and failures of state and family organizations, The Agero Sisters maps out the ways in which patriarchy dooms attempts to create and conserve viable family and national relationships. In her discussion of late twentieth century Latin Amer ican novels, Margarita Sa ona argues that â€œ[t]he subjectâ€™s crisis we observe in some of these nove ls springs from the fact that both national and familial structures are crumbling, and the subject cannot find a place for himself either in the family or in the nationâ€ (208). While some of these novels find that breaking with an older patriarchal order, whether epitomized in the family and/or the nati on, can create new, more equitable relationships, Garcaâ€™s novel examines th e human toll of this break with an old order as well as the ways both old and new systems retain hierarchies which ultimatel y fail the individual. For the Agero sisters and thei r children, the alienation and frag mentation that originates in Blancaâ€™s experience of domestic violence only intensifies in th e power dynamics of competing nation-states. Both Constancia and Reina esse ntially use political ideo logies to bury their discomfort with their fatherâ€™s version of histor y. Blancaâ€™s racial and sexual otherness become the novelâ€™sâ€”and the Ageroâ€™sâ€”real mystery; it propels her husband, Ignacio, to murder and it drives her daughters and their fa milies to a collective amnesia. The lies of the father take literal form in I gnacioâ€™s attempts to hide his culpability in Blancaâ€™s murder, but they are also manifest in Cubaâ€™s national narrative of cultural and racial homogeneity. Post-independence Cuba often relied on the silencing of race as a means of articulating national unity. Alejandro de la Fu ente notes that although Afro-Cubans at times used the silencing of racial difference to their advantage in the emerging nation-state, the â€™myth of racial equalityâ€™ could also be used by the elite to mask the subor dination of Afro-Cubans (â€œRace and Politicsâ€ 45). Likewise, the 1920â€™ s and 30â€™s interest in Afrocubanismo and
96 transculturation was a variation of Latin Americaâ€™s interest in mestizaje, and one which was also tinged with racist undertones. As Kristina Wirtz explains, â€œthe lasting impact of Afrocubanismo has been to delineate an Afro-Cuban folklore that encompasses all cultural forms marked as African and to locate these forms in a nationalist historical narrative of progress through racial and cultural hybridizationâ€ (423). By relegating the African to the past of a progressive national narrative, the nation could continue to constr uct itself as modern, while emphasizing the â€˜primitivenessâ€™ of African cultural forms. In socialist Cuba, race became paradoxical. On the one hand, Castro declared the island an Afro Lati n nation, yet, on the other, the regime continued the decades-long practice of silencing or denying r ace. Although the regime agreed that racial discrimination existed on the island before the Revolution of 1959, authoriti es claimed that they had eliminated racial discrimination from the island as early as 1962 ( A Nation for All 179). In order to bolster the st ate and consolidate power, the regi me has often suppressed political movements emphasizing Afro-Cuban issues; it al so discouraged and shutdown Afro-Cuban societies and religions. The Agero Sisters highlights the ways in wh ich this myth of racial equality and the bourgeois myth of a white, criollo Cuba underscore divisions within the family as well as within the nation. Ignacio personifies a criollo history, traced through his Sp anish father and Cuban mother, as well as the bourgeois desire to preserve Cubaâ€™s past. His j ournals consistently bemoan the changes which modernization wreaks on the islandâ€™s animals and plants; he also demonstrates a preference for Spanish and British imperial legacies on the island. His pres ervation of different species by killing them for scien tific study points to the lifelessne ss of nostalgic reconstructions of the past. The dead specimens that Reina inherits from Ignacio suggest that the history she and her sister inherit is also dead. In fact, Ignacio murders his wife, Blanca, in a final attempt to
97 preserve her in what he percei ves is a moment of matrimonial happiness. Ignacioâ€™s scientific studies lead him to the conclusi on that what distinguishes human beings from lower life forms is â€œa unique human ability to plan for the future, to predict the behavior of matter in ways wholly distinct from animalsâ€ (116). His decision to murd er Blanca stems from what he believes is this ability to predict his wifeâ€™s future actions: a nother affair with the â€˜unnamed, giant mulattoâ€™ who fathers Reina. Blancaâ€™s murder results not only from Ignacioâ€™s failed attempts to control his wifeâ€™s body, but also from the way her relationshi p with a black man foregrounds her own racial ancestry. Despite Blancaâ€™s name, which means â€˜w hite,â€™ her mother is a mulatta descended from French colonists who fled Haiti after the slave revolt. Her name hides the secret of a racial identity which Ignacio buries and which her daug hters later refuse to acknowledge. As Stephen Knadler explains, Blanca is â€œthe mother, whos e sexual anatomy and gender deviance must be regulatedâ€”and finally stoppedâ€”so that she does not fail to reproduce both biologically and culturally . . . a European des cent bourgeois cu ltureâ€ (29). Ignacioâ€™s desire for Blanca as a specimen which retains a connection to Cubaâ€™s natural history becomes increasing evident in his early ob servations of Blanca, which recall the ways he studies flora and fauna on the island. Accordi ng to Ignacio, Blanca is naturally intuitive, knowledgeable in herbal remedies, and physically bu ilt like an â€˜underfed catâ€™ or rare bird (223). During a carnival party, Ignacio ir onically dons a scientistâ€™s costum e, â€œcomplete with a flashlight and [his] fine-mesh net,â€ while Blanca transforms herself into one of the â€œdazzling bird[s]â€ her husband studies (267). Early on he also likens Blanca to a malleable substance: she seemed to have an odd, mimetic gift for inanimate substances. When she worked with sulfur . . . her normally green eyes took on a ye llowish tinge. If an experiment called for phosphorus, she vibrated with an unearthly gl ow. And ordinary lead made her appear heavy and malleable and gray. (185)
98 Despite this his early belief in her malleability an d in his own ability to co ntrol her, Ignacio fails to transform her into another specimen or po ssession until her murder. On their honeymoon in the Isle of Pines, Ignacio explains that he is â€œovercome by the wonder of [his] possessionâ€ (223). After their marriage, however, he meets with continued resistan ce from Blanca, who refuses to accept his sexist decision to stop compensating her for her scientific work. Her first pregnancy, in fact, heightens her unhappiness with her lot. Ignacioâ€™s explan ations underscore his belief in his wifeâ€™s status as a possession to be governed by the etiquette of a patria rchal, bourgeois order: I had stopped remunerating her since our marri age, because, frankly, I no longer saw the need. I admit I am not what one might call an emancipated man. Although it is true that . . . Mama taught music all her life, I had certain expectations of my wife. Not only did I refuse to pay Blanca; I prohibited her from seeking other employment. (225) Ignacio only gives in to Blancaâ€™s request when her pursuit of other employment begins to slow his own research. When Blanca refuses to fulfill her role as a mother/wife, Ignacio enlists the aid of shock therapies to mold Blanca into the woman he desires. Unable to make her husband understand the value of her work and hemmed in by the sexism of 1930s Cuba and her new role as a mother, Blanca â€˜escapesâ€™ with a black santer o. Her inability to maneuver in a patriarchal society eventually fuels the splintering of the Agero family and culminates in her murder. That Blanca runs away with a black santero, w ho fathers Reina, signals a rejection not only of the bourgeois myth of Cubaâ€™s racial fraterni ty, but also of the especially stringent gender constraints imposed on (white) women. Althoug h Blanca returns to Ignacio battered and pregnant, her ability to accept a nd nurture Reina suggests that she finds some amount of peace in reconnecting with a part of her r acial history. Knadler contends that in reta ining a fragment of her mulatta motherâ€™s bone, Blanca â€œsought to resi st the whitening of Cuba n history and national identityâ€ (30). In fact, Blancaâ€™s rejection of Constancia after her return suggests her inability to accept participation in perp etuating this myth. Ignacio attempts to impede and erase his wifeâ€™s
99 investment in Afro-Cuban cultu re and miscegenation by offeri ng his wifeâ€™s lover money and, finally, by forcing himself back into the marriag e bed. In a scene which foregrounds the ways women often become a means of articulating po wer between men, Ignaci o watches as a â€˜hugeâ€™ mulatto pulls Blanca out of a party and into her bedroom. Once the party breaks up, Ignacio â€œforce[s] open Blancaâ€™s doorâ€ and takes sexual possession of his wi fe. Although he insists that Blanca does not physically resist him, he does note that she whispers â€œâ€™Au pays des aveugles, les borgnes sont roisâ€™ . . . then she merely received [him], forlorn in her dimming flesh, concealed by a thousand invisible veilsâ€ (268). Despite the knowledge of his own motherâ€™s rape by a prominent, married man and the pain of her subs equent ostracism, Ignaci o does not hesitate in forcing Blanca to submit to his desire. Blancaâ€™s conspicuously missing narrative within the novel sugge sts the continued silence/suppression of womenâ€™s history. She is the only central character whose story must be related through a (male) narrato r, a move which implies patria rchyâ€™s continued control over historical texts, and in particul ar, womenâ€™s history. After all, I gnacio murders his wife, and then records their story; despite his violence, the na rrative elicits sympathy for the patriarch of the family at every turn. In an in terview included at the end of the novel, Garca explains that the novel â€œis a story that explores how family myth e volved and how history is made.â€ Similarly, in an earlier interview, she explains her commitme nt to re-evaluating th e gender politics of traditional history: the way it [traditional history] has been written, interprete d, and recorded, obviates women and the evolution of home, family, and soci ety, and basically becomes a recording of battles and wars and dubious accomplishments of men. . . . I was trying to excavate new turf, to look at the costs to individuals, fa milies and relationships among women of public events such as re volution. (Lpez 610).
100 Although Garca is referring to the mo tivations for her first novel, Dreaming in Cuban , she clearly continues to examine the effects of gend ered visions of history and historical events, particularly for women, in The Agero Sisters . The myths which their father creates about Bl anca become manifest in Constanciaâ€™s and Reinaâ€™s lives years after both parent s have died. Constancia in part icular remains constant to her fatherâ€™s vision of national and family history; sh e frequently finds herself repeating her fatherâ€™s edicts on the preciseness of evolu tion and the fallibility of histor y. Constanciaâ€™s immersion in the lies of the father have her privilege Igna cioâ€™s vision of Cubaâ€™s, and the Ageroâ€™s (white) European ancestry. Reina, who in ternalizes Ignacioâ€™s lie s reluctantly, notes that â€œ[a] year after Cubaâ€™s independence, her grandfather had come to the island from the hills of Galicia. . . . Constancia, used to say proudly that this made them true criollos â€ (12). Constanciaâ€™s immersion in this myth of Cubaâ€™s whiteness finds material representation in her homeâ€™s dcor, which is marred only by Reinaâ€™s arrival and the red roses of her admirers. The novelâ€™s Miami community of exiles extends Ignacioâ€™s vision of a racially pu re Cuba. Her refusal to see herself as one of them stems as much from her reluctance to remember as it does from her politics: Constancia doesnâ€™t consider herself an exile in the same way as many of the Cubans here. In fact, she shuns their habit of fierce nos talgia, their traffick ing in the past like exaggerating peddlers. . . . Evolution . . . is more precise than history. (45-46) Like her father, Constancia focuses on the certain ties of science in order to repress the memory and history of gender and racial subordination which lead to Bl ancaâ€™s murder. Likewise, the novelâ€™s exiles repress a history of national discontent, poverty a nd discrimination in order to retain the vision of a Golden Age in 1950â€™s Cuba. The paternalistic impetus to sublimate raci al and gender histories which contest the primacy of those in power is at the center of Constanciaâ€™s and Reinaâ€™s political/national allegiance. Both women turn to political ideo logies as a means of overwriting a history which
101 raises questions about cultural and familial legiti macy. In fact, the transformations to womenâ€™s labor within the U.S. and Cuba serve largely to fa cilitate their repression of family history. Each woman takes refuge in the ideals of her respective nation, using political or cultural allegiance to ward off memory. Immersion in each value system becomes a tool for se vering their ties to the past. Reina dedicates herself to her work, to the ideals of the Revol ution, and to the pleasures of sensuality. Likewise, Contancia uses her work to forget the pastâ€”her abandonment, her sonâ€™s deafness, her familyâ€™s exile, and her fatherâ€™s suic ide. When the past th reatens to return through her motherâ€™s face, imposed over her own, Constancia once again tu rns to capitalism to transform history into a saleable commod ity. For both women the opportuniti es of the workplace enable them to invest in the present in ways which k eep them from confronti ng the knowledge that their father killed their mother, that the revolution has failed, and that the divisi ons which continue to separate them are more pe rsonal than political. Their relative independence al so obscures the ways nation and family limited Blancaâ€™s access to personal and professional fulfillment. Th eir immersion in work, and more specifically in the values of their respective political syst em, however, has meant in creased alienation from their families. Reinaâ€™s access to privilege on the island prevents her from recognizing her daughterâ€™s necessity and the ways in which r ace and gender determine acc ess to dollars during Cubaâ€™s Special Period. Likewise, Constanciaâ€™s dedication to materi al pursuits leaves her out of touch with her children as well as with her husband. More significantly, immersion in opposing political ideologies allows these sisters to em brace myths of racial fr aternity. Surrounded by Miamiâ€™s largely white exile community, Constancia can continue to suppress her motherâ€™s, her sisterâ€™s and her own racial mixt ure. Likewise, the practice of silencing discourses on race which the Revolution continues allows Reina to igno re the motivations which may have compelled
102 Ignacio to murder her mother; it also stimulates the repression of her own racial ancestry until much later in the narrative. If, as Stephen Knadler contends, the bone fragment which Blanca carries signifies a connection with an African dias poric history, then Reinaâ€™ s desire to locate and keep that bone signals her desire to r econnect with this African cultural history. Like her sister, Reina initially preserves her fatherâ€™s lies, re taining his rare specimens and books in her home in Havana. Although she doe s not pass on Ignacioâ€™s lies to her daughter, Dulce, she fails to pass on her motherâ€™s history or the secret of their racial ancestry. Her dedication to the Revolution also keeps her from recognizing her da ughterâ€™s necessity and victimization within the regime. Dulceâ€™s narra tive relates the continue d exploitation of women and men despite the Revolutionâ€™s promises. She explains that sex is A the next best currency after dollars . . . Almost everyone I know my age, male or fema le, turns a trick once in a while @ ( Agero Sisters 51). Sex, or rather prostitution, becomes the means by which many, like Dulce, survive Cubaâ€™s rations system in the early 1990s. Prostitution in sense becomes encoded as a doubled form of exploitation, triggered by the U.S. blockade of foodstuffs and other necessities, as well as by the Cuban governmentâ€™s appropriation of the islandâ€™s limited imports for the tourist industry. Despite the arrests and raids, prost itution, Dulce suggests, ex ists largely as a byproduct of that industry. Ironi cally, the regimeâ€™s propaganda th at AIDS does not exist on the island makes the sex industry particularly successful ( Agero Sisters 51). Prostitution succeeds largely because those involved ha ve begun to engage with a fore ign market, something which the exhausted national market is no longer permitted to do. Both the sex trade and tourism reproduce the inequalities of gender and race relations. Women, men and island become subordinate to forei gners/nations engaged in tourist enterprises; the governmentâ€™s regulation of tourism only su cceeds in sanctioning unequal relations. The
103 revolutionâ€™s early commitment to womenâ€™s rights and to national sovereignty, evident in the closing of brothels and casinos associated with U.S. imperialism, becomes a means of keeping the economy afloat in the 1990s. Tourism, in fact , heralds the countryâ€™s en try into capitalism. But as Ruth Behar notes, A capitalism is arriving in Cuba in many forms, none more savage than that piercing the female body @ (xiii). In addition to the exploitation of womenâ€™s bodies, the development of tourism on the island has also led to an increase in the racialized division of labor. Hotel workers and service personnel are clearly segregated, with the whitest Cubans often dealing directly with tourists. The result is th at white Cubans typically have greater access to dollars, and therefore privilege, than do Afro-Cubans on the island. Despite her initial refusal to confront Ign acioâ€™s lies, Reina disrupts Constanciaâ€™s ideas about their family history, about womenâ€™s sexua lity, and about the racial makeup of Cubans. The red roses that her lovers send literally mar the white dcor of Constanciaâ€™s Miami condo; the red and white which results also allude to Ch ang, the African/Afro-Cuban orisha associated with lightening. Constanciaâ€™s nostalgic notion of cubanidad , which she uses to market her line of skin care products, upholds a vision of nati onal identity grounded in whiteness. Blancaâ€™s â€œpale faceâ€ adorns Constanciaâ€™s Cuerpo de Cuba products, which she markets to Miamiâ€™s exiles â€œto embody the exalted image Cuban women have of themselves; as passi onate, self-sacrificing, and deserving of every luxuryâ€ (131). Through her beauty products, Cons tancia attempts to make over the Cuban womanâ€™s body piece by piece; the use of her motherâ€™s pale face to market her products suggests that she inte nds to reinforce â€˜whitenessâ€™ as a characteristic of the Cuban woman. Moreover, the specificity of products like Senos de Cuba, Ojos de Cuba and Muslos de Cuba suggests the disembodiment of the national body as a result of nostalgia for an idealized, hegemonic past.
104 Reinaâ€™s refusal to accept the need for lotions and fragrances, and her ability to captivate menâ€™s attentions with ease, intrude not only on C onstanciaâ€™s ideas about femininity and beauty, but also on her conceptions of a white Cuban identity. Her patc hwork skin, the result of skin grafts after her accident, reflect s the hybrid nature of Cubaâ€™s identity. Her skin literally incorporates the histories, races and ideas th at make up Cuban national identity, what Fernando Ortiz once referred to as the Cuban ajiaco or stew. Reinaâ€™s arrival in Miami subsequently forces Constancia to confront her own mixed ancestr y. Reinaâ€™s symmetry with Chang, her initial allegiance to the Revolution, and her African heri tage position her as representative of Cubaâ€™s African and mestizo history. Th at her accident takes place near the site of the Virgin of Caridadâ€™s (Oshn) shrine also s uggests that Reina embodies Cubaâ€™s mixed cultural identity. In the nineteenth century, the Virgin of Carida d purportedly appeared to the three Juans, a criollo , an African and a Native of the is land, signifying the desire for unity/mestizaje as a component of the new nation. Yet the narrator al so notes that the site of the electrocution, a copper mine, was also the site of a slave rebellion which culminated in the eman cipation of Africans in Cuba. The emphasis on hybridity often turns back on the fo regrounding of an African/Afro-Cuban history which intrudes on the nostalgic comfort of the exile community in the novel. Reinaâ€™s affinity to Chang and Constancia â€™s immersion in the Afro-Cuban religion, Santeria, suggest the potential for a new awaren ess of Cuban heterogeneity and of their own mixed ancestry. Marrero, in fact, argues that Ga rcaâ€™s representation of Santeria â€œchallenges notions of the hegemonic, predominantly white, politically conservative Cubans to define identity politics for all Cubans in the U.S.â€ (141). Constanciaâ€™s interest in the miraculous and her practice of Santeria, which increases upon her arrival in Miam i (and her proximity to Cuba), meets with disdain from her husband, Herberto, who identifies with the novelâ€™s conservative,
105 bourgeois exiles. Yet Santeriaâ€™s counter-hegemonic func tion in Afro-Cuban history resurfaces in the novel in order to facilitate a reunion between the Agero sister s and remedy the paternal lies which have divided them. As the two women journey toward C uba, their divergent views of Blancaâ€™s murder and Ignacioâ€™s role in that de ath become central to their reconciliation. Although the women are ultimately only able to make amends after the prospect of another family murder, they are able to reach an unders tanding which allows Constancia to return to Cuba and uncover her fatherâ€™s jour nals, and consequently, his lies. In fact, despite the womenâ€™s ambivalent politics and their proxim ity to one another after Reina mi grates, they are only able to initiate this limited reconciliation with the as sistance of magical-relig ious help transmitted through Santeria. The novel demonstrates that the desire for raci al â€˜purityâ€™ ultimately dooms the family to disintegration. Ignacio can overl ook his wifeâ€™s racial ancestry (blackness) as long as it is repressed in her family history. Once she e ngages in a relationship with a black man and produces racially mixed offspring, he can no long er deny his wife (and his daughterâ€™s) mulatez. Although Constancia knows about her sisterâ€™s ille gitimacy and her racial mixture, she denies Blancaâ€™s, and therefore her own, African heritage . The whiteness of her motherâ€™s face, and of her homeâ€™s dcor, contrast sharply with the trut hs about her racially mixed ancestry. This inability to understand her motherâ€™s sexual and ra cial oppression keeps her from reconciling with her mother or her sister, Reina. Likewise, Reinaâ€™s ambivalent acceptances of these myths facilitate her own repression of the factors which compelled Ignacio to kill her mother, and later, the factors which propel her daughte râ€™s entry into prostitution. De nial of racial discrimination, and the downplaying of womenâ€™s continued explo itation make Reina incapable of understanding Dulceâ€™s necessity. If the family stands as representative of the pol itics which continue to divide
106 the national body, then racial and gender inequality continue to function as the apex of this dissent. Chinese-Cuban-American Identities, Hegemonic Masculinity and Exile in Monkey Hunting While Dreaming in Cuban and The Agero Sisters focus primarily on the ways patriarchal structuresâ€”in new and in older political systemsâ€”preclude womenâ€™ s ability to negotiate unitary relationships with family members or with the nation itself, Monkey Hunting turns to examining the effects of these changes on men. The novel proceeds primarily through the narratives of Chen Pan, the family patriarch who boards a ship for Cuba in 1857, his granddaughter, Chen Fang who resides in China, and his great-gra ndson, Domingo Chen who flees Revolutionary Cuba with his father. Perhaps the greatest cont rast comes from comparing Chen Panâ€™s narrative, which relates his journey from Chinese coolie to successful family patriarch in Havanaâ€™s Chinatown, with Domingoâ€™s, which recounts the a lienation and loss that accompany his exile to the U.S. Although both men arrive in foreign count ries with little material or emotional support, Chen Pan manages to become a prominent busine ssman within the Chinese-Cuban community of Havana. Domingo, on the other hand, experience s a series of losses, beginning with the approbation and rejection of his mother and culminating in the isolation and displacement he feels among other American soldiers in Vietnam. Chen Pan and Domingo illuminate the ways in which family and community become necessary to constructions of national identity. For Chen Pan, marriage, children and community acceptance ensure his emotional and psychological well-being. Domingoâ€™s exile, his fatherâ€™s suicide, and the racial tensi ons which his ambiguity raises among other soldiers, prevent him from establishing permanent ties to family or to nation-state. The family unit itself becomes a powerful force in Chen Panâ€™s life, as well as an important absence in Domingoâ€™s; however, their
107 access to privilege within the both the family and the community ultimately determines their ability or inability to acclimate to new nationstates. Both institutions function as either facilitators or foils to the pres ervation of male priv ilege and/or socially constructed ideas about masculinity. Likewise, Chen Fa ng, the only female narrator of Monkey Hunting , demonstrates the ways in which masculinities are learned behavi ors. Yet despite her education in masculinity, her sex impedes success and fulfillment of male pr ivilege. Instead, her narrative highlights the ways in which non-hegemonic masculinities ofte n mean complete alienation from society. These narratives suggest that changes to traditi onal patriarchal roles and institutions often meant increasing disorientation for men as well as for women. Because the Revolution and migration to the U.S. both restructure (though they do not do away with) patriarchal institutions, Garcaâ€™s male characters find it increasingly difficult to adjust to changes in their access to male privilege. Monkey Huntingâ€™s Pipo and Domingo Chen demonstrate that these shifts in access to hege monic masculinity often also prompted increased alienation from family and nation/state. As R.W. Connell explains, hegemonic masculinity exists as a â€œconfiguration of gende r practices which . . . guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of womenâ€ ( Masculinities 77). However, as Connell makes clear, hegemonic masculinity is a contested practice which exalts specific (and sometimes competing) types of masculinity. Moreover hegemonic masculinity intersects with race and class in determining which masculinities ar e exalted. As a result, â€œwhen conditions for the defense of patriarchy change, the bases fo r the dominance of a particular masculinity are erodedâ€ ( Masculinities 77). The new military culture of the Cold War, as well as the culture of politics that accompanied the 1959 Cuban Revolution m eant shifts in the â€˜defense of patriarchyâ€™ and changes to the representation and acceptance of some masculinities. Thus, as Garcaâ€™s male
108 protagonists confront a new social and political order upon exile and revolution, their relationship to hegemonic masculinity also chan ges. For Cuban men of color without access to wealth, reconciling thei r own conceptions of masculinity w ith those of the new order becomes increasingly problematic and alienating. Monkey Hunting opens with Chen Pan boarding a ship to Cuba in search of economic success, only to discover that he and other Chin ese migrants are to become coolies in Cubaâ€™s sugar plantations. In this novel, Garca traces the history of Chinese migration to Cuba, which began in the late 1840s in order to meet the incr easing demands of the sugar industry. As a result of the gradual abolition of slav ery during this period, the Spanis h began looking for other sources of cheap labor. After the British victory in the Opium War (1839-1842), European merchants were better able to penetrate Chinese ports and contract indent ured laborers (Meyer 146-7). Chinese men like Chen Pan typically became indentur ed for eight years and were often forced to renew the terms of their contra cts. As Gracaâ€™s novel demonstrates, many Chinese died on the voyage to Cuba. Once in Cuba, however, some eventually became day laborers on sugar plantations, often suffering the same conditions they had endured as indentured servants; others managed to establish successful businesses in what became Havanaâ€™s Chinatown. Former Chinese coolies began establishing Havanaâ€™s barr io chino (Chinatown) as early as 1858 and by 1870, had also established enclaves in other Cuban cities (K. Lpez 91). In the novel, Chen Pan manages to escape and construc t a successful business and co mmunity life in Havana. Despite the racism of the criollos and Spaniards in late nineteenth century Cuba, Chen Pan develops an affinity for the colony. Unlike his Chinese companions, he does not engage in the nostalgia for the Chinese countryside; instead, he remembers the harshness of the climate and the labor which the fields demanded. During the Ten Years War, the family patriarch even delivers
109 machetes to Chinese Commander Sian, as the latt er struggles to liberate the island from the Spanish. Years later, he admits: â€œ[l]istening to his friends, Chen Pan questioned whether he was genuinely Chinese anymoreâ€ (83). Chen Panâ€™s sh ifting national identific ations, or rather, the accommodation of a burgeoning Cubanness within his se nse of Chinese identity, is the result not only of his many years on the island, but also of his success and social position within both the Chinese community of Havana and the family whic h he forms. In fact, Chinatowns in Cuba often incorporated networks of privilege and po wer. Kathleen Lpez explains that â€œChinese from Juijiang, Nanhai County, represented the economic elite of the Chinese merchant community, dominating the powerful Chinese Ch amber of Commerce in Havanaâ€ (96). And while their power often included aiding new migr ants and potential Chinese businesses, the Chinese in Cuba clearly established a social orde r. Chen Panâ€™s wealth and access to privileges position him within Chinatownâ€™s early leadership. Community and family do not simply â€˜fill inâ€™ for those lost upon his departure from China, although that is certainly an element in his ab ility to acclimate to a foreign land, but, more importantly, these institutions allow Chen Pan to regain and maintain hi s social position as a patriarch within the microcosm of Havanaâ€™s Chin atown. After all, Chen Pan manages to acquire a significant amount of wealth after opening his anti ques shop, The Lucky Find. In fact, he becomes wealthy enough to loan money, at a small profit, to Chinese entrepreneurs. He also earns enough money to purchase and free a slav e woman and her child, who later become his family. Moreover, Chen Pan enjoys privileges which others in the community do not. After saving the Count de Santovenia, Chen Pan earns his freedom, as well as a powerful ally in his business endeavors. The Count offers Chen Pan protection from criollos and Spaniards, which allows him to escape the violent racism of Cuba n society. Although he does not return to China
110 with the riches he imagines, Chen Pan does es tablish himself successfully in Havana. Cuba means a multitude of social, cultural and political changes, yet the basic structure of his relation to society changes very little. In fact, his wealth and his priv ileged position within the small Chinese community of Havana mean perhaps greater social standing than that which he enjoyed in his native village. Chen Panâ€™s kindness, his dedication to his fa mily, and his minority position within the larger Cuban community belie the gendered privile ge which he continues to enjoy in Cuba. Despite the colonyâ€™s antagonism to racial â€˜oth ers,â€™ the close-knit community of Chinatown, along with family connections, preserve a limite d amount of patriarchal privilege which Chen Panâ€™s descendents do not enjoy. Domingoâ€™s and Pi poâ€™s experiences with community and family are, in fact, far different from Chen Panâ€™s. Pi po, in particular, flees th e island after refusing to give up his job as a cook on the American military base lands him in a psychiatric hospital. Before the Revolution, his job meant access to American goods, but after 1959, it becomes the cause of his persecution. Domingo explains that his mother â€œtes tified against [Pipo], reporting that heâ€™d trafficked in contraband (a few packs of cigarettes here, a ca se of condensed milk there)â€ (111). When the new regime fails to r ecruit Pipo, they send him to a psychiatric hospital, where he suffers â€œspecial revolutionary trea tment: psychotropic drugs, electroshock therapy, beatings by the criminally insaneâ€ (112). The regi meâ€™s efforts to â€˜breakâ€™ Pipo resemble those of Dreaming in Cuban â€™s Jorge del Pino and The Agero Sistersâ€™ Ignacio Agero. As with Celia and Blanca, electroshock therapies are introduced as a means of punishment, as well as an attempt at behavior modification. For Pipo, institu tionalization also carrie s the â€˜punishmentâ€™ of feminization which imprisonment and even torture do not. Phyllis Chesler notes that because mental patients are often trea ted like womenâ€”as infantile and â€˜emotionalâ€™â€”male mental
111 patients are stigmatized more so than male conv icts (751). As su ch, Pipoâ€™s punishment for refusing to submit to the authority of the state is the stripping of gender privilege. Even before institutionalization, however, Pipoâ€™s f unction within the family begins to shift. Family dissipates as he and his wife become in creasing antagonistic to one another. Idaliaâ€™s Revolutionary fervor becomes particularly apparent when she joins the militia in the Bay of Pigs invasion, during which she kills a fleeing Cuban exile. In fact, descriptions of Idalia often underscore a masculinization heralded by the ch anges wrought by the Revolution. Not only is she active against the Bay of Pigs invasion, but she al so participates in the st ateâ€™s efforts to assist North Vietnam. Domingoâ€™s memori es of his mother and father of ten iterate the hard/soft lexicon of cold war masculinities. K.A. Cuordileone expl ains that the political culture of the cold war era relied heavily on represen tations of â€œhard masculine t oughness and rendered anything less than that soft and feminine and, as such, a real or potential threat to the nationâ€ (516). As such, Pipoâ€™s connections to the bourgeois comforts of American capitalism pot entially threaten the Revolutionâ€™s military culture. Moreover, his re fusal to take a â€˜hardâ€™ stance against U.S. imperialism, as his wife does, makes him incr easingly subject to feminization, and therefore persecution, by the new regime. Dissent also me ans a significant reduction of Pipoâ€™s access to power/privilege within both the family and the nation. His subsequent exile to the U.S. only subjects him to more subtle forms of gendering, as he confronts the emasculation inherent to American forms of racial discrimination. His su icide compounds this increasing feminization; in Chinese culture, suicide has frequently been asso ciated with women as an acceptable means of escaping shame, oppression, or family condemnation. Pipoâ€™s suicide results at least in part from his inability to reconcil e gender with his changi ng social position.
112 The seeming emasculation of racialized male ch aracters and their subs equent struggles to adjust to shifting standards of masculinity continues through Do mingo Chenâ€™s experiences with the Vietnam War. Like his father , he too must contend with the racism of U.S. society and the ambiguity of his relationship to Cuba and to his family. His decision to join the military after his fatherâ€™s death, a move which mirro rs Chen Panâ€™s decision to take part in independence struggles in order to alleviate his grief over a lost son, seems motivated by a desire to belong, as well as by his growing sense of alienation and emasculation. Joining the U.S. war effort also signals a more tangible rejection of his motherâ€™s political allegiances, and, quite possibly, a way of reaffirming his fatherâ€™s politics; when Idalia learns of his participation, she breaks off contact with her son. For Idalia, state allegiance clearly trumps fam ily loyalty. During the cold war crisis of masculinity, military service perhaps also beca me an avenue through which Domingo could reassert his manhood within a culture which devalued racial Others. Connell, in fact, notes that â€œepisodes of major violence (counting military combat, homicide and armed assault) are transactions among men. . . . [and] can become a way of claiming or asserting masculinity in group strugglesâ€ ( Masculinities 88). Military service, howev er, does not cultivate a sense of belonging for Domingo, nor does it reverse the emasculation of American racism. Instead, the lushness of Vietnamese foliage and the ambivalen ce of other soldiers rein force his loneliness and exacerbate his seeming racial ambiguity. Ev en though the Vietnam War saw the first fully integrated military force, it continued to uphold a racist hierarchy within its ranks. As a result, American soldiers ofte n viewed Domingo suspiciously becaus e â€œ[h]is skin was too dark, his features not immediately identifi able as one of them. . . . In the hospital, wounded and with a couple of medals to his name, he hadnâ€™t been tr eated right eitherâ€ (209 ). In fact, Domingoâ€™s
113 awareness of his own racial proximity to the Vi etnamese prompts him to hope for the poetry of a death at the hands of a distant relative. Although both Chen Pan and Domingo join militar y efforts after the loss of loved ones, only Chen Pan finds meaning and healing through pa rticipation with the na tion/state. Military service offers Chen Pan a way out of the impoten ce he feels after his sonâ€™s death. Unlike his great-grandfather, Domingo does not find a renewe d sense of national loyalty or masculinity through military service; instead, motivations for the war become increasing intangible. Rather than legitimate his position within the U.S., hi s time in Vietnam forces him to acknowledge the divide that separates the militaryâ€™s bureaucracy from those on the front lines. He remarks that all around him is â€œthis relentless feedi ng of death, as if it were a speci alty of the poor, like playing the congas or tending water buffaloâ€ (111-112). The imagery which Domingo associates with the poor underscores the r acial make-up of social hierarchies within the U.S. If Domingo joins the military in order to reclaim hi s sense of masculinity, he soon r ealizes that the military offers little relief from the emasculation of racial Otherness. He admits th at â€œ[h]is biggest fear was that in the heat of a firefight, his fellow soldiers would mistake him for a Viet Cong and shoot him dead. Enough of them were suspicious of him to begin withâ€ (107). Even his relationship with Tham Thanh Lan and his unborn son do little to alleviate his increasing despair. Instead, Domi ngo seems terrified of becoming a father, and even more afraid of the racism and approbation he might encounter if he took Tham Thanh Lan back to the U.S. He notes that the â€œarmy frowned upon this [takin g wives home], did everything possible to keep the couples apart, more so if children were involvedâ€ (208). Domingoâ€™s fears of fatherhood are also entrenched in what he perceives as his in ability to meet socially encoded standards of masculinity. As he studies Tham Thanh Lanâ€™ s pregnant body, â€œDomingo [grows] frightened.
114 How could he become a father? He hadnâ€™t been ab le to protect his own father, much less finish being a sonâ€ (212). Domingoâ€™s failure to establ ish familial connections or a sense of national belonging are largely the result of his inability to adjust to shifts in his own access to power and to the ways in which paternalis m resurfaces in the racism of m ilitary culture. His meditations about failed migrations and doome d â€œcross-cultural lustsâ€ highli ght his concern with the way societies often condemn racial mixing (209). Domingoâ€™s experiences with racism, however, are not limited to the U.S. or to the military. He acknowledges that in Cuba, he was arrested fo r â€œpracticing â€˜negritude â€™â€”all because heâ€™d let his hair grow into an Afroâ€ (209). Despite the Revolutionâ€™s claims to the contrary, it too reproduces earlier bourgeois myths about racial equality, largely by suppr essing discussions of racism. The Revolutionary governmentâ€™s silenc e on race, however, does not prevent it from promoting and celebrating de-politicized versions of Afro-Cuban culture and history (De la Fuente â€œRaceâ€ 61). Domingo recounts the â€œludicr ous theftsâ€ of his uncleâ€™s congas when the government decides these are â€œcultu ral artifacts because they once be longed to . . . the legendary El Tumbador. Now the congas were on display at a folklore museum where el pueblo could admire them but never hear their boom-tak-tak-a-tak againâ€ (56). The appropriation of the familyâ€™s belongings effectively turns the drums in to artifacts of a national past which denies or obscures their continued relevance and use in Af ro-Cuban communities. The confiscation of the drums, Domingoâ€™s harassment, and his motherâ€™s deprecation of Afro-C uban music impede his ability to construct a social id entity which reconciles race with gender norms. Robert Dean explains that individuals often construct gendered identities from a range of cultural narratives; however, these identi ties â€œare constrained by cult ure and classâ€ (6). Likewise, Connell notes that â€œthere are specific gender rela tions of dominance and subordi nation between groups of menâ€
115 ( Masculinities 81). Race hinders Domingoâ€™s ability to construct a nationalâ€”read as maleâ€” identity consistent with socially available narratives. The seeming emasculation of Cuban men as a re sult of the Revolution and of migration to the U.S., both of which restructure patriarchal ins titutions, is a common thread in all of Garcaâ€™s novels. Often, male protagonists emphasize the diso rientation which results from the changes in their access to power an d privilege. In Dreaming in Cuban , Rufino, Lourdesâ€™ husband, finds himself without direction after exile. Afte r she and her family move to New York, It became clear to Lourdes . . . that he would never adapt. Something became unhinged in his brain that would make him incapable of working in a conventional way. There was a part of him that could never leave the finca or the comfort of its cycles, and this diminished him for any other life. ( Dreaming 129) Rufino, in fact, misses the â€˜comfortsâ€™ of Cuba â€™s social system. Whereas Lourdes gains independence from the overbearing Puente fam ily and upper class society, Rufino loses the privileges associated with his familyâ€™s wealth. Likewise, in The Agero Sisters , Herbertoâ€™s involvement with La Brigada Caiman, an organiza tion of exiles plotting to overthrow the regime, is an effort to reclaim his social position and his manhood. His sense of masculinity becomes increasing sexual after he joins th is exile group: â€œ[i]nvasion. The word makes Herberto hard as a young man. . . . The tight ridge of expectation in his groinâ€ ( Agero Sisters 124). His participation in the invasion of Cuba also stems fr om the changes he sees in his wife. He notes that â€œ[w]ith each passing season, Constancia, like any woman w ith her own money, grew more confident . . . and Herberto was besieg ed by all that had escaped his lifeâ€ ( Agero Sisters 125). Herbertoâ€™s inability to reconcile himself to hi s wifeâ€™s increasing independence leads him to attempt a futile reclamation of 1950s Cuba. However, unlike the men of Monkey Hunting , the men of Garcaâ€™s earlier novels face fewer instance s of racism after exile, largely because they come from the whiter, professional class who fled Cuba in the early years of the Revolution.
116 Domingo and Pipo, on the other hand, must grapple with racism as well as economic necessity, changes in the structures of priv ilege that accompany masculinity. Their inability to cope with these changes ultimately dooms thei r attempts at social belonging. While the men of Monkey Hunting struggle with the changes to their social positioning, Chen Fang, the primary female narrator, rec ounts the multiple oppressions which haunt women regardless of the political climate. Raised as a boy so her father in dist ant Cuba would continue to support her family, Chen Fang is later unabl e to adapt to the conventions of Chinese womanhood. Although her role-playing allows her acc ess to privileges she might not otherwise enjoyâ€”an education and freedom from â€˜womenâ€™sâ€™ choresâ€”it also makes Chen Fang a marginal figure in Chinese society. She acquires the skill set of the opposite gender, yet not the biological sex to pursue these skills. After years of living among boys, Chen Fang finds she is unprepared to perform the functions expected of women. Soon after her marriage, she realizes that â€œthere is no harder work than being a womanâ€ (96). Her life as a boy leaves her unable to pour tea, cook, or perform â€œthe usual deferencesâ€ (96). A lthough she finds a limited amount of acceptance among the teachers at the foreign school in Shangha i, her education and her sexuality prevent her from partaking of traditional Chinese society. She explains that In China they say the greatest glory for a woma n is to bear and raise sons for the future. So where, I ask, is my place? I am neither woman nor man but a stone, a tree struck by lighting long ago. Everything that has followed since counts for nothing. (149) The tree metaphor foregrounds Chen Fangâ€™s disconn ection from family and national genealogies as a result of her position outside of normative gender roles. Her refusal to submit to social norms for women, however, also means alienation from the state. If, as Anderson and others have suggested, the nation-state relies on the idea of the family to suggest a sense of cultural homogeneity, it seems only natural that the lack of family connections within the state might render someone an outsider. Furthermore, if, as Garcaâ€™s novels seem to imply, national identity
117 is defined primarily through family and history ra ther than through the na tion-state, then Chen Fangâ€™s solitary life makes her rela tion to the nation tenuous at best. Chen Fangâ€™s position outside a normative patriarc hal institution also makes her potentially dangerous to the state. In Black Skin, White Masks Franz Fanon explains that â€œ[m]ilitarization and the centralization of authority in a country automatically entail a resurgence of the authority of the fatherâ€ (141-142). Her lack of male family members puts her seemingly beyond the authority of a father, an independence which th e new communist government might perceive as dangerous. Because the family st ructure legitimates a patriarchal state order, which organizes men, women, children and â€˜Othersâ€™ into a hier archy of power, Chen Fangâ€™s life outside the â€œauthority of the fatherâ€ turns her into a foreigne r within the state. Her disconnection from any clearly identifiable (male) aut hority suggests her mutability, a nd therefore, her potential as a threat to the state. She explai ns that â€œ[i]n China women do not st and alone. They obey fathers, husbands, their eldest sons. I lived outside the dictates of men, and so my life proved as unsteady as an egg on an oxâ€ (226). Her life â€œout side the dictates of menâ€ and her fatherâ€™s Cuban identity become particularly problematic for her after the Cultu ral Revolution. Cubaâ€™s ties to the U.S. economy and its politics make her suspect to a communist government increasingly antagonistic to the West. Likewi se, her job with the foreign school in Shanghai comes under increased scrutiny after the comm unist victory. Despite womenâ€™s increased participation in communist China, the shift in governments proves catastrophic for Chen Fang, who lacks available male family members to claim her. As in Garcaâ€™s earlier novels, changes to hegemonic power affect women di sproportionately. Yet even before 1949, Chen Fang is subject to the deprivations and oppressi ons of Japanese imperialism and of Republican China. As the
118 novel suggests, changes in st ate ideology do not guarantee women freedom from oppression; often, they merely reiterate old oppressions. Like the women of Garcaâ€™s earlier novels, Chen Fangâ€™s inability to find a stable family unity is largely the result of multiple forms of patriarchal oppre ssion. Her sisters, traditional Chinese women, are unavailable to her after they join their husbandsâ€™ families. For Chinese women marriage meant joining a new family and br eaking off ties with other family members. As a result, Chinese families ra rely invested in their daughters ; they were prepared for other families. Thus, even within their biological families, women were in a sense already outsiders. Chen Fangâ€™s fate is no different; she is married off to ensure her motherâ€™s economic livelihood. Although she struggles with the deci sion to leave her son, Lu Chih-mo, it is her only recourse to the violence of her husband and the oppressivene ss of her role within his family. Although Shanghai offers her some relief from gender oppression, the limitations of traditional Chinese society prevent her from engaging in more than one brief love affair. Her relationship with Dauphine, in fact, becomes possible only becau se Dauphineâ€™s foreignness places her outside Chinese society. Yet Chen Fangâ€™s narrative also allows Garca to highlight the different ways patriarchy prevents women and men from forging stable fam ilial and/or national connections. As a woman, Chen Fangâ€™s only option for a posit ion within the family and the state is one which requires her physical and emotional subordinationâ€”marriage to an abusive husband and his disapproving family. Her exile and alienation is the result of the physical violen ce and ostracism of her husbandâ€™s family, as well as of her physical sepa ration from kin. She has no recourse to parents or sisters. Likewise, Chinese societyâ€™s strict policing of women and wome nâ€™s sexuality prevents Chen Fang from finding another lover after Dauphine . State and family become so intricately
119 connected in this narrative, that Chen Fang has no choice but to remain in the margins of society. Despite her training as a â€˜man,â€™ she has no access to male privilege of any sort. Men like her grandfather, Chen Pan, on the contrary, form familial communities by banding with Other oppressed men and women. However, as Chen Panâ€™s and Domingoâ€™s narratives make clear, diminished access to hegemonic masculinity does not eradicate their continued dominance over women, though it may mean fewer women over whic h to exert power. Not surprisingly, both men choose to court women in extremely dimi nished circumstances. Chen Pan purchases Lucrecia, a mulatta slave raped by her own criollo father, and Domingo e ssentially â€˜purchasesâ€™ Tham Thanh Lan, a Vietnamese prostitute. Both women are the victims of rape and other forms of physical abuse; they are also socially â€˜benea thâ€™ the men they become involved with. In an interview, Cristina Garca explains that â€œthese were not unusual fates fo r women of these times and placesâ€”and in fact, for many women today in va rious parts of the worl d. . . . I wanted very much to make their dire situati ons come vividly to lifeâ€ (Brown). Chen Fangâ€™s narrative, in fact, foregrounds womenâ€™s subordination to men as a deeply embedded network of practices and processes. As R.W. Connell explains, â€œ[a]ll forms of femininity in this society are constructed in th e context of the overall su bordination of women to menâ€ ( Gender and Power 187). While both Chen Fang and Domingo remain marginal figures within the state, Chen Fang clea rly endures the physical and em otional violence of patriarchal power. Despite his diminished access to hege monic masculinity, Domingo continues to enjoy some access to male privilege. However, the nov el demonstrates that these men are largely unable to cope with changes th ey perceive as emasculating. While Domingoâ€™s narrative closes with his abandonment of Tham Thanh Lan and his own increasing disorientation, Chen Fangs ends with a continued faith in the family as a means of restoration and preservation despite the
120 violence of patriarchal authority. Patriarchyâ€™s web of practices and process ultimately prevents the men and the women of this novel from establis hing unitary family or national identifications. Monkey Hunting traces the ways in which a changing he gemonic masculinity can and does erode menâ€™s ability to form and maintain familial and na tional connections, yet at the same time, it also highlights womenâ€™s continued subordination desp ite the accommodations of shifting political systems.
121 CHAPTER 4 THAT RED RUBICON: ANXIETY AND NAT IONAL NOSTALGIA IN SANDRA CISNEROSâ€™ CARAMELO In an era in which globaliza tion and transnationalism have de-emphasized the importance of nationalisms, it might seem unusual to contin ue to discuss the nationâ€™s relevance within migrant and minority communities, and even more so to discuss the nationâ€™s relationship to family within these communities. The migrations which continue to result from global politics, however, have not discarded the ne cessity of the nation, but in fact , changed the nationâ€™s role in the lives of communities and individuals. Certainly nationalisms are also changing as more and more of us become emigrants, exiles and ref ugees, moving farther and farther away from the centralized nationalisms of home countries. Li kewise, the influx of settlers to host countries located at the center of global markets shapes the ways nationalisms are deployed, re-imagined and performed within that host c ountry. Despite these changes, the nationâ€™s representation as a family continues to have much currency in political and imaginative texts. Benedict Anderson notes that modern nationalism rose out of and replaced older forms of social identification, like kinship. Yet even if political and social organiza tions no longer rely on kins hip as they did in the past, the remnants of this imagery remain a powerfu l political tool in nationalist rhetoric. Images of the family help naturalize the stateâ€™s desire to maintain a hierarchical social order and preserve â€˜traditionalâ€™ values while at the same time welc oming â€˜progress.â€™ But at the same time, the nation-as-familyâ€™s representation in migrant communities can emphasize a deterritorialized, hybrid nationalism, as well as the more conserva tive nationalisms of home. Thus, although the family remains a powerful metaphor for state un ity, it also retains its potential for counterhegemonic articulations of nation and nationalism. Emigrant and/or ethnic literatures can contest the hegemony of the host nation, as well as revise the â€˜traditionalâ€™ culture of home. The nation,
122 as Homi Bhabha explains, becomes split within it self, â€œinternally marked by the discourses of minorities, the heterogeneous histories of conten ding peoples, antagonistic and tense locations of cultural differenceâ€ (148). However, these re presentations of â€˜homeâ€™ cultures or communities can also reproduce nostalgic, pa triarchal, and socially excl usive visions of nation and nationalism. Because emigrants must increasingly re ly on literal kinship, as well as that fostered among ethnic communities, for a sense of belonging, it is not surprising that family sagas would remain a necessary means of writing national imaginings. Literary allegories of the nation as family abound in American literature from both continents. In Latin America, the family saga , written most often as romance, easily became a way of imagining and unifying a diverse national community. For other writers in the Americas, however, nation and nationalism via the family saga fills a lack which results from migration and/or marginalization. Writing the family in many instances becomes a means of writing oneself into the nation, either the nation of â€˜originâ€™ or the nation of residence. Those communities separated from the stateâ€™s center and excluded from the â€˜sharedâ€™ history of their country of residence often turn to family hist ory as a means of tracing ties to a homeland. In Sandra Cisnerosâ€™ novel, Caramelo or Puro Cuento , the narrator uses her fa mily to establish her own cultural-national belonging. The narrator thus challenges the geographic boundaries which limit national belonging and citizensh ip. In these narratives, fam ily functions ideologically to transmit â€˜traditionalâ€™ values and myths while as the same time introducing a counter-narrative to territorial or state representati ons of the nation. As Mary N. Layoun explains, â€œ[c]ultural and literary narratives . . . can be read as attempts to negotiate, to counter, to re imagine, to articulate differently the dominant narrativesâ€”literary and cultural as well as national and transnationalâ€” in which they participate and the boundaries those narratives draw and seek to maintainâ€ (94).
123 Despite Carameloâ€™s attempt â€œto articulate differently the dominant narratives,â€ the novelâ€™s investment in specific forms of Mexicanness k eeps it from fully challenging the gender and racial hierarchies of more traditional national narratives. Caramelo or Puro Cuento chronicles the history of th e Reyes family as a means of challenging state-based representati ons of the nation. Rather th an continue the rhetoric of homogeneity, Cisneros uses a family saga to redraw the borders which define national communities and cultures. Through the Reyes family, Cisneros traces the political and historical circumstances which propel the narrator to construct a country â€˜that never existed.â€™ Caramelo spans four generation of the Reyes family hist ory and approximately one hundred fifty years of Mexican and U.S. history. Family helps fill the void left by diverg ent and exclusionary representations of official na tional history and becomes primar y in the political and social development of the narrator. As she defines he r place within the family, Celaya, the narrator, also clarifies her relation to bot h the U.S. and Mexico. Thus, th e novel is at once a chronicle of the Reyesâ€™ history and at the same time an account of Celayaâ€™s coming of age. As a child of Mexican and Mexican American parents, Cela ya has difficulty reconciling Mexican cultural traditions passed down through the family with the weight of those custom s that characterize life in the U.S. Transcribing her parentsâ€™ and her gr andparentsâ€™ histories allo ws her to chart her own ambivalent relationship to Mexic o. While her birth and residence in the U.S. place her outside the Mexican state and the its bordered national community, Celayaâ€™s ethn icity clearly make her marginal within the U.S. Part of Celayaâ€™s pr oject thus becomes an e ffort to establish her relationship to the nation. But rather than writ e an assimilation tale, the narrator constructs a history which records the ambivalence inherent in hybrid national identifications. Her use of
124 family, friends and acquaintances to imagine a â€˜country that never ex istedâ€™ results in a deterritorialized expressi on of Mexican nationalism. Despite her claims to be fashioning an imagined homeland rooted in family history, the narrator clearly takes on the task of (re)constructing a Mexican nation to which she may lay claim. In fact, Caramelo frequently gestures at culturalnational legitimacy through various contradictory and ambivalent methods. As a result, many of the nove lâ€™s interventions of monolithic nationalism alternate between revisions of hegemonic master narratives and nostalgic repetitions of Mexico as a te rritorial Fatherland. Genealogical claims to Mexicanness, for instance, reprioritize the historical and contest th e notion that the family is antithetical to the state.11 Consequently, the novel utilizes family hist ory to organize and give meaning to national history. The structuring of the family geneal ogy itself, however, privil eges the middle-class Mexican, Spanish or white, ancestry of Celaya â€™s father over the Mexican American, indigenous ancestry of her mother. In addition to claimi ng the nation via genealogy, the narrator also authorizes herself through her adoption of rec ognizably Mexican generic forms, such as the telenovela , and through her didactic inclusion of Me xican national and popular history. The novelâ€™s rescripting of roma nce paradigms, which states have of ten used to maintain the illusion of cultural homogeneity, challenges gendered repr esentations of the nation. Yet at the same time, these critiques of romance frequently cont est gender roles at the expense of reinscribing other hierarchies. Likewise, the narratorâ€™s inclus ion of Mexican history in the narrative as well as in the endnotes, call attention to the interrelate d histories of Mexico and the U.S., as well as to ways U.S. imperial and racist policies affect Mexicans and Mexi can Americans. Nevertheless, Celaya engages in a nostalgia for Mexico whic h hinders her ability to critique or even 11 In â€œNo Longer a Future Heaven,â€ Anne McClintock argues that although the family functions metaphorically to naturalize social divisions, it has often been figur ed as the antithesis of the nation.
125 acknowledge the ways Mexican nationalism often re lies on gender difference and inequality. According to Bhabha, however, â€œ[t]he minority does not simply confront the . . . powerful master-discourse with a contradi ctory or negating refere nt. It interrogates its object by initially withholding its objective. Insi nuating itself into the terms of reference of the dominant discourseâ€ (155). As such, minority articulations of the national, in this case Mexico, frequently underscore the ambivalence of the nation as an hist orical and social force. In what follows I examine the ways in which Cisnerosâ€™ Caramelo deploys and revises various master narratives as a means of writing the ambivale nce of national imaginings. In a â€œPilonâ€ at the end of the narrative, Cela ya alludes to the networks which bind emigrant nostalgia to the quest to rec oncile gender, national inclusi on, and cultural and geographic Otherness. She notes that Agustin Laraâ€™s s ong, â€œFarolito,â€ â€œthe taste of a caramelo called Glorias on my tongue. . . . a girl with skin like ca jeta . . . The caramel color of your skin after rising out of the Acapulco foamâ€ all remind her of â€œa country I am homesick for, that doesnâ€™t exist anymore. That never existed. A country I invented. Like all emigrants caught between here and thereâ€ (434, my emphasis). The narra torâ€™s self identification as an emigrant foregrounds her claims to Mexicanne ss; it also explains, in part, her nostalgia for Mexico as an imagined homeland. Her identifications with Mexi co, however, also reveal an awareness of not belonging to the nation in any conventional way, of being â€œcaught between here and thereâ€ (434). Celaya explains her Ot herness as both cultura l/geographic and as specifically gendered. After all, the novelâ€™s project of writing an imagined country c onsists of negotiating a gendered identity often stereotyped in na tion-state imagery. The narrator e xplains that cult ural difference accompanies gender inequality within the nation. Consequently, Laraâ€™s song about nostalgia and
126 memory also propels Celaya to remember a time when she was unaware of her own marginality or of the need to reconcile gender with culture: Not exactly a time, a feeling. . . . a state of being to be more precise. How before my body wasnâ€™t my body. I di dnâ€™t have a body. I was a being as close to a spirit as a spirit. . . . I mean the me I was before puberty . . . I donâ€™t know how it is with boys. . . . But girls somewhere between the ages of, say eight and puberty, girls forget they have bodies. Itâ€™s the time she has trouble keeping herself clean, socks always drooping, knees pocked and bloody, hair crooked as a broo m. She doesnâ€™t look in mirrors. She isnâ€™t aware of being watched. Not aware of her body causing men to look at her yet. There isnâ€™t the sense of the female bodyâ€™s volatility, its ru de weight, the nuisance of dragging it about. There isnâ€™t the world to bully you with it, bludgeon you, condemn you to a life sentence of fear. . . . She is a being as close to a spirit as a spirit. Then that red Rubicon. That never going back there. To that country, I mean. (433-434) In her â€œPilonâ€ at the end of the novel, Celaya es sentially correlates the weight and vulnerability of womanhood with that of cultu ral Otherness. For the narra tor, both gender and cultural marginality become a â€˜rude weightâ€™ which she must consistently re-negotiate in order to reconcile family history and expectation w ith her marginal positi on in the U.S. The cultural angst which fuels Celayaâ€™s text stems from her alienation from U.S. and Mexican societies, neither of which accepts hybri dity or difference easily. In fact, once the Reyes family moves to Texas, Celaya finds th at even among the marginalized, acceptance is often elusive. Chicano views of â€˜brown powerâ€™ as rooted specifi cally in a mestizo history of colonization within the U.S. contrast sharply with the narratorâ€™s identification as a Mexicana of Spanish and American descent. Thus when Cela ya recounts the story of her great-grandfather Eleuterio Reyes from Seville, her classmates harass her for â€œ[p]retending like your Spanishâ€ (354). The narrator, however, unde rstands Mexican identity and me stizaje as much more varied than her classmates will acknowledge: â€œThe re are green-eyed Mexicans. The rich blond Mexicans. The Mexicans with the faces of Arab sheiks. The Jewish Mexicans. . . . The negrito Mexicans of the double coasts. The Chinese Mexi cans. The curly-hair ed, freckle-faced, redheaded Mexicansâ€ (353).
127 In addition to confrontations with Chica no views of Mexicanness, Celaya must also reconcile her Mexican familyâ€™s views of Mexi canidad, one which also seemingly excludes the narrator. According to her Awful Grandmothe r, her Aunty Light-Skin and even her father, Americans are barbarians, people without proper ma nners or morals. The narrator notes that her father often calls Chicanos â€œexagerados, vulga rones, zoot-suiting, wild-talking, mota-smoking, forgot-they-were-Mexican Mexicansâ€ (251). Th us, for Innocencio and other members of the family, Mexican identity is of ten bound to questions of authen ticity and mimicry. As such, Celaya must repeatedly assert her own Mexican identity in the context of these two conflicting and limiting views of Mexicanness. By narrating the familyâ€™s migratory Mexican and U.S. history and by employing strategic Mexican cultural forms, Celaya re-confirms her claims to Mexicanidad. As she explains, â€œI am Mexican. Even though I was born on the U.S. side of the borderâ€ (353). By claiming this identity, she al so redraws the borders of national inclusion. In articulating her claims to a Mexican identit y, Celaya must also re define her relationship to the gendered hierarchy of family relations. Her desire for independence and a room of her own contradicts her fatherâ€™s belief that â€œGood gi rls donâ€™t leave fatherâ€™s house until they marryâ€ (359). Otherwise, her father explains, â€œyou leave . . . como una prostituta â€ (359). Moreover, as the only daughter among siete hijos ,12 the narrator often feels marg inalized. The opening scene of the novel, in fact, re counts a trip to Acapulco and a fam ily photograph from which Celaya is notably absent. She explains, â€œItâ€™ s as if I didnâ€™t existâ€ (4). T hus, the novelâ€™s re-evaluations of family and national history allow Celaya to redefi ne womenâ€™s roles with both institutions. As a result, much of the text hinges on reconciling he r nostalgia for Mexico with the realities of womenâ€™s position with in the nation. The ambivale nce which results points to the difficulties of 12 â€œSiete hijosâ€ means, literally, seven sons. In Spanish, however, hijos can also mean children.
128 challenging master-narratives for emigrants and ot her nationals living outs ide the borders of the state. After all, maintaining a relation to an â€˜imaginedâ€™ homeland functions as an important means of structuring identity with in in a foreign country. As Caramelo demonstrates, articulations of nationness, even from the margin s, are not necessarily free of the legacies of hegemonic power. Celayaâ€™s attempts to re-write influential romance paradigms, as we will see, reveals some of these inconsistencies. Rescripting Romance Paradigms Doris Sommerâ€™s seminal work on Latin Ameri can national narratives demonstrates that nineteenth century romance novels of emerging nati ons relied on heterosexua l love as a means of projecting unity among diverse populations. She explains that during this period, â€œnational ideals are . . . ostensibly grounded in â€˜natural,â€™ heterosexual l ove and in the marriages that provided a figure for apparently nonviolent cons olidation during interneci ne conflicts at midcenturyâ€ (6). After all, Latin American nations gained independence after lengthy struggles in which criollos figured most prominently. For countri es with large indigenous and African populations, independence meant a continued effort at unification on the part of the bourgeoisie. Romance novels, according to Sommer, facilita ted middle class attempts at a mythical heterogeneity. Consequently these romances ofte n bridged class, race an d religious differences through marriage as â€œan exhortation to be fruitf ul and multiplyâ€ (Sommer 6). Despite these romantic attempts to bridge class and racial differences, however, Sommer notes that national narratives frequently projected id eal states which reinforced the status quo. Like these early romances, the contemporary telenovela reproduces hierarchical visions of the national community. Telenovelas are Latin American serials equivale nt to U.S. soap operas; however, the former are usually much shorter, airing for three to twelve months. According to Adriana Estill, telenovelas â€œprovide the perfect means for synthesi zing diverse regional identities into an
129 intelligible, cohesive national wholeâ€ (169). Like wise, Ana Lopez notes that they offer â€œdramas of recognition and re-cognition by locating social and political i ssues in personal and familial terms and thus making sense of an in creasingly complex worldâ€ (257). The telenovela , in fact, borrows its Cinderella-like plot structure from these early Latin American romances. Class mobility in the telenovela remains gendered; it also repeats the romanceâ€™s attempts to establish criollo claims to the land/nation by making a genera tive (via love and marriage), rather than a genealogical claim (Sommer 15). As a result, class mobility in the telenovela is often restricted to virtuous and/or morally superior women whos e physical appearance remains consistent with Latin American notions of whiteness. Both ge nder and race are reproduced in ways which often only simulate mobility by granting it to the â€˜worthyâ€™â€”virtuous, white women. Both the founding romances of Latin American natio nalism and contempor ary reproductions of hegemonic nationalism via the telenovela reinforce gender, racial, and regional hierarchies. For instance, a popular 1997 telenovela , Mara Isabel: Si Tu Supieras , traces the rise of a poor but beautiful young woman. Adela Noriega star s as Mara Isabel, a humble Huichol Indian who befriends Graciela, the weal thy daughter of her familyâ€™s pa tron. When a pregnant Graciela discovers that her father has ha d her lover murdered, she runs aw ay with Mara Isabel and later dies in childbirth. Mara Isabel completes her vow to her friend and raises Rosa Isela, Gracielaâ€™s daughter, as her own. In raisi ng the orphaned child (whose gra ndfather was too cruel to be trusted with the task), Mara Is abel willingly takes on the role of the suffering mother, a role which has a long history in Mexic o. In presenting herself as a si ngle mother, she also subjects herself to the criticisms and judgments of t hose around her. After years of searching for permanent employment and fleeing Don Felix, Graci elaâ€™s father, she finally secures employment in the home of a wealthy widower. The two eventua lly fall in love and marry, as Ricardo, played
130 by Fernando Carrillo, learns not only of Mara Isabelâ€™s virtue, but al so of her ability to sacrifice herself for others. But as in most telenovelas , their marriage occasions a host of other difficulties as Mara Isabel tries to navigate societyâ€™s pr ejudices. Eventually, however, the lovers find happiness and social acceptance; the evil character s are either killed or imprisoned and society comes to accept Mara Isabel. Yet her movement into upper class society is facilitated by her beauty, or rather, her whiteness. Despite her colorful braids and i ndigenous clothing, Mara Isabel does not bear any other physical markers of indigenous bl ood. Other servants, as well as Mara Isabelâ€™s parents, however, have darker skin and more indigenous physiognomies. As a result, her movement into upper class society poses less of a threat to the existing social order. Once she begins to dress like the other society women, only Mara Isabelâ€™s manners mark her as Other. Rather than challenging social hierarchies, Mara Isabel â€™s entry into society becomes a means of infusing â€˜newâ€™ blood into what appear s to be a morally decaying aristocracy; Mara Isabelâ€™s purity and simplicity, in fact, propel th e society women who befriend her to reassess the prejudices of their class. In addition to legitim ating class mobility via virtue and/or purity, many telenovelas also incorporate genealogical just ifications for class mobility. In El Privilegio de Amar (1998) and Rosa Salvaje (1987), the protagonist s discover that they are the daughters of wealthy women, and thus their marriages into society do not contest the social order. Telenovelas also consistently repr oduce binary representati ons of women. Main protagonists like Mara Isabel represent vi rtue and goodness, while scheming nemeses are typically presented as promiscuous , manipulative, and evil. These telenovelas are thus constantly reproducing the battle between good and evil as a means of reinforcing a moral view of the national culture. As Estill argues, the telenovelaâ€™s emphasis on â€œmorality, justice, and the eternal play between good and evil . . . create at every turn a portrait of what the nation should
131 beâ€ (179). Moreover, the battle between good and evil women is one which repeats the palimpsest of the nationâ€™s founding, that between the mestiza Virgin of Guadalupe and La Malinche (Estill 179). Both women essentially re present the foundations of a mestizo nation, but while the nation venerates the image of the Vi rgin as that which its women should follow, national narratives have often made La Malinche into a scapegoat for the conquest of Mexico. La Malinche, or Doa Marina, wa s the indigenous slave of Hernan Cortes who presumably aided in Mexicoâ€™s conquest by acting as an interpreter for the Spanish. Jean Franco notes that it was not until independence and the subsequent attemp ts to construct a cohe rent national identity surfaced that Doa Marina became La Malinche, the national traitor (131) . She then â€œcame to symbolize the humiliationâ€”the rapeâ€”of the indigenous people and the act of treachery that would lead to their oppressionâ€ (Franco 131). Moreover, in figuring Doa Marina as La Malinche, national myths also erased women from any active/public role in the founding of the new nation. As Franco explains , the problem of national identity thus becomes figured as a problem of male identity, with women represented as passive mothers/rape vi ctims or as traitors (131). Although scholars and writers like Cisneros have revised older myths about La Malinche, telenovela representations of wome n as virgin/whore have c ontinued to reproduce these stereotypes. It is prec isely this opposition which telenovelas frequently employ as a means of reinforcing particular roles fo r women within the nation. As telenovelas like Mara Isabel demonstrate, women should take their place as self sacrificing mothers and caregivers in order to find happiness, but also as a means of preserving the nation. Cisnerosâ€™ 1992 story, â€œWoma n Hollering Creek,â€ critiques the ways in which telenovelas conspire to efface womenâ€™s agency by reinforcin g traditional gender roles. The narrative opens with Clefilas, a young Mexican woman, preparing for her marriage to a man living on the other
132 side of the border. Clefilas dreams of l ove and passion, â€œ[t]he kind books and songs and telenovelas describe when one fi nds, finally, the great love of one â€™s life, and does whatever one can, must do, at whatever the costâ€ (44). Despite her dreams of a telenovela -like life in Texas, however, she soon finds that her husband is controll ing and abusive. She notes that her life is much like the telenovelas she watches, â€œonly now the episodes keep getting sadder and sadderâ€ (52). The fotonovelas she fills her days with only reinforce the gender stereotypes about passivity and womenâ€™s sexuality/morality. Her neighbors, Dolores and Soledad, however, make evident the dangers of these narratives. Both neighbors fill their days m ourning the past and the men who have died and/or abandoned them. Their names, which translate literally as pain and solitude respectively, offer Clefilas a glimpse into her own future if she remains in her abusive marriage. Only by refusing to wait for the narra tive of her life to change on its own does Clefilas manage to escape her abusive husband. She seeks and fi nds the strength and assistance to leave him through Felice, an independent woman who surp rises and impresses her: â€œEverything about this woman, this Felice, amazed Clefilas. The fact that she drove a pick-up. . . . The pickup was hers. She herself had chos en itâ€ (55). Felice, which means happiness, demonstrates that independence can also offer women avenues for self-fulfillment. Cisnerosâ€™ narrative emphasizes the ways in which telenovela romances are burdensome for women because they reinforce the notion that â€˜goodâ€™/pure women should not be independent (of husbands) and should remain loyal to family and children. Although Cisneros draws on th ese romantic forms again in the second section of Caramelo , she often does so ambivalently. On the one hand, Soledadâ€™s narrativ e is a critique of romance paradigms in telenovelas and fairy tales, on the other, the narrative frequently indulges in nostalgia for the nation-state which seems anat hema to her critique of romance. â€œWhen I was
133 Dirtâ€ plays on the conventions of the telenovela /romance as a means of reconstructing, and to some extent understanding, the Awful Grandmotherâ€™s life. In this sect ion of the text the narratorâ€™s grandmother, Soledad, is simply an or phaned girl of humble origins whose life takes a number of unexpected turns. Although her narrative begins rather conventionally, with Soledadâ€™s father sending her away to a relative after he remarri es, Celaya consistently calls attention to the parallels between telenovela , romance and fairy tale by making references to â€œThe Snow Queenâ€ and â€œCinderella,â€ by suggesti ng potential melodramatic section titles, and by citing song lyrics to accompany the chapters. De spite her playful framing of the narrative as a textual telenovela , Celaya undermines the romanceâ€™s binary representations of women. Rather than repeat the telenovelaâ€™s narrative of virgin/whore as good/evil, Celaya writes her grandmotherâ€™s sexual experiences as a means of calling attenti on to the power dynamics which often govern(ed) representations of women. In f act, Soledadâ€™s interruptions into the narrative, which the author sets in bold typeface, serve to highlight the differences between idealized versions of the romance paradigm and Celayaâ€™s rescripting. Soledadâ€™ s narrative reveals her inability to escape these paradigms despite her effo rts at restitution. She explains, â€œjust like in the fairy tales, he [Narciso] fell in love with me, even though I was dusty from the house chores. All the same, he could see I was his love of loves. So quick as could be, he arranged to have me stolen, and well we married, and thereâ€ (122). Celayaâ€™s narra tive, on the other hand, describes Soledadâ€™s naivet about her body, her sexuality in particular, and Narcisoâ€™ s belief in his own privilege. Soledad was so â€œnave . . . about her body, she did not know how many orifices her body had, nor what they were for. Then as now , the philosophy of sexual education for women wasâ€”the less said the betterâ€ (156 ). The couple only marries after Narcisoâ€™s father learns that Soledad is pregnant and exhorts him to marry her. Moreover, the narrator departs from the
134 conventional fairy tale and telenovela plot by continuing the narrative beyond the wedding. Whereas Soledadâ€™s version stops at her wedding â€”â€œwell we married, and thereâ€ (122)â€”Celayaâ€™s continues in order to recount Narcisoâ€™s love for another woman, and the transference of Soledadâ€™s love onto her first born son, Innocencio, the narratorâ€™s father. Celaya rejects the fairy tale ending in favor of a conti nued exploration of the sufferings which caused Soledad to become the Awful Grandmother. In doing so, she questions the romanceâ€™s ability to represent women, as well as the ways in which it perpetuates myths about gender relations and marriage. Thus although â€œWhen I was Dirtâ€ remains less critical of the telenovela form than â€œWoman Hollering Creek,â€ it does attempt a demyth ification of womenâ€™s st atus in Mexican and Mexican American culture. Soledadâ€™s sexual e xperience in particular allows a more varied representation of womenâ€™s se xuality than contemporary telenovelas , which often fall into categorizing female protagonists as exclusively virtuous or fallen. Women in romance narratives which reinforce centralized visions of national culture are often figured as archetypes. The resulting dichotomy often draws on Mexican myth s about La Malinche and of the Virgin of Guadalupe. In an attempt to break down these stereotypes, Celayaâ€™s narrative underscores the differences in power which led to her grandmothe râ€™s pregnancy and subsequent marriage. Like La Malinche, Soledad was a servant who had no acce ss to family or authority which might allow her to protect herself from serving her patrons in any way they desired. For Celaya, in particular, understanding her grandmotherâ€™s history, and th e power dynamics which led to her marriage, allows her to re-evaluate her own gendered identity within Mexican-Mexican American culture. In using her grandmotherâ€™s story to frame her own cultural history, she also raises questions about womenâ€™s roles with the nation.
135 If, as Anne McClintock argues, â€œthe needs of the nation [are] typically identified with the frustrations and aspirations of menâ€ (89), then Cisnerosâ€™ constr uction of an imagined national history through Soledad contests the notion that men are contiguous with the nation. Although Soledadâ€™s story does not vary greatly from contemporary telenovelaâ€™s reproduction of gender roles, the storyâ€™s incorporation of footnotes and of parallel/diverge nt stories and characters offer readers a way out of masculinized notions of nation/nationalism. In an interview with Gayle Elliot, Cisneros comments on the difficulty of recovering ancestors, particularly women: â€œtheyâ€™re so anonymous that a woman gets lost within a ge neration or two. In most cases, even if you knew them you donâ€™t know their last names.â€ Pa rt of the novelâ€™s project thus becomes a recovery and rewriting of women and nation. In Caramelo , Soledadâ€™s story becomes the primary vehicle through which to trace Mexi can history. In addition to in corporating hist orical events into the backdrop of the narrative, Celaya also footnotes geographical references, tangential historical events and personages, as well as fictional accounts of the Reyesâ€™s family history. The result is a national history seconda ry to the familyâ€™s narrative. In other words, Reyes family history determines the meaning and the importance of Mexican and American national histories. The footnotes also highlight the narratorâ€™s creativ e role in imagining a liminal nationalism from fragments of Mexican history. In addition to fulfilling a didactic function for readers unfamiliar with Mexican history, the footnotes also often incorporate historical and contemporary women who resisted traditional gender roles. Unlike telenovelas , which typically condemn â€˜fallenâ€™ and/or evil women, Carameloâ€™s footnotes playfully recount the stories of women who refused to be hemmed in by national-cultural myths. For inst ance, the narrator recounts the escapades of Panfila Palafox, or Adela Delgadina Pulido Tovar, a singer â€œfamous for running off with everyoneâ€™s wifeâ€ (180).
136 She not only runs off with the fictional Exalta cin Henestrosa, who has an affair with the narratorâ€™s grandfather, Narciso, but Panfila also rejects her bourgeois Mexican upbringing when she becomes a traveling singer/performer. Likewi se, Mara Sabina offers the narrator another opportunity to include women who defied national traditions. After Exaltacin leaves him, Narciso seeks help from Mara Sabina, a curand era famous for introducing a sacred mushroom ceremony to outsiders. Both stor ies reject binary re presentations of women and make women central to Celayaâ€™s national imaginings. But Soledadâ€™s story also allows Celaya to recover and reconstruct Mexican history as a means of coming to terms with her own iden tity and as a way of understanding the ways gendered national narratives condition women to accept limited roles. Soledadâ€™s story, in fact, becomes a cautionary tale for Celaya, who narra tes the story only after her dead grandmother appears to her at her fatherâ€™s hospita l bed. Soledad tells her granddaughter, Itâ€™s you , Celaya, whoâ€™s haunting me . I canâ€™t bear it. Why do you insist on repeating my life? Is that what you want? To live as I did? Thereâ€™s no sin in falling in love with your heart and your body, but wait till youâ€™re old e nough to love yourself first. (406) Celayaâ€™s attempt at mimicking telenovela romances by eloping with her boyfriend, Ernesto, prompts the Awful Grandmother to reveal her own unhappiness, and cons equently, the failures and inconsistencies of roma nce fantasies reproduced in fotonovelas , telenovelas , and other mediums. She warns Celaya, â€œdonâ€™t wind up like me, settling with the first man who paid me a complimentâ€ (407). Soledadâ€™s story, like Clefila sâ€™ in â€œWoman Hollering Creek,â€ explores the ways romance fictions can inhibit womenâ€™s independence. Despite Cisnerosâ€™ overtures to disrupt the telenovelaâ€™s romance plot through Soledad, the narrative often lapses into a repe tition of these paradigms, as we ll as a nostalgia for bourgeois Mexican culture. For instance, Reginaâ€™s story, footnoted in Sole dadâ€™s narrative, incorporates race critiques while at the same time reproduc ing Mexican myths about â€˜la India bonita.â€™
137 Celayaâ€™s footnotes explain that Regina, Soledadâ€™s moth er-in-law, comes from a family â€œas dark as cajeta and as humble as a tortilla of nixtamal â€ (116). Reginaâ€™s social standing changes, however, when she marries Eleuterio Reyes, a Sp anish immigrant. Celaya uses the racial differences between her great-grandparents to question Mexican perceptions of beauty which value whiteness. She explains th at her great-grandfather â€œwas lik e a big grizzled vulture, but so pale and hazel-eyed, Mexicans considered him handsome,â€ while Re gina â€œthought herself homely because of her Indian features, but in reality was li ke la India Bonitaâ€ (117). La India Bonita, the beautiful Indian woman, has her roots in 1920s Me xico as the country recovered from civil wars and tumultuous shifts in government. In an effort to promote a unique national culture, artists, intellectua ls and politicians looked to an indigenous past as a means of celebrating a Mexican culture differe nt from its European colonize r. In 1921, Mexico celebrated a beauty pageant called â€˜La India Bonitaâ€™ in whic h indigenous women were as ked to participate. Apen Ruiz argues that â€œâ€™La India Bonitaâ€™ is a significant example of the gendered nature of nationalism; it is a public display that crystalliz es a multiplicity of nationalist concerns about purity, tradition, and anti-femini smâ€ (287). The 1920â€™s representa tions of indigenous pageant contestants in particular emphasized their timel essness as well as their movement toward modernity as they migrated from the countryside to the city. La India Bo nita pageant was clearly invested in representing a passive , traditional, historic vision of the mestiza and indigenous woman. Regina serves as a c ontradiction to these represen tations of indigenous women; however, her placement with in a romance plot structure aligns her more closely with the ways in which telenovelas have used Medi terranean and white actors to play indigenous characters. Like Adela Noriegaâ€™s Mara Isabel, Regina too becomes whitened by her beauty, while indigenous blood remains associated largely with a â€œfamily . . . as dark as cajeta â€ (117). Stephen
138 Knadler contends that, â€œthe mestiza has become a site of contestation within current U.S. culture, and although she has often been held up as a figure of multicultural or global consciousness, many representations of the mestiza, even those coming from the margin, can preserve the strong normative function of whiteness and tr ivialize, if not completely erase the mestizaâ€™s . . . diasporic history and cultureâ€ (2). In fact, race as a marker of national-cultural identity remains one-sided throughout much of the narrative. Reginaâ€™s beauty and class posi tion minimize her indigenous heritage, just as the positioning of her story within a footnote buries the Reyesâ€™ ties to an indigenous/mestizo past. Likewise, Celayaâ€™s Mexican American mother, Zo ila, has feet like â€œbarro,â€ an obvious allusion to her indigenous roots, yet she r eceives little discussion or descri ption in the narr ative. Instead, Celaya privileges her fatherâ€™s white, Spanis h, Mexican ancestry. Although the narratorâ€™s emphasis on a Mexican, rather than a Mexican Amer ican, history appears to be the result of her position in the U.S., it also seems to replicate mi ddle class notions of Mexican whiteness. This nostalgia for Mexico as a white fatherland perh aps also stems from the authorâ€™s personal losses at the time she was working on the novel; Cisn erosâ€™ father was dying of cancer during the writing of this text. In an interview with Hispanic Magazine , Cisneros explains: â€œI knew he was going to die when I was writing the book . . . It was kind of a way to carry me through that rite of passageâ€ (Newman). In the same interview, she also acknowledges that she â€œcreated this story to fill in gaps so that [she] could understand [her] father and to write his historyâ€ (Newman). Yet despite the absence of a varied racial discourse, mestizaje ha unts the text through a number of different metaphors and images. The caramelo color of Candelariaâ€™s skin, Candelaria herself, the caramelo rebozo , and the mixed generic form and plot of the narra tive constantly highlight a mestizaje that nevertheless remains marginal to the Reyes family history. The
139 caramelo rebozo , for instance, figures prominently in the narrative; it is the only memory/artifact Soledad retains from her mother. Th e narrator notes that the Mexican rebozo evolved from the cloths Indian women used to ca rry their babies, from Spanish shawls, and from Chinese silk embroideries; â€œ[t]he rebozo was born in Mexico , but like all mestizos, it came from everywhereâ€ (96). Nevertheless, mestizaje as a central co mponent of the Reyes family remains largely symbolic and/or marginal. The grandmotherâ€™s rebozo thus symbolizes a mestizaje which never becomes a part of the central discourse or of Ce layaâ€™s construction of a new nationalism rooted in family history. Like the grandmotherâ€™s caramelo rebozo , Candelaria, Celayaâ€™s half sister and the daughter of her grandmotherâ€™s indigenous washerwoman, ha unts the narratorâ€™s family/national history. She is the marginalized, illegitimate and unacknowl edged daughter of the narratorâ€™s father. Yet ironically, the image of Candelaria ri sing out of the water gives birth to the rest of this narrative. Cisneros explains that her novel in part evolved from an unfini shed short story about a childhood memory of a girl who had skin the color of caramel: â€œâ€˜She was a mulatto, with this incredible colored skin that Iâ€™d never seen beforeâ€™. . . â€˜I saw her for a couple of seconds in my life, and I wondered all these years why she stayed with me. The title really belongs to that little girlâ€™â€ (Newman). Canderlaria, in fact, raises a num ber of questions about race, gender and power; however, these are discarded as the narrator focuse s on family jealousies. Early in the narrative, this girl with skin like â€œa caramelo. A color so sweet , it hurts even to look at herâ€ (34) prompts Celaya to rethink accepted notions of beauty. She explains, â€œuntil I met Candelaria I think beautiful is Aunty Light-Skin, or the dolls with lavender hair . . . or the women on the beauty contests we watch on television. Not this girl with too many teeth like white corn and black hair, black-black like rooster feat hers that gleam green in the sunâ€ ( 34-5). But Celaya also learns that
140 Candelariaâ€™s exclusion is closely ti ed to the skin and hair color th at she finds so fascinating. Her Mexican cousin taunts Celaya for playing with a â€œdirty Indianâ€ ( 36) and the rest of her family ignore or avoid the girl. Candelariaâ€™s presence in the narrative acts to highlight a mestizaje which the narrator refuses to make part of the familyâ€™s hist ory. Her image haunts the narrative through the repetitions of caramel colored rebozos , photographs, candies, and othe r family artifacts. Yet there is no attempt to discuss or reveal the imp lications of Candelariaâ€™s presence as a mestiza, illegitimate daughter. In a sens e she comes to represent an alter ego for Celaya, a presence which illuminates her own mixed he ritage especially given her mo ther, Zoilaâ€™s, mixed ancestry. But if Candelaria represents the beauty of a mestizaje which Celaya only superficially accepts, she also reveals Celayaâ€™s fears of gender and ra cial Otherness within both family and nation. After all, Celaya could have been this ostraciz ed girl, unrecognized a nd unloved by her father. Moreover, Celayaâ€™s close identifications with he r fatherâ€™s white Mexican family and her position as an Other within the U.S. hinder her from full identification with Candelaria. Rather than engage in a discussion of me stizaje and of Candelaria and her motherâ€™s exclusion from the Reyesâ€™ perception that they are â€˜gente de bien,â€™ th e narrator subsumes this discourse within petty family jealousies. The awful grandmotherâ€™s jealou sy of Zoila, her sonâ€™s wife, prompts her to reveal that Candelaria is really Innocenci oâ€™s daughter. Likewise, Ziolaâ€™s response fuels an ultimatum which forces her hus band to choose between her and his mother. Any discussion of power relations or of gender/race oppression is transformed into a struggle between women for one manâ€™s attention. Years la ter when Zoila reveals the truth, Celaya seems more concerned about her fatherâ€™s regrets than about the lives of his oldest daughter and her mother. Her first words are â€œPoor Papaâ€ (405). Instead of questioning her father, she questions
141 the Awful Grandmother about her motivations for re vealing the secret to Zoila. When she finally has the opportunity to ask her father about his acti ons, and particularly about his inability to live up to the family expression, â€œwe are not dogs,â€ Celaya keeps her questions and her thoughts to herself. Although the narrator atte mpts to understand her grandmot herâ€™s actions over the years, primarily by recounting her story in the novel, sh e clearly judges her more harshly than she does her father for Candelariaâ€™s position and upbringing. Despite the narratorâ€™s gestures at rescripting romance, Candela riaâ€™s story, which is gleaned in bits and pieces throughout the na rrative, reinforces class/race hierarchies. After all, she is the daughter of a maid and her young patron. But un like the Cinderella-like plot structures of popular telenovelas , she is never recognized by her father, nor does she manage to make her way into the middle class by marrying up. Instead, sh e disappears with her mo ther into the Mexican countryside, where her family can protect her fr om men like Innocencio. In fact, Candelariaâ€™s early departure from Acapulco allows the author to underscore the irony of her desire to become a telenovela star. Early in the narrative, she confides to Celaya that she wants â€œto be an actress, like the ones that cry on the teleâ€ (35). Upon her re turn to Mexico City, Ca ndelaria gets lost at the bus terminal and she â€œdoes appear on televi sion crying and crying tele novela tearsâ€ before she and her mother return to their village in Nayarit (68). Perhaps Celayaâ€™s failure to critique instances of patriarchal power is the result of the authorâ€™s position that Mexico is a â€˜matriarchalâ€™ culture and that the love between mothers and sons and between fathers and daughter is the quinte ssential Mexican love stor y. After all, parent child bonds are the most productive instances of love in the novel. The main narrative, in fact, reads like an inverted love story between Celaya and her father. Romance, as Cisneros explains,
142 becomes a means of representing Mexican-ness. In an interview with Gayle Elliot after the publication of Caramelo , Cisneros claims that macho societies come from matriarchal cult ures. What Iâ€™m always looking forâ€”and I think every writer must look for thisâ€”is the th ing that makes us different. . . . When I think about what makes me different, Iâ€™m always looking at my Mexican culture. Of course, I like to write about l ove, but then Iâ€™ll ask, how is Mexican love different from American love? Iâ€™ll look at the Mexican mode ls of love, and that leads me to the true Mexican love. True love in Mexico isnâ€™t betw een lovers; itâ€™s between a parent and a child. Mexico is a very intense culture of sons adoring their mothers, and this is why I claim that Mexican culture is matriarchal. (Elliot) In this passage Cisneros draws a correlation between Mexican culture and romance, a move which implicates her own narrativeâ€™s claims to Mexican cultural authenti city. The relationship between Innocencio and Soldedad, which is later tr ansposed onto Celaya and her father, is thus figured as uniquely Mexican/national. In a ch apter aptly titled â€œA scene in a hospital that resembles a telenovela when in actuality itâ€™s the telenovelas that resemble this scene,â€ Cisneros stages a struggle between Soledad and Celaya over Innocencioâ€™s fate . Soledad in sense transfers her own love for her son to her granddaughter, who later acknowledges â€œthe terr ible truth of it. I am the Awful Grandmother. For love of Father , Iâ€™d kill anyone who came near him to hurt him or make him sad. Iâ€™ve turned into herâ€ (424-5). According to Cisneros â€˜Mexican loveâ€™ is thus uniquely different from â€˜American loveâ€™ because it emphasizes love between a parent and a child. Ironically, telenovela romances, which Cisneros rescript s in Soledadâ€™s story, often rely primarily on love between hetero sexual couples, not parents and children. Despite her gestures at revising nationalist myths, she participates in the essentializing of Mexican culture. Furthermore, in claiming that â€œ[w]hatever brav ado Mexican culture may have, its macho society, is created from a matriarchal cultureâ€ (Elliot), Ci sneros suggests that women have much more active roles in the propagation and exercise of patriarchal power. On a narrative level, her
143 comments suggest that Innocencioâ€™s actions are somehow conditioned by his relationship with his mother, the Awful Grandmother. Thus â€˜Mex ican love,â€™ being matriarchal, presumably inhibits Innocencioâ€™s ability to form a relations hip with his illegitimate mestiza daughter. But Candelariaâ€™s conception and birt h are conspicuously absent from the narrative, as are Innocencioâ€™s explanations for abandoning his firs t daughter. This vers ion of motherhood thus reproduces or sanctions a visi on of nation which continues to exclude non-white/indigenous Others from the national family. Repeating this stereotype of self-sac rificing motherhood as a characteristic of the national culture also reveal s a desire to reconstruct the nation within the parameters set by state representa tions of nationalism, and, thus, further cement her own (and the narratorâ€™s) claims to Mexicanidad. As Ellen McCracken observes, â€œCisneros herself and her writing might be understood as a series of nomadic texts in which she continually reconfigures ethnic images [and symbols] as sp ectacle in order to recuperate memory and identityâ€ (par 3). Only the legitimate, â€˜whiteâ€™ daughter, however, can claim Mexicanidad. Footnoting Imagined Histories If the telenovela quality of Cisnerosâ€™s novel, Caramelo , gestures ambivalently at the narratorâ€™s (and perhaps the authorâ€™s ) cultural legitimacy, then the endnotes included at the end of most chapters provide her a vehicle through whic h to further stage the narrativeâ€™s claims to Mexicanness. These endnotes are primarily didact ic, explaining historical references, trivia, pop cultural references and figures, as well as crea tive spaces where the narrator can include buried family sub-plots. Still, they serve largely as a means of incorporating Mexican history. The subordinate status of national hi story in the novel, its placement li terally at the margins of the familyâ€™s history, contests the ways in which st ates construct nation and nationalism. By using her family to determine the meaning and relevan ce of Mexicoâ€™s history, Celaya destabilizes the notion that the national is synonymous with the stat e. In doing so, she also suggests that the
144 family, not the state, is the primary means of na tional and cultural identifi cation, particularly for emigrants and their children. In addition to re-prioritizing state and fam ily relationships to national imaginings, the endnotes also help authenticate Celayaâ€™s family memoir. In scholarly texts, footnotes and endnotes are marginalia which explain sources and â€œstep outs ide the critical discourse and comment on itâ€ (Benstock 204). In other words, scholarly endnotes typica lly provide writers a space in which to engage directly with readers in a voice different from that of the primary text (Benstock 204). Shari Benstock explains, however , that â€œauthority in fict ional texts rests not on extratextual sources that suppor t an intellectual aesthetic but on the implied presence of the authorâ€”as creator certainly and sometimes as speakerâ€”who is immedi ately and frequently directly engaged with the reader, not solely with the textâ€ (207). As readers we are aware of Celayaâ€™s role as the writer of the Reyesâ€™ fam ily history, and thus, her role in constructing the endnotes. Yet, on another level, we also expect that the endnotes, like scholarly notes, will be authorial interventions or digressions. To furt her complicate matters, Cisneros uses the endnotes both as a tool for her own editori alizing and as a way to expand Celayaâ€™s narrative voice. For instance, Celaya uses an endnote to record one of her great-gra ndfatherâ€™s waltzes; however, this note is followed by another in which the author credits the waltz to her own great-grandfather: *â€A Waltz without a Nameâ€ because I lost th at paper but I remember it went . . . (Composerâ€”el Seor Eleuterio Luis Gon zaga Francisco Javier Re yes Arriaga, born in the year 1871 and baptized that year as per r ecords found in the rectory of Saint Stephen of Seville. This document proves without a doubt the family Reyes is directly descended from Spanish blood.) . . . This song was actually written by the author â€™s great-grandfather, Enrique Cisneros Vasquez. (123) The first note clearly belongs in th e fictional realm, while the other asks us to entertain the idea that this episode, like others, is â€˜realâ€™ and/or historical . Celayaâ€™s note simulates historical fact by establishing Eleuterio Reyesâ€™ Sp anish bloodline, which I will re turn to in a moment, and by
145 providing additional documentationâ€”the lyrics of the waltz. The authorâ€™s endnote, however, emphasizes the first noteâ€™s position as simulacra and immediately pulls th e reader out of the realm of fiction. At the same time, this note es tablishes its own veracity and affirms that the previous note, and possibly other aspects of Eleu terioâ€™s story are in fact based on the authorâ€™s family history. The result is a secondary note which breaks the suspension of disbelief and testifies to the narra tiveâ€™s basis in reality. Moreover, the use of the endnote to establish Eleuterioâ€™s â€œSpanish bloodâ€ emphasizes the narrato râ€™s attempts to authenti cate her own claims to the Mexican middle-class. The endnotes frequently call attention to the presence of the author, a strategy which not only allows Cisneros to authorize her narrator, but which also enables a reading of this text as an historical-cultural artifact. The sh ifts from indirect to direct a ddress within the endnotes in fact rely on the prior construction of Cisnerosâ€™ authority on the histories she negotiates and reimagines. Given the overlapping of Cisneros and Celayaâ€™s voices in the endnotes, as well as the parallels between the narratorâ€™s life and the authorâ€™s, it seems Cisneros intentionally presents her novel as having a basis in â€˜t ruth,â€™ even if facts and name s are often altered within the narrative. After all, both narrator and author are daughters of Mexican fathers and Mexican American mothers; both grow up in Chicago an d the southwest; both were only daughters among six brothers; and both spent thei r childhoods traveling be tween Mexico and the U.S. Her playful exhortations that the novel is â€œpuro cuentoâ€ belie her efforts to educate readers about the intersections of U.S. and Mexican histories. In fact, Celaya frequently highlights the contradictory meanings of historia , which can mean either stor y or history, when recalling family memories passed down to her. Cisneros herself acknowledges that much of the narrative comes from her own experience:
146 itâ€™s based on real people but it isnâ€™t autobiography. . . . I thin k that as human beings people touch us, especially people we love the most and we canâ€™t help but do character sketches when we go to our art. I felt that I was taki ng some real filaments of my life, some real memories, but I was embroidering from that . . . The characters were spun from real memories and there might be some of the pl otâ€”the trips to Mexico that were based on memory . . . (Birnbaum) Likewise, the â€œDisclaimerâ€ which opens the novel plays on the truths and â€˜embroideryâ€™ of the narrative which follows: â€œThe tr uth, these stories are nothing but story, bits of string, odds and ends found here and there, embroidered together . . . I have invented what I do not know and exaggerated what I do . . . If, in the course of my inventing, I ha ve inadvertently stumbled on the truth, perdnenme .â€ In both interviews and narrative in terventions, Cisneros grounds her text in the historical as livedâ€”personalâ€” experience. As such, the narra torâ€™s authority to reconstruct national history emanates from the authorâ€™s e xperiences and her access to the testimonies of others who experienced these historie s. After all, if this novel is dedicated to Cisnerosâ€™ father, as well as to emigrants like him, then it seems logi cal to assume that the didactic inclusion of historical references is an attempt at recovering a familial and cultural past. Like Julia Alvarez, who not only puts herself in to her novels as a means of bearing witness to the histories she presents but also incorpor ates human and textual s ources into her epilogues and acknowledgements, Cisneros too credits â€œthe walking Smithsoniansâ€ who helped her recover fragments of the past (Suarez). In her â€œAc knowledgementsâ€ at the end of the book, the author credits family and friends who helped her rec onstruct a family and national past which she â€˜embroideredâ€™ as the story of the family Reyes: For research assistance I am indebted to several individuals for their testimonios and investigations. First to my fa therâ€™s cousin . . . cuyas pgina s me ayudaron para inventar el mundo â€œwhen I was dirt.â€ Mr. Eddie Lopez for sharing his personal papers on World War II, and to his wife, la Sra. Mari Luisa Ca macho de Lpez, for her invaluable knowledge on rebozos. . . . Gregg Barrios and Mary Ozuna for memories of San Antonio in the early 1970â€™s, and . . . my sister-in-law Silvia Zamo ra Cisneros for her Chicago memories. (443)
147 Although Cisneros is certainly less earnest than Alvarez in her clai ms to historical accuracy, she does lend her authority to Celaya as a means of reminding readers of the narrative historyâ€™s basis in â€˜truth.â€™ For instance, many of the explanations of geographi c locations in Chicago, Texas and Mexico rely on and incorporate both the narrator and the author as witnesses to urban changes. Early in the novel Celaya uses an endnote to expl ain that Maxwell Street was the site of a wellknown Chicago flea market which was later relo cated upon the growth of the University of Illinois. A secondary endnote, however, allows th e author to editorialize about the implications of these changes, while also reminding readers of the textuality of th e narrative. The note explains, â€œ Alas! While busy writing this book, Jimâ€™s Original Hot Dogs was gobbled up by the University of Illinois and Mayor Daleyâ€™s gentri fication; tidy parks and tid y houses for the very, very wealthy, while the poor, as always, get swept under the rug, out of sight and out of mind â€ (9, emphasis mine) While the endnotes clearly call attention to th e author as a means of authenticating the historical aspects of the text, the endnotes themselves also suggest that this â€˜historyâ€™ is in fact â€˜realâ€™. In using a form long associated with sc holarly work, and specifica lly with historiography, Cisneros appropriates the authority of this genre. As Robe rto Gonzlez Echevarra agues, â€œthe novel, having no fixed form of its own, often assu mes that of a given kind of document endowed with truth-bearing power by so ciety at specific moments in timeâ€ (8). Although Gonzlez Echevarra focuses primarily on Latin Amer ican literatureâ€™s use of the archive and anthropological/ethnographic discourses for his di scussion, I think we can extend his argument to the use of historiographic fo rms in contemporary Latina narratives. Despite postmodernismâ€™s claims to the contrary, histori cal investigations which contest master narratives and hegemonic visions of state history are ofte n less interested in questioning the possibilities of historical
148 knowledge than they are in re-envisioning thos e narratives. The adve nt of histories and narratives from the margins of American culture, in fact, depend of the continued validity and potential authority of the histori ographic form. Cisnerosâ€™ efforts at constructing an imagined, yet historical, Mexico can thus be viewed in the co ntext of grounding the narra tive in an historical tradition. While Shari Benstock contends that â€œ[b]ecause footnotes in fiction cannot serve the same ends they serve in the scholarly tradition, they parody th e notational convention and draw attention to the failed authority present in all such structures,â€ Caramelo â€™s didactic used of historical endnotes suggests quite the contrary (220). Moreover, the authorâ€™s claims that the novel aims to understand and explain her fatherâ€™s history implies that ev en playful exhortations that the novel is â€˜ puro cuentoâ€™ are in fact underscored by histor ical truths. As a result, the narrator frequently resci nds her claims that the novel is me rely invention. For example, in recalling her grandfatherâ€™s desertion of the m ilitary during the Mexican Revolution, she refuses to repeat her Uncle Oldâ€™s stor y because â€œnobody talks about it, a nd I refuse to invent what I donâ€™t knowâ€ (134). Likewise, many of the notes documenting stre et names, markets, Mexican cinema, and Mexican actors suggest the incorporation of lived experience and/or testimony. The juxtaposition of historical even ts and popular or cinematic repr esentations of Mexican history emphasize the tensions implicit in writing and re writing the national. As Bhabha explains, â€œ[s]uch a shift in perspective emerges from an acknowledgement of the nationâ€™s interrupted address articulated in the tension between signifying the people as an a priori historical presence . . . and the people constructed in the performanc e of narrative, its enunciatory â€˜presentâ€™ marked in the repetition . . . of the national signâ€ (147). Bhabha calls attention to the contradictions implicit in articulating the nation as an historic al object and at the same time performing nation.
149 Caramelo â€™s weaving together of Mexican history along with the nationâ€™s representation in cinema underscores the contradictio ns which result from different cultural mediums. One of the novelâ€™s endnotes, for inst ance, explains that â€œ[d]uring World War II, a squadron of Mexican fighter pilots, Esquadron 201, helped liberate Luzon and Formosa. . . . the squadron of 38 fighter pilots and 250 ground personnel serv ing under U.S. orders logged 59 missions and 1,290 hours of combat flight time â€ (207). Yet this note also di rects the reader to the movie Salon Mxico , â€œ a super-sentimental story of Squadron 201 â€ (207). Knowledge of Mexican popular culture allows both writer and na rrator to situate themselves w ithin a larger ethnic national community. In this case, their knowledge suggests the legitimacy of their claims to national and cultural belonging even if they re main geographically outside the state proper. Popular culture associated with an originating homeland can beco me particularly strong for emigrants (and their children) in instances where connection to the new country is hampered by minority gender, race and/or class position. But the endnotes about Squadron 201 also de monstrate that nationa l narratives often reproduce the same myths and stereotypes that states use to reinforce specific forms of nationalism. The narrator instructs readers: â€œ Note the Mexican matriarchy scene between the injured returning pilot and his angelic mother. This scene alone will explain everything â€ (207). Although her note remains ambiguous, it clearly highlights â€œangelicâ€ motherhood, an allusion to the Virgin of Guadalupe, as a fundamental image of Mexican nationalism a nd love. As the scene in this movie demonstrates, womenâ€™s place with in the nation remains relegated to reproducing the nation and upholding a specifica lly virtuous image of national identity. The ambiguity of Celayaâ€™s reference to this movie scene suggests her participation in th e reproduction of Mexican
150 matriarchy as an essential characteristic of national culture. It also contradicts her earlier efforts to revise womenâ€™s role within the national through her revisions of romance paradigms. Although the endnotes reproduce na tional narratives ambivalently, they do serve a more apparent political function in critiquing instances of U.S. imperialism and racism. For instance, Narcisoâ€™s participation in the Mexican Revoluti on allows the narrator an opening through which to footnote the U.S. invasion of Veracruz in 1914. In addition to noting th e â€œhundreds of civilian casualties,â€ Celaya explains th e ways in which political interventions shaped Mexicoâ€™s ongoing civil wars: . . . the U.S. was trying to bring about the destruction of General Huertaâ€™s government by encouraging the selling of American arms to northern revolutionaries like Pancho Villa. (This is interesting, since [Woodrow] Wils on had supported this same General Huerta when he ousted President Madero from office with a military coup. Madero and his vice president were arrested at the National Pa lace and under mysterious, or not-so-mysterious circumstances were shot point-blank while being taken to the penitentia ry for â€œsafety.â€ . . . Thanks to Woodrow Wilsonâ€™s and the worldâ€™s l ack of protest, Huerta became president of Mexico. (136) The historical-political digr essions incorporated into th e text via endnotes allow the narrator/author to educate readers about peri ods in Mexican and U.S. history which often influenced migration patterns a nd violence on both sides of the border. Subsequent endnotes also describe the migration of Mexican American s to Mexico in 1915 as a result of increased persecution from the Texas Rangers whose â€œ bullying led to the death of hundreds, some say thousands, of Mexicans and Mexican Americans, who were executed without trial. The end result was that Mexican-owned land was cleare d, allowing developments by Anglo newcomers â€ (142). Likewise, the chronology that ends the text revises the limited imaginings of state nationalisms by interweaving U.S. and Mexican hi stories. In fact, much of the chronology documents shifting U.S. policies and attitudes about immigration. Like Chinese and Japanese immigrants, Mexicans immigrants were subject to periodic changes in legislation over the course
151 of the last two centuries. In reclaiming this hi story of Mexican migratio n, the narrator not only points out the way racism has shaped U.S. policy, but she also recognizes a tr adition or history of migration between Mexico and the U.S. which legitimates her own effort to redraw the borders of national inclusion. Moreover, in situating U. S. and Mexican politics within the history of Mexican popular culture, Celaya su ggests that both political a nd popular cultures have the power to reproduce nation for migrants. Thus despit e the racism which appears to determine U.S. policy toward Mexico and Mexican policy toward its citizens/nationals, emigrants like the Reyes retain their connections to ho me/nation through popular culture. The endnotes and chronology also enable Cela ya to call attention to migration as an essential characteristic of Mexi can experience on both sides of th e border. While her familyâ€™s narrative demonstrates that the Reyes have a hi story of back and forth movement between the U.S. and Mexico, the historical endnotes and chronology document th e widespread national character of migration between the two countries. Narcisoâ€™s a nd Innocencioâ€™s migration, as well as the Awful Grandmotherâ€™s migration, make them no less Mexican. By calling attention to the migratory character of Mexican cu lture, Celaya also carves a space for herself within the nation. After all, she too has traveled back and forth between the two countries. Yet despite these efforts to revise the terms of national inclusion, the narrator often refuses engage completely in challenges to state-defi ned forms of Mexican nationalism. The narrativeâ€™s ambivalence is perhaps most clearly visible in the closing scene of the novelâ€”the celebration of Innocencio and Zoilaâ€™s anniversary. The chapter opens with a series of eavesdroppings, snippets of conversation, which suggest the dialogic nature of Celayaâ€™s text and family history. Yet Candelariaâ€™s voice is again conspicuously abse nt. Although Celaya imagines her â€œsister Candelaria dancing a cumbiaâ€ among â€œ[e]veryone , big and little, old and young, dead and living,
152 imagined and realâ€ (425), her vision of this im agined country/Mexico remains entrenched in a very specific, middle-class view of nation. In f act, as Lala and her fath er discuss lifeâ€™s lessons, the narrator reflects on her fatherâ€™s silence abou t Candelaria and concludes that perhaps â€œ[t]here are stories no one is willing to tell you. And there are stories youâ€™re not wi lling to tellâ€ (429). By equating her botched elopement with Ernesto to he r fatherâ€™s refusal to acknowledge his oldest daughter, Celaya again overlooks the power differential in her fatherâ€™s relations with his daughter and the washerwoman. Co nsequently Innocencioâ€™s exhortati on that Celaya â€œpromise . . . [she] wonâ€™t talk these thingsâ€ (430) reads as the narratorâ€™s prom ise not to engage or challenge the machinations of national and familial belonging. Celayaâ€™s desire for inclusion, for a place within even this imagined Mexico, ultimately inhi bits her ability to fully question the persistence of race and gender hierarchies. As she redraws the geographic, cultural and historical boundaries of Mexico in order to make a place for herself, she cannot escape some of the inconsistencies of traditionally bourgeois nationalisms, nor can she fu lly escape the problems of post-independence national romances. For those, like Celaya, who often struggle to legitimate their belonging within a foreign homeland, contesting nationa l myths can perhaps become more daunting.
153 CHAPTER 5 COLONIAL SUBJECTS, IMPERIAL DISCOURSES: ROSARIO FERRâ€™S THE HOUSE ON THE LAGOON AND JUDITH ORTIZ COFERâ€™S THE LINE OF THE SUN Iâ€™ve waited until my last chapter to discuss the ways Puerto Rican women use the family romance to write nation largely because the case of these writers is a complicated one, intricately tied to the islandâ€™s colonial status. Despite the existence of a unique Puerto Rican culture and of a clearly defined â€˜nationalâ€™ territory, the isla nd remains a colonial possession of the U.S. and therefore quite literally not a politi cally recognized nation-state. As such, discussing the ways in which writers imagine nation presents both a uniqu e opportunity and also a bit of an obstacle. On the one hand, Puerto Rico can perhaps facilit ate closer scrutiny of the ways nations or homelands are imagined even in the face of domin ation. On the other, th e island is technically not a nation if we define nation as an internationally recognized po litical state. On this point, I will defer to scholars like Jorge Duany and Juan Flores, who have argued in various ways that Puerto Ricoâ€™s cultural uniqueness, shared language and shared history make the island a nation even if its government is not recognized as such. Duany, in fact, argues that â€œ[c]ulturally speaking, Puerto Rico meets most of the objectiv e and subjective characte ristics of conventional views of the nation . . . The Island also possesses many of the symbolic attributes of nation, such as a national system of universities, museums a nd other cultural institutions; a national tradition in literature and the visual artsâ€ ( Puerto Rican Nation 15). In fact, Puerto Rican literature in the U.S. and on the island demonstrates the force of â€˜nationâ€™ as a communal, if not shared, idea. Unlike Cuban-American, Dominican-American, a nd to a lesser extent Chicano literature, most mainland Puerto Rican literature13 remains concerned with the immediate difficulties of life in the U.S.â€”namely racism, cultural alienation, pove rty, and identity. In fact, very few Puerto 13 For the purposes of this essay, I use â€˜mainlandâ€™ to refer to the United States and â€˜islan dâ€™ to refer to Puerto Rico.
154 Rican writers on the mainland dramatize the islandâ€™s politics or history as a family romance. This is largely a consequence of the islandâ€™s continued colonial stat us despite euphemistic designations like Commonwealth or Free Associated State. After all, Puerto Rico remains bound economically and politically to the United States . Juan Flores explains that â€œ[t]hose whose collective identities in the United States were constituted by a long-standing history of conquest and colonization generate a literary expression whic h contrasts with that of comparatively recent arrivals from countries with less direct ties to U.S. imperial pow erâ€ (176). More to the point, those who have been prevented from constructin g a political nation-state while simultaneously suffering the disadvantages of second-class U.S. citizenship display more ambivalence to nation as an imagined family unity. Instead, many of th ese novels suggest that co lonial and/or national inclusion require continuous re-negotiation. This is not to suggest that Pu erto Rico or the nation does not appear in this literature . On the contrary, it often finds its way into the literature from the mainland as an edenic or idyllic paradise lo st. And while some critics have argued that these representations are romantic and nostalgic, writi ng the island as a lost paradise often reveals subtle contradictions and incons istencies which point to the ambi valence of national imaginings for a colonial state. In Judith Ortiz Coferâ€™s novel, The Line of the Sun , the island as paradise is consistently undermined by the intrusion of U.S. culture a nd imperialism. In his work on Puerto Rican literature, Efran Barradas argues that the re petition of this island paradise unites mainland writers to a long island tradition wh ich began in the nineteenth century (74). Yet, as he explains, â€œel poeta neoyorrican transforma el viejo mito de Puerto Rico como edn perdido y lo convierte en una utopia internaâ€ [â€œthe neorican poet transforms the previous myth of Puerto Rico as a lost eden into an internal utopiaâ€] (Barradas 74). In doing so, thes e writers reclaim cultural origins
155 often denied them by island writers, while employing cultural strategies necessary for survival in the U.S. However, novels such as Ortiz Coferâ€™s also demonstrate that Puerto Ricoâ€™s colonial status continues to shape repr esentations of nation, especially on the mainland where Puerto Ricans must grapple with racial and ethnic di scrimination despite their legal claims to citizenship. The writing of Puerto Rico as cultural or et hnic identity divorced of political urgency owes something to the strategies of imperial power, which since the 1950s have managed to separate cultural nationalism from the struggle for political independence. In fact, cultural nationalism became the dominant ideology of the Commonw ealth in the 1950s, par ticularly after the 1953 United Nations resolution declaring commonwea lth a non-colonial form of nationhood (Duany, The Puerto Rican Nation 129). Luis Muoz Marn, one of th e islandâ€™s most prominent political and intellectual leaders, advocated the preserva tion of a unique Puerto Rican â€˜personalityâ€™ or culture against encroaching Amer ican influence, while at the same time strengthening economic and political ties to the U.S. The cultural nationalism of the 1950s managed to effectively bridge ideological differences between those poli tical leaders who advocat ed statehood and those who struggled for independence by divorcing Puer to Rican culture, defined broadly as the attitudes and customs of the people, from po litical statehood. According to Muoz Marn and other leaders of the time, cultu ral nationalism was possible w ithout political nationalism. Moreover, as Jorge Duany explains , â€œIt [cultural nationalism] served to detach the political from the cultural implications of asserti ng such an [national] identity a nd thus to allay the fears of prostatehood supportersâ€ ( The Puerto Rican Nation 134). Yet at the same time, the adoption of nationalist symbols such as the flag to repres ent cultural nationalism succeeded in diluting the revolutionary potential of those symbols. In tense nationalist sentiment, which was politically
156 dangerous in pre-commonwealth Puerto Rico, becam e incorporated into what Juan Flores calls the â€˜postcolonial colonyâ€™14 as a legitimate marker of the Puerto Rican â€˜personalityâ€™ or culture. But as Zilkia Janer notes, cu ltural nationalism â€œsuggests that cu lture can be separate from politics. . . . that cultu re can be a â€˜free zoneâ€™ and hides th e materiality of colonialism and the materiality of cultureâ€ (3). Instead, she argues th at â€˜colonial nationalismâ€™ is a more appropriate term to characterize the cultura l nationalism of the 1950s: â€œColonial nationalism is not only a nationalism that does not seek political independe nce or a nationalism that is content with limiting itself to a supposedly separate realm of culture, but it is a nationalism that validates colonialism and makes it strongerâ€ (Janer 2). Novels like Rosario Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon demonstrate that the colonial condition has been ultimately inseparable from national culture or from national narratives. This chapter will examine the novels of two Pu erto Rican writers, one from island and one from the mainland, in an effort to determine the ways in which nation functions as an imagined construct in the face of a coloni al present. Rosario Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon (1998) chronicles the history of the Mendizabal and Montfort families, but it also deconstructs the myth of â€˜ la gran familia puertorriquea .â€™ The paradise of nationali st literatures becomes a myth which sublimates a history of race and gender oppr ession. In the end, Isabel, the novelâ€™s primary narrator, can only escape this oppression by beco ming an accomplice in the destruction of the family and fleeing to the U.S. Ferrâ€™s narrator es sentially breaks with Puerto Rican history as well as with the nation in order to set herself free, a strategy wh ich suggests that like the family, the nation is also doomed unless it can somehow break with a patriarchal legacy. Like Ferr, 14 In From Bomba to Hip-Hop , Juan Flores explains that â€œcolonialism cannot be extricated from the new cultural politics of difference, nor from the meaning and range of â€˜La tinoâ€™ culture and identities. The direct colonial tie, as in the case of Puerto Rico is . . . the extreme limit in the range of â€˜postcolonial,â€™ and Latino, grid linesâ€ (10).
157 Judith Ortiz Cofer also invokes the image of Pu erto Rico as an island paradise. Although The Line of the Sun (1989) is a coming-of-age narrative, the novel opens with an idyllic account of the narratorâ€™s family history. Embedded in th is immigrant acclimation story is a brief rendition of a family saga. This family romance, whic h records the childhoods of Marisolâ€™s parents and her uncle, becomes essential to Marisolâ€™s own narrative. Th e island myth functions as a comforting break from the realities of life in th e U.S. and as an internal utopia necessary for Marisolâ€™s survival in Paterson, New Jersey. De spite the mythic repres entation of island life, however, the narrative reveals subtle contradict ions which allude to the nationâ€™s colonial relationship to the U.S. Yet the narrator remain s unable to fully engage these contradictions in spite of their influence on her self-perception. Ma risol is ultimately incapable of reconciling the two halves of her text, or her of identity ; instead she opts to turn her Puerto Rican history/heritage into a sustaining, yet distant myth. As suc h, she ruptures the island/nation and its political present from her di scourse and turns her Puerto Rican identity into something much less polemic than political identity. In what fo llows I will discuss the varying strategies these writers employ to break with the nation as a way to examine the effects of colonial influence on national imaginings. Part of my project in exploring the works of Ferr and Ortiz Cofer stems from a desire to discover the nuances that characterize Puerto Rican national narratives. Additionally, these two writers continue with my attempt to map the wa ys in which the romance evolves as it emerges from privileged positions within La tina/o literature. A lthough Ferr is not a U.S. Latina, as are Cristina Garca, Julia Alvarez and Judith Ortiz Co fer, Puerto Ricoâ€™s unique relationship to the United Statesâ€”namely its â€˜commonwealthâ€™ stat usâ€”precludes easy exclus ion of island writing from Latina/o literature. Like the other women writers of this study, Rosario Ferr often uses
158 family genealogy to narrate nati onal history, to incorporate wome n into nation, and to consider the borders and boundaries which determine nati onal inclusion/exclusion. Although island and mainland writers experience nationness differentl y, based not only on thei r geographic locations, but also on their proximities to political disc ourses, both are undoubtedly influenced by the overwhelming presence of the U.S. on the isla nd since before 1898. As an identity marker, â€˜Puerto Ricanâ€™ remains delimited by the islandâ€™s co lonial condition. As su ch, it invokes the U.S., if only implicitly as its opposite. As a result, Fl ores and other critics c onsistently point to the necessity of addressing the colonial dimension of â€˜L atino/aâ€™ as it pertains to Puerto Rican social formations and institutions on th e island as well as on the mainland.15 In the case of Rosario Ferr, her recent self-positioning as a U.S./Puerto Rican Latina suggests that integration with the imperial center necessitates co ntinuous re-negotiation. He r 1998 guest column for the New York Times , in fact, reveals her attempts to negotiate a U.S. Latina identity within the U.S. She explains, â€œWhen I travel to the States, I feel as Latina as Chita Rivera. But in Latin America, I feel more American than John Wayneâ€ (â€œPuerto Rico, U.S.A.â€). By choosing to identify with Chita Rivera, a U.S. born Latina of Puerto Rica n descent, Ferr locates her identity as grounded in U.S. Latino/a culture rather than one aligned w ith Puerto Rican or Latin American cultures. Writing and translating her own works into English, advocating stat ehood for the island, and essentially casting herself as a mediator between mainland and island also makes for fruitful comparisons with writers who engage more fully with the mainland consequences of a colonial condition. The House on the Lagoon , in fact, was Ferrâ€™s first nove l to be published initially in English, a decision which she ofte n explains as dictated by th e marketplace. Likewise, the 15 Flores argues that â€œFrom the perspec tive of â€˜Puerto Rican/Latinos,â€™ . . . the category â€˜Latinoâ€™ in to which they are grouped . . . has utility only if it can account for the coloni al dimension of difference in the U.S. setting and as an international backgroundâ€ (11).
159 literature of the mainland is essential to unders tanding Puerto Rican nati onal identity. Flores explains that â€œthe diaspora is integral and rela tional to the national and regional; it constitutes the most obvious and profound instance of fragmentation of the nationalâ€ (41). Judith Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun presents a mythical counterpoint to the contested bourgeois romance of Ferrâ€™s protagonists, and thus enriches our analyses of the convergences and divergences of national imaginings as they inte rsect with colonial domination. Failed Romance in Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon As we have seen in the previous chapters, the family romance has a long history in Latin American literature; in the post-independence pe riod in particular, it functioned as a way to imagine and project a desired national unity. Mo re recently, however, Latinas have rescripted the terms of the family saga in order to ne gotiate their own position within an imagined transnational homeland. Yet as the novels of Ju lia Alvarez and Sandra Cisneros reveal, romance paradigms often prove inadequate to the task of exposing and revisi ng the hierarchies and inequalities that characterized Latin Americaâ€™s founding fictions. Perhaps because Puerto Rico has not experienced a period of post-independence consolidation, given that it went from Spanish colony to American possession in 1898, its national romances have frequently taken the form of failed romances, or as Zilkia Janer argues, â€˜im possible romances.â€™ Rather than build nation through reconciliations and heterosexual unions, as did other Latin American founding fictions, Puerto Ricans writers have more often dramatized the impossible unity of nation/family within a colonial state (Janer 7). As Janer explains, â€œâ€™Impossible Roma nceâ€™ is the dominant allegory, articulating the incapacity to satisfactorily define the relationship between different sectors of Puerto Rican society and the colonizer as love rs who cannot agree on th e terms of their love relationshipâ€ (7).
160 Ferrâ€™s 1995 novel, The House on the Lagoon , reproduces this â€˜dominant allegory;â€™ however, she transforms the struggle between colonized/colonizer to one waged among the colonized as they grapple w ith colonial in/ex-clusion. The House on the Lagoon stages a political-national struggle over th e terms of the islandâ€™s â€˜marriag eâ€™ to the U.S. as a gendered conflict between lovers. Her rewriting of nati on, however, links failed romance/impossible unity to the internal structures of Pu erto Rican society, namely the leg acies of patriarchal power which nation and family continue to uphold. Family di scord, in fact, reproduces the battle over the terms of national inclusion within the imperial ce nter; however, the crux of this struggle does not center on independence versus a nnexation, but on the different , gendered understandings of imperial power and equality. Both narrators â€”Quintn and Isabelâ€”support Puerto Ricoâ€™s continued relationship with the U.S. Where they disagree, however, is on the terms and rationale for continued association. While Quintn remains invested ec onomically in Puerto Ricoâ€™s continued relationship with the U.S., he nevert heless supports the preser vation of patriarchal national myths. Isabel, on the other hands, d econstructs patriarchal myths and exposes the bourgeois lies of la gran familia puertorriquea in order to justify her violent break with nation and family. The gendered struggle over control of the fa mily/national history, however, functions to efface Isabelâ€™s political motivations. Ferr replaces the independe nce-statehood political opposition with a gendered conflict between husband and wife. The question of Puerto Ricoâ€™s political status becomes secondary to the disput e between the couple despit e Quintnâ€™s claims to the contrary. Both of these â€˜conflictsâ€™â€”nationa l status and gender equa lity/authorityâ€”act as diversions, redirecting Isabelâ€™s motivations in ways which obs cure her, and perhaps Ferrâ€™s, colonial ambivalence. The str uggle for domination which takes place on both a narrative and a
161 textual level involves not only a quest to appr opriate masculinized authority for women and minorities who have historically been marginalized, but it also implies a re-evaluation and renarrativizing of colonization as be neficial to those who have hist orically been excluded from the machinations of power on the island. Isabel, w ho positions herself ambivalently in support of the U.S.â€™s â€˜civilizingâ€™ mission on th e island, exposes the islandâ€™s histor y in an effort to justify her own violence at the end of the novel, as well as the colonial violence implied in the opening scene of Spanish and U.S. occupation. While Isabel reinforces the rhetoric of colonial domination, she nonetheless expresses a certa in amount of ambivalence toward U.S. colonization. In fact, the opening chapters of he r text often border on parody as they mimic the language of imperialism. In what follows, I w ill examine the ways in which Isabelâ€™s narrative underscores the ambivalence of national imaginings and of colonial obedience, particularly for the islandâ€™s elite. By exposing the bourgeois lies of Puerto Rico â€™s elite, Isabel not only breaks with legacies of patriarchy, but sh e also suggests that doing so is necessary in order to safeguard â€˜progressâ€™ on the island. Undoing family and na tion while at the same time recording it as a textual artifact facilitates Isabelâ€™s dissociation from the island and her associations with the colonizer. The House on the Lagoon reenacts the macrocosm of Pu erto Rican history through the Mendizabal and Monfort families. The narrative itself is, in fact, the text of Isabelâ€™s novel as she attempts to â€œinterweave the woof of [her] memo ries with the warp of Quintnâ€™s recollectionsâ€ ( House on the Lagoon , House , 6). Interspersed within her narrative reconstruction of family genealogies are her husband Quintnâ€™s interruptions and refutations of Isabelâ€™s â€˜herstory.â€™ Yet as Isabel records family history, sh e also attempts to rescript the terms of the national romance, particularly the ways in which it has tended to promote Hispanophilia to th e exclusion of African
162 influences on the island. Intellectuals in the early twentieth century responded to encroaching American influence and domination on island cu lture by promoting Puerto Rican origins as predominantly Catholic and Hispanic. Although â€œ[ the] construction of a Hispanic identity for Puerto Rico was in part an antic olonial strategy. . . . it was also an act of violence against the large black and mulatto population of the islandâ€ (Janer 31). Li kewise, the myth of the â€˜great Puerto Rican familyâ€™ relied on a paternalisti c organization which subordinated non-whites and women to white men. This myth of racial integr ation functioned as a na tionalist counterpoint to the racist practices on the mainland by representi ng Puerto Rican culture as a mestizoâ€”Spanish, African and Taino--culture. Yet, as Duany explains, â€œ[i]n elite as well as in popular forms of culture, Afro-Puerto Ricans continue to be re presented as marginal and subaltern outsiders, somehow less Puerto Rican than white peopleâ€ ( The Puerto Rican Nation 14). Likewise, in her â€œPrefaceâ€ to Sweet Diamond Dust , Ferr explains that the myth of an island paradise â€œnever existed except for a privileged few, the lande d aristocracy of the ni neteenth century, whose praises were sung by our poets and musicians. . . . without ever mentioning that the greater part of the islanders lived in Hellâ€ (viii). Like The House on the Lagoon , Sweet Diamond Dust also deconstructs the integrationist myths implicit in representations of nation as family. By using contradictory narrative voices Ferr teases out the inconsistencies which characterize edenic versions of the islandâ€™s history. Don Hermen egildoâ€™s biography of stat esman Ubaldino De la Valle reveals his own desire to invent a pre-occupation national history in which islanders coexisted in peace and in neighborly solidarity. Ye t as the narratives of Gloria Camprub and Laura Latoni make clear, racial inequality, ge nder oppression and cla ss hierarchies undermine national and familial solidarity on the island.
163 While Sweet Diamond Dust dismantles the lies of the fa ther through the intrusion of subaltern voices, The House on the Lagoon attempts to do so by re-writing t hose national romances from the perspective of a privileged intermediaryâ€”Isabel Montfo rt. In deconstructing these myths, however, Isabel also reproduces the la nguage of colonialism. As a result, her text not only dismantles integrationist myths and thos e national romances which reinforce it, but it also suggests that breaking with the remnants of patriarchy is necessary to forge a new identity, one which preserves the â€˜civili zingâ€™ influence of the U.S. The novel begins on July 4th, 1917 with the arrival of Buenaventura Mendizabal, the family patriarch, from Spain. His arrival also coincides with President Woodr ow Wilsonâ€™s signing of the Jones Act, which imposed U.S. citizenship on all Puerto Ricans despite their legisl ationâ€™s vote against it. Isabel thus conflates the â€˜foundingâ€™ moment of the family/nation with the moment that islanders first gained citizenship. Much like othe r founding fictions, Isabel writes the familyâ€™s genesis to coincide with what she perceives as the nationâ€™s beginningsâ€”the granting of U.S. citiz enship and, thus, their legal claims to the U.S. Yet unlike Julia Alvarezâ€™s In the Name of Salom , which unites Salom Ureaâ€™s birth with the Dominican Republicâ€™s in dependence, Isabelâ€™s narrative underscores the lack which characterizes what might otherwise have been Puerto Ricoâ€™s national beginnings. She explains that â€œ[a]s Buenaventuraâ€™s ship dropped anchor in the harbor, the festivities celebrating our brand new American citizenship were going full blast. Now each of us would have the right to an American passport, a talisman so powe rful it opened doors all over the worldâ€ ( House 16). In order to imbue her own text w ith authority, Isabel repeats the discourses of colonialism. She also ignores the political timing of the Jones Act to coincide with the U.S. entry into World War I.16 As such, the opening chapters, in which she details th e celebration of 16 The signing of the Jones Act on March 2, 1917 not only imposed U.S. citizenship onto all Puerto Ricans, but it also made all Puerto Rican men liable for military draft. The political timing of citizenship is particularly important
164 U.S. citizenship and the arrival of the Spanish pa triarch, might be read as an instance of what Homi Bhabha calls colonial mimicry. In â€œOf Mimicry and Men,â€ Bhabha explains that â€œthe desire to emerge as â€˜authen ticâ€™ through mimicryâ€”thr ough a process of writing and repetitionâ€”is the final irony of partial repres entationâ€ (88). In a telling pa ssage describing the benefits of colonization, Isabel remarks that . . . our brand new American citizenship was hailed as a godsend, and a first class celebration was in order. We would now have a definite identification with the most powerful country in the world, and the golden eagle would be stamped on the cover of our passport. Henceforth, we would cherish it as our magic shield; we could travel anywhere . . . we had the inalienable right to political asylum at the local Am erican Embassy; and the American ambassador would be our civil servant. ( House 16) Although this passage reflects a certain amount of irony, Isabelâ€™s text remains earnest in its support of the U.S. presence on the island. As a resu lt, I am more inclined to read this irony as an example of the doubling which Bhabha associates with mimicry. In this context Isabel acts as an authorized colonial interlocutor, that â€œreformed, recognizable Ot herâ€ who repeats the language of the colonizer, but with a difference (Bhabha 86). That difference results in an ambivalence toward the colonizing project and th e uneven racial and cultural exploitation which results, a subject I will return to a bit later in this chapter. Thus as Bhabha explains, â€œ[t]he menace of mimicry is its double vision, which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its authorityâ€ (88). Isabelâ€™s gaze is redirected at th e colonizer, in this case the American presence on the island, as she repro duces the democratic and civilizing rhetoric of imperialism to re-write Puerto Ricoâ€™s history. Isabelâ€™s joining of national and familial beginnings also reproduces the masculinized imagery of colonialism and conquest. Despite the novelâ€™s obvious efforts to â€˜marryâ€™ American given that the U.S. was only weeks away from entering Wo rld War I. Approximately 18,000 Puerto Ricans served during WWI, most in r acially segregated units.
165 and Spanish colonization and so dramatize Puerto Ricoâ€™s colonial founda tions, the text clearly casts the island as feminine subject caught in the midst of a battle for domination. The genesis of nation is here constructed as a masculinzed hist orical moment, one which welcomes the Spanish patriarch/colonizer and the militarized presence of American Marine cadets. The gendering of the colonial/national foundation becomes increa singly apparent as Isabel narrates Rebeccaâ€™s desire for a suitor/escort to the Spanish Casinoâ€™s ball. She explains that Rebecca wanted a true monarch, one who could subdue he r with a single glance. A sovereign with shoulders spread like infantry battalions, strong cavalry thig hs. . . . A real commander in chief, who would raise her slumbering regime nts at a command. She wanted a prince who longed for the whole of her: her marzipan thro at and her cream-puff s houlders, her coconut custard breasts, her dainty rice-and-cinnam on feet, and her delicat e ginger pussy; one who would eat her, lick her, nip her, and drink he r, and then grind her in to powdered sugar . . . ( House 29) The language of militarized monarchy and conquest merges the desire for Spanish and American colonization with Rebeccaâ€™s longing for a suito r/husband. The imagined romance of family beginnings is thus joined to colonial domina tion, which persists throughout Rebeccaâ€™s marriage to Buenaventura. Isabelâ€™s text underscores th e sexualized rhetoric of conquest and colonization, in which the Americas figured as virgin/vacan t land available for, and perhaps desirous of, conquest. Rebecca, thus, stands in for the is land-nation, hemmed in by colonial domination. Reproducing these metaphors, however, undermines Is abelâ€™s larger quest to expose instances of womenâ€™s oppression. By suggesting that Rebecca/n ation desire the violence of conquest, Isabel merely validates the colonial project. In fact, while describing her ow n politics, Isabel reproduces th e stereotype of a feminized and subordinate Puerto Rico: . . . our island is like a betrothed, always on th e verge of marriage. If one day Puerto Rico becomes a state, it will have to accept E nglishâ€”the language of he r future husbandâ€”as its official language, not just because itâ€™s the language of modernity and of progress but also because itâ€™s the language of aut hority. If the island decides to remain single . . . it will probably mean backwardness and poverty. ( House 184)
166 Although Isabel claims to be sympathetic to th e independence movement, she clearly prefers the â€˜progressâ€™ of associations with the U.S. over the â€˜backwardnessâ€™ of independence. This feminization of the island and its association wi th backwardness reproduces the colonial rhetoric of twentieth century U.S. policie s toward the island. After 1898 and the U.S.â€™s acquisition of the island, politicians from the mainland tended to fra me occupation as a civilizing or modernizing mission. Consequently, Puerto Rica ns were often represented as people in need of tutelage. Isabelâ€™s text echoes this discour se by creating a binary opposition in which Puerto Rico figures as the backward and traditional mother, while the U.S. is represented as the masculinized bastion of modernity and progress. As Frantz Fanon expl ains â€œthe total result looked for by colonial domination was indeed to convince the natives that colonization came to lighten their darkness. . . . [and] to drive into the nativesâ€™ heads the idea that if the settlers were to leave, they would at once fall back into barbarism, degradationâ€ (â€œ On National Cultureâ€ 37). By repeating these stereotypes, Isabel not only situates her text in a more favorable place within an imperial marketplace, but she also legitimates her ow n break with the isla ndâ€™s â€˜backwardness.â€™ Although Isabel never clearly iden tifies her political loyalties with respect to the island, she does express her desire for a continuing re lationship between the island and the mainland. Her dream of the â€œisland being part of the m odern worldâ€ suggests that only continued association with the U.S.â€”commonwealth st atus or statehoodâ€”will guarantee the islandâ€™s â€˜progress,â€™ and, more specificall y, gender equality. She explai ns that â€œ[t]he purpose of a commonwealth is precisely to preserve the possibi lity of change. Itâ€™s the most flexible and intelligent political solution for us, but it makes others feel insecureâ€ ( House 184). Even though he is secretly reading her novel as she writes it, Quintn fails to r ecognize that Isabel shares his desire for continued relations w ith the U.S. He too believes th at â€œEnglish [has] made it possible
167 for Puerto Ricans to be part of the modern wo rld, whereas Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti were still in the Middle Agesâ€ ( House 150). Both husband and wife view annexation versus independence as a choice between modern ization and backwardness. Yet while Quintn values modernization for its potential to increas e his profits and expand his clientele, Isabel espouses modernization and â€˜progres sâ€™ for its potential to liberate her from Quintn and from the gender constraints of Puerto Ricoâ€™s elite. As she tells Quintn, â€œ[m]y novel is about personal freedom . . . Itâ€™s about my independence from youâ€ ( House 336). Yet Quintn mistakenly associates her desire for gender equality and personal freedom with the independence movement on the island. In fact, Qu intn consistently attack s Isabelâ€™s text as a â€œfeminist treatise, a communist manifestoâ€ ( House 386). This misunders tanding results from Isabelâ€™s ambivalent representations of both th e national and colonial projects. Although she reluctantly identifies with the colonizing govern ment, she consistently expresses her sympathy for the independence movement. She explains th at as a young girl, she â€œfelt a great deal of sympathy for independenceâ€ because she was so close to her grandmother, Abby ( House 183). Even in her youth, however, she feels the effects of contradictory messages dispersed through the marketplace. Although the Montfort family remain s divided politically, th ey all succumb to the materiality of the Sears catalogue, suggesting th at the marketplace is perhaps imperialismâ€™s most effective means of conquest. As a result, Isabel explains, â€œI didnâ€™t know what to believe. [Abby] wanted the island to become i ndependent for moral reasons, and in this I agreed with her wholeheartedly. . . . But Abby also put great store in progress, and cherished her American passport as if it were a jewelâ€ ( House 183). This confusion become s apparent throughout much of the text as contradictory representations of im perialism and of the U.S. inevitably seep into her novel.
168 Isabelâ€™s narrative describing Arstidesâ€™ role in the 1937 shooting of Nationalist cadets, for example, calls attention to the ways that imperi al power relies on the local elite to obscure the machinations and sources of colonial dominati on. After the massacre on Easter Sunday in 1937, Arstides becomes the scapegoat for the abuses of imperial power as it confronts the growing independence movement of Pedro Albizu Campos. Michael Gonzlez-Cruz notes that one of the strategies of colonial consolid ation involved placing profession als, merchants and landowners who favored annexation or who had been educated abroad into leadership roles within the municipal government (10). But, as Isabel explains in her no vel, these relationships between local elite and the colonial power did not mean shared governance or equality. In narrating a meeting between Arstides, Quintnâ€™s maternal grandfather, and Gover nor Blanton Winship, she reveals the paternalism inherent to interactio ns between the two countries. When Arstides expresses his support for statehood, Governor Winship merely replies that â€œ[w]e can teach your people to take care of the land; how to make it more productive w ith modern methods. . . . Itâ€™ll be much better for you if you stay as you are, en joying the protection of the American flag, but keeping your own personalityâ€ ( House 127). Arstidesâ€™ breakdown after the massacre points to the cultural and political ambivalence occasione d by inconsistent U.S. policies on the island. Although he aligns himself with the principles of the colonizer, the incident in Ponce forces him to confront the hypocrisy of colonial rhetoric. Isabel notes that Ars tides begins to preach independence and statehood together: â€œâ€™Puerto Rico will one day be the fo rty-ninth state in the Unionâ€™ . . . â€˜and will thus bring greater glory to our fallen Nationalist cadets. Praised be our American Constitution, as well as our American congressmen, who will one day grant us statehood so that we can beco me an independent nationâ€™â€ ( House 137). Arstidesâ€™ speech ultimately calls attention to the colonial nonsense of U.S. rhetoric, and mo re specifically, to the
169 emptiness of signifiers like equal ity, sovereignty and liberty for co lonial subjects who attempt to identify with the U.S. As a result of Isabelâ€™s historical reconstr uctions which subtly critique colonial power, Quintn misreads her narrative as an â€˜indepe ndence manifesto.â€™ Such a novel becomes particularly dangerous for Quint n, as well as for other men of hi s class. Quintnâ€™s support for statehood and his preservation of pa triarchy aligns him with the ear ly twentieth-century elite who aided U.S. colonization in order to secure and increase their own economic interests. Likewise, the commonwealth period became particularly im portant in securing a favorable position within the new order. By establishing themselves as colonial administrato rs, the elite sought to maintain strict hierarchies which preserved their own privilege. Arlene Dvila points out that â€œ[t]he commonwealth has been ri ghtly interpreted as an accommodation on the part of the new elite, descendents of landowners and the ne w professionals, who required local governmental autonomy and American capital to constitute themselves as a hegemonic class within the constraints of colonialismâ€ ( Sponsored Identities 32). Quintn manages to establish his position within a U.S. economic market and thus secure his position among the islandâ€™s elite and within the imperial order. Isabelâ€™s novel tampers with th e patriarchal lies/myths of Puerto Ricoâ€™s elite, and as such threatens Quintnâ€™s position in society. He explai ns that â€œhe [doesnâ€™t] understand why she [Isabel] insisted on baring hi s familyâ€™s secrets to the worldâ€ ( House 247). Moreover, he consistently feels the threat of violence implicit in his wifeâ€™s re-writing of their history, and in fact, this violence materializes as Isabel maneuve rs Quintn off the boat in their final struggle at the end of the text. In order to expose and/or dismantle patriarchy, Isabel reveals Quintnâ€™s unethical behavior and his bourge ois prejudices. The more he reads of her novel, the more â€œQuintn began to worry that he was in some kind of danger . . . Isabel co uld . . . accuse him of
170 all sorts of crimes, but it was only on paper. As long as the novel wasnâ€™t published, she couldnâ€™t hurt his reputation and she cer tainly couldnâ€™t hurt him phys ically. Or could she?â€ ( House 294). Isabelâ€™s novel, however, threatens violence as it unravels the myths and discourses of patriarchy. It aims to un-write Quintnâ€™s hist ory, and thus, his position within Pu erto Ricoâ€™s elite. The text also propels him toward his own violent end in order to guarantee Isab elâ€™s usurpation of his position within the new colonial order. Although both Quintn and Isabel align themse lves with colonial power throughout the novel, they disagree on the meaning and goals of th at alliance. So while Quintnâ€™s support of the colonizer may seem to position him as an alte rnate intermediary betw een island and mainland, his commitment to bourgeois ideologies makes him much less â€˜progressiveâ€™ than Isabel and her â€˜liberalâ€™ politics. By exposing Quintnâ€™s unethical behavior, Isab el denies him legitimacy as a colonial subject versed in the rhetoric of liberal democracy. Instead, she positions herself as a more credible intermediary, one who is not only sympathetic to nationalis t movements, but also to Puerto Ricoâ€™s underclass. In doing so, she negotiates a new position as a potential translator of subaltern speech. Her decision to include th e details of Carmelinaâ€™ s rape, Willieâ€™s adoption, Buenaventuraâ€™s liaisons with women from Las Minas, and Esmeraldaâ€™s and Coralâ€™s mistreatments demonstrate her commitment to exposing Quintnâ€™s racist family prejudices. Moreover, the revelation that Buenaventura fa thers a parallel family of blue-eyed mulatto children with the descendents of Petra Avils, the familyâ€™s bl ack servant, suggests that the African and Spanish families merg ed at the earliest points of c ontact. Yet the geographically obscure space of Las Minas, where Petraâ€™s fam ily lives, and its distance from the Mendizabal house suggests that the African founda tions of Puerto Rican culture are literally kept hidden until Isabel reveals them. Likewise, the structure of the house on the lagoon re inforces the African
171 foundations of Puerto Rican culture and nation despite their exclusion from the visible part of the home/nation. Petra and her family literally occupy the foundational spac es of the Mendizabal houseâ€”the cellars. Despite multiple demolitions and reconstructions of the house, the cellars remain unchanged and integral to the houseâ€™s structural integrity. In explaining Isabelâ€™s attempts to situat e herself as a credible intermediary/witness between the colonizer and Puerto Ricoâ€™s marg inalized, I do not wish to suggest that she successfully translates the Other. Isabelâ€™s pr ivileged position and her ad option of paternalistic ideologies impede her ability to form alliances with many of the women she encounters. She is even unable to form a healthy relationship w ith Rebecca, Quintnâ€™s mother, despite similar economic circumstances, artistic in terests and gender constraints. Rather than empathize with the limitations imposed on women like Rebecca, Isab el often describes her as silly, childlike, frivolous, and jealous. These de scriptions wind up trivializing Isabelâ€™s attempt to narrate the oppression of women on the island. Although Isabel originally comes from humble economic origins, her father manages to successfully move the family into the middle class. As a result, Isabel completes her education in the U.S. Mo reover, as she admits in her narrative, her bloodline is â€˜pure,â€™ or white European. Throughout her text, however, she associates less with women like Rebecca, who were born into privilege and more with women like Esmeralda and Petra, who because of their skin color, have had far less access to privilege. Yet as Isabel describes these women, she often resorts to esse ntialized representations which reveal her own privileged position. Although Petra is one of few women in the text who wields real power within her family/community, much of her power functions to reinforce the patriarchâ€™s position in the family. Her power is also overdetermined by her race; according to Isabel, Petraâ€™s power comes
172 from her African heritage and her knowledge of religious practices. Yet this power remains incongruous given Petraâ€™s almost unquestioned loyalty to Buenaventura and the other Mendizabals. Isabel provides little evidence to support such loyalty; in stead, she reveals only that Petra saved Buenaventuraâ€™s life and as a re sult becomes a part of the household. So intense is her commitment to Buenaventuraâ€™s family that she often places the familyâ€™s interests over her own family. When Brunilda, one of the servan ts, complains that Rebeccaâ€™s dress costs five hundred dollars while her salary is only eight dol lars a month, Petra counsels her â€œto keep quiet about it. Rebecca was Buenaventuraâ€™s wife, and sh e had the right to spend whatever she wanted on clothes, which were an important symbol of her husbandâ€™s position in the worldâ€ ( House 236). Likewise, when other servants complain of mistreatment, she advises them to â€œsay nothing.â€ After Quintn rapes Carmelina, Petr aâ€™s granddaughter, Petra is even willing to sacrifice the infant in order to preserve the fam ilyâ€™s reputation. RoseAnna Mueller argues that â€œPetra is composed of a number of stereotypical black servant traits . . . but Ferr manages to give this stereotype a different reading and valu es the stereotypical characteristics in a positive mannerâ€ (203). This assessment of Petraâ€™s represen tation in the text, however, fails to consider Isabelâ€™s motivations in reproducing these stereotypes for an outside audience. Petraâ€™s exploitation and nave loya lty become essential to Isabel â€™s attempts to cast herself as a viable mediator/translator for mainland audien ces. She admits that â€œa tale, like life itself, isnâ€™t finished until itâ€™s heard by someone with an understanding heartâ€ ( House 380). And although some critics have argued that that â€˜someoneâ€™ is Petra, the text itself is not intended for Petra. After all, Quintn reveal s that Isabel is, in fact, writin g her novel in English. He asks, â€œWould she have written her manuscript in English if she didnâ€™t think English was important? If she had written her novel in Spanish and publis hed it in Puerto Rico, why only a handful of
173 people would read it! But if she published in the United States , thousands would read itâ€ ( House 151). Petraâ€™s change in loyalties at the end of the narrative, once she lear ns that Willie will be disinherited, thus reveals more about Isabelâ€™s desire to cast herself as a credible interlocutor than it does about Petra. In fact, her decision to curse Quintn in defens e of Willie seems rather out of character given her unquestioni ng support of the Mendizabal patr iarchy throughout the novel. Rather than attribute this inconsistency to Isabel â€™s fledgling writing skills , we might read it as another one of Isab elâ€™s attempts to forge â€”bring together and falsifyâ€”alliances with the marginalized and so legitimize her own narrative. In this way, Isabel manages to receive a blessing of sorts from Petra as she engages the vi olence of patriarchy to save herself and her son, Willie. In addition to bolstering Isabelâ€™s position as a potential translator of subaltern speech, Petraâ€™s narrative also functions to reinforce Isabel â€™s whiteness for U.S. audiences. In â€œRosarioâ€™s Tongue,â€ Frances Negrn-Muntaner ar gues that in Ferrâ€™s novel, â€œ criollo whiteness is an uncontested identity that require s a fetishized blackness for ratifi cationâ€ (194). By representing and reinforcing her own whitenessâ€” and that of Puerto Ricoâ€™s eliteâ€”Isabel (and Ferr) also facilitates her own move closer to the imperial center. As Negron-Muntaner explains, Ferr does not deny racial diversity on the Is land; instead, in the image of the mythic American South, she presents two fairly im permeable Puerto Ricos: one poor, black, and exotic; the other rich, white, and eccentric. This , in a move very different from her earlier work, represents the value of racial purity as a social fact, not a construct. By plotting Puerto Rican ethno-nationality through the subjectivity of white women and their fundamental and foundational conflict with Puerto Rican white men, Ferr cancels out asymmetrical power relations between Puerto Ricans and Americans and reinscribes the supreme value of whiteness over racialized subjects. (194-5) Consequently, Isabel is better able to emphasize her (racial) likeness thos e in power despite her sympathy for the plight of raci alized Others. Isabelâ€™s thus frames her difference from the colonizer as one of culture, not race.
174 Like Isabel, Ferr often positions herself as a translator or mediator caught between opposing cultures. In her essay â€œOn Destiny, Langua ge and Translation,â€ Fe rr imagines herself as Ophelia adrift in the ocean be tween the mainland and the island. She explains that as a writer, her â€œtrue habitatâ€ is â€œneither Washington nor San Juan, neither past nor pr esent, but the crevice in betweenâ€ (Ferr, â€œOn Desti ny,â€ 155). Thus, her respons ibility, she argues, includes translating for those living on the mainland and exiled from cultural/national memory: Obliged to adapt in order to survive, the children of these Puerto Rican parents often refuse to learn to speak Spanish, and they grow up havi ng lost the ability to re ad the literature and the history of their island. This cultural suicide constitutes as immense loss, as they become unable to learn about thei r roots, having lost the language which is the mainroad to their culture. I believe it is the duty of the Puerto Rican writer, who has been privileged enough to learn both languages, to try to alleviate th is situation . . . (Ferr, â€œOn Destiny,â€ 163, my emphasis) This passage suggests that Ferr vi ews herself as able to, and res ponsible for, translating Puerto Rican culture to those living on the mainland. He r comments, however, are troubling in that they reveal a lack of understanding of mainland Puerto Ricans a nd emigration. By conflating language with cultural knowledge, she expresses an elitist view of na tionalism and identity. Moreover, her assumption that emigrants refuse to learn Spanish ignores the complexity of colonial domination, particularly fo r those living on the mainland. Ferrâ€™s decision to begin publishing and writi ng in Englishâ€”her last three novels have all been published first in Englishâ€”as well as rece nt, public support for statehood has made her the subject of ire among many of Puer to Ricoâ€™s intellectuals and independistas . Earlier collections like Maldito Amor and Papeles de Pandora, however, earned her the respect of the literary community because they tended to attack the my ths/lies of the Puerto Rican bourgeoisie and their complicity with colonialism. These early collections often undermined the same class from which the author emerged. Her father, Luis A. Ferr, was the governor of Puerto Rico from 1969-1973 and the founder of the New Progressive Party, which advocated statehood for the
175 island. Yet the author was vehemently pro-independence until her 1998 New York Times column advocating statehood. As a result, her recent work in English is often viewed as pandering to the American marketplace. Ferr, in fact, admits th at her decision to publish first in English is rooted in her desire to increase her marketability and readership.17 Her shifting political allegiance, however, makes readers a nd critics more prone to interpreting The House on the Lagoon as an assimilationist tale. And while I do not completely disagree with that assessment, I do think that the novelâ€™s represen tations of nation and colonizati on are more complex. Despite Isabelâ€™s (and Ferrâ€™s) gestures at assimilation or colonial legitimacy a nd inclusion, her novel is ultimately unable to subsume all the ill effects of colonial oppression. While narrating Ermelinda Quionesâ€™s participati on in needle industry strikes, Isabel also records the U.S. exploitation of women factory workers during th e industrialization projects of the 1920s. She notes that Puerto Rican legislat ors, bribed by the ty coons of the garment industry, managed repress the strikers/factory wo rkers and maintain a profitable climate for mainland investors. Likewise, Is abelâ€™s discussion of Jim Crow on the mainland calls attention to the emptiness of the colonizerâ€™s â€˜democraticâ€™ rhetoric : â€œThe concept of eq uality under the law, which the new democratic regime supposedly ha d brought to the island and which they had so earnestly embraced because they wanted to be good American citizens, was interpreted very differently on the mainlandâ€ ( House 125). Moreover, the fire that destroys the house on the lagoon implies that destruction is inevitable fo r family/nation/house constructed on land acquired illegally or unethically. Like the house on th e lagoon, built on land that Buenaventura obtained under questionable circumstances, the colony, bu ilt on domination and exploitation, must also face failure or destruction. In this context, Isabelâ€™s violence becomes her way of displacing her 17 See Castillo Garcaâ€™s â€œEntevista a Rosario Ferr: In Between Dos Worlds â€ in Centro Journal , 243.
176 colonial anger onto Quintn. By killing Quintn, she exorcises her frustrations with the islandâ€™s colonial status. In order to co mplete her alienation from nation/ colony and complete her colonial forgetting, Isabel must destroy house/family. However, Isabelâ€™s decision to escape to Miami rather than New York allows her to ignore the racial hierarchies which remain in place on th e mainland, as well as the colonial dimensions of those systems. One of the most haunting absen ces in the text is thus the lack of a Puerto Rican experience on the mainland. Although Isab el acknowledges that islanders frequently traveled to the mainland and that others freque ntly emigrated for economic and/or educational reasons, she never demonstrates an understanding of th e machinations of imperial power or of the discrimination and alienation which characterizes Puerto Rican migration. In this regard, Isabel appears to identify much more closely w ith the colonizer that she does with the Puerto Ricoâ€™s bourgeoisie, its underclass, or its emigra nts. In a 2005 interview with Gema Castillo Garca, Ferr rejects critiques that she has resorted to using th e language of the colonizers. Instead, she explains: â€œcreo francamente que en el mundo en el que vivimos no debe haber ni conquistador ni conquistador. . . . Hay que pensar en trminos continentales, aunque cada cual debe guardar sus idiosincrasias, su orgullo nacion al y sus racesâ€ [â€œfrankl y, I believe that in our world, there should be neither conqueror nor c onquered. . . . We must think in terms of continental relationships; however, each country should preserve its idio syncrasies, its national pride and its rootsâ€] (239). Like Isabel, Ferr fails to acknowledge that despite our best efforts, relations of power will not in and of themselves disappear. Her column for the New York Times , in which she declared her intentions to vote for annexation in the next pl ebiscite, also overlooks the unevenness of power which has characteri zed U.S.-Puerto Rican relations since 1898. Instead, she represents the coloni al relationship as one through which Puerto Rico received the
177 benefits of â€˜progress.â€™ As a result of ethni c diversity on the mainland, Ferr explains, â€œwe no longer need to fear that â€˜el otro,â€™ the other, will swallow us up. We have become the other. As a Puerto Rican and an American, I believe our fu ture as a community is inseparable from our culture and language, but Iâ€™m also passionately committed to the modernâ€ (â€œPuerto Rico U.S.A.â€). Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon functions as an instance of co lonial nationalism in that it ultimately seeks to validate and strengthen the existing colonial relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Yet despite the novelâ€™s obvio us attempts to represent colonization as a â€˜civilizingâ€™ mission, it is unable to resolve the contradi ctions inherent to conquest, domination and exploitation. The unconscious of the text th us manages to reveal these inconsistencies, particularly at the intersections of labor, capital and material culture. As a form of colonial mimicry, then, Ferrâ€™s text unintentionally calls attentions to the stru ctures of domination. Moreover, by rooting the narrative conflict in ge nder difference and inequality, Ferr highlights the ways in which women in colonized cultur es must often navigate between the greater freedoms offered by U.S. culture and the more patriarchal cultures of home. For Isabel specifically, â€˜progressâ€™ becomes in tricately tied to womenâ€™s libera tion. Thus, even as a form of colonial nationalism, The House on the Lagoon manages to underscore the complexities of colonial relationships. Colonial Identities in Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun While Rosario Ferrâ€™s novel makes overt her desire to position herself as a viable interlocutor for Puerto Rico, Judith Ortiz Coferâ€™s 1989 novel, The Line of the Sun , instead underscores the difficulties of writing nation from within the imperial center. Marisol, the novelâ€™s narrator, struggles to reconcile her Puerto Rican history and culture with her desire for acceptance in the U.S. The first half of the novel is, in fact, Marisolâ€™s te xtual reconstruction of
178 her parentsâ€™ and her uncleâ€™s adve ntures in Puerto Rico. Like Ferrâ€™s Isabel Montfort, Marisol imagines her familyâ€™s history in order to understa nd and re-imagine her position within the U.S. Yet unlike The House on the Lagoon , which successfully integrates the past and present into the narrator-writerâ€™s reality, The Line of the Sun imagines nation as a pa storal and/or idyllic community completely removed from the harsh e xperiences of alienation and discrimination in Paterson, New Jersey. Consequently, the novel is composed of two very distinct parts: the pastoral romance of her parentsâ€™ Puerto Rico an d the poverty and dislocati on of Marisolâ€™s life in El Building. As Efran Barradas astutely notes, edenic visions of the island often function as internal utopias that sustain emigrants living on the mainland. Marisolâ€™s romantic re-writing of her familyâ€™s history on the island becomes an escape from the difficulties of her position between the emigrants of El Building and the Anglo-Americans in the surrounding community. Yet at the same time, her inability to integrate the two halves of th e text into one narrative or to imagine the island as more than myth suggests th at Marisol has also been unable to reconcile conflicting loyalties to home and homeland. As we saw in Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon , womenâ€™s greater freedoms on the mainland can and often do supersede critiques of colonialism. For Isabel Montfort identifying with U.S. â€˜progressâ€™ means grea ter opportunities for personal free dom. In fact, womenâ€™s status in colonized communities has often been a spac e of colonial intrusi on. Partha Chatterjee explains that in order to represent colonialism as a â€˜civilizingâ€™ mission, the colonizer â€œ[assumed] a position of sympathy with the unfree and oppr essed womanhood,â€ turning her into â€œa sign of the inherently oppressive and unfr ee natureâ€ of the conque red culture (118). Certainly Isabelâ€™s attempts to identify with th e oppressed on the islandâ€”Afro-Pu erto Ricans and the lower classesâ€”suggest that she has not only bought in to the notion of an â€œoppressive and unfreeâ€
179 island culture, but also that sh e has accepted the mainland as in herently more â€˜civilizedâ€™ and â€˜progressiveâ€™ regarding women a nd minorities. In Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun , however, the freedoms of the mainland prove less tangi ble. Although Marisol recounts her mother Ramonaâ€™s childhood as one spent caring for sibli ngs and other family members, the narrator appears reluctant to characterize either culture as necessarily offering more freedoms for women. She notes that while much of her motherâ€™s youth was spent on domestic responsibilities, it also allowed Ramona certain freedom s. Marisol explains, â€œIf I were on the Island, I would be respected as a young woman of marriageable age. . . . a girlâ€™s fifteenth year . . . she dresses like a woman and joins the women at co ffee in the afternoon. . . . I was almost fifteen nowâ€”still in my silly uniform, bobby socks and all . . . still not allowed to socialize with my friendsâ€ ( The Line of the Sun , Sun, 222). Although Marisol is freed from the st rictly defined gender roles of Salud, she endures greater marginality in the U.S. as a result of cultural, colonial and gender difference. Likewise, Ramonaâ€™s role in the community of Salud may have been restrictive, but her movements were not. On the mainland, however, Ra monaâ€™s fear of the ci ty keeps her a virtual prisoner of El Building. The familyâ€™s move to the suburbs only increases this imprisonment by cutting her off from a cultural community. Ma risol acknowledges that the new house became â€œa place that threatened to imprison her [Ramona]. In this pretty little hou se, surrounded by silence, she would be the proverbial bird in a gilded cageâ€ ( Sun 285). Ramona does not view the island as repressive, but, rather, as a site of nurtura nce, a place which provide s access to kin-centered networks. The Line of the Sun , thus, suggests that emigration a nd â€˜liberationâ€™ experiences are relative to class and privilege; it also calls attention to the wa ys cultural alienation, marginality and racism minimize the â€˜benefitsâ€™ of colonialism. As we will see, Marisolâ€™s narrative remains
180 much more invested in reconcil ing her alienation from both U.S. and Puerto Rican cultures than in articulating assimilation as a means of resolving gender inequalities. Critical analyses of The Line of the Sun have often noted Marisolâ€™s efforts to negotiate a hybrid identity composed of both her Puerto Rica n culture and her immers ion in U.S. culture. Carmen Faymonville, in fact, argues that the novel is an instance of what Homi Bhabha calls interstitial space (131). She e xplains that â€œOrtiz Coferâ€™s new and different reality of diaspora cannot be understood through the traditional co ncepts of nationhood and literary borders. Indeed, Ortiz Coferâ€™s construction of a hybrid migr ant identity appears transnational rather than foundationalâ€ (143). In the c onstruction of transnational id entities, many of the national narratives in this study transfor m what were once foundational na rratives into vehicles for transnational identity that challenge the fixity of bordered nationalisms. Yet by constructing Puerto Rico as a pre-modern society, Marisol does not open the borders of national inclusion; instead, she constructs an almost linear tempor ality. The island thus becomes the past of a present and future imagined larg ely on the mainland. The past tim e of Puerto Rico is perhaps most clearly visible in the im age of Franco el Loco, whose â€œtime had stopped like a dropped clockâ€ and whose body was bent permanen tly at a seventy-five degree angle ( Sun 108). Like Franco, the island becomes vacated of its place in the present. Furthermore, The Line of the Sun departs from the narratives of Latinas like Cristi na Garca and Sandra Cisneros in that Marisol appears to exhibit an overriding impulse to repress and/or negate national history. By this I do not mean that she effaces or denies her Puerto Rican history, but that sh e restricts herself to constructions of nation which re present the island as a non-threat ening ethnic/cultural history divorced of its political potential. Moreover, un like the protagonists of many of the Latinas in this study, Marisol does not take a journey (back) to the island, but instead engages in further
181 mythification of the island and Sa lud. Consequently, I am much more interested in the strategies Marisol (and Ortiz Cofer) utilizes to negotiate co nflicting allegiances than in calling attention to instances of hybridization. The formal splitting of Puerto Rican and U.S. life into distinct narra tive sections coupled with the very different generic conventions of th ese sections suggest that Marisolâ€™s transnational identity is overwhelming caught up in the rhetor ic of imperial power. The binary oppositions Marisol uses to characterize her parents and her island repeatedly reproduce the colonial representations of Puerto Rico as child-like and pre-modern. Th e narrator often resorts to overt and implicit representations of Ra mona as dark, sensual, earthy, spiritual, and exotic and of Rafael as white, disciplined, practical, angelic, and familiar in order to dramatize what she perceives as the differences betw een island and mainland. In her narrative, Rafael represents assimilation, while Ramona represents the stigma of cultural difference. Moreover, although the narrative remains invested in imperial represen tations of Puerto Ric o, it also appropriates nostalgia and myth in order to re press the colonial history of th e island. However, in identifying the colonial overtones of The Line of the Sun , I do not wish to suggest that this novel is another instance of colonial nationalism in the same sense as Ferrâ€™s The House on the Lagoon . On the contrary, Ortiz Coferâ€™s novel poi gnantly captures the alienation a nd confusion of emigration and discrimination, as well as the colonial dimensions of that struggle. As in Ferrâ€™s novel, colonial ambivalence emerges from the unconscious of the text, through those unassimilable and disruptive elements in the narrative. Marisolâ€™ s text thus bolsters assimilation ambivalently, instead calling attention to the way colonial influence shapes mainland Puerto Rican representations of the island/culture.
182 Unlike Ferr, who chooses to write in English, often translating her works from Spanish to English for initial publication18, Ortiz Cofer writes in English out of necessity. Although she was born in Puerto Rico, Ortiz Cofer has spent the majority of her life living in the United States. Writing, she claims, allows her to explore the di fferent meanings and ways of being Puerto Rican. In an interview with Rafael Ocasio, she ex plains that â€œ[t]here is not just one reality to being a Puerto Rican writer. I am putting together a different view.â€ Likewise, Ortiz Cofer writes in English not â€œa political act but as a necessity (AcostaBeln 91). Because of Puerto Ricoâ€™s colonial relationship to the United States, language can be a particularly polemical issue among islanders and mainland Puerto Ricans. As a re sult, she explains, â€œI fe el very close to my heritage. Even if I cannot be geographically in the place I was born, I consider myself a Puerto Rican the same way that anyone living on the Island is a Puerto Rican and if I could, I would write in Spanishâ€ (Acosta-Belen 90). While Ferr has received critic ism for her use of the language of the colonizer, writers like Ortiz-C ofer are frequently excluded from the canon of island writers for writing in English. Ortiz Cofe râ€™s comments about language usage and Puerto Ricanness also reveal her desire to legitimate and/or articulate her relationship to the island culture despite her geogra phic location in the U.S. Her comments, as I suggested, are the result of the prevalent sense that mainland Puerto Ricans are not legitimate/authe ntic Puerto Ricans. While many of the women writers in this study have called attention to the precariousness of their own national identifications given their emig ration to, or birth in, the U.S., Ortiz Coferâ€™s interviews and works exhibit much more anxiet y in their negotiations of national and cultural inclusion. Writers like Cristina Ga rca and Julia Alvarez, for inst ance, are much more willing to 18 In an interview with Castillo Ga rca, Ferr admits that she wrote The House on the Lagoon , Eccentric Neighborhoods and Flight of the Swan in Spanish first, and then translated them into English (242). She claims to have published all three novels in English first in orde r to create a market for th e Spanish editions (240-243).
183 call attention to the shortcomings of nation-states and to expand the borders of national inclusion than are writers like Ortiz Cofer. In fact, The Line of the Sun broaches U.S. Puerto Rican relations lightly, if at all. Given the U.S.â€™s immense economic, political and cultural influence on the island, the absence of a discourse on colonization, inde pendence or annexation seems particularly glaring. Instead, Ortiz Cofer write s nation as largely independent of the islandâ€™s political status, a move which transforms Pu erto Ricannes into a non-threatening form of ethnicity. Although Marisolâ€™s reconstructions of the island include referen ces to the U.S. presence in Puerto Rico, she often displaces colonial violen ce onto intolerant and/or â€˜wickedâ€™ members of the community. For instance, Don Juan Santacru z, Rafaelâ€™s father and foreman of the local sugar mill, stands in for the violence and exploitation characteristic of the American-owned sugar mills that replaced many of the local esta tes after occupation. As the narrator explains, â€œDon Juan made friends with no one, spoke only to the American [Mr. Clement] . . . and had a reputation as a man who could hold his cups and who was easily aroused to angerâ€ ( Sun 55). Mr. Clement, on the other hand, appears benevolent , perhaps slightly pate rnalistic, in Marisolâ€™s text. Don Juanâ€™s violent mistreatment of his wi fe and exploitation of his son mitigate the horror of Mr. Clementâ€™s adoption (or purch ase) of Rafaelâ€™s sister, Josefa. In this way, the familyâ€™s personal losses become largely th e result of Don Juanâ€™s character flaws, not of the colonial system. Likewise, when Ramonaâ€™s brother, Carm elo, dies in the Korean War, her mother, Mama Cielo blames the intolerance of the local townsp eople rather than the co lonial government. She explains, â€œCarmeloâ€”handsome and sensitive, forced to leave his home because of the evil minds that could only see that he wa s different from the other young me nâ€”killed in another manâ€™s war. She felt in her heart that people like Doa Tina had killed Carmeloâ€ ( Sun 85). Despite the
184 narratorâ€™s acknowledgement that the â€œillusory Ed enâ€ in which â€œpoverty was romanticized and relatives attained mythical pr oportionsâ€ never quite ex isted, Marisol continues to represent the island as a closed community removed from coloni al policies. Violence, vice and intolerance become effective strategies of dissimulati on, directing the narrative away from overt confrontations with colonial exploitation. Perhaps the most haunting scene of colonial ambivalence occurs when Ramona, out on an excursion to collect medicinal he rbs, encounters a troop of American soldiers in the midst of a field expedition. Ramona walks hand in hand with a nineteen year old sold ier in a pastoral scene that romanticizes American occupation of the island as a mixture of desire and benevolent compassion. The pair walk through a pasture filled with â€œcows . . . with . . . huge, moist eyes moving against them with passive sensuousness, â€ until they come to a stream. Then, She fell to her knees and the soldier pulled he r gently toward him. He held her arms pinned at the wrists behind her w ith one of his large farmerâ€™s hands. . . . Ramona wanted to scream, but even in her confusion of fear and desire she somehow knew that this boy would not harm her. . . . So she relaxed, wigg ling her fingers to let hi m know that he could release his grip now. Sh e turned to face him. . . . Ramona felt her body rising in a pleasur able wave that was taking her deeper and deeper into a dangerous oblivion. . . . He told her with his tongue what he wanted . . . He wanted to possess her but not take her like a wh ore. He saw that tears were sliding down Ramonaâ€™s flushed cheeks. He knew she was responding to his desire but was frightened and confused. . . . He got to his feet and ra ised her up. At that moment of renunciation Sonny probably felt more like a hero than he woul d ever feel during the rest of his life. ( Sun 161-162) The idyllic encounter between Ramona, the â€˜dark beauty,â€™ and the pale American soldier reimagines the first moment of colonial interact ion between the island and the mainland. In this scene, however, the encounter is one of renunciation and compassi on as well as of desire. And while the narrator alludes to the soldierâ€™s use of force, she also explains that Ramona â€œsomehow knew that this boy would not harm herâ€ ( Sun 161). The violence of colonial encounters is hauntingly absent despite the obvious military pres ence; instead Marisol imagines it as a failed
185 (or impossible) romance. The scene also implies desire and complicity on the part of the island, which is feminized through representations of Ra mona. The narrator, in fact, consistently depicts her mother, Ramona, as embodying the spirit of the island. She re -constructs the island through familiar objects and dcor, as well as th rough the comforting sounds and scents of island life in El Building. While Rafael and Marisol be long to â€œthe world of phones, offices, concrete buildings, and the English languageâ€ ( Sun 273), Ramona remains essentialized as the embodiment of a stereotyped Puerto Rico. Raf ael, on the other hand, represents the â€˜orderâ€™ and â€˜subduedâ€™ tastes of middle-class U.S. life. He substitutes the American soldier with whom romance is impossible. Marisol even imagines her motherâ€™s continued desire for the aggression of her encounter with the soldier: â€œRamona sometim es imagined that the arms that held her were the soldier Sonnyâ€™s. And then she thought that Rafael was too timid in his lovemaking. Why wasnâ€™t her blood pounding in her ears as it did when the Americano had crushed her to the ground, his mouth drawing her breath and her tongue into himselfâ€ ( Sun 168). Through this romantic desire, the narrative again underscores U.S.-Puerto Ri can relations as grounded in mutual desire and attraction despite its sometimes violent manifestations. Notions of cultural â€˜purityâ€™ also haunt Mari solâ€™s reconstructions of island and barrio culture in ways that recall the la nguage of imperialism. Like Ortiz Coferâ€™s mother, Ramona also maintains the â€œfantasy that her exile from Puerto Rico [is] temporary and that she [does] not need to learn the language, keeping herself â€˜ pureâ€™ for her return to the Islandâ€ ( Silent Dancing 104). For Ramona, maintaining cultural practices like es piritismo within the enclosure of El Building means remaining connected to cultu ral identity. Her fear of Amer icanization and refusal to adapt also suggests a fear of â€˜contaminationâ€™ and the likely rejection of is landers. Rosaâ€™s story functions as a lesson to Ramona and Marisol as they negotiate their loyalties to culture and
186 community. Rosa, called â€˜La Cabraâ€™ by the townspe ople, returns to Salud after years of living in New York and suffering sexual abuse and exploita tion. She becomes the victim of patriarchy and colonial violence in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. As an unmarried woman with a daughter, however, she also challenges the morals of th e community. Her merging of esiritismo and Santeria, which she learned in New York among other Puerto Ricans and Latino/as, as well as her lifestyle make her an outsider within this small community. Marisol notes that â€œin another era, in a different place, Rosa might have b ecome a student of psychology, a physician, a healer; but . . . Rosa was, to herself as well as to othe rs, nothing more than a cunning fortuneteller and a whoreâ€ ( Sun 97). In an interview with Edna Acosta -Beln, Ortiz Cofer explains that Rosaâ€™s â€œoptions were limited by her social class and so cietyâ€™s moral expectations â€ (88). And while the story does highlight the ways in which women often reinforc ed restrictive gender roles, particularly for other women, it also calls atte ntion to the ways communities determine in/exclusion. Rosaâ€™s ostracism and subsequent expul sion from Salud highlights the ways in which mainland Puerto Ricans are often denied cultur al legitimacy within island communities. Rosa represents that unassimilable other, not merely in terms of her refusal to abide by gender roles, but also in terms of her merging of cultures. He r story functions as a moral tale for both Ramona and Marisol, who must invent st rategies for coping with discour ses of cultural purity. While Ramona chooses to keep herself â€˜pureâ€™ by shut ting out as much of ma inland life as possible, Marisol chooses to move closer to mainland culture/Americanization by transforming her Puerto Rican cultural history into myth. By chasing Rosa out of Salud, the women of the Holy Rosary Society also cleanse the town of the only hybrid [read Americanized] member of the town. Given that the townâ€™s name translates as â€˜health,â€™ Rosaâ€™s expulsion can al so be read as necessary to the Puerto Rican
187 communityâ€™s (or nationâ€™s) cultural well-being. Although she is not the only woman in the community who rejects the townâ€™s moral codes, she is the only one who has lived abroad and adopted U.S. customs. By framing Rosaâ€™s expu lsion as one determined largely by social class and gender, Marisol subsumes her own awaren ess of the ways in which colonization has conditioned the terms of cu ltural in/ex-clusion on the island. Discourses of cultural purity are, in fact, prevalent on the island. Given their coloni al relationship to the U.S., islanders often promote an almost excessive Hispanidad whic h excludes those who have lived on the mainland for extended periods. The existing divisions between â€˜authentic â€™ island cultures and â€˜assimilatedâ€™ mainland cultures reproduce the language of Otherne ss characteristic of domination. As Arcadio Daz-Qu iones explains, â€œ[l]a Otreda dâ€”y la intoleranciaâ€”comienzan en casa, profundamente condicionadas por la ideo loga colonial. Es el lenguaje del poderâ€” internalizado en la colonia â€”dispuesto a una especie de higiene socialâ€ [Othernessâ€”and intoleranceâ€”begin at home, prof oundly conditioned by colonial ideo logy. It is the language of powerâ€”internalized by the colonyâ€”disposed to a form of social hygiene] (80). While the nation/colony challenges the imperialist gaze that subordinates it, the co lonized, particularly those in power, reproduce the language of excl usion through images of contamination and impurity. As I noted at the beginning of this chapter, the cultural nationalism of 1950s Puerto Rico absorbed much of the independista sentiment through a program to restore the islandâ€™s cultural â€˜personalityâ€™ while at the same time promo ting modernization as an avenue for economic stability. Operation Serenity, a term coined by Luis Muoz Marn, was supposed to be the corollary to Operation Bootstrap, the economic program to export Puerto Rican labor to the U.S. and thus alleviate social unr est caused by unemployment. Operation Serenity emphasized
188 spirituality and culture along with modernization as the goals of the Puerto Rican economy, and, as such, it promoted emigration as necessary fo r the good of the people and the nation. In doing so, colonial administrators encouraged the preser vation of a distinct cultural identity for those on the island, while also encouraging emigrants to ad apt to life in the U.S. Emigrants later found that islanders no longer considered them authen tic Puerto Ricans, because they had adopted hybrid language and lifestyle practices. The isla nd/stateâ€™s continued re presentation of Puerto Rican culture as primarily Hispanic and Catholic marginalizes emigrants as well as those born on the mainland. As Duany points out, â€œthe Institut e of Puerto Rican Culture, as well as other cultural institutions, has often di splayed an excessively pro-Hispan ic bent that often reifies the Spanish language as the litmus test of Puerto Ricannessâ€ ( The Puerto Rican Nation 135). Consequently, speaking, writing and publishing in Spanish remain markers of authenticity and Puerto Ricanness among islanders. Ortiz Cofe r, who was educated primarily on the mainland, often notes the ways in which language can become a tool for exclusion. She explains, â€œWhen I go to Puerto Rico, I am always reminded that I sound like a gringa . . . I cannot change the fact that I have lived most of my life in the United States, I am married to an American, I live in Georgia. The kinds of things that I experienced every time I went back to Puerto Rico, they left an impression on me, particularly as a young child . When you go to Puerto Rico, they call you la americanita â€œ (Acosta-Beln 89). The fear of becomi ng the Other, in this case the emigrant whose Otherness is doubled by colonial migratio n, conditions Ramonaâ€™s life in El Building as well as Marisolâ€™s representations of the emigrant s she encounters. Moreover, Rosaâ€™s rejection and subsequent expulsion from Salud suggest to Ma risol that perhap s assimilation to U.S. society is her only chance for acceptance.
189 Marisolâ€™s representations of the pastoral, trad itional Salud and its corrupted â€˜facsimile,â€™ El Building reflect her own sense of alienation from building residents and from her Anglo classmates. As she grows older and becomes more aware of her own difference, Marisol explains that she feels â€œmore embarrassed . . . about living in this crowded, noisy tenement, which the residents seemed intent on turning in to a bizarre facsimile of an Island barrioâ€ ( Sun 220). Likewise, she notes that â€œin Paterson, in the cold rooms stories above the frozen ground, the smells and sounds of a lost wa y of life could only be a parodyâ€ ( Sun 223). By calling these emigrant practices parody, she sugge sts that they are distortions or caricatures of island life, and thus misrepresentations of Puerto Ricanness. The result is repeti tion of ideas of cultural purity or authenticity which also reinforce her own claims to a distinct form of Puerto Ricanness. Likewise, although she consistently notes the ways in which residents preserve memories of the island through foods, nostalgia and spiritual practices, she is careful to point out their difference from islanders. She notes that â€œ[t]wo years in New York City had taught [Rafael] that a streettough Puerto Rican immigrant is not the same speci es as usually gentle and hospitable Islanderâ€ ( Sun 170). Like her father, Marisol al so engages in strategies to di stance herself from the â€œstreettoughâ€ Puerto Ricans of El Building. In fact, he r creation of a pre-modern Puerto Rico in the first half of the novel allows her to claim a cultu ral heritage, while at the same time emphasizing her difference from the other resi dents of El Building. Moreover, she inverts what may appear as her own exceptionalism by suggesting that the emigra nts of her building are in fact very different from the â€œgentle and hospitableâ€ islanders which she claims as her own descendants. In doing so, she also claims a Puerto Rican identity divorce d of the material realitie s of other emigrants. While this may be useful to alleviate Marisolâ€™s sense of alienation from both the emigrants of her building and the Irish, Italian and Polish children she attends school with, her repetitions of these
190 stereotypes are troubling because they only subt ly touch on the conditions which necessitate emigrant â€˜toughness.â€™ After all, unlike the othe r emigrants, Marisolâ€™s family does not worry about money or about lay-offs and labor disputes. Her fatherâ€™s job with the U.S. Navy allows the family to live more comfortably than their nei ghbors. More importantly it allows them the luxury of diminished economic pressures. A dditionally, Rafaelâ€™s bl onde hair and â€œtextbook Englishâ€ allow him, if not his family, to escape the brunt of U.S. racism. In contrast, many of the emigrants of El Building suffer the hardsh ips of frequent unemplo yment and racism. Marisolâ€™s difficulty reconciling her cultural heritage with her desire for U.S. acceptance stems from her awareness that claiming a Puerto Rican identity means also recognizing the emigrants of El Building as a part of her cultural community. In Black Skin, White Masks , Frantz Fanon explains that the col onized â€œdoes not compare himself with the white man qua father, leader, God; he compares himself with his fellow against the pattern of the white manâ€ (215). As a result, Marisol often casts herself in star k opposition to the other tenants of El Building, those who do not measure up to U.S. standards. For instance, as her mother and the other women of the building prepare for a spiritual m eeting, Marisol remarks, â€œ[t]o me, it was all an embarrassing activity my mother sp ent too much of her time onâ€ ( Sun 238). Given the very different worlds she inhabitsâ€”El Building and St. Jeromeâ€™s Catholic Schoolâ€”Marisol often feels she must choose between those, like her classmateâ€™s fa ther, who look down on Puerto Ricans and those, like her mother, who recreate the island in El Building. Consequently, Marisol also struggles to reconcile her loyalties to fam ily with her desire for acceptance. Her mother, Ramona, often comes to represent the Otherne ss Marisol wants to negate: â€œMy gypsy mother embarrassed me with her wild beauty. I wanted her to cut and spray her hair into a sculpted
191 hairdo like the other ladies; I wanted her to wear tailored skirts and jackets like Jackie Kennedyâ€ ( Sun 220). Implicit in the shame she feels when her mother intrudes on the Americanized world of her school is the fear that she too wi ll be perceived as Other. Mari sol acknowledges that her mother â€œwas what I would have looked li ke if I had worn my hair in a tight braid, if I had allowed myself to sway when I walked, and if I had worn loud colors and had spoken only Spanishâ€ ( Sun 220). As she grows older, Marisol begins to view Ramona as the embodiment of her own difference, a difference which stems from a doubl ed awareness of how the colonizer views the colonized. Marisol admits that â€œ[o]n the streets of Paterson, my mother seemed an alien and a refugee, and as I grew to identify with the el ements she feared, I dreaded walking with her, a human billboard advertising her paranoia in a foreign languageâ€ ( Sun 174). Moreover, she notes that her mother carries â€œla mancha . . . the stain th at has little to do with th e color of our skin . . . it was the frightened-rab bit look in our eyesâ€ ( Sun 170). This stain is not only a reflection of Marisolâ€™s growing awareness of her own representation in U.S. society, but quite literally, her mother becomes a marker of Ma risolâ€™s difference. Fanon expl ains that for the colonized, acceptance is proportional to the â€œadoption of th e mother countryâ€™s cultural standardsâ€ ( Black Skin, White Masks 18). Ramonaâ€™s inability to adapt haunt s the narratorâ€™s attempts to re-create herself in the U.S.â€™s cultural standards. In fact, one of the narratorâ€™ s first observations upon her motherâ€™s return from the island is that â€œ[t]o our neighbors (and all of th e years we lived there I always felt that their eyes were upon us) sh e must have looked like a new immigrantâ€ ( Sun 284). Marisol is thus unable to escape the gaze of th e colonizer; in fact, it follows her in her assessments of her mother and of other emigrants.
192 Guzmn, the uncle who dominates much of Ma risolâ€™s island fantasies, perhaps best exemplifies the ways in which colonization, seco nd-class citizenship and liberal rhetoric can impact self-perception and cultural identity. Lured into leaving Puerto Rico for the â€˜opportunitiesâ€™ of U.S. employment, Guzman finds himself imprisoned and working as an indentured farm worker in upstate New York. He escapes through his own cunning, but endures years of hiding, confusion and self-isolation for fear of retribution. Yet de spite these experiences in New York, he espouses the U.S. rhetoric of upward mobility implicit in programs like Operation Bootstrap, which promised prosperity th rough individual effort and hard work. When local newspapers report the rising unemployment and welfare recipients in Paterson, Marisol notes that it â€œangered him. [Guzmn] calle d them parasites and be ggars. The women and children, he said we re the victimsâ€ ( Sun 216). Moreover, he uses himself as an example of the possibilities of prosperity through hard work and self-sacrifice: â€œI saved everything I made in those holes I worked in. For the past coupl e of years Iâ€™ve slept in ratsâ€™ nestsâ€ ( Sun 216). Despite his obvious struggles against ra cism and exploitation, Guzman manages to save enough money to return to the island â€œin style.â€ However, he fails to acknowledge the failures of the colonial system and, instead, holds emigrants responsible fo r their mistreatment and lack of opportunities. Yet Guzmanâ€™s return to the island suggests that perhaps second-class citizenship and exploitation have bankrupted his Algerian notions of upward m obility. Likewise, Rafaelâ€™s increased silences after each Navy outing become glaring; they contra st his espousal of assimilation. His silences about racism and the lack of job mobility shap e his attitudes toward ot her emigrants, who he frequently rejects, and toward Americanizati on. Yet like Guzman, Raf aelâ€™s adoption of U.S. values remains haunted by his own inabil ity to minimize oppression. Although the novel
193 supports assimilation at the expense of colonial awareness, ambivalence emerges in moments where U.S. rhetoric brushes ag ainst Puerto Rican experience. The fire that leads to the narratorâ€™s escape from El Building ultimately destroys that emigrant community that Marisol, in her de sire for acceptance, cannot reconcile with her fantasies about the island. While Marisol acknowl edges that she â€œwill always carry [her] Island heritage on [her] back like a snail,â€ she is reli eved when Guzman, the main protagonist of her island narrative, returns to Puerto Rico ( Sun 273). She explains, â€œ[i]n a way I was glad he would no longer be around to confuse me. He and El Building would be gone but not forgottenâ€ ( Sun 282). Moving away from El Building enables Mari sol to return to her island fantasies without the disruptions of colonial realities like n ecessity, unemployment and racism. Moving also facilitates her construction of an apolitical Puerto Rican identity rooted in myth. By transforming her island heritage into a mythical narrative, Marisol overcomes the spiritistâ€™s prediction that she â€œwill be hindered by those closest to [her] from attaining what [she] want[s] in lifeâ€ ( Sun 253). The narrator thus br eaks with the island in orde r to facilitate her own assimilation and acceptance with in the imperial center. Conclusion: National and Colonial Ambivalence After more than one hundred years of U.S. col onialism, Latino/a representations of Puerto Rican nationness are marked profoundly by th e contradictory effects of emigration, Americanization and domination. Writers like Ro sario Ferr and Judith Ortiz Cofer dramatize the conflicting loyalties which mark assimilation narratives emerging from within the geographic and/or ideological spaces of col onial influence. While Ferr remains more invested in the current political realities of th e island, she uses social inequality, corruption and necessity to bolster the colonial imperative s of the U.S. In her novel, these inequities become largely independent of the islandâ€™s political status; in stead, they serve to reinforce the â€˜necessityâ€™ of
194 colonialism. Consequently, Isabel, the novelâ€™s prot agonist-writer, finds that she must destroy the nation/family and seek refuge in the colonial cente r in order to escape the ill effects of patriarchal power on the island. Likewise, Judith Ortiz Coferâ€™s novel, The Line of the Sun , suggests that inclusion and acceptance within the U.S. necessitate a break with nation. Marisolâ€™s writing of a mythical, pre-modern Puerto Rico reifies nationn ess into a non-threaten ing form of ethnicity which she finds necessary in order to negotia te her position within the U.S. In fact, The Line of the Sun constructs a type of apolitical ethnicity which bears some similarities to the cultural nationalism of the 1950s and projects like Operati on Serenity. Still, Or tiz Coferâ€™s narrator reveals much more anxiety about the terms of in /ex-clusion within either nation, perhaps because claiming a Puerto Rican identity means also clai ming colonial and island stereotypes. Ferrâ€™s Isabel Montfort, on the other hand, displays more willingness to abide by the colonizerâ€™s terms inclusion, perhaps because economic privilege often eases the hardships of emigration and second-class citizenship. Yet at the same time, both of th ese texts remain haunted by a colonialism that the narrators (and the writers) woul d like to repress and/or re-write. As such, these novels reveal that in many ways colonial ism has succeeded in transmitting and naturalizing its own discourses within segments of the Puerto Rican community.
195 CHAPTER 6 EPILOGUE Caught between Here and There: Latinas in the Americas . . . sooner or later Iâ€™d have to return to New York. I know now itâ€™s where I belongâ€”not instead of here, but more than here. (Garca, Dreaming 236) . . . that song, that time, that place, are all bound together in a country . . . I invented. Like all emigrants caught between he re and there. (Cisneros, Caramelo 434). Each of the novels in this study demonstr ates the overwhelming influence of Latin American nations on Latinas and their ideas a bout belonging, community, and history. Pilarâ€™s observation in Dreaming in Cuban that she belongs in the United States â€˜ more than,â€™ rather than â€˜ instead of,â€™ in Cuba underscores the complexities of locating nati onal â€˜originsâ€™ for Latino/as. Her anxiety about this realiza tion is intricately bound up with her fear of betraying her grandmother. Yet, this anxiety also results from having to choose between two nations, and her subsequent fear that returning to the U.S. signi fies a betrayal or rej ection of Cuban national belonging. Likewise, Cisnerosâ€™ na rrator, Celaya, articulates a similar anxiety about national belonging in the face of competi ng national territories and cultur es. For many of these writers, imagining the nation also means acknowledging their own alterity within the Americas. Moreover, identification with any one nation or territory remains out of reach for many Latino/as. Carameloâ€™s Celaya imagines an emigrant ident ity despite her birth in the U.S., underscoring her hybridity. By calling herself an emigrant, she foregrounds her literary and imaginative migration from North to South, ye t she also highlights her connection to and identification with those w ho emigrate to the U.S. Although national spaces are expanding as a resu lt of global practices, exiles, migrants and the children of diasporas conti nue to confront issues of auth enticity and legitimacy within multiple cultures and communities. In many cases , place of birth continues to determine how
196 Latino/as will be perceived and represente d by â€˜homeâ€™ countries. On the other hand, ethnicity/race continues to function as a signifier of Otherness within the United States despite place of birth. As a result, Latino/as often feel the double rejection of Latin American nations and of U.S. communities. The turn to nati onal history, however, intrudes on these limited conceptions of national belonging. In sense, the historical narrative aims to legitimate claims to national belonging by foregrounding historical and popular knowledge of Latin American countries. Novels like Caramelo , for instance, make use of mu ltiple cultural productions and genres in an effort to articul ate Mexican national identity desp ite the narratorâ€™s position in the U.S. And while all of these texts undoubtedly attempt to recover linkages to lost and/or unavailable histories, they also revealâ€”to varying degreesâ€”their anxiety about their claims to nation. Whereas Cisnerosâ€™ novel seems in creasingly concerned with articulating Mexicanidad , Julia Alvarezâ€™s novels are much more concerne d with tracing Dominican histories which the author can claim as foundational and as parallel to her own emigrant experiences. Tracing the continuity of emigration patterns allows these au thors to situate their own migrations within a much larger historical context. For other writers, however, the burdens of col onialism threaten even the possibilities of imagining nation. Judith Ortiz Coferâ€™s The Line of the Sun , for instance, replaces the Puerto Rican nation with a non-threatening form of ethnicity invested in assimilation and upward mobility. Likewise, Rosario Ferr â€™s investment in the consumability of her novels prevents her from imagining the nation or its history in ways that subvert colonialism and domination. U.S. Puerto Rican writers offer a partic ularly challenging view of the ro le of nation, one that I believe merits closer study. That there have been so few national novels among Puerto Ricans living off the island, especially given the size of their population and their long history on the mainland,
197 points to the pervasiveness of col onialism and perhaps, as Juan Flores argues, to the absence of cultural capital in the form of a diplomatic and institutional infrastructure (177-179). As a result, the works of writers like Ferr and Ortiz Cofe r exhibit anxiety about their place within the colonial center as well as about the terms of their in/ex-clusion within Puerto Rico. Because of this anxiety about national belong ing, many of these writers seem reluctant to completely displace or disrupt nationalist hierar chies. In fact, their double marginality often leads them to limited critiques of their locations as national. Women, in particular, often become the primary vehicle for challeng ing national in/ex-clusion, while the lower classes and people of color often become marginal to writing the nati on. That gender inequality constitutes the foundation of these national narratives suggests that for Latinas, gender continues to determine the limits of national belonging. In other words, women continue to struggle to define the terms of their inclusion within the nation, a sentiment perhaps more acutely felt in the United States, where women have gained greate r independence. Yet, as thes e novels demonstrate, access to liberties and equality is often relational, based in part on access to vary ing forms of privilegeâ€” racial, class, educational, and/ or economic. Thus while Orti z Coferâ€™s Ramona finds herself caged in by life in New Jersey, Garcaâ€™s Constancia Agero discovers that life in New York and Miami offer her greater possibilities for independence and entrepreneurship. Likewise, the positions from which these writ ers speak also matters. Although they remain marginal to U.S. literature, they are, however, Latin as with access to varying forms of privilege. Their representations of class and race dynamics in Latin American nations often reflect their positions as social and sometimes racial white wo men looking for color. Thus protagonists like Ferrâ€™s Isabel Montfort functi on not only to translate the stor ies of Puerto Ricoâ€™s black
198 underclass, but also to underscore the value of whiteness within the context of both island and mainland communities. Longing for national inclusion seems to both aid and inhibit these writ ers. Of the five writers in this study, Garca articulates the str ongest and most even critiques of nationalism and the nation-state. Her novels offer nuanced vision s of Cubans living in an d outside the state, as well as of the relational politic s of gender, class and racial oppression. While novels like The Agero Sisters clearly exhibit longing, and perhaps even nostalgia, for Cuba, they also demonstrate an awareness of the dangers of na tionalisms for the marginalized. Writers like Alvarez and Cisneros, on the other hand, tend to represent the national co mmunity and the state much more ambivalently. While both offer critiques of womenâ€™s oppression and of U.S. imperialism, their nostalgia for nation precludes their ability to fully challenge limitations of some nationalisms. Instead, the nation becomes an imagined, yet elusive unity which they must reclaim. Thus while Cisneros br ings together people from both si des of the border to create an imagined Mexico, Alvarez recovers moments of nationalist unity during pe riods of state rupture and oppression. Recovering Our Histories / Re-Valuing Ourselves Bringing these Latina writers together raises unique and challenging questions about national belonging, about the connections between hi story and literature, and about influence of Latin America on different women writers. Desp ite the facetiousness with which many of these writers engage history and archive, these two forms remain integral to the novels of Julia Alvarez, Cristina Garca, Sandra Ci sneros, Rosario Ferr and Judith Ortiz Cofer. On some level, their reliance on history as a disc ourse imbued with truth-value follows a pattern much like that of Latin American writers. R oberto Gonzlez Echevarra contends that Latin American writers often adopted the form of a â€œdocument endowed w ith truth-bearing power by society at specific
199 moments in timeâ€ (8). For these women writers, historyâ€”whether in the form of metatext, historiography, myth/fable or testimonio â€”continues to function as a strategy for resisting cultural obliteration in the United States. With the exception of Ferr, all of these writers spent the major ity, if not all, of their youth and adulthood living in the United States. Thei r writings in part respond to the experience of negotiating conflicting cultures, lang uages, and loyalties. Alvar ez, Cisneros, Garca, and Ortiz Cofer also share similar educational experiences in that they completed their degrees during periods in which there were few Latina literary m odels to emulate. In f act, writers like Garca and Ortiz Cofer often acknowledge that they only read Latin American and Latino writers much later in their careers. Perhaps fo r these reasons, historical rec overy becomes paramount in their writings. In this context, re-w riting nation becomes not only an act of self-affirmation, but also an act of cultural survival. According to Walter Benjamin, history must be seized â€œas it flashe s up in a moment of danger,â€ otherwise it may â€œdisappear irretrievabl yâ€ (225). For large numbers of people now, this extended period of global change and mass migration indeed consti tutes a â€˜moments of danger.â€™ In the U.S., the growth of Latino/a populations, the increasing political de bates about aliens and immigrants, and the continued conservative ou tlook on national identity and history have perhaps helped to underscore bot h the precariousness and the urgenc y of historical recovery for Latino/a communities. Historical recovery at this particular moment also calls attention to the necessity of articulating nation-sp ecific Latino/a ident ities. Although pan-ethn icity can be useful politically, it can also erase th e class, race and historical differences which position Latino/as differently within U.S. society.
200 Throughout this project, I have emphasized th e problems that surface in re-creations of nation and history; however, I also acknowledge that these texts offer readersâ€”Latino/as and U.S.-Americans alikeâ€”tremendous opportunity to rethink the histories of the Americas. Although these novels project very sp ecific visions of nation, they al so posit altern atives to panethnic labels and ster eotypes, as well to Euro-centric visions of U.S. history. Perhaps a corollary to this study would be a look at the ways these texts ar e read within the Latin American countries they imagine. After all, thes e novels also challenge the tendenc y of Latin American nations to exclude emigrants and their children from nationa l imaginings. Moreover, the discontinuities and inconsistencies which I highlight in the prece ding chapters do not diminish the contributions these novels make to Latino/a literatures or to Lati nas in search of literary predecessors. In fact, these novels foreground the changing landscape of the historical novel in the face of global, national and local imaginaries.
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208 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Jessica Magnani began her academic career at the University of Miami in 1992. After earning a B.S. in journalism and English in 1995, she worked as a techni cal writer and as an English instructor at Florida International Univer sity. In 2001 she completed an M.A. in English at Florida International University. Years of working with African American and womenâ€™s literature, of always looking for sources of cu ltural affirmation finally led Magnani to pursue work in Latino/a studies. This project is a continuati on of work that began as a masterâ€™s thesis under the guidance of Alfred Lopez and Erik Ca mayd-Frexias. Magnani received a PhD from the University of Florida in 2007. She plans to continue researchi ng Latino/a l iterature, especially as it relates to issues of race and gender. She is of Pe ruvian descent with strong ties to her parentsâ€™ country of origin.