Bridging the Gaps: Latina and Latin-American "Self-Writings" and the Construction of the US Latinx Identity
Mercado, S S
Since literature imitates reality and serves as a way to analyze society, it is necessary to reorient the margins and place in the center authors from underrepresented communities and authors that have been historically silenced. I examine texts, from marginalized subjects, as markers of identity and whose works provide a more comprehensive reflection of society. Specifically, I reexamine the sociopolitical and cultural contexts of works authored by women from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. People from these regions, together, comprise the largest population of Latinx in the United States. I contribute to the debates concerning Latin American and Latinx literatures and their role as cultural agents in the United States as well as their formative role in the symbolic process of nation building and identity formation. By focusing on Latin American and Latinx literature, I contribute to the understanding of a contemporary Latinx community. I study Cuban and Cuban-American authors Daisy Rubiera Castillo (Reyita sencillamente (1996) and Cristina Garcia (Dreaming in Cuban (1992). I analyze Mexican and Mexican-American authors Gloria Anzaldúa (Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) and Laura Esquivel (Como agua para chocolate (1989). From Puerto Rico, I explore Mayra Santos Febres (Fe en disfraz (2009) and Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro (las Negras (2012). These works transform conventional understandings of self-writing and they delve deeper into first-person narration. They also combine a bicultural/transnational lived experience with creative expression, personal and collective memory, with private and public history. These authors’ experiences cross literary boundaries. They straddle multiple metaphoric and literal borders. These are works that focus on identities and communities that did not make their way into the major narrative of history, but have since these works were published culminated into the Latinx identity. Finally, in my dissertation I unpack the problems that arise from cultural and ethnic essentialisms—such as labeling all Latinx as Chicanx or as Cuban-American or as Nuyorican. I conclude that such essentialism promotes the erasure of Latinx peoples with origins in Latin American nations other than Mexico, Cuba or Puerto Rico. Such essentialism perpetuates the assimilation into a dominant Latinx group based on population size.