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Triangulations: Narrative Strategies for Navigating Latino Identity

David J. Vázquez
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Just as mariners use triangulation, so, David J. Vázquez contends, Latino authors in late twentieth-century America employ the coordinates of ideas of self to find their way to new, complex identities. Through this metaphor, Vázquez reveals how Latino autobiographical texts, written after the 1960s rise of cultural nationalism, challenge mainstream notions of individual identity and national belonging in the U.S.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7858-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction. Notes on Triangulation: Navigating Latina/o Identity
    (pp. 1-28)

    In Piri Thomas’s 1967 autobiographyDown These Mean Streets, the protagonist cites a curious exchange he has with Brew, his African American comrade. As a dark-skinned Puerto Rican, Piri’s phenotypic similarities with Brew would indicate a likely affiliation.¹ Yet a perplexing conflict arises, setting up a fascinating negotiation of the meaning of Piri’s racial identity:

    I [Piri] looked at Brew, who was as black as God is supposed to be White. “Man, Brew,” I said, “you sure an ugly spook.”

    Brew smiled. “Dig this Negro calling out ‘spook,’” he said.

    I smiled and said, “I’m a Porty Rican.”

    “Ah only...

  4. 1 Zigzagging through History: Ernesto Galarza, Jesús Colón, and the Development of Insurgent Consciousness
    (pp. 29-60)

    Many Latina/o cultural nationalist movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s envisioned new social relations and alternative formulations of community. But the politics of these movements were not without predecessors. Indeed, cultural nationalism owed a debt to the leftist social movements of the 1930s, what scholar Michael Denning (1998) calls the “age of the CIO.”¹ Rather than understanding the 1960s as antithetical to 1930s-style activism, this chapter argues that the age of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) constitutes part of the political logic of the cultural nationalist period. I examine Jesús Colón’sA Puerto Rican in New York...

  5. 2 Crazy for the Nation: Piri Thomas, Oscar ʺZetaʺ Acosta, and the Urban Outlaw
    (pp. 61-100)

    As we have seen, Latina/o authors like Jesús Colón and Ernesto Galarza link the activism of the 1930s with the radical politics of the 1960s. In the late 1960s and early 1970s a new generation of Latina/o authors drew from these oppositional strands, further transforming them in their personal narratives. Piri Thomas, a Puerto Rican, and Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, a Chicano, are representative of this group in that their texts evidence direct engagements with insurgent nationalism.¹ Thomas’sDown These Mean Streets(1967) and Acosta’sThe Revolt of the Cockroach People(1989b) utilize narrative strategies that challenge the foundations of democracy...

  6. 3 Remaking the Insurgent Vision: John Rechy, Judith Ortiz Cofer, and the Limits of Nationalist Morality
    (pp. 101-134)

    In previous chapters I examined Latina/o first-person personal narratives that triangulate alternative formulations of identity as the basis for projects of community efficacy. By matrixing the narration of the self with the history and culture of their communities, authors like John Rechy and Judith Ortiz Cofer respond to similar literary and political impulses. Rechy’s documentary novelThe Sexual Outlaw(1977) and Ortiz Cofer’s novelThe Line of the Sun(1989) redeploy insurgent tropes used by authors like Ernesto Galarza and Piri Thomas. Rechy and Ortiz Cofer recode these narrative strategies in postsixties contexts to contest patriarchal and heterosexist masculinity as...

  7. 4 I Canʹt Be Me without My People: Triangulating Historical Trauma in the Work of Julia Alvarez
    (pp. 135-170)

    As we have seen, Latina/o authors often use first-person personal narratives to triangulate new forms of individual identity and plural models of group formation. Julia Alvarez works in this vein by complicating the stability of history, personal memory, and fiction in her literary construction of a Dominican Republic based on a transformative history of the self. Because of the collective trauma inflicted by Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s brutal thirty-one-year dictatorship and the bifurcated nature of Dominican life due to migration and exile in the wake of the regime, a plausible univocal history of the nation can no longer be constructed.¹ To...

  8. Conclusion. New Millennial Triangulations
    (pp. 171-190)

    Thus far, my analysis of Latina/o triangulations has focused on first-person personal narratives written during the last third of the twentieth century. I have attempted to highlight how the works I consider posit communal identities that contest liberal individualism, racism, and white supremacy. As I have also shown, many of these narrative strategies engage insurgent nationalist politics—although authors like John Rechy, Judith Ortiz Cofer, and Julia Alvarez transform this rhetoric during the postsixties period. While twentieth-century texts contain important elaborations of Latina/o identity, it is important to consider how Chicana/o, Puerto Rican, and Dominican writers in the United States...

  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 191-194)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 195-216)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-230)
  12. Index
    (pp. 231-246)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)