In Other Words En­tre Guadalupe y Mal­inche: Te­janas in Lit­er­a­ture and Art,

edited by Inés Hernán­dez-Ávila and Norma Elia Cantú, Univer­sity of Texas Press, 473 pages

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - edited by Inés Hernán­dez-Ávila and Norma Elia Cantú

“This land was Mex­i­can once/ was In­dian al­ways/ and is/and will be again.” That’s one of the stun­ning lines from Glo­ria An­zaldúa’s Border­lands/ La

Fron­tera: The New Mes­tiza, a trail­blaz­ing work of U.S.-Mex­ico border­lands lit­er­a­ture that wildly re­assem­bles po­etry, prose, English, Span­ish, queer the­ory, border ethnog­ra­phy, and Chi­cano cul­tural stud­ies into a text as beau­ti­ful and dis­ori­ent­ing as the re­gion it em­bod­ied. It’s a line that ap­pears again in this new an­thol­ogy by the Univer­sity of Texas Press, which cu­rates a col­lec­tion of prose, po­etry, and vis­ual art by Te­janas — nearly all of whom are in­debted to the artis­tic path­way for Te­janas that An­zaldúa carved out with her 1987 book. As ev­i­denced by this col­lec­tion, many re­main in­spired by her, over than a decade af­ter her death in 2004.

Fit­tingly, this an­thol­ogy be­gins with an es­say by An­zaldúa, “Border Arte: Nepantla, el lu­gar de la fron­tera,” a largely English-lan­guage piece riff­ing on the cul­tural themes of nepantla, a Nahu­atl word for the con­di­tion of be­ing between cul­tures, states, or ways of liv­ing. It’s a leit­mo­tif for the 50 writ­ers and eight vis­ual artists in this rich, if some­times sprawl­ing, col­lec­tion of paint­ings, po­ems, and au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal nar­ra­tives of Texan-Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can women.

For a mixed- genre an­thol­ogy, there’s a rather large amount of po­etry, much of it quite good and re­fresh­ingly po­lit­i­cal. The lat­ter is a qual­ity looked down upon in poets in the United States — but else­where in Latin Amer­ica and Europe, po­etry has cul­ti­vated a broader fol­low­ing for its will­ing­ness to en­gage and in­cor­po­rate con­tem­po­rary events.

For in­stance, in “Grow­ing Up in Laredo,” Raquel Valle-Sen­tíes uses her poem to de­pict a rowdy border t own t hrough a rol l call of Span­glish phrases. The poem is nar­rated by a cho­rus of chatty teenage girls who look for ro­mance and ad­ven­ture on Satur­day nights in a com­mu­nity so un­apolo­get­i­cally norteño that in place of bur­ri­tos and na­chos, the snack shacks serve cabrito con fri

joles bor­ra­chos [roasted goat with “drunken beans”]. Even mari­achi is sus­pect; the lo­cals pre­fer the raw coun­try cat­er­waul of ranchera bal­lads.

Emmy Pérez per­forms a sim­i­lar feat with a lyri­cal prose-poem paean to a more well-known border town, “El Paso of Na­tive Amer­i­cans who speak Span­glish ... El Paso of ev­ery city on the globe. El Paso of how I feel when I write and think about you, about jus­ti­cia and writ­ers un­afraid ... El Paso where re­finer­ies f lame in the mid­dle of the street and greet us with filthy be­sos.”

Though the sam­ple of vis­ual art i st s and pain­ters in t his an­thol­ogy is smaller, the re­pro­duced full- color art­work is well cu­rated. Fore­most among these artists is Ce­leste De Luna, whose wood­cuts and oil paint­ings fea­ture head­strong women, moth­ers and daugh­ters. In I don’t know why ev­ery­one says they’re en­dan­gered, be­cause they’re all over the place at my house (2008), a young girl and her stick horse sit on the tail­gate of a pickup truck (“Te­jana” de­cal vis­i­ble on the back win­dow, of course), sur­rounded by Texas horned lizards that em­anate tiny car­toon hearts. It’s dead se­ri­ous and to­tally whim­si­cal at the same time, the sort of art that takes a grade- school girl’s imag­i­na­tion and striv­ings as se­ri­ously as any­thing else in the world.

An­other knock­out paint­ing, De Luna’s oil can­vas ti­tled Co­razón de melón, fea­tures a young mom, ev­ery bit in­tim­i­dat­ing as she is nur­tur­ing, clutch­ing her shirt­less tod­dler daugh­ter who looks at her mom as if she were a hero. Mother and daugh­ter are flanked by a Day- Glo-ra­di­ant Vir­gen de Guadalupe and a ripe, cut can­taloupe to il­lus­trate an ironic, do­mes­tic por­trait of two fe­males who, it seems, will never be con­fined to their roles in­side a house, by any means.

On the f lip side, paint­ings from Car­men Lo­mas Garza are pos­i­tively Chi­cana Grandma Moses in their depic­tions of South Texas Te­jano fam­ily life in the 1950s. Folksy, nos­tal­gic, and ut­terly con­cerned with pre­serv­ing lo­cal Río Grande Val­ley tra­di­tions, her paint­ings con­jure up a tamal­ada (com­mu­nal tamale prepa­ra­tion) and lov­ingly de­pict a cu­ran­dera heal­ing a sick woman in her well-ap­pointed bed­room, as her young son looks on from the foot of the bed.

“The heal­ing goes be­yond at­tend­ing to sur­face phys­i­cal ail­ments; it is a soul heal­ing,” write the edi­tors of this an­thol­ogy, whose work is also in­cluded. Co-ed­i­tor Norma Elia Cantú, an English pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Mis­souri in Kansas City, is known in Te­jana and Chi­cana lit­er­ary cir­cles for Canícula: Snapshots of a

Girl­hood en la Fron­tera, a 1995 book that was re­cently reprinted by the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico Press, be­cause of its en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity some 20 years af­ter its first publi­ca­tion. Co-ed­i­tor Inés Hernán­dez-Ávila, a pro­fes­sor of Na­tive Amer­i­can stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Davis, in­cludes a nar­ra­tive piece about her mixed roots as the daugh­ter of a Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can fa­ther and a Nez Perce (Nimi’ipuu) mother.

Though I wish there were a bet­ter or­ga­ni­za­tion of these pieces — per­haps by re­gion in Texas, publi­ca­tion date, or even theme — the edi­tors have brought to­gether a truly im­pres­sive ar­ray of Te­jana fe­male artists, giv­ing equal time to es­tab­lished names and ris­ing stars. — Casey Sanchez

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.