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Queering Aztlán: Key Terms and Trends in Chicana/o Literature and Art © Dr. Marion Christina Rohrleitner (UTEP)

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Presentation on theme: "Queering Aztlán: Key Terms and Trends in Chicana/o Literature and Art © Dr. Marion Christina Rohrleitner (UTEP)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Queering Aztlán: Key Terms and Trends in Chicana/o Literature and Art © Dr. Marion Christina Rohrleitner (UTEP)

2 “Fahrplan” 1. Introduce 5 key terms in Chicana/o Studies 2. Highlight 2 examples of current trends in Chicana/o Literature and Art 2.1 Queering of 3 female icons 2.2 Sci-fi and speculative fiction 3. Q&A -> Seminar format!

3 Some key terms Queering Aztlán Chicana/o Mestizaje The Border/La Frontera

4 1. The Border/La Frontera TYPES OF BORDERS? National/Citizenship Class/socio-economic Linguistic/Language Race/Ethnicity Gender Etc.

5 “Notes Towards a Politics of Location” (1984) Adrienne Rich (American poet and feminist theorist) Significance of one’s “LOCATION” =material (geographical, cultural, class, gender, etc) circumstances to perception, interpretation, and cultural expression of lived experience -> full disclosure

6 El Paso, TX/Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua


8 The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)

9 The Kingdom of Bhutan

10 Borders tend to -> legitimate often unjust divisions -> cement limiting binaries e.g. United States vs Mexico European Union vs Syria/Morocco/etc Male vs female Black vs white Straight vs queer etc

11 Gloria Anzaldúa. Borderlands-La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1986.

12 “The U.S-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds.” Herida abierta = open wound

13 Queering Aztlán Chicana/o Mestizaje The Border/La Frontera

14 2. Mestizaje historical process of “mixing” cultures and peoples of different ethnic, racialized, linguistic, and/or religious backgrounds 2.1 Biological mestizaje 2.2 Cultural mestizaje

15 2.1 Biological mestizaje Mestiza/o = daughter/son of Spaniard and Amerindian born in Nueva España Obsessive categorization of racial hierarchies in Spanish Empire: “Limpieza de sangre”

16 Casta paintings (17 th and 18 th centuries)

17 José Clemente Orozco. “Cortés y Malinche” (1924/25)

18 “first” mestizo = Martín Cortés son of Hernán Cortés and La Malinche Born in 1523, died in Spain

19 2.2 Cultural mestizaje Mutual influencing of cultures/religions/languages/ etc of colonizer and colonized “Transculturation” (Fernando Ortíz)

20 Spanglish Merging/hybridization of Mexican Spanish and American English e.g. Tex Mex: el carro (coche + car=carro) Code-switching: intermittent use of Spanish and English, frequently mid-sentence; e.g. “the U.S. -Mexican border es una herida abierta…”

21 Queering Aztlán Chicana/o Mestizaje The Border/La Frontera

22 3. Chicana/o (Xicana/o) Ethnic/cultural heritage Political/ideological affiliation Style/aesthetics/language/music etc

23 3.1 Ethnic/Cultural Heritage Mexica -> Mechicano -> Chicano 1848-1960s: Derogatory term for Mexicans and migrant farm workers from Mexico 1960s: Chicano Civil Rights Movement Appropriation of a derogatory term by oppressed group -> “Somos Chicanos”

24 3.2 Political/ideological affiliation United Farmworkers of America (UFWA) Founded in 1962 by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta

25 Dolores Huerta Congressional Medal of Freedom, 2011

26 Visual reappropriation (Ester Hernández)

27 Cesar Chavez, 2014 ggeA ggeA

28 3.3 Style/Aesthetics Language: Spanglish, Caló “ese”, “vato” (cf Luis Valdez) Cars: Lowriders Fashion: Cholas, Virgen de Guadalupe/Azteca/ Santa Muerte tattoos

29 La Mission (USA, 2009) 49/ 49/

30 Queering Aztlán Chicana/o Mestizaje The Border/La Frontera

31 4. Aztlán Historical space Mythological space Ideological space

32 “A place on the map is also always a place in history” (Adrienne Rich)

33 1846-1848: Mexican-American War 1848: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

34 Land of the Aztecs (in Nahuatl) Mythological homeland of the Aztec people

35 "The Aztecas del norte…compose the largest single tribe or nation of Anishinabeg (Indians) found in the United States today… Some call themselves Chicanos and see themselves as people whose true homeland is Aztlán” Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands-La Frontera: The New Mestiza, 2.

36 Ideological space Chicano Civil Rights Movement reclaim U.S. Southwest as Aztlán Term invoked in resistance against AZ SB 1070 and AZ HB 2281 “Librotraficante” movement led by Tony Diaz

37 Queering Aztlán Chicana/o Mestizaje The Border/La Frontera

38 5. Queering A critical practice– reading, thinking, writing about literature and other cultural expressions Looking at a term, a phenomenon, a historical event or figure, systems of belief with different, unusual, “slant,” “queer”, eyes/perspectives developed out of Third Wave Feminism and LGTBQ studies in the 1990s (Eve Sedgwick and Michael Warner) Theorizing and interrogating the very notions of “normality” and “deviation”

39 Queering strategies Defamilarization: making the familiar unfamiliar and vice versa Decentering: putting the periphery at the center and vice versa Challenging binaries – both/and instead of either/or Reinterpretations and reappropriations

40 Queering 3 (+1) Mexican female icons La Malinche La Virgen de Guadalupe La Llorona Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

41 1. La Malinche “malinchista” = sellout Indigenous woman (NOT Aztec) Served as translator/mistress for Hernan Cortes Historically depicted as the ultimate TRAITOR (to the Aztec people) or the ultimate VICTIM (of Spanish conquest) Mother of first mestizo – Martín Cortés (*1523)

42 Jose Clemente Orozco. “Cortes y Malinche” (1924/25)

43 “Yo Soy La Malinche” by Carmen Tafolla (1978) Yo soy la Malinche. My people called me Malintzín Tenepal the Spaniards called me Doña Marina I came to be known as Malinche and Malinche came to mean traitor. they called me—chingada Chingada. (Ha— ¡Chingada! ¡Screwed!) Of noble ancestry, for whatever that means, I was sold into slavery by MY ROYAL FAMILY—so that my brother could get my inheritance.

44 ... And then the omens began—a god, a new civilization, the downfall of our empire. And you came. My dear Hernán Cortés, to share your “civilization” —to play a god,... and I began to dream... I saw and I acted. I saw our world And I saw yours And I saw— another.

45 Years later, you took away my child (my sweet mestizo new world child) to raise him in your world You still didn’t see. And history would call me Chingada. But Chingada I was not. Not tricked, not screwed, not traitor.

46 For I was not traitor to myself— I saw a dream and I reached it. Another world……… la raza. La raaaaa-zaaaaa...

47 Anachronistic – moves between past, present and future “La Raza” – key term in Chicano and Puerto Rican Civil Rights Movements Reinvents Malinche as savvy politician and visionary instead of victim/traitor Reappropriation of canonical poem “Yo Soy Joaquin” (1967), based on Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

48 2. La Virgen de Guadalupe

49 According to Catholic doctrine: Appeared on December 12, 1531 to (Saint) Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, an indigenous farmer First indigenous American saint (canonized in 2002) Speaking in Nahuatl On the hill of Tepeyac (former shrine to pre-Aztec mother Goddess Coatlicue) outside of Mexico CIty Inviting indigenous peoples to join the Catholic faith Miraculous proof: roses fell out of Juan Diego’s coat in December when he visited the Archbishop of Puebla

50 Virgen vs Malinche Virgen = innocent, “pure”, maternal, self- sacrificing, forgiving Malinche = guilty (treason), sexual, vindictive Represent binary image of femininity “Virgin/whore” dichotomy -> Leaves few options for women… -> QUEERING la Virgen


52 Delilah Montoya (*1955, Ft Worth, TX)

53 Ester Hernandez. “La Virgen defendiendo los derechos de los Xichanos” (1975)

54 Yolanda Lopez.


56 Ester Hernandez. “Wanted” (2011)

57 Alma Lopez. “Our Lady” (1999)

58 Quinceañera (2006) 7I 7I Set in LA’s Echo Park in 1990s Gentrification, gender roles, etc

59 3. La Llorona “the Weeping Woman” Haunts the Rio Grande in search of her lost children The “madre dolorosa” whose children were taken away from her (=La Virgen, la Malinche) The medusa-like mother who takes revenge on her unfaithful husband by killing their children

60 Delilah Montoya (*1955, Fort Worth, TX)

61 2 literary reapprorpiations Sandra Cisneros. “Woman Hollering Creek” (1991) Felicia Luna Lemus. Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties (2003)

62 “Woman Hollering Creek”

63 Reverse border crossing: USA->Mexico woman returns to Mexico after her Mexican American husband’s domestic abuse Saved by Felice A truckdriving woman who “hollers” – Gritona vs Llorona (scream, don’t cry) -> narrative of female empowerment and solidarity

64 Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties

65 Set in lesbian subculture in urban LA in 2000 "Buckle up, doll, I promise I’ll try not to tangle your quinceañera dress.” “my girl weeping” La Llorona both haunts and protects narrator, grandmotherly figure

66 II. Sci-fi and speculative fiction Sleep Dealer (Dir. Alex Rivera, Mexico, 2008) zS7M zS7M Ultimate outsourcing – only labor, no “foreign” bodies Migrant memories for sale

67 Lunar Braceros (2125-2148) by Rosaura Sanchez and Beatrice Pita (2009) Migrant laborers dispose of Earth’s dangerous waste on the moon From “Cali-Texas” reservations Revolutionary movement UFWM in space Environmental justice

68 Atomic Aztex (2005) by Sesshu Foster Speculative history Aztec Empire won the conquest Is now colonizing Europe Zenzontli, Keeper of the House of Darkness, is haunted by nightmares of an alternate universe Undocumented immigrant in meat-packing district in LA

69 “Perhaps you are familiar with some worlds, stupider realities amongst alternative universes offered by the ever expanding- omniverse, in which the Aztek civilization was ‘destroyed.’ That’s a possibility. I meant that’s what the Europians thot.“

70 “The Europians figured they’d wipe us out, Plan A, enslave our peoples down at the corner liquor store, crush all resustance thru germ warfare and lawyers…burn our sakred libraries, loot our capital, install Christian theokratic dictatorships…Could we let it happen? Of course not. Did we care if they had a Plan B? Hell no. Cuz in no way does that fit our aesthetic conception of how the universe is supposed to run.”

71 “Luckily we Aztex believe in circular concepts of time where reality infinitely kurves back upon itself endlessly so all that has existed does exist and will always exist and so forth into eternity. It’s the only POV that makes sense in the end.”

72 Sample questions 1. How does Chicana/o literature relate to other “ethnic” American literatures? 2. Which genres do you consider particularly effective and why? 3. Which examples of “queering” can you think of in other texts you have read thus far?

73 If you have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me at Thank you!

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