Document 193536

13Andres Gonza les Gue rre ro, [r., The Significance of Nuestro Senora de Guadalupe and
La Raza C6slnica in the Development of a Chicano Theology of Liberation (Ann Arb or, MI:
u niversity Microfilms Intern ational, 1984), 122.
H Algunos dicen que Guadalupe es una palabrndcriuida det tenguaiearabe que significa "Rio
Owl/a." Tom ie de Paola, The Lady of Guadalupe (New York, NY: Holiday Ho use, 1980),44.
15 "Desde el cieio una hermosa mafiana," from Propios de la misa de N uestro Senora de
Guadalupe, Guerrero, 124.
" Fro m "La Virgen Ranchera, " Guerrero, 127.
17 La Virgin Maria is often equated with the Aztec Teleoina m, the Maya lx chel, the Inca
Mamacocha, and the Yoruba Yemauti .
" C eoffrey Parrinder, ed.. World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present (New
York, NY: fac ts on File Publications, 1971), 72.
19Levi-Strau ss's paradigm w hich opposes nature to culture and fema le to male has
no suc h va lidity in the early histor y of ou r Ind ian fo rebe ars. Jun e Nash, "The Azt ecs and
the Ideology of Male Dominance," Signs (Winter, 1978), 349.
20 Parrinder, 72.
21 Parrinder. 77.
22 Nas h, 352.
23 Nash, 350, 355.
24 Parrinder, 355.
25 Jacq ues Soustelle, The Daily Life of the Aztecs on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest (New
Yor k, NY: Macm illan Publ ishing Com p any, 1962). Sous telle and mo st other historians
got their informa tion from the Franci scan fath er, Bernardino de Sahagun, chief chro ni­
cler of Indian religio us life.
26Nash , 252-253.
27Nash , 358.
28 Nash, 361- 362.
29 Ka rl W. Luckert, Olmec Religion: A Key to Middle A merica and Bcqond (No rman, OK:
Uni versity of Oklahoma Press, 1976), 68, 69, 87,109.
3O Bernard ino de Sahagun, General History of the Things of New Spain (Flo rentine
Codex), Vol. [ Revised , tran s. Ar th ur And ers on and Charles Dibble (Sante Fe, NM :
Scho ol of Am erican Research, 1950), I I.
31The Aztecs muted Snake Woman 's patrona ge of chi ld bir th an d vegeta tion by plac­
ing a sacrificial knife in the empty cradle she carr ied on her back (signifying a ch ild who
died in child birth ), thereby making her a dev ou rer of sacrificial victim s. Snak e Woman
had the abi lity to cha nge herself into a serp en t or into a lovely young woman to entice
you ng men , who wit hered aw ay and d ied after inte rcourse with her. She was known as a
witc h and a shape -shifter. Brun da ge, 168-17I.
32Anthropologis t Lucien Levy-Bruh l coined the word participation mystique. Accord­
in g to [ ung. " It denotes a peculiar kind of psychological connec tion ... [in which] the
subject canno t clear ly dis ting uish himself from the objec t bu t is bound to it by a d irec t
relationship wh ich amo un ts to partial iden tity." Carl jung, "Definitions," in Psychological
Types, The ColJected Works of C. G. lu ng, Vol. 6 (Princeton, NJ: Pr inceton Univ er sit y Pre ss,
1953), pa r. 78I.
" 1have lost the so ur ce of th is quote. If anyone knows what it is, p lease let the pub­
lish er kno w. [Aut hor 's note]
" Some mexicanos and Chicanos dis ting uish betwee n aire, air, and mal aigre, the evi l
spi rits w hich res ide in the air.
How to Tame a Wild Tongue
"We're go ing to ha ve to control
yo ur tongue," the de ntist says, pulling ou t all the metal from my mo uth.
Silver bits plop and tinkle int o the bas in. My mou th is a mot herlode.
The dentist is cleaning ou t my
roots. I ge t a w hiff of the stench when I gas p. "I can't cap that toot h yet,
you ' re still d raining," he says.
"We're going to have to do
som eth ing abo ut yo ur tongue," I hear the anger rising in his vo ice. My
ton gue keeps pus hing out the wads of cotton, pushing back the d rills, the
lon g thin needles. "I've ne ver seen any th ing as strong or as stubborn," he
says. And I thin k, how do you tame a wild tongue, train it to be quiet, how
do yo u bridle and sad d le it? How do you mak e it lie d own?
Who is to say that robbing a people of
its language is less violen t than war?
I remember being caught sp eak ing Spanish at recess-that was goo d
for th ree licks on the knuckles wi th a sharp rul er. I remembe r being sent to
the corner of the class room for "talking back" to the Ang lo teacher when
all I was trying to do was tell her how to pron ounce my na me . "If you wa n t
to be American, speak' American .' If you don' t like it, go back to Mexico
w he re yo u belong."
"I want yo u to speak English . Fa' hallar buen trabajo tienes que saber hablar
el Ingles bien. Que vale toda tu educacion si todaoia hablas ingles con un 'accent,' ''
my mo the r wo uld say, mortified tha t I spoke English like a Mexican . At Pan
American University, I and all Chicano stude nts were required to take two
sp eech classes. Their purpose: to get rid of our accents.
Attacks on one's form of expression wi th the intent to censor are a vio­
lation of the Firs t Amendment. EI Anglo con cara de inocente nos arranco la
lengua. Wild tongues can' t be tamed, they can on ly be cut out.
Overcoming the Tradition of Silenc e
Ahogadas, escupimos el oscuro.
Peleando con nuestra propia sombre
el silencio nos sepulta.
En boca cerrada no eniran moscas. "Flies don't enter a closed mouth" is a
saying I kept hearing when I was a child . Ser habladora wa s to be a gossip an d
a liar, to talk too mu ch. Muchachitas bien criadas, well-bred girls don't answer
back. Es una [alta de respeto to talk back to one's mother or father. I remember
one of the sins I'd recite to the priest in the confess ion box the few times I
wen t to confession : talkin g back to my mo ther, hablar pa' 'tras, repelar. Hocio­
cona, repelona, chismosa. hav ing a big mouth , questioning, carrying tales are
all signs of bein g mal criada. In my culture they are all words that are deroga­
tory if applied to women-I've never heard them applied to me n.
The first tim e I hear d two women, a Puerto Rican and a Cuban, say the
word "nosoiras," I was shocked. I had no t known the word existed . Chi ­
canas use nosotros whe ther we 're male or female. We are rob bed of our
female bein g by the masc uline plural. Language is a male discourse.
And our tongues have become
dr y
the wilde rness has
dried out our tongues
we have forgotten speech.
Even our own people, othe r Span ish spea kers nos quieren poner canda­
dos en ia boca. They wou ld ho ld us back with thei r bag of reglas de academia.
aye como ladra:
ellenguaje de la frontera
Quien tiene boca se equiooca.
- Mexican saying
"Poche, cultural traitor, you 're spea king the oppressor's language by
speaking Eng lish , you're ruining the Spanish lan gu age," I have been ac­
cuse d by variou s Latinos and Latinas. Ch icano Span ish is considered by
the purist and by mo st Latinos deficient, a mutilation of Spanish.
But Chic ano Spani sh is a bord er tungu e w hich developed naturally.
Chan ge, euolucion, enriquecimienio de palabras nuevas por inuencum 0 adopcion
ha ve created variants of Chi can o Spa nish, un nuevo lenguaie. Un lenguaje
que corresponde a un modo de vivir. Chic ano Spanish is not incorrect, it is a
living language.
For a peopl e w ho are neither Spani sh nor live in a country in which
Spa nis h is the firs t lang uage; for a people w ho live in a country in which
English is the reig ning tongue but who are not Anglo; for a people who
canno t enti rely ide ntify w ith either standa rd (for mal, Cas tilian) Spanis h
nor standard Eng lish, what recou rse is left to the m but to crea te their ow n
language? A lan gu age which they can connect their ide ntity to, one capa­
ble of communicating the realities an d values tru e to themselves-a lan­
gu ag e w ith term s that are neither espaiiol ni ingles, but both. We spe ak a
pa tois, a forked ton gue, a va riation of two lan gu ag es.
Ch icano Spanish sprang ou t of the Chi can os' need to identify our ­
selves as a dist inct people. We nee de d a language with w hich we could
communicate with ourselves, a secret language. For some of us, lan gu age
is a homeland closer than the Southwest-for many Chicanos today live in
the Midwest and the East. And because we are a complex, heterogeneous
pe.2Ele,~e speak many languages. Some of the languages we speak are
HoWto Tame a Wild Tongue
1. Standard English
2. Working-class and slang Eng lish
3. Standard Spa nish
4. Standard Mexican Span ish
5. North Mexi can Spanish di alect
6. Chicano Spanish (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Ca liforn ia ha ve
regional variations)
7. Tex-Mex
8. Pachuco (called cala)
My "home" tongues are the langu ages [ speak w ith my sister an d broth­
ers, with my friend s. They are the last five listed, with 6 and 7 being closest
to my heart. From schoo l, the media, and job situations, I'v e picked up stan­
dard an d working-class English. From Mam agrande Locha an d from read­
ing Spanish and Mexican literatu re, I've p icked up Standard Spanish and
Standar d Mexican Spanish. From los recien llegados, Mexican immigrants,
and braceros, I learned the North Mexican dialect. With Mexicans I'll try to
speak eithe r Standard Mexican Spanish or the North Mexican d ialect. From
my parents and Chi can os living in the Valley, I p icked up Chica no Texas
Spanish, and I speak it wi th my mo m, yo un ger brother (who married
a Mexican and who rare ly mixes Spanish with English) , aunts, an d older
With Chican as from Nuevo Mexico or Arizona I will s pea k Chican o Span­
ish a Little, but often they don't understand what I'm saying . With mos t Cal­
ifornia Chicanas I speak enti rely in English (unl ess I forget). Whe n I first
moved to San Fran cisco, I'd rattle off something in Spanish , unintentionally
embarrassing them. Often it is only w ith another Chicana tejano that I can
talk freely.
Wo rds d istorted by Eng lish are known as ang licisms or poehismos. The
pocho is an anglicized Mexica n or American of Mexican origin w ho speaks
Spanish with an accent characteristic of No rth Americans and w ho d istorts
and reconstructs the lan guage according to the influence of English. ' Tex­
Mex, or Spanglish, come s most naturally to me. I may switch back and forth
from English to Spanish in the same sentence or in the same wo rd . With
my sis ter and my brother NW1e and with Ch icano tejano contem po raries I
speak in Tex-Me x.
From kids and people my own age I p icked up Pachuco. Pachuco (the
language of the zoo t suiters) is a lan gu age of rebellion , both against Stan­
dard Spanish and Standard English. It is a secret language . Adults of the
culture and outsiders cann ot understand it. It is made up of slang words
from both Engli sh and Spanish. Ruca means girl or wom an , vato means
guy or d ude , chale mean s no, simon mean s yes, churro is su re, tal k is
periquiar, pigionear mea ns petting, que gacho means how nerdy, ponte
aguila means watch out, death is called la pelona. Through lack of practice
and not having others who can speak it, I've lost m ost of the Pachu co
Ch icano Spanish
Chican os, a fter 250 yea rs of Spanish / Anglo colonization, have devel­
ope d significant differen ces in the Spanish we speak. We colla pse two
adja cent vowels into a sing le syllab le and so me times sh ift the stress in cer­
tain words su ch as maiz/maiz, coheie/cueie. We lea ve out certain consonants
when the y ap pear between vo we ls: lado/tao, mojado/mojao. Ch icanos from
South Texas pronounce f as j as in jue (jue). Chi can os use "a rchai sms,"
words that are no lon ger in the Span ish langu age, words that have been
evol ved out. We say semos, truje, haiga, ansina, and naiden. We retain the
"archaic" j, as in jalar, that deri ves fro m an earlier h (the French halar or the
Germanic halon which was lost to standard Spa nish in the sixteenth cen­
tury), but which is still found in seve ral regional d ialects such as the one
spoken in South Texas. (Due to geog ra phy , Ch icanos from the Valle y of
South Texas were cut off lingui stically from other Spanish sp eakers. We
tend to use words that the Spaniards brought over from Medieval Spain.
The majority of the Spanish coloni zers in Mexico an d the Southwest came
from Extremadura-s-Hernan Cortes was one of the m-and Andalucia.
Andalucians pronounce II like a y, and their d's tend to be abso rbed by ad­
jacent vowels: tirado becom es tirao. They brought el lenguaje popular, dialec­
tos y regionalismos.)4
Chicanos and other Spani sh speakers also shift II to y and z to S.5 We
leave out initial syllables, saying tar for esiar, toy for estou, hora for ahara
(cubanos and puertorriqueiios also leave out initial lett ers of some words).
We also leave ou t the fina l syllable such as pa for para. The int ervocalic y,
the II as in tortilla, ella, botella, gets rep laced by tortia or ioriva, ea, botea. We
add an additional sylla ble at the beg inn ing of cer tain words: atocar for
tocar, agas tar for gastar. Sometimes we'll say lavaste las vacijas, othe r tim es
lavates (subs tituting the ates ve rb end ings for the aste).
We use ang licisms, wo rds borrow ed from English: bola from ba ll, car­
peta from carpet, mdchina de lauar (ins tead of lavadora) from washing ma­
chine. Tex-Mex argo t, crea ted by ad di ng a Spanish sound at the beginning
or en d of an Eng lish word suc h as cookiar for cook , toatchar for wa tch,
parkiar for par k, an d rapiar for rap e, is the res ult of the p ressures on Span ­
ish speakers to adapt to English.
We d on 't use the wo rd vosotros/as or its accom pa ny ing verb for m. We
don't say claro (to mea n yes), imaginate, or me emociona, unless w e picked
up Spanish from Latinas, ou t of a book, or in a classroom . Other Spanish­
speaking groups are go ing thr ou gh the sa me, or similar, development in
their Spanish.
Linguistic Terrorism
Deslengu adas. Somas los del espaii ol deft cient e. We are your linguis­
tic nightm are, your linguistic aberration, your linguistic mesti­
saje, the subject of your burla. Because we speak with tongues of
HoWto Tame a Wild Tongue
fire we are cultura lly cruc ified. Racially, culturally, and linguis­
tically somas hw!rfanos-we speak an orpha n tongue .
Chicanas who grew up speaking Chica no Spanish have internalized the
belief that we speak poor Spanish. It is illegitimate, a bas tard lan gu age.
And becau se we in terna lize how our lan gu age has been used agains t us by
the dominant culture, we use our lang uage dif fere nces against each other.
Chicana fem inists often skir t around each othe r with suspicion and hesi­
tation . For the longest time I couldn' t figure it ou t. Then it dawned on me . To
be close to another Chicana is like looking into the mirror. We are afraid of
what we'll see there. Pena. Shame. Low estima tion of self. In childhood we
are told that our language is w rong. Repeated atta cks on our native tongue
diminish our sense of self. The attac ks contin ue throu ghout our lives.
Chicanas feel unc omfort abl e talking in Spani sh to Latinas, afraid of
their censure. Their lan guage was not o utlaw ed in their countries. They
had a whole lifetime of being immersed in their native tongue; genera­
tions, centuries in which Spanish was a first lan gu age, taught in school,
heard on radio and TV, and rea d in the newsp aper.
If a person, Chi can a or Latina, has a low es tim ation of my native
tongue, she also ha s a low estimati on of me. Often with mexicanas y laiinas
we'll speak English as a neutral lan gu age. Even among Chicanas we tend
to speak English at pa rti es or conferences . Yet, at the sa me tim e, we're
afraid the other w ill th in k we'r e agringadas becau se we don't speak Chi­
cano Spanish. We oppress each other trying to ou t-Ch icano eac h other,
vying to be the "real" Chica nas , to speak like Ch icanos. Th ere is no one
Chicano language just as the re is no one Ch ican o expe rience. A monolin­
gual Chi can a w hose first lan guage is Eng lish or Spa nis h is jus t as much a
Chicana as one w ho spea ks several varian ts of Spa nish . A Chicana from
Michigan or Chicago or Detro it is just as much a Chicana as one from the
Southwest. Chicano Spanish is as di verse ling uis tica lly as it is regiona lly.
By the end of this cen tury, Span ish speakers will com pr ise the bigge st
minority gro up in the United Sta tes, a co un try w he re students in high
schools and colleges are enco uraged to take French class es because French
is conside red more "c ulture d. " But for a lan gu age to remain alive it must
be used ." By the en d of th is cen tury English, an d not Sp ani sh , wi ll be the
mother ton gue of most Chicanos and Latinos.
So, if yo u wa nt to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic
identity is twin skin to linguistic identity- l am my language. Until I can
take pride in m y lan gu age, r cannot take pride in myself. Until I can accept
as legitimat e Chicano Texas Spani sh , Tex-Mex, and all the other languages
I speak, r cannot accept the legitimacy of myself. Until I am free to write
bilingually and to switch codes wi th out having always to translate, while r
still have to sp eak English or Spanish when I would rather speak Spang­
lish, and as long as I have to accommodate the English speaker rather than
having them accommodate me, my tongue will be illegitimate.
I will no longer be mad e to feel ashamed of existing. I w ill have my voice:
Ind ian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpe nt's tongue-my woman's voice,
my sexual voice, my poet's vo ice. I will overco me the traditi on of silence.
My fingers
move sly against your palm
Like wome n everywhere, we speak in code..
"Vistas," corrid os, y comida:
My Native Tongue
In the 19605, I read my first Chicano novel. It was City of Night by John
Rechy, a ga y Texan, son of a Scottish father and a Mexican mother. For
da ys I walked around in stunne d amazemen t tha t a Chica no cou ld wr ite
and could get published . When I read [ AJ"n Joaqufn8 I was surprised to see a
biling ual book by a Chicano in print. When I saw poetr y wr itten in TexMex
for the first time, a feeling of pure joy flashed throu gh me. I felt like we re­
ally existed as a peo ple. In 1971, when I started teaching High Schoo l Eng­
lish to Chicano students, I tried to supp lement the required texts wi th
works by Chicanos, onJy to be reprimanded and forbidden to do so by the
principal. He claimed that I was supposed to teach "American" and Eng ­
lish litera ture. At the risk of being fired , I swore my stude n ts to secrecy and
slipped in Chica no sho rt stories, poem s, a p lay. In grad ua te school, while
wo rking toward a Ph .D., I had to "a rg ue" w ith one adv iser after the othe r,
semester after semes ter, before I was allowe d to make Chicano literature an
area of focus.
Even before I read book s by Chicanos or Mexicans, it was the Mexican
movies I saw at the dr ive-in-the Thursday night special of $1.00 a carload­
that gave me a sense of belongin g. "Vamonos a las vistas," my mothe r wou ld
call ou t and we' d all-grandmother, brothers, sister, and cousins -squeeze
into the car. We'd wo lf down cheese an d bologna white bread sandwiches
whi le watchin g Ped ro Infante in melodram atic tearjerkers like Noso tros los
pobres, the first "real" Mexican movie (tha t was not an imi tation of Euro­
pean movies). I rem emb er see ing Cuando los hijos se van and surmising that
all Mexican movies played up the love a mother has for her children and
wha t un gra tefu l sons and dau ghters su ffer when they are not devoted to
their mothers. I remember the singing- type "westerns" of Jorge Negrete
and Miqu el Aceves Mejia. When wa tch ing Mexican movies, I felt a sense of
hom ecoming as we ll as alienation. Peop le w ho we re to amo un t to some­
thin g did n' t go to Mexican movies, or bailes, or tun e their radios to bolero,
rancheriia, and corrido music.
The whole time I was grow ing up, there was norie ii o music some times
called No rth Me xican border mu sic, or Tex-Mex m usic, or Chi cano music,
or cantina (bar) music. I grew up listeni ng to conjuntos, three- or four-piece
bands mad e up of folk m usicians p laying guitar, bajo sexto, drums, and
HoW to Tame a Wild Tongue
button acco rdio n, which Chica nos had borr owed from the Ger ma n immi ­
gran ts w ho had come to Centra l Texas and Mexico to farm and bui ld brew­
eries. In the Rio Gra nde Valley, Steven Jord an and Little Joe H ern andez
were popular, and F1aco Jimene z was the acco rdio n king. The rhy thms of
Tex-Mex mu sic are tho se of the po lka, also ad apted from the Germans,
who in turn had borrow ed the po lka from the Czechs and Bohemi ans.
I reme mber the hot, su ltry evenings when corridos-song of love an d
death on the Texas-Mexican bord erlands-reverb erated out of cheap ampli­
fiers from the local cantinas and wafted in through my bed room window.
Corridos first becam e w ide ly used along the South Texas/Mexican bor­
der du ring the early conflict between Chicanos and Ang los. The corridos are
usually abo ut Mexican heroes who do valiant deed s aga inst the Ang lo op­
pressors. Pancho Villa's song, "La cucaracha," is the most famo us one. Corri­
dos of John F. Kenned y and his de ath are still very popular in the Valley.
Older Chicanos rememb er Lydi a Mendoza, one of the grea t border corrido
singers wh o was called ia Gloria de Tejas. Her "EI tango negro," sung during
the Grea t Depression, mad e her a singer of the people. The ever-present
corridos narr ated one h undred years of border history, bringing news of
even ts as well as entertaining. These folk m usician s and folk songs are our
chief cu ltu ra l mythmakers, and they made our ha rd lives seem bearable.
I grew up feeling ambiva lent about our music. Country-western an d
rock-and-roll had more status. In the fifties and sixties, for the slightly ed u­
cated and agringado Chicanos, there existed a sense of sha me a t being
caug ht listenin g to our music. Yet I coul dn ' t stop my feet from thumping to
the mu sic, could not stop humming the words, nor hid e from myself the
exhilaration I felt when I heard it.
There are more su btle ways that we internalize ide ntification, especially
in the forms of images and emotions. For me food and certain sme lls are
tied to my iden tity, to my hom eland . Wood sm oke curling up to an imm ense
blue sky; woo dsmo ke perfuming my grand mo the r's cloth es, her skin. The
stench of cow manure and the yellow patches on the groun d; the crack of a
.22 rifle and the reek of cordi te. Homemade white cheese sizzling in a pan,
melting inside a folde d tortilla . My sister Hilda's ho t, spicy menudo, chile
colorado makin g it deep red, pieces of panza and hominy floa ting on top. My
bro ther Carito barbequing fajitas in the backy ard . Even now and 3,000 mi les
away, I can see my mother spicing the ground beef, pork, and venison with
chile. My mouth saliva tes at the though t of the hot steaming tamales I would
be eating if I were home.
Si le preguntas a mi mama, "l- Que eres?"
Iden tity is the essential core of who
we are as indiv iduals, the conscious
experience of the self inside.
Nosotros Los Chicanos straddle the borderlands. On one side of us, we are
constantly exposed to the Spanish of the Mexicans, on the other side we
hear the Anglos' incessant clamoring so that we forget our language. Among
ourselves we don't say nosotros los americanos, 0 nosotros los espaiioles, 0
nosotros los hispanos. We say nosotros los mexicanos (by mexicanos we do not
mean citizens of Mexico; we do not mean a national identity, but a racial
one). We distinguish between mexicanos del otro lado and mexicanos de este
lado. Deep in our hearts we believe that being Mexican has nothing to do
with which country one lives in. Being Mexican is a state of soul-not one of
mind, not one of citizenship. Neither eagle nor serpent, but both. And like
the ocean, neither animal respects borders.
Dime can quien andas y Ie dire quien eres.
(Tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are.)
- Mexican saying
Si le preguntasa mi mama, ": Que eres?" te dird, "Soy mexicana." My broth­
ers and sister say the same. I sometimes will answer "soy mexicana'' and at
others will say "soy Chicana" 0 "soy tejana." But I identified as "Raza" before
I ever identified as "mexicana'' or "Chicana."
As a culture, we call ourselves Spanish when referring to ourselves as
a linguistic group and when copping out. It is then that we forget our pre­
dominant Indian genes. We are 70-80 percent Indian. lO We call ourselves
Hispanic!' or Spanish-American or Latin American or Latin when linking
ourselves to other Spanish-speaking peoples of the Western hemisphere
and when copping out. We call ourselves Mexican-Americanv to signify
we are neither Mexican nor American, but more the noun" American"
than the adjective "Mexican" (and when copping out).
Chicanos and other people of color suffer economically for not accultur­
ating. This voluntary (yet forced) alienation makes for psychological con­
flict, a kind of dual identity-we don't identify with the Anglo-American
cultural values and we don't totally identify with the Mexican cultural val­
ues. We are a synergy of two cultures with various degrees of Mexicanness
or Angloness. I have so internalized the borderland conflict that some­
times I feel like one cancels out the other and we are zero, nothing, no one.
A veces no soy nada ni nadie. Pero hasia cuando no 10 soy, 10 soy.
When not copping out, when we know we are more than nothing, we
call ourselves Mexican, referring to race and ancestry; mestizo when affirm­
ing both our Indian and Spanish (but we hardly ever own our Black) ances­
try; Chicano when referring to a politically aware people born and/or
raised in the United States; Raza when referring to Chicanos; tejanos when
we are Chicanos from Texas.
Chicanos did not know we were a people until 1965 when Cesar
Chavez and the farmworkers united and I Am Joaquin was published and la
Raza Unida party was formed in Texas. With that recognition, we became a
distinct people. Something momentous happened to the Chicano soul-we
became aware of our reality and acquired a name and a language (Chicano
HoW to Tame a Wild Tongue
Spanish) that reflected that reality. Now that we had a name, some of the
fragmented pieces began to fall together-who we were, what we were,
how we had evolved. We began to get glimpses of what we might eventu­
ally become.
Yet the struggle of identities continues, the struggle of borders is our
reality still. One day the inner struggle will cease and a true integration
take place. In the meantime, ienemos que hacer la lucha. (. Quien esta proie­
giendo los ranchos de mi gente? (. Quien estCi tratando de cerrar La [isura entre la
india y 1'1 blanco en nuestra sangre? EI Chicano, si, el Chicano que anda como un
uaro« en su propia casa.
Los Chicanos, how patient we seem, how very patient. There is the quiet
of the Indian about usY We know how to survive. When other races have
given up their tongue we've kept ours. We know what it is to live under
the hammer blow of the dominant norieamericano culture. But more than
we count the blows, we count the days the weeks the years the centuries
the aeons until the white laws and commerce and customs will rot in the
deserts they've created, lie bleached. Humildes yet proud, quietos yet wild,
nosotros los mexicanos-Chicanos will walk by the crumbling ashes as we go
about our business. Stubborn, persevering, impenetrable as stone, yet pos­
sessing a malleability that renders us unbreakable, we, the mestizas and
mestizos, will remain.
1Ray Gwyn Smith, Moorland Is Cold Country, unpublished book.
' Irena Klepfisz, "Di rayze aheym/The Journey Home," in The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish
Women's Anthology, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz and Irena Klepfisz, eds. (Montpelier, VT:
Sinister Wisdom Books, 1986), 49.
3R. C. Ortega, Dialcctotogia Del Barrio, trans. Hortencia S. Alwan (Los Angeles, CA:
R. C. Ortega Publisher & Bookseller, 1977), 132.
'Eduardo Hernandez-Chavez, Andrew D. Cohen, and Anthony F. Beltramo, EI
Lenguaje de los Chicanos: Regional and Social Characteristics of Language Used by Mexican
Americans (Arlington, VA: Center for Applied Linguistics, 1975),39.
sHernandez-Chavez, xvii.
6Irena Klepfisz, "Secular Jewish Identity: Yidishkayt in America," in The Tribe of
Dina, Kaye/Kantrowitz and Klepfisz, eds., 43.
7Melani e Kaye/Kantrowitz, "Sign," in We Speak in Code: Poems and Other Writings
(Pittsburgh, PA: Motheroot Publications, Inc., 1980), 85.
8Rodolfo Gonzales, I Am Joaquin/Yo Soy Joaquin (New York, NY: Bantam Books,
1972). It was first published in 1967.
9 Gershen Kaufman, Shame: The Powerof Caring (Cambridge, 'VIA: Schenkman Books,
Inc ., 1980), 68.
lOJohn R. Chavez, The Lost Land: The Chicano Images of the Southwest (Albuquerque,
NM : University of New Mexico Press, 1984), 88-90.
II "Hispanic" is derived from Hispanis (Espana, a name given to the Iberian Penin­
sula in ancient times when it was a part of the Roman Empire) and is a term designated
by the Ll.S.government to make it easier to handle us on paper.
1'The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo created the Mexican-American in 1848.
13 Anglos, in order to alle viate their guilt for dispossessing the Chicano, stressed the
Spanish part of us and perpetrated the myth of the Spanish Southwest. We have accepted
the fiction that we are Hispanic, that is Spanish, in order to accommodate o urselves to the
dominant culture and its abhorre nce of Indians. Chavez, 88-91.
Entering into the Serpent/How to Tame a Wild T011gue
explain the conn ections between the chapters? As you rer ead this selection,
mark those passa ges where Anza ldua seems to you to be creating a case or
argu m en t. Wha t are its key terms? its key exam ples? its conclusions?
1. The mos t immediate challenge to ma ny readers of these chap ters will be
the sec tions that are wr itten in Spanish. Part of the point of a text that
mixes languages is to give non-Spa nish-speaking read ers the feeling of
bein g lost, exclu d ed , left ou t. Wha t is a reader to d o with this prose? On e
cou ld learn Spanish and come back to reread, bu t this is not a quick solu­
tion and, according to Anzaldua, not even a comp letely sa tisfactory one,
since some of her Spanish is drawn from communities of speakers not rep­
resented in textb ooks and classes.
So how d o you read this text if you d on't read Spanish? Do you ignore
the words? sound them ou t? improvise? Anza ldua gives tra ns lations of
some words or phrases, but not all. Which ones does she transla te? Wh y?
Reread these chapters with the goal of explaining how you handled An­
za ldua's po lyglot style.
2. These chapters are made up of shor ter sec tions written in a variety of
sty les (some as prose poems, some w ith endnotes, some as stor ies). And,
w hile the secti ons are obv ious ly ord ered, the order is no t a conven tional
argu mentative one . The text is, as Anzaldua says elsew here in her book,
"an asse mblage, a montage, a beaded wor k, . . . a crazy dance":
In looking at this book tha t I'm almost finished w ritin g, I see a mosaic
pattern (Aztec-like) emergi ng , a wea ving pattern, th in here, th ick
there. . . . This alm ost finished product seem s an asse m blage, a mon­
tage, a beaded work with several leitmotifs and wi th a cen tra l core, now
appear ing, now d isappearing in a craz y dance. The who le thin g has had
a mind of its own, esca ping me an d insisting on putting toget her the
p ieces of its own pu zzle w ith minimal direc tion from my will. It is a re­
bellious, willful enti ty, a pr ecocious girl-child forced to grow up too
quickly, rough, un yield ing, w ith pieces of feather stickin g out here an d
there, fur, twig s, d ay. My child, bu t not for much lon ger. This fema le
being is angry, sad , joyful, is Coat licue, dove , horse, serp ent, cactus.
Though it is a flawed thin g-s-clum sy. comp lex, groping, blind thing, for
me it is alive, infused wi th spirit. I talk to it; it talks to me.
This is not, in other words, a conventional text; it makes unexpected d e­
mands on a reader. As you reread, mark sectio ns you could use to talk
about how, through the text, An zaldua invents a reader and / or a way of
reading. Who is Anzaldua's ideal reader? Wha t does he or she need to be
able to do?
3. Altho ugh Anzald ua 's text is not a conven tional one, it makes an argumen t
and proposes term s an d examples for its readers to negotiate. How might
you summarize Anzaldua's argument in these two chapters? How do the
individual chapters mark stages or parts of her argumen t? How migh t you
1. Anzaldua has described her text as a kind of crazy dance (see the second
"Question for a Second Reading"); it is, she sa ys, a text with a mind of its
own, "p u tting together the pieces of its own puzzle with minimal dir ection
from my will." Hers is a prose full of variety and seeming contradictions; it
is a wr itin g that could be said to rep resen t the cultural "cro ssroads" which
is he r experience/sensibility.
As an experiment w hose goal is the dev elop men t of an alternate (in
Anz aldua's terms, a m ixed or mestiza) understanding, write an autobio­
graphical text whose shape and m otives could be described in her terms: a
mosaic, woven, w ith numerous overlays; a montage, a bead ed work, a
crazy dance, drawing on the various ways of thinking, speaking, under­
standing that mig ht be said to be pa rt of you r own mixed cu ltural position,
your own mixed sensibility.
To prepare for this essa y, thin k about the diff erent positions yo u could
be said to occup y, the diffe rent voices that are part of yo ur backgro un d or
pr esen t, the competing ways of thin king that make up your poi nts of view.
Imagine that your goa l is to pr esent yo ur world and your exp erience to
those w ho are not necessarily prepared to be sympathe tic or to understan d .
And, follow ing Anzaldua, you should wo rk to construct a mixed text, not a
single un ified one. This wi ll be hard, since you wi ll be wri tin g wha t mig ht
be called a "forbidden" text, one you ha ve no t been prepared to write.
2. In "La conciencia de fa mestiza/Towa rds a New Consciousness," the last
essayLike chapter in her boo k (the remaining chapters are made up of
poems), Anzaldua steps forward to define her role as writer and yours as
reader. She sa ys, among other thin gs,
Many wo men and men of color do not want to have any d ealings
w ith white people. . .. Many feel that w hites shou ld help the ir own
peop le rid themselves of race hatr ed and fear first. I, for one, choose to
use some of my energy to ser ve as medi ator. 1 think we need to allow
whites to be our allies. Through our literature, art, corridos, and folk­
tales we mus t share our his tory with them so wh en they set up com­
mittees to help Big Mountain Nava jos or the Chicano Iarmworkers or
los Nicaragiienses they won' t tum people away becau se of their racial
fears an d ign orances. The y w ill come to see that they a re not helping us
bu t following our lead .
Individually, but also as a racial en tity, we need to vo ice o ur needs.
We need to say to white society: We need you to accep t the fact that
Chicanos are diffe rent, to acknowledge your reject ion and nega tion of
us . We need you to own the fact that you looked up on us as less than
human , that you stole our lands, o ur personh ood, our self-respect. We
need you to make pub lic res titu tion: to say that, to compensate for your
own sens e of defectiveness, you strive for power over us, you erase o ur
history and ou r experience because it makes you feel guilty-you'd
rather forget your bru tish acts. To say you've sp lit yourself fro m minority gro ups , that you diso wn us, that your d ua l conscio usness spli ts
off pa rts of yourself, transferring the " nega tive " parts onto us. . . To
say that yo u are afraid of us, that to p u t d istance be tween us, yo u wear
the mask of con temp t. Ad m it that Mexico is yo ur do uble, that she exists in the shadow of this cou n try, tha t we are irrevocab ly tied to her.
Gringo, accept th e doppelgan ger in you r psyche. By taking back your
collecti ve sh adow the intracultural sp lit w ill heal. And finall y, tell us
what you need fro m us.
This is only a part of the text-one of the ways it defines the roles of reader
and writer-but it is one that asks to be tak en accou nt of, with its insistent
list of wh at a white reader must d o and say. (Of course not eve ry reader is
white, and not all whi te read ers are the sam e. What An zald ua is defining
here is a "white" way of reading.)
Write an essay in wh ich you tell a story of read ing, the story of yo ur
work with the tw o chap ters of Bordertands/La [rontera repri n ted here.
Think about where yo u felt at home with the text and where yo u felt lost,
where you knew wh at you were doing and where you needed help ; think
about the po siti on (or positions) you have taken as a reader and how it
measures up aga ins t the way s An zaldua has figu red you in the text, the
way s she ha s an ticipa ted a resp on se, imagined who you are and how you
ha bi tually thin k and rea d.
3. In "How to Tame a Wild Tongue" (p. 77), Anza ld ua sa ys, "I w ill no longer
be made to feel ashamed of existi ng. I w ill have my voice: Ind ian , Spanish,
wh ite. I will have my serpent's ton gue-my w oman' s vo ice, m y sexual
voice, my po et' s vo ice." Anzaldua sp eaks alm ost casually about "having
her voice," not a single, "authentic" voice, but one she names in these
terms: Indian, Spani sh, white; woman, lesb ian , poet. What is "vo ice" as de fined by these chapters? Where does it come from ? What d oes it have to
d o wi th the act of w riting or the wr iter?
As you reread these cha p ters, mar k those passages that you th ink bes t
rep resen t Anza ld ua's vo ices . Using thes e passages as examples, wri te an
essay in wh ich yo u discuss how these voices are di fferent-b oth d ifferent
from one an other and d ifferent from a "standard " voice (as a "stand ard "
voice is imagined by Anzald ua). What do these voices represent? How do
they figure in you r reading? in her writing?
4. Anz ald ua's writing is difficult to cate gori ze as an essay or a story or a
poem; it has all of these within it. The wr iting may appea r to have been
jus t put togeth er, but it is more likely that it was carefully crafted to rep resen t the va rious vo ices Anzaldua understands to be a part of her. She
speaks d irectly about her voices-her woma n's vo ice, her sexual voice, her
poet' s voice; her Ind ian, Spanish, and white vo ices on page 82 of "How to
Tame a Wild Ton gu e."
Following An zald ua, write an argument of your own, on e that requires you to use a variety of voices, in wh ich yo u carefully present the
various voices that yo u feel are a part of you or a part of the argument.
When you have com plete d this assi gnment, write a two-page essay in
w hich yo u explain why the arg umen t you mad e m ight be worth a reader's
at ten tion.
Entering into the Serpent/How to Tame a W ild Tongue
1. In "Arts of the Contact Zone" (p. 517), Mary Louise Pratt talks abou t the
"au toethnograp hic" text, "a text in which people undertake to d esc ribe
themselves in ways tha t engage wi th rep resen tations othe rs have ma d e of
them," and abo u t " transcul turation, " the "p rocesses whereby members of
subordinated or marginal groups select and invent from materials transmitted by a dominant or metropolitan culture."
Writ e an essay in which you present a reading of these two cha p ters as
an example of an autoethn ograp hic and/or transcultural text. You should
imagine that yo u are writing to someone w ho is not familiar wi th either
Pratt's argu men t or Anz ald ua's book. Part of yo u r wor k, then , is to pr esent Anzaldua 's text to read er s w ho don't have it in front of them . You
hav e the example of Pratt's reading of Guaman Porna 's New Chronicleand
Good Government. And you ha ve her d iscussion of the "litera te ar ts of the
contact zon e." Th ink about how Anza ld ua's text might be sim ilarl y read,
and about how her text does and d oesn' t fit Pratt's description. Your goal
should be to ad d an example to Pratt's d iscussion and to qu ali fy it, to give
her discussion a new twist or spi n now that you ha ve had a chance to look
at an additional example.
2. Both Adrienne Rich in " When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision"
(p . 538) and Gloria Anzald ua in these two chap ters cou ld be sai d to be
writing about the same issues-w riting , identity, gender, history. Both texts
contain an arg ume nt; both, in their peculiar styles, enact an arg umen tthey demonstr ate how and why on e m igh t need to revise the usu al ways
of writing. Identify what you understand to be the key points, the key
terms, and the key examples in each selection.
Beginning wi th the passages yo u have id entified, write an essay in
which you examine the sim ilarities and di fferences in these two texts. Look
particularly for the di fferences, sin ce they are harder to find and harder to
explain. Consider the selections as marking d ifferen t posi tions on writing,
identity, politics, hist ory. Ho w might yo u account for these differences (if
they represent more than the fact that d ifferen t people are likel y to d iffer)?
How are these d ifferences significant?