Interview with Debra A. Castillo
University of Oklahoma
Debra A. Castillo is both an avid and far-ranging Hispanist who has made her mark on Hispanic literary and cultural studies with a number of distinctive books. One of her most famous titles is Talking Back: Toward a Latin American Feminist Criticism (1992) where she embarks on a nuanced exploration and discussion of feminist approaches to literature written by Latin American women. She discusses the central role women play in a variety of Mexican fiction in Easy Women: Sex and Gender in Modern Mexican Fiction (1998). Dr. Castillo collaborated with María-Socorro Tabuenca Córdoba to produce Border Women: Writing from La Frontera (2002) where the issue of writers from both sides of the Mexican-US border is highlighted through an ongoing discussion of border theory. Most recently she published Re-dreaming America: Toward a Bilingual Understanding of American Culture (2004) where she discusses at length the question of Latino identity in the US. Dr. Castillo is a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell University where she is a professor of Romance Studies and Comparitive Literature. Through her countless articles and many editorial collaborations, she continues to be a significant voice in the ongoing dialogues on Hispanic literature, culture and language. Recently I had the privilege to meet with and interview Dr. Castillo when she kindly accepted our invitation to come to the University of Oklahoma to give the keynote address at our inaugural conference on Latin American, Peninsular and Luso-Brazilian literature.
Samuel Manickam: Please describe how you came to write Talking Back. What provoked you to write this book?
Debra A. Castillo: For feminist activists of my generation (l970s-80s), the struggle was to put women’s rights on national and international agendas in the most fundamental senses: to raise consciousness of issues relative to wage work, domestic labor, motherhood, the body, reproduction, race, identity, sexualities, violence, creativity. Politically, it was punctuated by still-potent names like Tlatelolco, the Sorbonne, and Kent State. In our academic settings the period was marked by the founding of women’s studies programs, by activism in favor of hiring more diverse faculty, and providing living wages to staff. In the US and in Latin America both there was an explosive growth of presses, galleries, exhibitions, performances; of grassroots activism, theoretical writings, creative work all sorts by women writers and artists. The academic research side of this struggle in the US university setting was at the first level one of rescue: for instance, there were no women writers on the PhD reading list in my graduate school, and only two (Sor Juana and Emilia Pardo Bazán) in any of my classes. As I wrote in a review article a few years ago, "Before the ‘sudden explosion’ of women writers on the Latin American literary scene during the decade of the l980s, even the most assiduous historian of literature would be hard pressed to talk about a feminine literary culture beyond the three or four women--always the same names: Gabriela Mistral, Delmira Agustini, Alfonsina Storni--grouped together in literary anthologies as a spurious community of the also-rans: las poetisas." A senior scholar we consulted in an unnamed prestigious university told us something like, "there are no women in any of the classes or on the reading list because no women are yet writing at that level. When the day comes that a woman writes well enough, we’ll include her." I was among a small group of scholars who organized ourselves in the pre-email days to share information, at the most basic level: names of writers, for instance. We organized a reading group, and mobilized to protest the graduate reading list—things of that sort.
In the larger academic arena, what was happening around us was what is now called Second Wave feminism in the US and France, and thinkers associated with that movement gave rise to the many varieties of feminist theorization: socialist, maternalist, essentialist, "global", local, international, transnational. Euro-American-based and Latin American-based Latin Americanist feminists differ not only in the degree of commitment to theoretical discourse within their specific social contexts, but also for that subset of Latin American feminists located in academic settings in Latin America, there is also a significant difference in academic feminist institutional locations: US. Latin Americanist feminists work more in humanities; Latin Americans tend toward social sciences. While I do not have the space here to go into the implications of this disciplinary divide, I felt that one of the reasons for the apparent lack of exchange of theoretical discussions between Euro-Americans and Latin Americans had to do precisely with the disparities in the construction of knowledge in these very different disciplines.
Talking Back was very much of that moment (mid to late l980s), of my—and many of my fellow colleagues’--sense of frustration and of excitement, of discovery.
SM: As a female academic and theorist from the United States, do your counterparts in Mexico and other Latin American countries criticize you for supposedly imposing your feminist views and interpretations of their literature on them? If so, how do you respond?
DC: Let me answer more generally, since (as you can expect) the direct dialogues I have had with colleagues in Latin America have all been extremely amicable.
Nelly Richard in a famous article ["Feminismo, Experiencia y Representación"] reminds her readers of the consequences of the traditional global division of intellectual labor. From a Latin American perspective, theoretical feminism, she says, is still seen to function largely within the context of the European and North American university structure.
Now, at the same time, from the other side, we Euro-North American Latin Americanist feminists respond that we are largely disauthorized as theorists within the academic sites in Europe and North America. In the northern hemisphere, theory still tends to be associated with what happens in French and in English. Latin Americanist feminists in these locations often had (and still have) a strange/strained relationship with colleagues working in those more theoretically-privileged languages. As Amy Kaminsky writes trenchantly: "The racism and xenophobia that results in this country’s devaluation of the Spanish language also devalues the thinking that is expressed in that language" (1). In this respect, the Euro-North American Latin Americanists who serve as a primary market for both Latin American literary and critical-theoretical works encounter reduced possibilities of circulation in the academy for their own work, as the culture of the Euro-North American academy tends to downplay their contributions to either theoretical or cultural discussions.
SM: What do you think are the sources of "racism and xenophobia" (Kaminsky) towards Spanish and thinking in Spanish in U.S. universities?
DC: There are a number of different points of entry into this question.
One would be to trace the well known recent history of the US, looking specifically at certain cultural incongruities: (1) the hysteria in some parts of the country about undocumented immigrants on the one hand, the celebration of certain Latino/a cultural forms on the other, (2) the highly publicized but astonishingly weak academic arguments of visible figures like Samuel Huntington, whose Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity (2004) crystallized a certain reactionary stance, and the less publicized but far more nuanced discussions (post-Anzaldua) of Latino/a identity and political activity in the US. In this respect, I’ve talked about the 2000 census as representing a tipping point in discussions, because it made Latinidad something that has taken on a more recognized and visible presence in US concepts of itself.
A second point of entry would be to look at the status of Spanish as a national language in contrast to what is increasingly called LOTS (Languages Other Than Spanish). Here the incongruity is that students of second languages overwhelming choose Spanish over all other languages combined (closing in on 75%, according to the MLA), puzzling instructors of what have traditionally been seen as more "prestigious" European languages. This creates consternation among our colleagues in other language areas, but also a hostile reaction. At the same time, the choice of Spanish often tends to revolve around instrumental reasons (i.e., the language one can use to speak to subordinates) and so its relative popularity ironically does not resolve into a higher cultural capital or higher status (Frances Aparicio, among others, has spoken extensively about this problem).
There is another point of entry as well, a third incongruity. The US has traditionally defined itself as a nation of immigrants (erasing the native Americans, but that is a separate story), and yet has a very engrained tradition of abjecting the most visible recent immigrants. Since the September 11, 2001 attack, both the number of, and consciousness about, undocumented immigrants from Latin America in the US has grown dramatically. Unfortunately, the US government and many private citizens have engaged in a low-intensity border war with the intention of sealing US borders, intensifying the aggressivity with which the issue of undocumented migration continues to be demonized. As a kind of historical exercise, I have recently gone back to discussions from the late l9th and early 20th century, during the influx of southern European immigrants to the east, for instance, and the terms of discussion are—taking into account rhetorical differences—amazingly similar to contemporary anti-immigrant discussions.
SM: What do you feel are the shortcomings of applying "first world" (for lack of a better word) feminist theories to "third world" Latin American literature, especially literature written by women?
DC: Here again things have changed since the l980s and early l990s, where early feminist studies often took the form of insufficiently nuanced wholesale applications of metropolitan theory to Latin American literary texts. I agree with Nelly Richard and Verónica Schild that it is now impossible to talk about Latin America, even from within Latin America, without reference to metropolitan discourse. Richard, for instance, would acknowledge that her own metropolitan debt is very much apparent in her theoretically informed, rigorous analyses of feminist theory in the Chilean context.
Strikingly, almost all of the writers she cites in the article I quoted above are writers firmly ensconced in the Euro-North American theoretical canon (Wittig, De Lauretis, Butler, Kristeva) or are Latin Americans and Latin Americanists whose primary location is the U.S. academy (Franco, Guerra, Vidal, Santí). Thus, implicitly, Richard hints that the theory/praxis divide is far more complexly negotiated than her programmatic statements may suggest, and that these nuances may help account for the increasing quality and quantity of exchanges among, say, Anglo-American Latin Americanists in the North American academy (Franco, Kaminsky, Pratt, or myself, for example), Latin Americans in the North American academy (Molloy, Castro Klarén, Guerra, etc.), and Latin American feminists in Latin America (Richard, Araújo, Sarlo, Poniatowska, etc.).
While these exchanges still occur along the margins of the more established structures of the literary theoretical institution, increasingly, together, Latin American and Latin Americanist feminists are posing a challenge to the Euro-North American cultural biases of theoretical discourse.
SM: How would you describe the present state of feminist criticism in Latin America? Who are its major proponents? Etc.
DC: We all know what came on the other side of the threshold of the Second Wave activist movements of the 80s: institutionalization (in the US, mostly in the academy; in Latin America, often in ministerial appointments to newly created cabinet-level positions, and in the so-called 80’s "boom" of women writers), followed by a certain complacency, a perceived fracturing of movement politics, and the backlash.
Though the heroic days of demonstrations and barricades seem already to be receding to the past, the need for considered and positioned theoretical stances particular to Latin America remains urgent, not only for the specific conditions obtaining there, but also so as to avoid the more general impasses of work in feminism. Raquel Olea says it well:
Women have been the subjects neither of the project of modernity nor of the crisis of this project; historically absent from the pacts of discursive, social, and political power, our recent incursion into the public sphere still situates us on the margin, outside of the spaces valorized by dominant culture. . . Feminism comes from "no-where" into spaces where its discursivity does not yet have a history, where it does not yet have the capacity even to negotiate or enter into alliances. (197)
Feminism, and indeed, women in general, represent real problems for these theoretical exchanges, and as a result tend to be all but ignored, as a complicating variable that somehow seems to be uncomfortably, and indeed almost self-consciously, displaced outside the boundaries of ongoing discussions. As Olea intimates, feminism seems to come from no-where, and while its location in the public space has by now become technically unavoidable, the possibilities of engaged dialogue remain severely limited.
Widespread discussions and the creation of international networks in preparation for the l995 Beijing Conference on Women signal, as Sonia Alvarez has noted, both "a vertiginous multiplication of the spaces and places in which women who call themselves feminists act today and a reconfiguration of feminist identities" as well as a "significant decentering of contemporary Latin American feminist practices . . . contribut[ing] to a redefinition and expansion of the feminist agenda for social transformation" (298-99). Often this redefinition has taken the form of questioning older models of theory production as well as hierarchical patterns of social organization to create more fluid structures.
As men and women from throughout the world met in conferences and symposia in various locations throughout the world, they began the exchange of ideas and the exploration of issues of significance to women that is continuing today. Conferences and publications from established presses throughout Latin America and the United States demonstrate an increasing interest in writing by Latin American women and a growing commitment to research in gender issues on the part of literary critics, philosophers, social scientists, anthropologists, etc., even as--paradoxically--the post-l990s women’s movement in many Latin American countries seems to have lost visibility with the selective mainstreaming of their work and with what is frequently perceived as the fragmentation with respect to social, political, literary debates.
A contributing factor to a more fruitful dialogue has been the literary feminists’ growing awareness of the limited and shrinking market for literature, in Latin America as elsewhere, under pressure from television as narrative genre of increasing preference, popular song as the preferred poetry, and testimonios as an ever-more heralded hybrid of oral and written cultures. U.S. Latin Americanist literary feminism is increasingly taking cognizance of popular culture forms, and as it moves closer to culture studies, there are opportunities for renewed connections with the strong tradition of well-developed, social science-based Latin American feminist theories.
There is another factor that needs to be taken into account as well, though it has been severely undertheorized at this date. Compuserve and AOL and the web have moved into Latin America faster and more effectively than I ever dreamed possible, back in the Stone Age of the l980s, when communication was still largely limited to computer jocks in research institutes. A decade later the scenario has completely changed, with the greatest acceleration in this transformation occurring as of the mid l990s. Since that time, indigenous women have been transmitting their messages from the mountains of Chiapas, the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo have set up their website and instant action network, and NGOs began serving as conduits for international networks of everything from grassroots agrarian movements to rock groups. Verónica Schild quite rightly points out that since the l990s feminist NGOs "are engaged in the production of knowledge, including categories that become part of the moral repertoires used by the state" (93). While international networks such as these have often become extremely controversial, since it is not clear that they are either representative or accountable in any traditional sense (Alvarez 312-13), nevertheless, they pose intriguing new challenges for the future.
It is entirely unsurprising, thus, that Latin American writers have accompanied Latin American political and social movements into the communication age. Given the much lamented difficulties of text distribution for all except the most prominent writers, the instant and international distribution possibilities of the net (albeit sadly deficient in royalties) offer obvious attractions. Writers can get their works out to an ever-larger international community of casual readers, fellow writers, and literary scholars, and do it extremely rapidly and efficiently.
The new buzzword for the early twenty-first century is "globalization," which has both a philosophical and economic theoretical backbone. The nexus of ideas involved is familiar to all of us: megaurbanization, neoliberal capitalism, compression of space and time with modern means of transportation and virtual communication, the provincialization of Europe and privileging of the world’s one superpower. From where I stand here in the heart of that superpower, both economic and cultural globalization seems a self-evident fact, with implications ranging from shopping mall construction to university curriculum development. Nevertheless, even if we accept the theory that globalization has inescapably and universally impressed itself upon turn-of-the-21st century modernity, numerous questions remain. What are the blind spots in globalization theory? How is globalization differently understood in the US-European (or Eurocentric), and Third World(ist) theoretical locations? What is the new threshold for gender-conscious scholars?
Nevertheless, it is still true that beyond the obligatory feminist article in any anthology on the topic, the extensive mainstream bibliography on globalization rarely engages rigorously with gender-conscious research, and tends instead to acknowledge vaguely the importance of international feminism without doing close readings of or entering into dialogue with these works. Many of us academics still feel enormous frustration when participating in conferences and other intellectual exchanges; our colleagues openly and frankly acknowledge the importance of international feminist contributions to their projects, but rarely go beyond the one-sentence reference to the essential importance of the advances to theory by transnational feminists (a list of names typically accompanies this footnote). The ubiquity of this throw-away acknowledgement in the glaring absence of any real engagement with feminist theories or women's texts comes to seem a way to avoid an intractable problem without pretending that it doesn't exist.
SM: In your books you have stated that feminism and feminists in Latin America tend to be restricted to upper-class women. Do you feel that now in 2005 the spectrum of feminists and feminisms in Latin America has expanded?
DC: Despite the brief popularity of the woman’s testimonio in the l990s (Menchú, Barrios de Chungara, etc), the gender analysis of these political works was not coming from the clases populares but from the educated elites. One could make an argument about the inclusion of women commanders in the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) in the mid l990s, as a counterexample of grassroots theorizing with a strong gender component, but again, the theorist most associated with that movement is not the visible figure of the woman but the voice of the man—Subcomandante Marcos. At best we can say that there has been a concientización of sorts, and while theory is still produced by the upper classes, the agenda has expanded. Mary Louise Pratt’s discussion of the effect of this widening of the agenda on theory-construction is apposite: "Theory . . . resists heterogeneity and multiplies its terms and categories only if someone with access to the process insists on the need to do so. . . . The picture diversifies because others--the Others--are now in it. Indeed, for noncitizens, fragmentation and disintegration better describe what existed before, when the categories of the social or the political were homogeneously defined through structures of exclusion and willful ignorance" (435).
Let me add to this comment by borrowing from Jean Franco in a way that helps think through the implications of the question of class privilege with respect to gender analysis: "the class privilege of the intelligentsia has always posed a problem for Latin Americans, but in women's writing it becomes particularly acute since women writers are privileged and marginalized at one and the same time." Franco articulates a particularly familiar and damning criticism. One important and inescapable condition of Latin American women’s writing is that it has always been a largely elite enterprise. Most of the women who write do tend to belong to a single class: the bourgeoisie (let me hasten to add that so do most of the men, but that always seems more irrelevant somehow). Since the stereotypical "rich girl" is so easy to mock--much easier, in fact, than the stereotypical rich young man--her already limited access to the literary forums is even more mediated by suspicion of her talents, her motives, her character. It is often argued that bourgeois women (presumably, unlike men) cannot escape a double-bind of bad faith; they can enjoy the fruits of their achievements while delegating "their" housework to others. Sylvia Molloy says: "One should keep in mind that critics, in Latin America, have tended less to read the work of women authors than to dramatize the anomalies they attributed to them as persons."
In this way, attacks on elite women’s championing of social issues often take the form of critiques based on these women’s presumed class affiliations and prejudices. I’m not saying there is nothing to this argument, but I do want to point out its highly suspect masculinist underpinnings. In a country like Mexico, where significant numbers of women of all classes work outside the home, and the gendered impact of neoliberal policies has been inadequately addressed, this argument is getting tired fast.
The feminist critic, at this stage and as a strategic move, needs to challenge this deep seated impasse, perhaps ideological, certainly locutionary and related to a politics of location, as well as to work through the consequences.
SM: In Easy Women you talk about "transgressive women" and in Border Women you discuss the women writers from the border regions between Mexico and the United States. Please explain your interest in women who find themselves in liminal zones.
DC: In Talking Back, I set out to explore, first of all, the theoretical issues involved in the hypothetical construction of a (various) specifically Hispanic feminism(s). I turned to more specifically nuanced aspects of this general argument in my more recent books, Easy Women: and Border Women (with María Socorro Tabuenca Córboda).
In Easy Women I see the transgressive woman as a crucial narrative intersection that conditions narratives about women, whether or not the novel's ostensible central focus is on prostitution/sexual freedom. She forces a narrative realignment. I wanted to ask why this character exerts such a compelling influence as a rhetorical trope, to explore how socially-biased stereotypes and preconceptions structure both authors and readers, and finally, to try to understand the loose woman's own response to society's fascination with the myth and marginalization of real women.
Thus, while I ground my readings in the most reliable surveys and socio-ethnographic studies available, I was in that book inevitably less directly concerned with what is objectively true about loose women than with how Mexican writers have positioned her in their works—the ethnographic and public policy concern comes up far more strongly in my work with Gudelia Rangel on female prostitution in Tijuana, and, more recently, violence against transvestites.
In Border Women, Socorro Tabuenca and I took as our charge to try to imagine what it would be like to think a border theory that includes both sides of the border rather than merely alluding to them, and to re-elaborate a more bi-nationally sensitive feminocentric border theory
In all these studies, I take it as my task to offer sample applications of feminist reading strategies to specific texts; and to suggest some of the difficulties inherent in the analysis of "a different writing" (whether by women broadly speaking, or focused on a marginalized feminine figure, or most recently, in terms of a border practice or transgender identity).
SM: Whom would you say are some of the outstanding female Latin American writers at the present? How are they different from their female predecessors (Castellanos, Garro, Allende, etc.)?
DC: I assume we are talking only about narrative (novel, short story) rather than including the other creative genres (poetry, theater, film)—the standard list is in any case very long, though still a tiny percentage of the attention given to men. Only recently, by the way, have scholars begun to look at the actual numbers and question whether the presence of women writers is as overwhelming and real as we have been imagining, or something more nominal. Scholars like Christine Henseler, Laura Freixas, and Jill Robbins have begun to conduct serious sociologically-based studies of the publishing industry, and have learned that the perceived feminization of the literary world is much exaggerated (books by women remain approximately 20% of total). Feminization and women’s writing as Robbins has discovered, operate on an entirely different and largely unexplored axis in the metropolitan context. In metropolitan terms, feminized literature and Latin America go hand-in-hand as marginalized categories (this, at the same time, and not unrelated, to the phenomenon of the lingering appeal of Che Guevara, Emiliano Zapata, and Subcomandante Marcos, who in handsome silk screen prints retain their smouldering and virile sexual power). This context, I think, has interesting and equally unexplored implications from the Latin American perspective.
Of the three writers you named, Allende is of course still writing, and her career is still developing, lately as a US Latina rather than Latin American identified writer. In general, however, from the perspective of thirty years later, the record of seventies and eighties activism with respect to the gay, lesbian, and feminist movements is a mixed one; yet activists of that period like Castellanos set the agenda for contemporary thinkers: concerns about the body and subjectivity, about the relationships to power, about the way national symbols interact with both popular and high culture.
Between Castellanos and Garro there is another generation; these are the well established writers, who are continuing to produce actively to this day. I would briefly divide them into two groups:
A. On the one hand sophisticated, technically dazzling narratives that appeal to the elite and have been very much acclaimed in academic circles: writers like Carmen Boullosa or Marta Cerda (Mexico), Diamela Eltit (Chile). There is a significant body of secondary work dedicated to them.
B. On the other hand, middle brow writers like Laura Esquivel or Angeles Mastretta (Mexico), Marcela Serrano (Chile), Laura Restrepo (Colombia), who have found an enthusiastic public among a wide range of readers and have achieved international bestseller status, often with an overt, if watered down, feminist message. This bestsellerdom is notorious and very controversial. Many feminists, including Latin American feminists, deplore the seductions of the middlebrow novel. Tununa Mercado (Argentina), for example, criticizes the neo-liberal market economy that propels many such works into bestsellerdom; Jean Franco’s excellent summary of her critique highlights Mercado’s concern that "women’s literature that relies on the seduction of traditional narrative despite its ‘feminism’ thus becomes a literature of accomodation with narrative seduction analogous to the seduction of the commodity" ("Afterword" 228). For similar reasons, Chilean writer Diamela Eltit critiques much of contemporary women’s writing as counterproductive, as once more marginalizing women into the ghetto space of romance even when the theme is ostensibly feminist (Franco, "Afterword" 233-4).
When we look at the most representative writers of the next generation—those who made their names in the late 90s, and are analogous to MacOndo or the Crack generations – we see something more analogous to the Third Wave in the US, the "grrrl" movement. The writers I like best in this group are smart, urban, sexually uninhibited, with narrative forms that capture the rhythms of international pop culture. Even the titles give us some hint of the ethos:
Cristina Civale (Argentina)—Chica fácil, Perra virtual
Patricia Suárez (Argentina)—Rata paseandera
Alejandra Costamagna (Chile)—Malas noches
Lina Meruane (Chile)—Las infantas, Póstuma, Cercada
Eva Bodenstedt (Mexico)—like Civale, she too has made short films—she also has a novel, Café reencuentro
Margarita Mansilla (Mexico)—Karenina Express
Regina Swain (Mexico)—Señorita Superman
Rita Indiana Hernández (Dominican Republic)—La estrategia de Chochueca
Mayra Santos Febres (Puerto Rico)—various novels and collections of poetry, short stories.
SM: How much of a dialogue is there between female Latin American writers and Chicana writers from the United States? What do you perceive as the issues here?
DC: Bottom line: almost none. The most well known Chicana/o writers have limited Spanish and write about the US generally from within the perspective of a resistant culture; only the most elite Mexican writers have fluent English and they speak from within a dominant culture. As Socorro Tabuenca and I found when we did the research for our book, Border Women, there is almost no dialogue even between Mexican and US border writers who live in cities only minutes apart. When privately pressed on the point, colleagues in Latin America, and especially in Mexico (since they are most often asked to address this issue), often find their interpellation into the discussions around la chicanidad puzzling, and somewhat uncomfortable. For instance, in a recent international conference, a well-placed senior Mexican scholar asked me if I had any ideas or strategies on how to include a discussion on Anzaldúa in an invited talk at a prestigious eastern university. This individual was specifically asked to address Anzaldúa’s relevance to Mexican cultural studies, and after an assiduous reading of her work, my south-of-the-border colleague was still drawing a blank. When I suggested that the US audience might well be receptive to a nuanced discussion of why this is so, in the context of an exploration of the cultural specificities of Mexican critical thought that inflect theory differently, the colleague responded: "I can’t do that! I want to be invited back."
SM: In Redreaming America you discuss the dynamics of multi-faceted and complex identities (literary, linguistic, cultural, etc.) created by the "collision/collusion" of Spanish and English in many parts of the U.S. If this evolution of U.S. society were to continue uninterrupted, what kind of country will we be living in by the mid twenty-first century in linguistic, cultural, literary, etc. terms?
DC: I’m not a social scientist, and this is a social
scientific question, so let me rely on other authorities. As studies
like the Mexican Migration Project (MMP) argue: "Left to their own
devices, most Mexican immigrants would work in the United States only
sporadically and for limited periods of time. . . .[Until recently] 85
percent of undocumented entries were offset by departures" (6). The
attempt to close US borders since the attack on Washington and New York
has, they find, "proved worse than a failure; it has achieved
counterproductive outcomes in virtually every instance." Paradoxically,
then, because of the current difficulty and danger of crossing into the
US, workers are reluctant to follow their former seasonal and circular
patterns, transforming what used to be "a circular movement of workers
affecting three states into a national population of settled dependents
scattered throughout the country. . . . It has not deterred Mexican
immigrants from coming to the United States, but it has kept them from
going home" (12-13). It can be argued, then, that the cultural
investments and alliances of US Latinos are currently in a state of
considerable flux, as more and more migrants come to the US with great
difficulty and expense, in conditions ironically far closer to the
familiar image captured in the story of the illegal immigrant donkey
and his culturally-severed family, than ever previously in US history.
Unsurprisingly, the number of green card marriages (marriages of
convenience with citizens or permanent residents for the purpose of
obtaining legal residence) has also dramatically increased (Durand and
Massey 90), suggesting that within a few years we will also be
observing dramatic changes in family structure as new social units
struggle with combined ethnicities and evolving life plans. We’d also
need to take into account that within the experiences of migration
there are dramatic differences not only by national origin, but by
gender. For instance, recent studies have shown that national-origin
based social clubs in the US are dominated by men, while immigrant
women generally seem to have different priorities (Jones Correa, Smith,
Goldring). Likewise, other scholars have noticed that circularly
migrating men are also more likely than women to orient their lives
around status-giving hometown organizations, at least in Mexico,
concerning themselves deeply with local politics, and contributing in
important ways to public works in their country of origin (Goldring,
Smith)—this transnational factor is becoming more and more an area of
research and analysis.
Works Cited by Debra A. Castillo
Alvarez, Sonia E., Evelina Dagnino and Arturo Escobar, eds. Culture of Politics, Politics of Cultures: Re-visioning Latin American Social Movements. Boulder: Westview, 1998.
Durand, Jorge and Douglas S. Massey. "What we Learned from the
Mexican Migration Project". In Jorge Durand and Douglass S. Massey,
the Border: Research from the Mexican Migration Project. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2004: 1-14.
Franco, Jean. "Afterward: From Romance to Refractory Aesthetic". In Latin American Women’s Writing: Feminist Readings in Theory and Crisis. Anny Brooksbank
Jones and Catherine Davies, eds. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996: 226-37.
--- . "Apuntes sobre la crítica feminista y la literatura hispanoamericana". Hispámerica 15:45 (1986): 31-43.
--- . "Beyond Ethnocentrism: Gender, Power, and the Third World
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Cary Nelson and Lawrence
Grossberg, eds. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1998: 503-15.
--- . "Going Public: Reinhabiting the Private". In On Edge: The Crisis of Contemporary Latin American Culture. George Yúdice, Jean Franco and Juan Flores, eds. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1992: 65-83.
Kaminsky, Amy K. Reading the Body Politic: Feminist Criticism and Latin American Women Writers. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1993.
Molloy, Sylvia. "Introduction". In Women’s Writing in Latin
America. Sara Castro Klarén, Sylvia Molloy and Beatriz Sarlo, eds.
P, 1991: 107-24.
Olea, Raquel. "Feminism: Modern or Postmodern?". In John Beverly,
José Oviedo and Michael Aronna, eds. The Postmodern Debate in Latin
Durham: Duke UP, 1995: 192-200.
--- . "Latin American Feminisims ‘Go Global’". In Alvarez, et al: 293-324.
Pratt, Mary Louise. "Where to? What Next?" In Alvarez et al: 430-36.
Richard, Nelly. "Feminismo, experiencia y representación". Revista Iberoamericana. 62 (176-177, July-Dec. 1996): 733-44.
Schild, Verónica. "New Subjects of Rights? Women’s Movements and the Construction Of Citizenship in the ‘New Democracies’". In Alvarez et al: 93-117.