MAY 12,1974 1:30 A.M. home/family sleeps....
Some thoughts: on writing
Writing, to me, is a response to the questions seething in my mind; questions having to do with my being Chicano; questions about the human condition cum liberation; questions that assail me to confront my moral responsibilities viz-a-viz love, oppression, meaning, socialization, pollution of the mind/spirit (by the conformism of the commercial world), and affirming not only my right, but the right of all people (female/male, all ages), to somehow affect the historical regenerative process as creatively/constructively as possible, and to do this one must ever struggle toward human liberation.
Yet, it is more than a generalized/polemical approach to defining what it might mean to live-it is an affirmation of one's culture and linguistic world-view, and as such it portends (toward) expressing one's reality with one's own tools, dialogically and dialectically, without the need to justify nor make excuses for-nor create contrivances and gimmicks.
Thus I come to Chicano literature as it comes to me, with the whole of my life experience as the contents and the language of my mind/soul as the vehicle, so I write as I think and speak.To understand our literature is to realize that it is created out of linguistic fusion, not from a demarcated/fragmentary chaos, but out of synthesis. It is not bilingual nor bicultural, just as I am not Mexican-American nor American-of-Spanish-Surname (A.S.S.) nor whatever other categorical empirical the socialscience- schizo-makers would make me and others of my raza out to be.
Carlota Cárdenas-Dwyer speaks about Chicano literature being written in "Spanish and English, a weaving of Spanish and English words and phrases to form a unique but complete language pattern-it is not "broken anything!" The poet, Raúl R. Salinas, rejects literary contrivances and the machinations of word substitutions, such facile gimmicks as "síÓ for "yes" or "bueno" for "good" or any other substitute lacklustre words.
The truth of whether the confluence of language, that rich fusion of more than words, exists in a given work is tested by the feelings conveyed, i.e., Amado Muro (who was really Charles Seltzer) was suspected by barrio poets like Lalo Delgado and others of being a gringo in disguise, trying to make a killing from the burgeoning market for Chicano materials. That many in the academic community accepted Muro as Chicano is attested to by the fact that many of his works are still in vogue in Chicano Studies classes and anthologies. Chicano literature can only be written by Chicanos, for only Chicanos understand the nuance of the Chicano way of life from a living/feeling/existential/experiential perspective-others can write about how they observe us, but they cannot possibly know why and how we valuate life, for that is a cultural/linguistic process. Muro made cultural/ linguistic mistakes that any Chicano from the barrio-or even from academe should have heuristically picked up and exposed: in one of his better known short stories about Chihuahuita sitting down at breakfast to eat mondongo, which he alludes to as being a traditional breakfast for them. Any Chicano who knows something about Raza foods and regionalizations in regards customs, language, etc., would immediately recognize that cultural fallacy-for mondongo is not Mexican nor Chicano, IT IS PUERTORICAN! Having travelled among Borícuas in New England in 1970, 1 had been introduced to mondongo, which is a stew. Now Seltzer née Muro (whose wife was Amada Muro, which is where he acquired the name) probably meant to talk about menudo, but figured that mondongo and menudo being stews and both had Spanish names, why no one would know the difference. Not too many in academia, which is the only place where he was widely read, realized that the great short story writer from El Paso was really another rip off artist passing himself as brown and trying to be just as greasy as us regular meskins. That was a real trip, a quemada maxima; the kind of trick that coyote/pícaro types can appreciate.
Those who would champ at the bit, ready to shout: "Eureka and Aha! Chicano literature is regional and not universal! It's not to be valued like other literatures!," please think, if only for a moment, about which literature is really universal. All literature is particularistic in expression, and generalistic in as much as it expresses such themes as love, hunger, war, slavery, and other human needs and conditions. The nuance of cultural/linguistic/ societal-values expressed in any work of literature will frame that work within a given culture and time/space, thus it is cauterized within its own milieu. That it might touch universal themes is not the question, for all creations by human beings will touch universal themes, for the human condition is basically the same all over the world. What makes Chicano literature Chicano is the fact that it is created by Chicanos and expresses the way Chicanos see not only their lives, but the lives of other people. By the same token, the literature of Camus is French, for he articulates a French perspective, just as Octavio Paz expounds a Mexican sensibility-and please be aware that Chicano Literature is not to be confused with Mexican or Spanish or Argentinian or any other literature or tradition. This does not negate the fact that Chicanos do have a heritage that fuses elements of Mexican thought with Anglo American influences, but the truth of the matter is that we created new perspectives on life out of that fusion, and these new perspectives are not restricted to the meanings given to thoughts/ideas/words by either Mexicans in regards our usage of Spanish or by Anglos in regards our usage of English. Because language is alive and fluid, people change it, just as it too changes peoples' attitudes; Chicanos have taken two tired languages and given them a new spark of life by fusing them. To think as we do is not a schizoid process, but rather an elongating of our intellectual/spiritual horizons-for the fusing of cultures gives a greater degree of mental/emotional mobility to the individual. Humanization is involvement with diverse ideas/ cultures/ peoples, so that one acquires a broader set of criteria in terms of life concepts and socialization processes; dehumanization is the shredding down of diversity into a common denominator, so that we all respond alike to any given stimulus. The danger facing the world is the callous misuse of technology, a monstrous race to make every point on the globe resemble any other. The singularity of thought and value(s) in the middle class Amerikan are an affront to humanness, i.e., whether white, black, or hispanic, Amerikans dress their minds/souls alike, and their only differentials are pigment/eyes/and hair.
To strive for conformity is to deny our humanity and to enter a quietude that bespeaks menticide and deracination; the most anomic person is the one who never questions, who just floats within a placid social pattern-not the reactive outlaw who lashes out. Amerika is a land with an abundant source of repressed anger: alienated people who go through the mechanics of surface humanness, but are really terrified of living/loving/sharing/ expressing-feelings, and creating. The average person is a prisoner of advertising and conformity; nurtured by the sterility of roadside empires (Taco Bell/Dunkin' Donuts/et al) and insecure in unknown territory, s/he has created a near-worldwide freeway that not only uglifies the environment, but reduces our need to think exploratatively. The gods of convenience/expedience and marginal profits have almost conquered Amerika, so that the exploiter shall have been more exploited by his/her own creations than those ethnics who were initially dispossessed. For many of us, just like for some Blacks, Indians, and poor Whites, the railroad tracks kept us from joining the mad rush to uni-dimensionality, and thus we still manage to look different and act differently, without trying to, than the average enrollee of Amerika's thriving sensitivity training centers.
Seeing the flights of fancy that make up Amerika's responses to its spiritual dearth, such as streaking, self-imposed ostracism (happiness for two or three years of bum-a-long weekends), and macabre Manson idiocies; seeing escapism and drug/occult/ indian-ness cultism; and seeing the horrendousness of mass alienation and anomie makes me feel sad for the awesome waste of human beings. This system, like any other system, cannot supply any creative answers to the human quandaries all humanity faces. Even if Nixon is impeached ' or he resigns, nothing will change other than the faces of those in power, and the majority will continue being powerless. Voting and a house in the suburbs are not indicative of power, just of presumptions to decision making. Those I consider as enemies are not the cop on the beat or the flunkey jr. executive or the teacher or other middleclass errand runner, hell no, those are the instruments wielded by the powerful to keep the rest of us restrained. The real enemy is the one who makes the really far-reaching decisions as to deployment of resources and the extant of wars and the maneuvering of the masses for statistical and corporate growth on global levels. Those who have created a world of callous lying and mind twisting in order to control more than wealth, in order to regiment all humanity. These are the ones who can toy with Nixon and his cronies, not the other way around, and these are the enemies, for they control the tools/weapons/and techniques for altering human history and exorcising our humanness almost at will. To get to them, we must strike at all levels of decision making.
The fact that there exist people who question and write and paint and protest and march gives hope and courage to the rest to resist, at whatever the cost, any and/or all encroachments on our human birthrights. To accept systematic conditions is to perpetuate the dispassionate imprisonment of our minds and the desiccation of our spirits. It is thus incumbent upon every one of us on this planet to reclaim it, for the world and its diversity belong to all the people of the world, and human diversity will help us free ourselves from this linear, callous world-for it, having been created by humans, can be changed by humans; no system should enslave us; and all social orders should exist to serve the needs of people, not for people to serve its/their structural needs. We should acquire the knowledge/tools necessary to truly confront the exploiters of all humankind. To learn how we are controlled is one thing, but to accept that conditioning as kismet is foolhardy. What people propose they can dispose-and the system has been proposed and kept by people, so people can take the power to change it, and if need be, destroy it and create a more equitable one. If enough people determine not to work, not to support the system (we support it, it does not support us!), nor to defend it-the system shall fall or change. We all need to re-learn how to know our own humanness, for to take on a revolutionary approach to change will necessitate love and respect, regard and compassion, and willful determination to do whatever must be done to stop our being dehumanized any further. Humanity has been on its individual and collective knees for too long; we've become accustomed to salivating out yessir to any symbol of authority that has demanded our utter/unthinking capitulation, and we've habitually worried that if we speak out we might lose job, security, and future-not realizing that life is not guaranteed, that it is short (60-70 years on the average), and that if there is a spiritual value to our living, it will have been determined by the way we live, not just by beliefs nor conformity. To speak up in the name of freedom/morality/human-ness is not sinful-to the contrary, it is among the most sacred of human deeds, for if humankind is truly worthy, then the struggle for liberation and peace and love and sharing of the world's resources is the struggle that binds the human life process with the godliness of the universe. To accept this plastic society and its manic drive to strip human diversity from our realities is to accept a mechanical social process in lieu of the dynamic process of the universe. We must become answerable to the spiritual rhythm within our mindsoul, and in that process accept the uniqueness of human beings and their rights to living with freedom and resources for a life of dignity and human worth.
As a human being with a Chicano cultural/linguistic/historical self-image I affirm, unreservedly, my right to live and express my sense of life, to live and die for my ideals, and to share in the struggle for human liberation in solidarity with all oppressed people everywhere. To do otherwise is to deny my own responsibility as a human being and to be as culpable as the Nixons, du Ponters, Exxoners, Mitchells, Hughes, and other exploiters for the polluting of the earth, the pillage of human decency, and the enslavement of humankind.
Realizing the existential responsibility we all have unto ourselves and one another, we must begin to value our lives- individually and collectively-and affirm human values over and above socioeconomic questions, and realize that the political questions really facing us are not ones of systems per sé, but ones of liberation and the redistribution of resources and the refortifying of our human spirituality. Seeing the Chicano struggle within a broader scope, as part of a global push for human liberation; sensing the hurt in our barrios; and realizing that we, too, must participate creatively and thoughtfully, I find myself propelled to write and write and write. Ultimately, I believe, that art exists as a political statement- a statement that speaks of the human condition and the will to create beyond the constrictions of social norms, an affirmation of soulmind, a tearing down of barriers, and a salient/articulate expression ofmorality/worth/dignity/liberation/ and peace in harmony with the life forces of the universe. Art as an ideological form becomes a trite, clichéd passionless outburst that is akin to a politician's mouthings, but art as a political statement becomes the expression of peoples' living/loving/ suffering/creating/struggling within their world of hurt, retribution, and awareness. Art cannot exist solely to advertise nor to help market ideas, nor can ideas merely package art as a commodity. Our sense of a spiritual universe-one that is not to be found neatly packaged in cathedrals, temples, or gideon bibles-is a linkage to earth, cloud, river, and our human materialism, a world of feeling and thought, an awareness that we reflect the awesomeness of sky and the finiteness of our existence, that we are bound, one to the other, on this planet, and that we (can) express this through our creativity.
Reading Lalo Delgado, Raúl R. Salinas, Juan Contreras, Horacio Minjarez, José Montoya, E. A. Mares, Tomás Atencio, Leo Romero, and other Chicano writers/poets gives me awareness of our thought processes; seeing the graphic arts of Ernesto Martínez, Carlos Rosas, Lydia Madrid, Mel Casas, Manuel Acosta, and other artists links me with the spiritual world of the Chicano; and hearing the musical compositions of Javier Pacheco, Little Joe, and other Chicano musicians/composers gives me the rhythm of our living and dying, for to exist is to be aware and to be aware is to dream/live, live/dream, live/die, and die/live.
Chicano literature and the movement coincided in terms of gestation and birth, one complementing the other, and they both sprang from the will and experience of our people; our first writers to espouse Chicanismo as a human/political process expressing a call to liberation (not just socioeconomic mobility and political office!), like our first activists creating a politicized movement generating ideas of human liberation, came out of the dialogical experientials of our people in the campos, barrios, and pintas. Like all literatures, the genesis of Chicano literature can be traced back to our poverty strickened barrios and oppressive pinta conditions. In the main, literature has always been born within the reality of the people-folklore-and not in academia, for the academic usually winds up being the critic, not the creator. Academia is too linear and sequentially logical to create, and art is a process of flux not to be contained nor constricted, ever seeking spontaneity and multiavenues for its expression. Academia shrivels up flux, boxing it in to meet scheduled criteria. Academia is serious and regulated, while art is new, spontaneous, and exhilarating; professors tend to take themselves and their studies seriously, stuffily, while artists/poets tend to laugh at themselves and their creations. Driven to write and paint, one seeks to enjoy the process and not become enslaved by it. Most artists create ways of life that they later capture in words or on canvas, as if to say that life is to be lived and enjoyed, even though it's a hurting bitch of a life. Just as the most effective activists have been the ones to laugh and enjoy the movement, not the ones who have become diehard fanatics driving the people to truebelieverism. The people respond to those who have a sense of laughter and life, to those who make even the most hurting moments lively-not that activist writers like Lalo do not hurt and cry when they encounter the horror of a Santos Rodríguez being assassinated-HE DID CRY!-but Lalo is able to see the ironies of life and express them while striving to help the people help themselves. Serious and stand-offish activists are not revolutionary, for the only world they propose is one where people are better-fed statistics, and not vital, vibrant human beings able to shout/sing/dance/play/ poeticize their liberation. A world without cábula is linear and hierarchical-and just as I fear living in a Nixonian world that is sardonical and serious, with a constant scowl cresting my mind, so do I fear a strict soviet world that would make crime of the picaresqueness of life. Art liberates us from taking ourselves so damn seriously that we wind up serving the state and not living. I have no quarrel with Marxist ideas, but I do reject the imposing of structure on the spirit; I also view capitalism as a horror that deracinates humanity. I also laugh at the serious fanatic who proposes change and stifles love. To demand that the people capitulate and lose their sense of culture, that they become malleable and fit themselves into a marxist world is to also oppress the people. just as the politician and bureaucrat nee industrialist do not have viable answers, neither do the ideologues who have studied methods and not experienced the reality of life with the people. Those who have pretentions of leading the people should participate with the people in real life experientials; they should live with the people, suffer with them, walk/talk among the people, and break bread with them spontaneously. We do not need ceremonial leaders who take themselves seriously and wind up losing sight of the community. Leaders, like social structures, should serve the needs of the people-and not people serve the elitist needs of those in power. Two strong sources of love, inspiration, and ideation in the Chicano community are the Academia de la Nueva Raza, Dixon, New Mexico, and the Royal Chicano Air Force, Sacramento, California. These two groups of artists/poets/ writers/pícaros create and live; they share whatever resources they can mobilize and they never take themselves seriously. They do no play at revolution, for they are revolutionary in as much as they do not emulate the societal schisms of Wall Street or the demagoguery of politicians seeking office. The Academia people joke about things, calling themselves the "comedia" or the "epidemia," and create mytho-historical characters who picaresquely pontificate about: THE BEST PROFESSION IS THAT OF HAVING NO PROFESSION. Their only business is life, and life is bettering the living conditions and realities with the people-not for them! They live aware that living is also dying, and they appreciate the life process enough to create ideals worthy of living/dying for. They do not pontificate, and their pedagogical process is an alternative that came out of the life experience of Raza in Northen New Mexico-it is not a parallel institution which emulates the corrupt structures of this society. They do not teach; they learn in the day to day process of sharing life and ideas with one another within the linguistic/cultural context of their experience as they coincide with other people dialogically. Likewise, the RCAF is a process of creation within an experiential framework. Both groups are peopled by highly intelligent, creative artists and community raza; they exchange books, ideas, and give each other hope and courage; neither group has a godhead leader to direct it; and they rely on consensus to project out collective processes. Yet, there are some strong, individualistic people who participate in these groups, but there is no friction for everyone is free to coincide. Their models are self-respect, cooperation, love, consideration, reason, regard, and liberation.
Both groups are based on dialogue and criticism. Laudably enough for them, no one is offended by criticism; no one acts out the heavy leadership role; and they have maintained working and living cooperativeness for over four years now. To them, carnalismo is integrity and understanding. They are not dogmatic and will listen to differences of opinion. They express strong beliefs which are unwavering, and their artistic output is multifaceted, voluminous, and outstanding. Theirs are worlds of sensitivity, compassion, spirituality, high intelligence, and dedication to a revolutionary transformation of the world. Their creativity is not a fanciful rhetorical expression of "ya basta" or the facile expediency of buttoned clichés and the proper attire for media oriented revolutionaries. The same socio-historical forces that gestated the movement also nurtured the art and literature now catapulting themselves from the barrio, campo, pinta, and colegio. The coming generations shall take today's creations and build on them perspectives which will stagger the imagination. José Montoya speaks about these being the Paris days of La Raza, while others are realizing vienna-sidewalk-café worlds of ideation in barrios throughout Aztldn. There exist more than hope and/or wishes now. We live with the realization that we shall take history by the horns and turn it around-what Antonio Luján calls a paradoxical inversion, when anomie is exchanged for spontaneity and dispossession for human affirmation, and "Viva La Raza" will mean that the universe belongs to all, and no one need suffer hunger nor live in a world of self hate, and that the movement is a process of life and love, that one struggles for meaning and not just against systems. Antonio "Chacha" Marfn extends his reality to anyone willing to share it; Pete Duarte gives without asking what for; Guillermo "Buchitito" Ca(ca)macho demands change; Rubén Sandoval fights for moral laws that stress human rather than property rights; Louis Jeantet strikes for pinto rights; Manolo Sánchez shares his all; Sister Rose Marie Salinas helps pintos out; and from Wisconsin to Omaha to Illinois to Nevada to Oregon/Washington/ldaho down to Califas/Arizona/Colorado/New Mexico and Tejas up to Michigan/Wyoming/Harvard/Yale into the barrios and camposand pintas and a host of universidades, youths and older Raza are aware that history is created by those who take stands, and we have taken stands and will take more stands, and in that process shall we project new dimensions to life and imprint salient statements on the faces of the human story on this planet earth.
vivir es más que lo sútil, yet not only the blatant means living, for being is the praxis spelling out our sacred right to affirm life, to participate with dignity in all life processes, to know that we love vibrantly this of being ourselves, and to accept other ways of being; only when we can be can we enjoy diversity, and if we are not allowed to be, then our dreams must become flaming actions toward liberation; the answer lives within mindsoul in the experience(s) of living, not just in musty books or lectures.
Love is the key; it is the force that propels us toward writing/painting/acting. To see squalor and not protest is to deny our humanity. To act with the people toward nation building is to affirm our humanness and to show love for our progeny and all humanity. The racism and deprivation we have survived must be brought to an end, that our children and future generations might live more humane lives, able to create more with their lives.
A legacy based on human worth and liberation, truth and dignity, and love and appreciation for the life process-with acceptance for the real-ness of death-is more meaningful and sanguine than a materialistic legacy. The business of living is living, and living is liberation based on sharing, without fear or reservation. We take but experience with us to the grave, and only the moments of sharing and love do we leave behind-for objects have a shorter life span than good memories. Money and objects merely facilitate mobility and momentary pleasures, but do not engender love nor a felicitous life. Thus does this book come from experiences, chaos, hope, love, anger, confusion, and will/desire to create change, that the world might become a liveable habitation for all the people; that it might give courage or hope; that it might open up doors to the mindsoul; and that it might link my mindsoul with other mindsouls and that we might find together our humanity and thus live within the pull and push of the cosmos, basking in each other's diversity, unafraid, and able to dialogue/share this beautiful misterio of birth/life/death; that the experiential/existential praxis might make us aware that to live is to be willing to risk life and limb and career for meaning; that each life can matter; and that earth, like people and other life forms, is sacred and not to be violated. Peace is the offspring of liberation, and liberation is begotten by self-determination in confluence with all human struggles toward justice.
Literature expresses the life one lives and the values one holds dear.
QUE broten hechizos revolucionarios y hacia la liberacíon popular!
Ricardo Sánchez, Ph.D.
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