Identities

Chicano

by Gabriel H. Sanchez

The term is not subject to any official definition. It is an identity with many origins. One is indigineous. Another is mixed nationality: Mexican/American. And another is Mestizo pride. One thing is certain…Chicano/a is he or she who chooses to be identified as such. It is not like being born Mexican or American simply because of a circumstantial geographical birthplace. It is not some term that others decreed. It is a claim. A statement. It is choosing to be though being Chicano/a means being neither this nor that. Neither Mexican nor American. Now a days it is also being neither male nor female because even the spelling of this term has changed. Now it is simply being Chican@. The soul of the Chican@ is the same as the Chicano/a; the same as the Mexican/American; the same as the Pocho; the same as the Indigena; the same as the Mestizo throughout the Americas and the world. Chican@ is awareness of the self in the context of a political, social and cultural struggle between a majority versus differing minorities.

Pocho

by Isaac Chavarria

I use “pocho” to describe the sum of my experiences and identity.  Pocho translates as “overripe” and “spoiled fruit” but also as an Americanized Mexican American who has lost their culture and language. I disagree; this definition is inadequate and oversimplifies the dynamics of the pocho identity. I am not an assimilated individual with an identity which excludes my Mexican and valley upbringing.

I considered myself Hispanic, substituting it for Mexican American because the bulk of the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) population is of Mexican heritage. Yet, I wanted a more expressive term than all the others used for Latinos.  Pocho connects the Mexicano, Chicano, Hispanic, and numerous identities and influences.  My poetry is influenced by popular music in the RGV, including Norteño, Banda, Tejano, Huapango, among others.  I have loyalties to both Mexican and regional ideals.  It is a back and forth between living within and reacting to the North American and Mexican cultures. An example is my uneasiness with the border patrol agents at the Falfurrias, TX checkpoint; how far can I go until I don’t have to prove I’m American?

With the traditional Chican@ I associate politics as well as religion. Although my family is Catholic, my own religious beliefs counter those commonly associated with the Mexican culture.  Being agnostic (at this point) separates me from the beliefs of the church and folk healing.  The two are in opposition but both serve the community, as they once did for my household.  While I was growing up, my father visited sobadores, while my mother held her belief with the church.  Today I do not participate in either, but acknowledge their cultural influence.

Using the term Chican@ implies a sense of solidarity, but living in the RGV gives me a unique perspective on terms used by Mexican Americans towards Mexican nationals and vice versa. It isn’t uncommon to hear “coconut”, “mojo”, “fresa”, “naco”. I do not use these terms to create further separation, but I feel it is important to note that within Mexicanos and Mexican Americans, there is the consciousness of difference created by social factors.

A collective singular identity does not exist for the pocho, but I aspire for the term pocho to bring cohesion, like the terms Chicano/a and Mexican American.  I do not consider Chicano/a and Mexican American as equivalents because “Chicano/a” implies a political association with the efforts of the Chicano/a movement.  On the other hand, “Mexican American” alludes to an identity neither Mexican nor American.

A tejano pocho is validated by contributions to the Texas-Mexican border, mainly the pocho languages of tex-mex, spanglish, and tejano, and the advancement of the mother culture.  The terms pachucho/a, cholo/a, and Chicano/a are some terms used to depict the various Mexican descendants in the U.S.  Yet, the term pocho is still gaining scholarly respect and I aim to increase its validity. Pocho encompasses my strengths and flaws: I realize my Spanish is not perfect, but for the region it serves me well.  As a pocho, I have been witness to homesickness, abusive relationships, and family struggles, but I also have access to the music, geography, and knowledge my parents and predecessors contributed to.  I use the setting of the RGV to differentiate pochos in the valley from elsewhere.

I consider the following as future forms of the pocho: Pocho Americanizado: no recollection of previous Mexican descent; Frontera Pocho: not necessarily expert in matters Mexican [or American], but articulate in both; Pocho Chicanito/a: uno que esta developing Chicano ideals, and Nuevo Pocho: just crossed over, still getting used to the nuances of the U.S.  These different pocho identities exist, but are yet not recognized as relevant cultural identities like the Chicano/a.  Do these forms of pocho create more divisions?  I believe they allow people who consider themselves Hispanics an opportunity to redefine themselves and create new definitions that fit their particular pocho experience, while inviting Chicano/as (y otros) to rethink their counterparts.

Maybe in the future we can use “mocho” as a term to describe children of pochos, as it is for my nephews who understand Spanish, but don’t speak it that well and are more so Americanized than I am.  In the meanwhile, through my poems, I attempt a reconstruction of my pocho identity by finally taking a look at my own life, using my poems to explore the family and home de mi frontera, which I have failed to fully appreciate in the past.

*portions of this essay are from my MFA thesis titled El huisache es pocho, pero las raíces no: poems.

Xicanindi@

by Christopher Carmona

This identity does not mix together Latino and Native identities; it reminds us that we are both.  The xicanindi@ identity celebrates both the Mexican@ influence with its Spanish and European influence as well as reminds us that we are steeped in Native culture, practices, blood, and land.  Raúl Salinas first touted this identity in his book, Indio Trails: A Xicano Odyssey Through Indian Country, and spoke of our connections to our Native cousins living in reservations and still fighting for their rights and lands.  He also spoke of how we have erased our connections to our Native identities through colonization believing that European (Spanish) blood is better than Native blood.  Salinas taught that reconnecting with our Native roots would help us build bridges to our Native cousins instead of create walls to divide us and he was not alone in this idea of Chican@, Gloria Anzaldúa, Ricardo Sanchez, and Ana Castillo are some of the others that teach and promote Native connections to our Chican@ identity.

Xicanindi@ is not something to be taken lightly though or used as a fashion statement like wearing your hair in two braids or wearing eagle feathers.  No, this identity, like any identity is more about practice then it is about simply stating you are Chican@ or Native.  Xicanindi@ is about learning and understanding your history, trying to find out what your direct Native relations might be, perhaps learning a Native language alongside English/Spanish, and beginning to involve oneself in the plights of both the Latin@ and Native peoples.

Inmigrante

by Rossy Lima

El movimiento transnacional cruje con cada paso en una honda expresión lirica. Dentro de este movimiento son notables los transmigrantes envueltos con causas específicas que incitan su expresión literaria. Los México-Americanos en Estados Unidos acuden ampliamente a dar testimonio sobre el sentir histórico con un recurso tan maleable como lo es la escritura creativa. Ellos comparten además del camino una serie de recursos y objetivos. La literatura inmigrante es marcada por agudos pasos hacia el refugio en una patria ajena. La susceptibilidad encuadra una serie de sentimientos, confusiones y certezas que marcan los parámetros para una literatura fácil de identificar. La expresión lirica se aborda en esta región fronteriza como literatura inmigrante, Chicana y en un censo menor la de exilio. Estos procesos en los cuales se desarrollan las masas, cuentan con diferencias de índole técnica. En el caso de la literatura de exilio, se estudia con detenimiento el factor opresivo que induce hacia el exilio; en el caso de la literatura inmigrante se contempla el proceso de aculturación y en el de literatura Chicana la lucha política de los derechos civiles.  En los tres casos se promueve el desarrollo del consenso cultural por medio de la expresión de la lucha personal, es decir, al plasmar la experiencia de desarraigo (ya sea físico en el caso de los inmigrantes y exiliados, o social en el caso de los Chicanos)  los autores correspondientes entablan una búsqueda de identidad que por ende  proporciona  identidad al grupo respectivo.

El desarrollo social de la cultura hispana, por ejemplo la México-Americana  en los Estados Unidos, está envuelta en una lucha interna intensificada por el contraste económico entre estos dos países. Julián Samora subraya que los detonadores de la inmigración hacia esta área se deben a la demanda de mano de obra en Estados Unidos, el aumento de la población en México y también la notable  incapacidad del pueblo mexicano para proveer oportunidades de empleo. En muchos casos esta inmigración es nacional, moviéndose hacia el norte de México, lo cual ha provocado una aglomeración en las ciudades fronterizas de Reynosa, Monterrey, Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez,  por mencionar algunas (Valenzuela 128).

Toda escritura social en Estados Unidos se basa en una temática que busca el reconocimiento de la identidad (mexicana y americana por ejemplo) en la cual se apoyan para encontrar el motivo de su orgullo cultural. Dentro de la literatura inmigrante, encontramos una compilación de escritura con amplios matices sociales, de resistencia cultural. Es con esta literatura que se pueden trazar los aspectos de asimilación social, cultural y de identidad de los individuos que la escriben.

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