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51 Must Read Latina/o Novels

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Books and Key muralI’m not a fan of anything prescriptive, so I’m usually weary of lists.  So why write a list like this one? The idea came to me as I reviewed a similar list someone had posted on Goodreads.  It claimed to be a list of “fiction about Latino/Latina culture by Latino/Latina authors.” As I perused the list I noticed that some books were actually not fiction at all—Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican, for example—and the majority were written by Latin American writers.  As a professor of Latina/o Literature, it pains me to see that someone who apparently loves reading and takes the time to construct such a list, does not understand the fundamental difference between writers of Latin American or Hispanic ancestry living in the U.S. who principally, if not exclusively, write in English and those writers from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean who write in Spanish.  The distinction is not arbitrary or nuanced; there are profound cultural, historical and linguistic differences.

But clarification, as important and valuable as it may be, is not the sole reason to compile and post a list of 51 Essential Latina/o Novels.   As I asked myself what type of list would be essential–a “must read” list–for anyone not conversant with this literature, I pondered the various criteria for the list.  Before discussing the criteria, I want to make it clear I am not claiming to have a definitive list here.  This is an exploratory list to initiate thinking and present an introductory framework for reading in the field.   As with any list, there will be disagreement. Please post a comment, if you believe I’ve egregiously left out someone who should be on the list. Second, these are novels and do not include other genres that would appear on other lists of notable Latina/o works of literature.   Please understand the criteria I’ve constructed to come up with these novels, which follow:

1. Novels that most literary critics and historians consider either foundational or seminal, or have in some way influenced or reformulated the discourse on this corpus.
2. Novels that have added new ideas, concepts, or approaches to the lived experiences of Latinas/os from the United States.
3. Novels representative of authors who have demonstrated, if not mastery, a dedication to novelistic craft and art.
4. Novels that, as a whole, represent a strong introduction to the expansive nature of Latina/o literature and thus Latina/o experience.
5. Novels that have opened or expanded the borders of Latina/o literature.

Some of the authors on this list have written other fabulous novels.   They made it difficult to choose only one; in those cases, I kept my criteria in mind.   In some cases—Hinojosa and Ruiz de Burton, for example—I felt it necessary to include more than one novel.  At any rate, I hope this list will inspire you to read more of their work.

My listing of novels should not, in any way, be interpreted as an attempt to privilege that literary art form.   In the future, I’d like to compile a list of similarly notable short fiction collections and poetry.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have included my novel, The Accidental Native.   As a fiction writer, I seriously have taken to heart Toni Morrison’s charge to write books that you want to read that aren’t written yet.   Such was the case with The Accidental Native—the first novel about the Puerto Rican reverse migration.  That is one reason among others why I believe it belongs on this list.   In all sincerity, if this novel had been written by another author, I would feel compel to teach it in my Latina/o Lit courses.   For ethical reasons, I do not.   However, because I strongly believe it fulfills some of the established criteria, and since this is my blog after all, at the risk of sounding solipsistic and self-aggrandizing, I have included it on the list.

Review the list; use it for your own literary interests, pursuits, amusement, or whatever.   Let me know what you think.   I’d like to hear from you.

Acosta, Oscar Zeta. The Revolt of the Cockroach People.
Alarcón, Daniel. Lost City Radio.
Alire Saenz, Benjamin. Carry Me Like Water.
Alvarez, Julia. In the Time of the Butterflies.
Ambert, Alba. A Perfect Silence.
Anaya, Rudolfo. Bless Me, Ultima.
Castillo, Ana. So Far From God.
Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street.
Corpi, Lucha. Eulogy for a Brown Angel.
Cruz, Angie. Soledad.
Garcia, Cristina. Dreaming in Cuban.
Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Di Iorio, Lyn. Outside the Bones.
Gaspar de Alba, Alicia. Sor Juana’s Second Dream.
Goldman, Francisco. The Ordinary Seaman.
Hinojosa, Rolando. The Valley.
Hinojosa, Rolando. Klail City.
Hinojosa, Rolando. Rites and Witnesses.
Hijuelos, Oscar. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.
Islas, Arturo. Rain God.
Limón, Graciela. In Search of Bernabe.
Lopez, Erika. Flaming Iguanas.
Mendez, Miguel. Pilgrims in Aztlan.
Menéndez, Ana. Loving Che.
Mohr, Nicholasa. Nilda.
Olivas, Daniel. The Book of Want.
Ortiz-Cofer, Judith. The Line of the Sun.
Paredes, Americo George Washington Gomez: A Mexico-Texan Novel.
Perez, Loida Martiza. Geographies of Home.
Plascencia, Salvador. The People of Paper.
Quiñonez, Ernesto. Bodega Dreams.
Rechy, John. City of Night.
Rivera, Thomas. And the Earth Did Not Devour Him.
Rodriguez, Abraham. Spidertown.
Rodriguez, Joe. Oddsplayer
Rosario, Nellie. Song of the Water Saints.
Ruiz de Burton, Maria Amparo. The Squatter and the Don.
Ruiz de Burton, Maria Amparo. Who Would Have Thought It?
Suarez, Virgil. The Cutter.
Tobar, Hector. The Tattooed Soldier.
Torres, J.L. The Accidental Native.
Troncoso, Sergio. From This Wicked Patch of Dust.
Urrea, Luis Alberto. The Hummingbird’s Daughter.
Vazquez, Charlie. Contraband.
Vazquez, Richard. Chicano: A Novel.
Vega Yunque, Edgardo. The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow Into The Impenetrable
      Loisaida Jungle.
Venegas, Daniel. The Adventures of Don Chipote.
Villarreal, Jose A. Pocho.
Villaseñor, Victor. Macho.
Viramontes, Helena Maria. Their Dogs Came With Them.
Yglesias, Jose. A Wake in Ybor City.

Junot Diaz: This Is How You Lost Me

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the broken heart question why

I’m done with you, Junot Diaz.  I’ve been meaning to tell you this for some time now, but the time never felt right, and there was always the fear.  The fear of repudiation for committing the blasphemous, heretical outrage of critiquing one of our own, especially the Poster Dude of Latino Literature.  After much inner debate, I swore never to teach your work in any of my classes.  Your stalking presence, however, recently confronted me in a collection of short stories I had already assigned to my creative writing class.  The discussion of your story, “Miss Lora,” pushed my anger and disgust to surface in volcanic torrents.  Again, I had to explain my criticism of this story, and how it fits into your work that I have concluded up to this point in your career is toxic and therefore not material I want to teach in any Latina/o literature course or generally anywhere.

My main problem with your work is primarily centered on the continual, obsessive representation of what one of my creative writing students aptly termed “suciopaths.”  What else can you call the Dominican men who inhabit your fictional world, and not just Yunior and Rafa, those two deviant brothers who suffer from arrested development across three critically acclaimed books.  I have read your three books meticulously.  I have taught them.  And I cannot find one redeeming Latino in any page you have published.  As a Latino, father of two young men who will go forth to confront a world already inhospitable to Latinos,  and who have been taught to be proud of their Puerto Rican roots; as a husband married and faithful to the same Puerto Rican woman for 27 years; as an educator  and scholar of this literature who tries to present his students the complexities of Latina/o culture in the United States honestly in all of its historical and social contexts—these  hyper-macho, sexually suped-up narrow-minded, insensitive, emotionally and apparently genetically engineered “sucios” are troubling to me in what they misrepresent in the texts that you continue to spawn.  Troubling because even the most intelligent white feminists support these over-the-top representations as gospel truth.  Their arguments that essentially claim this type of machismo is real and widespread—without critically questioning its generalization—only confirm their whiteness and their lack of knowledge of Latinos.  Do they know any Latinos?  Have they read any other Latina/o literature where the depictions of men are more balanced and genuine?

Unfortunately, you have sold out your fellow Latino brothers—easy targets in our society—to sell your books.  You have created in them straw men roaming in a world of violent and sexual exotica to titillate and satisfy the cravings for the Other of suburbanites and hipsters who will never have a clue what it is to live in a barrio.  And through these hombres de paja you have expressed the most misogynist, sexist, gratuitous depictions of women I have read in contemporary fiction and ironically you have managed to remain relatively unscathed.  Indeed, you are heralded for depicting the “reality” and misogyny of this machismo on steroids from individuals who have no clue what the majority of real Latino males are like, nor apparently care to know anything about their lived experiences .  You have taken machismo, a complex historical, cultural form of patriarchy, and transformed it into a distorted, reductive, simplistic sexual version to suit white literary consumption.

To add insult to injury a jury of your “peers” has decided to reward you with honors for doing so,  while deserving established, more prolific Latina/o fiction writers have yet to reach the level of recognition that has been heaped on you.  For example, Viramontes, Alire Saénz, Urrea, Castillo, Goldman, Mohr, and Alvarez, to just name a few.  One has to raise the question:  why are these other writers not acclaimed to the degree you are?  I would submit that it is because the fictional worlds those compañeras/os represent do not fulfill the consumerist needs and expectations of the elite who decide and dictate what we should read and who gets anointed “Literary Worthy.”  Some of their work is simply too politically edgy and true for even white liberal tastes.  It is outrageous, for example, that the only two Pulitzer Prizes ever awarded to Latina/o fiction writers have been a Dominican-American (you) and a Cuban-American (the late Oscar Hijuelos), when Mexican American and Chicano writers have a longer history of literary production than any other Latino group.  Why is that?  In my opinion, the answer is two-fold:  One, most white critics don’t know squat about the universe of Latina/o writers.  And, secondly, and most importantly:  Mexican American and Chicano writers still sustain a social and activist dynamic to their writing that grates against the mainstream.  Yours, sadly, does not.

In an article in La Respuesta, Xavi Burgos Peña writes how you responded testily to questions and comments laced with racist undertones  thrown at you by the mostly white audience at the Chicago Humanities Festival a year ago.  Your anger stemmed from the frustration of the audience laughing at some of the serious ideas on white supremacy and privilege that you were putting down.  Anyone who has followed your career will not question your progressive politics as you have articulated them in these types of forums, and by the work you have pursued on behalf of projects like Freedom University.

Pero ‘mano, why would the laughter surprise you?  Those folks came to the forum because of your work.  How disconcerting it must have been for most of them to hear you talk about white privilege when such topics are not to be found anywhere in your work, or if they are, they are buried behind the sexual depravity and general dysfunctionality of the Latino men at the core of your narrative.  How confused and offended they must have felt to hear you break it down when you yourself have been privileged by white privilege.   If you hadn’t been, you would not be in possession of a Pulitzer and a MacArthur Prize and all those New Yorker publications.  They love you because you make them laugh; you stroke them to literary orgasm; in true liberal fashion, they read you and feel exonerated for the guilt they possess for being privileged.  You have been performing literary minstrelsy and then you expect to be taken seriously when you talk about serious issues?   They came to be entertained and to hear you speak on what your writing has been granted the authority to speak on:  machismo and the blight of the violent, sexually charged Latino male experience.

What your career so far demonstrates is the damage that the mainstream commercial publishing industry can enact on talented developing Latina/o writers when the machinery extols and privileges them uncritically.  I refuse to promote the hegemonically sanctioned negative representation of Latinos found in your books.  I am jumping off the bandwagon.  When I was teaching your work—compelled by the sense that I needed to expose my students to the leading figure of Latino literature today—I had to find a way to justify it to myself.  So, I often used your work to explore how the publishing industry insidiously promotes a racist agenda and white privilege through writers of color.  But I found I could do that much more effectively by teaching Percival Everett’s Erasure.  I have no reason to bring your noxious work into my classroom anymore.  There is nothing in them that my students need to read to learn about Latina/o literature or culture that I cannot find in other more balanced representations.  I hope you find your way.  I hope one day you can consciously align your worldview with your art and be a truly committed writer in the Raymond Williams sense of the word.   Just be ready to lose all that love presently coming your way.

Notes from the Boondocks of the Puerto Rican Imaginary, or Writing Outside the Circular Firing Squad

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Circular-Firing-Squad

I’m displaced to the second power.  I’m Nuyorican and haven’t lived in New York city for decades.  In fact, I’ve been a Nuyorican living in Puerto Rico for most of that time.  Now, I find myself in the margins of puertorriqueñidad, living in the boondocks of the Puerto Rican imaginary. 

 Some would consider living outside of a Puerto Rican enclave crippling for a self-denoted Nuyorican writer.  I certainly think there’s value living and writing in New York, but I think it can also be detrimental and stifling.   New York is one of the most provincial places you can find.  (Think Steinberg’s New Yorker cover).  Writers of color can fall into little cliques, especially when it comes to our ethnic thing.  In the case of Nuyorican writers, we become too defensive about being Puerto Rican to the point of ignoring or downplaying critical problems that are homegrown and internal to our culture.  We become obsessed with fronting authenticity and lose the drive to be original and creative.  We put a tight circle around ourselves and write from that comfort zone.  We end up writing to other members of the circle and excluding others.  And the politics of such artistic tribalism can be brutal and self-serving—a circular firing squad.  

 Community in this digital age need not be grounded in one physical space.  I have been fortunate to live and visit different places in the country and across the Atlantic.  All those places have shaped who I am and how I see the world and as a consequence it has shaped my artistic vision, my world view.  I’m a better person and writer for it.  So, I don’t specifically attempt to stay connected to the literary scene in New York City per se.  I prefer to stay connected to the city for its cultural value, to stay connected with friends and family and those writers whom I respect and admire.   The focus of my work now is not centered on Puerto Ricans living in New York.  I may choose to write on that, but it is not my north star.   I am searching for subject matter on Puerto Ricans that goes beyond any one limited scope, and that is fresh and different than what we have been reading lately.   In the case of my novel, The Accidental Native, no one has written on this return migration to the island in fictional form.  Puerto Rican writers in the island don’t seem to care much about that, and Puerto Ricans in New York seem intent on continuing to write about the New York experience, at times from a narrow, stifling perspective. 

 Being on the outside is actually advantageous.   I don’t worry about stepping on any toes.  I don’t belong to any particular writing clan.  I do not have to tolerate the divas and sycophants, the self-proclaimed literary gurus or the Ministry of Authentication that any such literary circle--anywhere and at anytime–will tend to germinate.  Quite liberating and stress free.  I visit the city occasionally to get myself recharged; the internet is great for keeping abreast of things.  I have an idea of what’s going on in these different scenes; not all of it I care for, some of it is exciting, some absolutely banal.  But because I don’t live there, I can’t directly engage with it all.  I don’t have immediate access to the Nuyorican Literati.   That distance allows me freedom to think and create outside that circle.  These days I am gravitating to historical material, like that story I’m developing about the Carlisle Indian School.  I have another idea about Puerto Ricans moving to Hawaii, still another about the sterilization program.  I’m always looking for ideas that are not necessarily Nuyorican in the prototypical sense.  When people think Nuyorican—if they do at all—they usually think “urban” and everything else that goes with that.  The collection I’m working on now has ten stories that don’t deal with New York.  Perhaps, it is time that we redefine what is Nuyorican.   Perhaps it is time that “Nuyorican” morph into “Diasporican.”  It is certainly time to infuse new themes, images and ideas into the Nuyorican perspective of the urbanscape.  Aurora Levins Morales attempted to put together a collection of Otherican writers, those Puerto Rican writers living and writing outside of New York City—those othered by the nuyorican label.  Unfortunately the collection never made it to print.  The working concept behind that anthology is still valid and promising.  

 

The Ghettoesque Stylings of Justin Torres’ We, the Animals

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banksy-better-out-than-in-ghetto-4-life-01-600x400

I always approach any new book written by a Latina/o and acclaimed by the predominantly white body of reviewers with trepidation.  As you can imagine this anxiety occurs often considering the scarcity of reviewers actually knowledgeable of Latina/o literature and the inordinate power of the mainstream critical mass to dictate tastes and trends.  And almost without fail, I’m disappointed.  Not only with the book, but also the reviewers, the writer, and the whole hot mess that is publishing today.  Such was the case with Justin Torres’ “novel,” We, the Animals.” 

 

What we have with this book is a closeted memoir.  Torres seems to want to write a coming of age/coming out memoir with this book.  That it was marketed as a “novel” probably had more to do with legal issues over releases and the desire of his handlers to sell Torres as a novelist, than contemporary novelistic aesthetics.  Even in this postmodernist world, where “everything goes” in literary production, this narrative screams for the structural depth, narrative coherence, density and expansion that any reader expects from a novel, especially one based on strong autobiographical material.  The core of this narrative—Torres’ grappling with his sexual identity—is essentially buried through roughly the first one hundred pages.   Actually, not a good writing strategy for any long narrative, be it memoir or novel. 

 

After reading various vignettes about his family, each one increasing in dysfunctional angst, we are thrown into the coming out section of the book for the last three chapters.  As readers, we are expected to make sense out of Torres’ hurried attempt to tie all the loose ends.   Torres’ is a gifted stylist and strong at the sentence level, but he is unable to bring it all together at the end.   This is one case where less was not more.   Given the opportunity to write a novel, he could have developed this thread much more meticulously and woven the earlier parts better.   At any rate, the powers that be have branded it a novel.  I wish that they had released it as a memoir instead, because at least Torres’ dysfunctional family and personal issues, as heartbreaking and poignant as they are, could be read as one individual’s story rather than becoming yet another part of the ghettoesque fictional legacy that negatively universalizes and marks the Latino experience in the United States.

 

The enthralled remarks of many reviewers who blurbed this book focus on language.  Torres has a sparse, elliptical, lyrical style that captivates by absence and suggestion.  Daniel Alarcón is right to mention that every page “sings” because each one is imbued with raw, poetic intensity.   Alarcón continues to write that “every scene startles.”  That statement, however, I have to question.  It would not startle anyone who consistently reads Latina/o literature today to read a scene where a father punches a young son in the face and crotch.  A novel that contains oversexed “characters,” especially a “dark and Afroed” Puerto Rican man with a “stout, fleshy dick” who the narrator compares to an animal.  In fact, the entire family is depicted often—consider the title—using animal metaphors.  Not surprising some of the words and phrases used by reviewers to describe this novel are: “feral,” “ferocious,” “wilderness,” “between the human and the animal,” “snatches the reader by the scruff of the heart,” “ravished,” “savage,” and so on.   Is this a matter of a bunch of excellent writers riffing blurbs on the animal theme?  Perhaps.  But who offered them this trope as a fulcrum?  The author.  Who also utilizes an overused literary template that, besides containing the ever-present abusive, sporadically absent, sucio father, includes, inevitably, a barrio environment full of violence, sex, and drugs. 

 

Following Junot Diaz’s contribution to the ghetto genre, Torres transports the barrio from the customary urban area to someplace seemingly different.  He takes the animals out of the urban jungle and transfers them to “hillbilly country,” but of course keeping them locked in that same old cage called poverty.   The inescapable oppression of that impoverished life is also a given in this exhausted story.  There’s never any way out.  It’s all about epic failure.   The characters never seem to find any answers, any agency or transformative power.   Apparently, these Latina/o writers are intent on dragging Latino characters through a twenty-first century version of naturalism.  By the end, after a mental breakdown seemingly over his family finding his journal full of his sexual fantasies, the narrator finds himself institutionalized, now sleeping with “animals in cages and in dens.”

 

Piri Thomas constructed a writing career based on this type of story. But Thomas’ memoir, Down These Mean Streets, was mostly authentic and honest, and forty-six years ago it was a new and fresh.  He was writing about his hard life.  None of the Latino writers writing this ghetto or barrio genre today can claim the life Thomas lived.  They’re college educated.  They may have come from working class backgrounds but they did not serve any time in jail, did not fight in gangs, get shot up, or almost die from hard drugs.  And if they did, Thomas already wrote about those topics with power and authenticity.   So, almost a half of century after Thomas’ memoir, can’t we move on to telling different stories about our communities?  Can’t we shift our creative gaze somewhere else? For sure, the barrio needs to be written, but not always from this repressive, limited and limiting tired perspective.   

 

It is disgraceful and disturbing that this barrio/ghetto template still survives today in its newer, insidious forms.  At one point, referring to their suffocating socioeconomic condition, the narrator’s father says, “Nobody’s ever escaping this.”  I worry that Latina/o writers will not be able to escape from the present publishing environment and the cage it has built for us.  I worry that Latina/o writers cannot seem to transcend this concrete ceiling, mainly because the current publishing machinery feeds and privileges this toxic crap.  The literati apparently still love to fetishize the Latina/o experience as exotica, and the writers who unleash these urban fantasies are thrown the scrapes of praise as they haunch in their cages scribbling away.  That this phenomenon extends to all forms of cultural production, including films, videos, music, etc., continues to be a source of anxiety for me and it should be to every thinking person in our communities.  

Image: Ghetto4Life, Banksy.

Adios to the Bling Bling Era

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BlingWhat does Post Barrio mean?  It means a worldview liberated from the barrio/ghetto mindset which permeates many of the Latino communities throughout the United States.  Let me start by saying there is nothing wrong with sustaining roots with your community, with strengthening ties in solidarity, especially for political action.  But that’s not what I’m talking about.  My concern is with the idea that Latinos’ only reliable view into the world is through the prism of the barrio, which almost always is nothing more than a modern double consciousness constructed by those in power to manufacture ideology.  This barrio worldview shared by so many Latinos–which promotes cultural artifacts ranging from bling fetishism, to ghetto fab sportswear, to impoverished language, among others–generates enough material for many blog posts.  And in this blog, I will try to discuss and offer my opinion on as many as I can.  My main focus, however, will be on how attitudes stemming from this prismatic barrio worldview affects the literary arts, in particular.  But I’m equally fascinated by how it generally shapes the contemporary Latino cultural and political perspective.

And what are the characteristics of this barrio worldview?   One of the most salient, troubling features is the deep sense of continual victimization, and that everything we do as Latinos is defined by that role we persist in assigning to ourselves.  This attitude makes people who have achieved success in their lives targets of derision and blame from within their communities, sometimes leading them to undeserved guilt and alienation from other Latinos.   The barrio mindset operates on difference–to benefit you as a member of an oppressed group; to use as a weapon of guilt against dominant groups.   These beliefs lend themselves to reductive thinking about pretty much anything; they lead to close mindedness and manipulation by demagogues or simply to defeatism and apathy.

Perhaps the most devastating consequence of this Barrio Syndrome is how Latinos have come to accept the negative, heightened, exaggerated representations of their own communities and neighborhoods as universal “truth.”   Thus, the only acceptable authenticity of the barrio becomes one that focuses on the exaggerated pimped up, drug crazy, ultra violent,  sexed up world of fatalism and degeneracy.   Forget that the overwhelming majority of Latinos in these communities work and struggle to give their children a better life, that they are decent law abiding individuals, who do not use or sling drugs, or gang bang,

And how do I know this?  Because I grew up in the South Bronx during the burning times–when buildings were being torched by paid arsonists, and yes, gangs existed–some of these gang members were friends–and people were using drugs.  But I always knew they were a minority.  On my street, I knew many more good hard working people.  In my building there was a sense of neighborly concern and sharing.  I hate that the picture of such barrios like the South Bronx are still depicted, purposefully represented in such wide, generalized untruthful negative ways for commercial reasons.  I actually felt safe walking those streets.   What made the South Bronx and similar barrios dangerous had more to do with the utter breakdown of the spirit, the loss of hope and agency, than drugs and crime.    If we check the FBI reports on crime, we learn that crime activity has actually been going down for decades, yet we continue to be fed this idea of national lawlessness, especially in our barrios.  That’s what we will believe if the only news we continue to receive is the negative incidents.

What does a Post Barrio Universe look like?  It means not having to do everything your ethnic collective claims you need to do.  It means not falling victim to the idea that reading, learning, getting educated is somehow uncool.   It means learning about other cultures other than your own.   It’s accepting that your culture actually is part of American culture; that you do not necessarily own it for that very reason.  It is accepting that you are an American and as such you deserve, you should demand, the same rights and privileges as any other citizen.  And you are not a victim; your history is full of heroes and events that demonstrate that our people have resisted the oppression; that we have fought and won battles for our rights.  Let your history wisely guide your thinking and actions, but do not wallow in it, do not let others bury you in it.

If you happen to be fortunate enough to live a middle class existence, be proud of your achievements, be grateful to those who worked their asses off to get you there, but never, ever, think you are better than those brothers and sisters in the barrios of America who want the same future.  And don’t insult them by putting your comfortable lifestyle down; don’t romanticize the barrio or ghetto.  Don’t romanticize the negative of the barrio by wearing clothes inspired by prisonwear or a “gangsta” lifestyle that you couldn’t handle or don’t even understand.  Let’s all focus on what’s positive in our barrios and let’s treat what is negative with a critical eye, not an exploitative one.

As for cultural workers–writers, artists, film makers–of Latino ancestry:  stop writing the ghetto.   We do not need the propagation of more negative stereotypes of these communities couched in “streetwise urban language” that attempts to render it more authentic.   If you’re still writing about the violence, about Latino men who are only “sucios,” still objectifying Latinas sexually, about drugs, about pimps, about dysfunctional families, etc., without ever shedding some critical light on these topics, please stop and ask yourself what you are doing.   Stop and realize that you are only seeing your people through the eyes of the mainstream, hegemonic culture.  You are just practicing an educated form of classical double-consciousness.  You are just feeding their need for racist, stereotypical,commercial material.  Use your talents to create and represent our people in a more progressive light.  In a more honest and genuine context.  In the barrios there are stories of grit, conflict and determination that have nothing to do with drugs, pimps, violence and the other clichéd themes often associated with Latina/os.

The Post Barrio Universe is my way of approaching Latina/o life and culture from a perspective that celebrates poet and word performer Oveous Maximus’ words: The Bling Bling Era is Over!   The Bling Bling Era is Over!   Now, if that thought could only start sinking into the brains of all our Latina/o family and our artists.

 

Welcome to the Post Barrio Universe

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505Welcome to my webpage and blog, Post Barrio Universe.   What I post on here is my attempt, through my writing, to construct bridges with those who want to share ideas concerning writing, politics, and culture, especially from a Latina/o perspective,  All are invited to commune, dialogue, and debate in a mutual desire to learn and expand our understanding of the world we all inhabit.

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