|A Historical Overview
La Crónica (The Chronicle) November 26, 1910:
We do not preach the antagonism of the races [“race” in Spanish also means “culture”] as we are only interested in the preservation and education of our own so that it will no longer be looked down upon for not improving its physical and intellectual abilities. In the United States of North America, the problem of race is a question of color, and we who belong to a multicolor Latinized race…find ourselves in a decidedly and traditionally hostile environment…With rare exceptions, the Americans do not believe that those of us who are citizens of their country are capable of being good, responsible and loyal citizens… Mexicans are practically without a nationality. Well, those being the facts, let of all us Mexicans pull together with the holy ties of blood, and as Latins let us be as united as the Anglo-Saxons, fighting with valiant ardor for the glory of our Mexican heritage in the areas of culture, intellecutual pursuits and morality (translation by Nicolás Kanellos)
From the nineteenth century, almost a generation after the Treaty of Guadalupe ended the Mexican-American War and transformed over 80,000 Mexicans into residents of the United States, to the 1960’s Mexican-American literature and culture exhibit a distinctive configuration. In Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Ramón A. Gutiérrez and Genaro A. Padilla suggest that before the nineteenth century Mexican-American culture (including literature and journalist genres) was indistinguishable from that of Mexico: “rooted in Spanish colonialism, formed and expresses in Spanish, and faithful, more o less, to Catholicism.” (20). Unsurprisingly, much of the literature and cultural production of this period it’s an echo of the resistance against the territorial annexation by the United States, and as Gutiérrez and Padilla suggest, it’s a cultural production that voiced men and women who created texts “…encoded as narratives, poems, chronicles, novels, essays, memoirs, and folk songs…” and by these texts “…they asserted their right to autonomy, decried the tyranny of domination, and waxed nostalgically about the way things used to be…” (20). It was through creating homes in the United States (after the annexation) that a process of configuring a hybrid culture attuned to issues of power related to Mexican-American Literary consciouness started to evolve. The need for collective consciousness is reflected in texts that present what Gutiérrez and Padilla consider a “psychological ambivalence over assimilation and acculturarion as a recent colonial subject of the United States… Mexican American culture that emphasizes resistance, both open and covert, to Anglo-American domination. “ (23)
The understanding of a distinctive Mexican-American culture and literary tradition followed a course of development common to culture in the border lands between nation-states. Raymund Paredes in “Mexican American Literature: An Overview,” suggests that the imperial urges of the United States from the end of the nineteenth century to the first decades of the twentieeth propel the creation of a space where the Mexican diaspora felt somewhat bufferd from Anglo American expansionism:
The planting of yanqi capitalism, political practices, edication and religion gradually transformed the lives and traditions of Mexican Americans. By the 1860s, there were signs that Mexican Americans in the Southwest were struggling with questios of identity, gauging their positions in that uneasy space [the transnational space] that marked the intersection of the cultures of Mexico and the United States. (31)
Similarily, Nicolás Kanellos considers of great importance the chronicle (within its transnational space) in helping to preserve the language and culture, and maintaining the colletive memory of traditions in order to resist assimilation (“A Socio-Historic Study of Hispanic Newspapers in the United States” 107). While the novels were a literaty genre that served as expression of the ideology of natinalism, as Kanellos suggests, the crónica “…a short weekly column that humorously and satirically commented on current tipics and social habits.” 116. It became the strongest mean used by Mexican and Hispanic moralist to assess the custums and behavior of the “colony whose very existance was seen as threatened by the dominant Anglo-Saxon culture.” (116). As Kanellos suggessts it was through the crónica that the writers fuled the flames of nationalism and of “el Mexcio de afuera. ” The heavy burden of collective representation created a sense of duty in the cronistas.
In many ways the editorials of men and women documented the regional and national diversity and became “manifestoes for better wages and better working conditions, their private thoughts and emotions committed to diaries, their moral tales disguised as comedies and farces, their tersely measured lyrical poems, and their pauses and silences in the textual record” (Recovering the U.S. Hispanic 21) . Hispanic papers help to preserve the cultural identity by using the Spanish language and by defending the Hispanic communities against Anglo (cultural, political and economical) domination. Kanellos states that “In many cases during the last two centuries the local Hispanic press has provided leadership… solidifying the community, protecting it and furthering its cultural survival. (107)
El México de afuera
The concept of Mexico de afuera is presumably rooted in what Leonard Pitt has called the “fantasy heritage” or the creation of a spirited expresive tradition that overstresses its heritage in order to show the (moral) superiority over other culture(s). This romantic view was at times used by the writers from Mexican-American newspapers and it extended until the first decades of the twentieth-century when it became fused with the ideologies of the New Mexican Hispanism that arose from a deep sense of nationalism and ethinic pride. The ideas of Mexico de afuera is influenced by what Ramón A. Gutierrez considers a period 1898 to 1945 characterized by a nationalism imposed from above in order to create “patriotic citizens and global compatriots around the globe,” (246), as oppose to the popular nationalism from below that marked the period 1967 to 1991, where Mexican-Americans “say themselves as colonized people who sought territorial homelands, and cultural and politcal self determination” (“Nationalism and Literary Production: The Hispanic and Chicano Experiences’)
By 1900 Mexican-American literature and journalistic genres have emerged as a divergent part of the literary culture of the United States, especially in the Southwest where it had left an ineffaceable imprint. As Gutiérrez and Padilla suggest, the roots of this literary line were Mexican, its native language was Spanish, and its religious sensibility was Roman Catholic. Given the proximity to Mexico and the permanent border crossing it maintained its disocurse withint the orbit of its homeland and Latin American Letters (36).
El Mexico de afuera purported a calculated effort to resist Anglo resentment of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, and to promote Hispanicism and nationalism.
As Kanellos suggests, the Hispanic papers in the U.S Southwest created and promoted the idea of a Mexican community in exile, or a “Mexico de afuera (Mexico on the outside), in which the culture and politics of Mexico could be duplicated until Mexico’s internal poltiics allowed for their return” (110). That is, the “Mexico de afuera” created a discourse that was namely nationalistic and struggle to preserve Mexican identity in the United States (111). At the heart of such nationalism was the distinctive role of women in helping to maintain the grandeur to their Mexican tradition and culture. For that reason women were often a main theme of the chronicles of Mexican journalist. Kanellos believes that “[Mexican] men were worried that their wives, daughters, girlfriends would take the example of Anglo women in assuming some to the leadership and responsibility heretofore reserved for men in Hispanic culture (116). Moreover, let us remember that the principles of nationalism as ideology were well grounded in the preservation of the traditinal roles of women in particular, because they were seen as the promoters and guardians of the national cutlure. Kanellos argues adds to this idea the fact that “women were in short supply in Mexican immigrant communities, and their assimilation to Anglo culture would lead the way to their inter-marriage with Anglos; and this posed a very real threat to the genetic and cultural survival of the Mexican community” (116).
However limited the participation of women in the Mexican community in the United States, there were a great number of feminists writings in Southwestern papers. Kanelllos mentioned María Luisa Garza Garza (1887-1990) among others: “An important woman cronista, poet and novelist was San Antonio’s María Luisa Garza, who used the pen name of Loreley in her columns in La Prensa” (117) [San Antonio’s largest newspaper at the time]. Under the name of Loreley, Garza wrote a column in the paper called “Crónicas femeninas” where she drasticaly critisizes the acculturation of some Mexican women while at the same time she condems the patriarchal unbending categories of gender that marginalise women who decide to persue an intellectual carrer. This ideological dualism places Garza in a paradoxical space that appears nowhere more evident than in any other displaced writer of her time.