Archive for April, 2012

1516-Dorfman

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

History does repeat itself, first as tragedy and then as farce: almost half a century later, ultra-conservative anti-Semitic right wingers in the United States would suggest that I do the same thing, following me around with signs screeching VLADMIRO ZELICOVICH (sic) GO HOME TO RUSSIA whenever I gave a lecture about Chile at a university, waving copies of a twenty minute speech Jesse Helms had delivered against me on the senate floor, brimming with information provided to him by the Chilean Secret police.

 

It is sad the Dorfman’s parents had to leave their homelands in order to protect their lives against racist radicals but the tragedy is even worse when you have people who have just commenced on their lives being newly assimilated only to have to start all over again. This passage shows that the immigration situation has always had a constant theme, tell the people you want to go home to go back to a nation that their physical features suggest they are from even if they have spent most of their lives in the country they are in now and are probably accultutred to being a citizen of that nation. I see a very similar trend to the way immigrants are viewed today, never as American even if they grew up here just because they have an ethnic name or they have an appearance of forever being a foreigner on the basis of what society says is normal.

Dorfman-1514

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Spanish received my father with open arms, a smoother welcome than my mother’s. Either because he had already had previous experience with the language as a child or because his parents were pollylingual themselves, he was soon speaking and writing  Spanish brilliantly, so well that soon after graduating from the University, the Russian emigre Dorfman wrote and had published the first history of Argentine industry. , becoming his country’s leading expert on the subject.

 

Dorfman references how his father became “his country’s leading expert on the subject” displaying how his father’s easy assimilation was directly related to his nationalism and feelings of partiotism towards his adopted nation and adopted language. Dorfman also highlights the idea the those who are better off socioeconomically have an easier time in assimilating to a new culture and language when they are in the situation where they have to do this. Dorfman tells us that his father came from a household that was polylingual to begin with and spoke languages recognized by the modern world as being sophisitcated. These factors gave his father the upper hand in his mastery of Spanish and ultimately a more pleasant experience in assimilation.

Villanueva-1477

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

To look

into devastated eyes is not enough; to touch

the photographs is not enough

Even if their breath could reach me,

I could utter nothing among the ruins

written with light.

But someone such as I, nobody in all of this,

has come to see ( this much the heart allows):

what man has done to man, human acts of profane,

and defeated countryside.

Villanueva’s passage is about the atrocities of the holocaust but you can see parallels to the horrors of the colonization of latin america. He says that he is an insignificant person in relation to the past but by studying the photos he becomes a part of the history that has marked the world since. He suggests that there is not enough that he can do as an individual viewing the photos of the holocaust but states that this is all the heart allows especially since he is from a future time period.

Anzaldua-1495

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

In the 1800’s Anglos migrated illegally into Texas, which was then part of Mexico, in greater and greater numbers and gradually drove the tejanos (native Texans of Mexican descent) from their lands, committing all manner of attrocities against them. Their illegal invasion forced Mexico to fight a war to keep its Texas territory. The battle of the Alamo, in which the Mexican forces vanquished the whites, became, for the whites the symbol of the cowardly and villanous character of the Mexicans. It became (and still is) a symbol that legitimized the white imperialist takeover. With the capture of Santa Anna later in 1836, Texas became a republic. Tejanos lost their land and, overnight became the foreigners.

 

Anzaldua describes the manipulative tactics that the whites used to push out native people from their land, in this case the native texans. The native texans were defeated in a battle provoked by the whites as part of the charade to make them into foreigners and turn them into an enemy in their own land.  The whites wanted it to appear that they had a legitimate right to manifest destiny in  the  norhtern hemisphere and concocted a war to make the whites into heroes. It is ironic how illegal immigration was a big deal in this case but no one really cares about it anymore because the illegal immigrants gained the position of power. Perhaps if somehow modern day illegal immigrants could gain power there could be a shift in the sentiment towards illegal immigrants in this country today.

Anzaldua-1502

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The culture expects women to show greater acceptance of and commitment to, the value system than men. The culture and the Church insist that women are subservient to males. If a woman rebels she is a mujer mala. If a woman doesn’t renounce herself in favor of the male then she is selfish. If a woman remains a virgen until she marries, she is a good woman. For a woman of my culture there used to be only three directions she could turn: to the Church as a nun, to the streets as a prostitute, or to the home as a mother.

Anzaldua addresses an important point by suggesting that culture and the Church have been working together in limiting the career options that women have had to the present day. She suggests three options all of which are subservient to man. Nuns work for the church which follows the leadership of a man, essentially nuns are married to the religion that follows Jesus. Prostiution predominantly capitalizes on the business of men seeking to find a woman to obtain sexual services from. Motherhood is a job where the woman becomes subservient to the persistent needs of her family. Anzaldua paints a dismal picture for latino women, espeically for those who are queer and can not fit the role of a subservient “good woman.” What defines a “good woman” Anzaldua says is her sexuality, which is a restraint on women.

Gloria Anzaldua-1504

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

There is something compelling about being both male and female, about having an entry into both worlds. Contrary to some psychiatric tenets, half and halfs are not suffering from a confusion of sexual identity or even from a confusion of gender. What we are suffering from is an absolute despot duality that says we are able to be only one or the other. It claims that human nature is limited and cannot evolve into something better. But I, like other queer people, am two in one body, both male and female. I am the embodiment of the hieros gamos: the coming together of opposite qualities within.

Azaldua addresses an important concept here when she says that “half and halfs are not suffering from a confusion of sexual identity or even a confusion of gender” because Latino culture suggests that the dichotomy is something constant and not flexible to allow for a person to be in both categories. The problem is not in the people themselves in having mental conflicts as to why they are not in a specific category but rather in a “despot” who imposes the system on members of society. This “despot” believes that change or flexibility can not exist in the world and make it more accommodating for queer people. Anzaldua then says that she is the creation of the combination of the two categories.

Ariel Dorfman- 1518

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Immigrants’ migration to a new country face many challenges on their journey and their adjustment to the new environment. Sometimes the journey is so complicated that the images of their own experience become blurred or even disappear purposefully or by accident. Dorfman speaks of his family’s experience when he says:

Our family had descended from the train onto the platform in Grand Central Station, and there was no one there to greet us but the cold. We had crossed the South of the United States during the night. I have no memory, again, of that trip, except years later, when I read Thomas Wolfe and his long, shattering train ride home toward which the angel was fruitlessly looking, the home he said you could never return to, I felt a shudder of acknowledgement- I had been on that train, I had crossed the U.S. South leaving my own Latino South. So I do not remember the moment when I stepped for the first time in my life onto the concrete of the North, there in New York, holding my mother’s hand.

Dorfman’s traumatic experience of being unwelcome as an immigrant impacted his memories of the event in his life. He did not experience a warm welcome upon immigrating to the country. The stark contrast in the image of immigration that was existent in his mind prior to leaving his home country and the realities were disconcerting to him. He explains his feeling of being misplaced by the stealth of the night journey with his family and how this made him feel disoriented to the point where his story emerged from the similarities in the voyage of the many other immigrants’ stories. He describes the experience as something he has no memory of by rather something he has created a memory for. By taking the combinations of his sentiments after his migration with those of Thomas Wolfe Dorfman has created a common theme in the migration story. IN retrospect when all things tend to be clearer, for him it is the creation of his own journey that empowers him to write this passage. He writes “I felt a shudder of acknowledgement” suggesting that for him the experience was surreal and unacceptable until the reality of a cold welcome upon his exiting grand central station finally set in.

Ariel Dorfman-1519

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

That was the place, the house of death. That’s where I caught pneumonia one Saturday night in February of 1945, when my parents had gone out by themselves for the first time since we had arrived in the States-and I carefully use that verb, to catch, aware of its wild ambiguity, still unsure, even now, if that sickness invaded me or if I was the one who invited it in. But more of that later. To save his life, that boy was interned in a hospital isolated in a ward where nobody spoke a word of Spanish. For three weeks, he saw his parents only on visiting days and then only from behind a glass a partition.

Dorfman shows us his relationship with his new home as an unpleasant one when he refer’s to it as the “house of death.” He then shifts focus on the ambiguity of the new language that he must now master seeing that he is an immigrant in the United States. He elaborates by talking about his uncertainty of how he became sick in the first place. His negative experience in the hospital is exacerbated by the physical wall that the hospital created around him as a sick child but also the emotional wall that the lack of a mastery of english created when he was unable to communicate his feeling with the medical staff that spoke english.

Gloria Anzaldua-1504

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The queer identity is rather complex especially when juxtaposed upon the mainstream culture. This identity is further complicated by the restraints of religion and conservative cultures. Anzaldua addresses the specificity of queer identity for latin american women when she writes:

For the lesbian of color, the ultimate rebellion she can make against her native culture is though her sexual behavior. She goes against two moral prohibitions: sexuality and homosexuality. Being lesbian and raised Catholic, indoctrinated as straight, I made the choice to be queer ( for some it is genetically inherent). It’s an interesting path, one that continually slips in and out of the white, the Catholic, the Mexican, the indigenous, the instincts. In and out f my head. It makes for loqueria, the crazies. It is a path, of knowledge- one of knowing ( and of learning) the history of oppression or our raza. It is a way of balancing, or mitigating duality.

“Sexual behavior” is referenced as an act of rebellion rather than a personal choice in this passage. It is listed as the “ultimate rebellion” suggesting that a breakdown of societal norms occurs when an individual in the community behaves contrary to what they have been taught is “inherent”, heterosexuality. The Catholic community indoctrinates individuals as straight, prohibiting them from finding their own identity when no space ix created for people who choose a different sexual identity. This shows that sexuality is not considered something that is a personal choice or in the jurisdiction of a person but rather is still under the jurisdiction of the community as a whole. Anzaldua continues on to say that the same thing happens across white, catholic, mexican, and indigenous communities ultimately leaving the queer community to fend for themselves as outcasts if they choose not to conform to the system that holds so much power over them.

Ariel Dorfman-1512

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Assimilation is often associated learning a new language. The transition of individuals use of their native tongue to that of the new nation they live in is often a struggle due to the implications of what the loss of a culture means to an individual and to her community. Dorfaman states this paradox in his mother’s experience in learning Spanish while in the process loosing her native Yiddish tongue:

Paradoxical that it should have been in Yiddish , because the story registers and foretells, the defeat of Yiddish, how kindness forced it to retreat, her offspring’s first tentative independent steps into a world where Yiddish was not necessary. A world that would demand of my mother, as it demands of all immigrant children, that she abandon the language of her ancestors if she wanted to pass through that door those children would soon be trying to slam shut.

 

Dorfman says that a story that was recounted to him in yiddish is “paradoxical” because of the irony that the language metaphorically being killed is used to tell about its own demise. He highlights how “kindness” was the catalyst of the removal of Yiddish suggesting that though assimilation forced this occurrence its not as bad as it could have been had the options been that of learn the language or get slaughtered. This is still problematic because the pressure imposed by the children who would not accept a person who did not assimilate can still be a traumatic experience that is not laced with happiness. Dorfman also addresses that language assimilation is not optional but rather something that is “demanded” defeating the statement that kindness motivated its loss. Clearly Dorfman shows the audience that even when the threat of violence to learn a language doesn’t exist this does not mean that the transition is simple and motivated by harmless factors.