Mestizaje and The Masterpiece of Mixing: The Adaptations and Assimilations of Latinos According to José Martí’s ” Our America” and Bernardo Vega’s “Memoirs of Bernardo Vega”

Czareena Dotchev

Professor Alvarez

English 255

27 February 2012

Mestizaje and The Masterpiece of Mixing: The Adaptations and Assimilations of Latinos according to José Martí’s ” Our America” and Bernardo Vega’s “Memoirs of Bernardo Vega”

If people were dogs we might say that the term Mestizajae is analogous to  mutt. In the case of the Americas the emergence of a group of individuals that quickly became the new majority appears to change the dynamics of literature due to the change of the demographic. The mestizaje, who are neither purely of Creole or Native descent emerge as an important player in the interplay of history and the creation of new societal norms. According to Martí:

In America the natural man has triumphed over the imported book.  Natural men have triumphed over an artificial intelligentsia. The native mestizo has triumphed over the alien, pure-blooded criollo. The battle is not between civilization and barbarity, but between false erudition and nature. The natural man is good and esteems and rewards a superior intelligence as long as that intelligence does not use his submission against him or offend him by ignoring him- for that natural man deems unforgivable, and he is prepared to use force to regain the respect of anyone who wounds his sensibilities or harms his interests. ( Marti 284 )

Marti suggests that the mestizaje have emerged as a superior group above the creoles. Spain, through colonization, pillaging existing civilizations, and raping the local people transformed the racial makeup of the Americas. The byproduct of this is Marti’s “natural man.” The violence Christianity and colonization has brought upon the Americas by Spain has been reversed in the triumph over the “imported book. ”  The defeat of the Bible as a tool of oppression over the people of the America’s is also a defeat of the “inteligencia” portraying that class as a fraud. The creation of the mestizaje has diluted the dichotomy of barbarians and civilized people. The passage suggests that the “natural people” emerged and are “prepared to use force to regain the respect of anyone who wounds his sensibilities.” The shift depicted in this passage alienates the Creoles of the Americas intensifying the conflict between the different groups. The “natural people” no longer tolerate creoles’ belief to entitlement and superiority. These self-proclaimed “natural men” seem to be preparing to empower themselves through various struggles and go against any actions of the Creoles that jeopardize the existence of the mestizo as a person with the capacity to rule himself.

The way one carries and perceives themselves can impact their success in all their endeavors. In the case of the newly arrived Puerto Ricans all these people had were the clothes on their back and the hope that they could gain employment and assimilate into their new environment and succeede. Vega describes the intricate details of these individuals upon their arrival in the states:

All of us new arrivals were well dressed. I mean we had on our Sunday best. I myself was wearing a navy blue woolen suit ( or flus, as they would say back home), a borsalino hat made of Italian straw, black shoes with pointy toes, a white vest, and a red tie. I would have been sporting a shiny new wristwatch too, if a traveling companion hadn’t warned me that in New York it was considered effeminate to wear things like that. So as soon as the city was in sight, and the boat was entering the harbor, I tossed my watch into the sea…And to think that it wasn’t long before those wristwatches came into fashion and ended up being the rage! (Vega 433)

Bernal’s description of the Puerto Ricans arriving in New York as being dressed in their ” Sunday best” suggests the Puerto Rican people took pride in themselves even when they didn’t know what future they had ahead of them in America. He is described as being dressed in a suit, special shoes, and a hat, a pretty extravagant way to dress oneself upon surviving the arduous length of the trip. The colors represented by the garments symbolize America and its flag’s colors of red white and blue. Perhaps the attire was a way to feign confidence in order to emulate a sense of control in a situation of unknowns. It is evidenced by his actions that his goal is to do whatever it takes to make it in America when he gives into the peer pressure of one of his co-passangers and takes his advice to get rid of his “effeminate” wrist watch. This illuminates the concept of machismo from Spanish culture. Also the idea that one would give up their watch because they are a man who would not like to be effeminate suggests the presence of the concept of machismo and what repercussions any signs of weakness a man may emulate may have on his success especially in a new country.

Works Cited

Stavans, Ilan, and José Martí. “Our America.” Trans. Esther Allen. The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2011. 284. Print.

Stavans, Ilan, and Bernardo Vega. “From Memoirs of Bernardo Vega.” Trans. Juan Flores. The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2011. 433. Print.

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