Queering Aztlán:

Queering Aztlán:
Key Terms and Trends in
Chicana/o Literature and Art
© Dr. Marion Christina Rohrleitner (UTEP)
• 1. Introduce 5 key terms in Chicana/o Studies
• 2. Highlight 2 examples of current trends in
Chicana/o Literature and Art
• 2.1 Queering of 3 female icons
• 2.2 Sci-fi and speculative fiction
• 3. Q&A -> Seminar format!
Some key terms
• Queering
• Aztlán
• Chicana/o
• Mestizaje
• The Border/La Frontera
1. The Border/La Frontera
“Notes Towards a Politics of Location”
• Adrienne Rich (American poet and feminist
• Significance of one’s “LOCATION”
• =material (geographical, cultural, class,
gender, etc) circumstances
• to perception, interpretation, and cultural
expression of lived experience
• -> full disclosure
El Paso, TX/Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua
The University of Texas at El Paso
The Kingdom of Bhutan
Borders tend to
-> legitimate often unjust divisions
-> cement limiting binaries
e.g. United States vs Mexico
European Union vs Syria/Morocco/etc
Male vs female
Black vs white
Straight vs queer
Gloria Anzaldúa. Borderlands-La Frontera: The New
Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1986.
• “The U.S-Mexican border es una herida
abierta where the Third World grates against
the first and bleeds.”
• Herida abierta = open wound
The Border/La Frontera
2. Mestizaje
• historical process of “mixing” cultures and
peoples of different ethnic, racialized,
linguistic, and/or religious backgrounds
• 2.1 Biological mestizaje
• 2.2 Cultural mestizaje
2.1 Biological mestizaje
• Mestiza/o = daughter/son of Spaniard and
Amerindian born in Nueva España
• Obsessive categorization of racial hierarchies
in Spanish Empire: “Limpieza de sangre”
Casta paintings
(17th and 18th centuries)
José Clemente Orozco.
“Cortés y Malinche” (1924/25)
• “first” mestizo = Martín Cortés
• son of Hernán Cortés and La Malinche
• Born in 1523, died in Spain
2.2 Cultural mestizaje
• Mutual influencing of
cultures/religions/languages/ etc of colonizer
and colonized
• “Transculturation” (Fernando Ortíz)
• Merging/hybridization of Mexican Spanish and
American English
• e.g. Tex Mex: el carro (coche + car=carro)
• Code-switching: intermittent use of Spanish
and English, frequently mid-sentence;
• e.g. “the U.S. -Mexican border es una herida
The Border/La Frontera
3. Chicana/o (Xicana/o)
• Ethnic/cultural heritage
• Political/ideological affiliation
• Style/aesthetics/language/music etc
3.1 Ethnic/Cultural Heritage
• Mexica -> Mechicano -> Chicano
• 1848-1960s: Derogatory term for Mexicans
and migrant farm workers from Mexico
• 1960s: Chicano Civil Rights Movement
• Appropriation of a derogatory term by
oppressed group -> “Somos Chicanos”
3.2 Political/ideological affiliation
• United Farmworkers of America (UFWA)
• Founded in 1962 by Cesar Chavez and Dolores
Dolores Huerta
Congressional Medal of Freedom, 2011
Visual reappropriation
(Ester Hernández)
Cesar Chavez, 2014
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtDUTt8
3.3 Style/Aesthetics
Language: Spanglish, Caló
“ese”, “vato” (cf Luis Valdez)
Cars: Lowriders
Fashion: Cholas, Virgen de Guadalupe/Azteca/
Santa Muerte tattoos
La Mission (USA, 2009)
• http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi4440074
The Border/La Frontera
4. Aztlán
• Historical space
• Mythological space
• Ideological space
“A place on the map is also always a
place in history” (Adrienne Rich)
• 1846-1848: Mexican-American War
• 1848: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Land of the Aztecs (in Nahuatl)
Mythological homeland of the Aztec people
• "The Aztecas del norte…compose the largest
single tribe or nation of Anishinabeg (Indians)
found in the United States today…
• Some call themselves Chicanos and
see themselves as people whose
true homeland is Aztlán”
• Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands-La Frontera: The
New Mestiza, 2.
Ideological space
• Chicano Civil Rights Movement reclaim U.S.
Southwest as Aztlán
• Term invoked in resistance against AZ SB 1070
and AZ HB 2281
• “Librotraficante” movement led by Tony Diaz
The Border/La Frontera
5. Queering
• A critical practice– reading, thinking, writing
about literature and other cultural expressions
• Looking at a term, a phenomenon, a historical
event or figure, systems of belief with different,
unusual, “slant,” “queer”, eyes/perspectives
• developed out of Third Wave Feminism and
LGTBQ studies in the 1990s (Eve Sedgwick and
Michael Warner)
• Theorizing and interrogating the very notions of
“normality” and “deviation”
Queering strategies
• Defamilarization: making the familiar
unfamiliar and vice versa
• Decentering: putting the periphery at the
center and vice versa
• Challenging binaries – both/and instead of
• Reinterpretations and reappropriations
Queering 3 (+1) Mexican female icons
La Malinche
La Virgen de Guadalupe
La Llorona
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
1. La Malinche
“malinchista” = sellout
Indigenous woman (NOT Aztec)
Served as translator/mistress for Hernan Cortes
Historically depicted as the ultimate
TRAITOR (to the Aztec people)
or the ultimate
VICTIM (of Spanish conquest)
Mother of first mestizo – Martín Cortés (*1523)
Jose Clemente Orozco.
“Cortes y Malinche” (1924/25)
“Yo Soy La Malinche”
by Carmen Tafolla (1978)
Yo soy la Malinche.
My people called me Malintzín Tenepal
the Spaniards called me Doña Marina
I came to be known as Malinche
and Malinche came to mean traitor.
they called me—chingada
(Ha— ¡Chingada! ¡Screwed!)
Of noble ancestry, for whatever that means,
I was sold into slavery by MY ROYAL FAMILY—so
that my brother could get my inheritance.
. . . And then the omens began—a god, a new civilization,
the downfall of our empire.
And you came.
My dear Hernán Cortés, to share your “civilization”
—to play a god, ... and I began to dream . . .
I saw
and I acted.
I saw our world
And I saw yours
And I saw—
Years later, you took away my child (my sweet
mestizo new world child)
to raise him in your world
You still didn’t see.
You still didn’t see.
And history would call me
But Chingada I was not.
Not tricked, not screwed, not traitor.
For I was not traitor to myself—
I saw a dream
and I reached it.
Another world………
la raza.
La raaaaa-zaaaaa . . .
• Anachronistic – moves between past, present
and future
• “La Raza” – key term in Chicano and Puerto
Rican Civil Rights Movements
• Reinvents Malinche as savvy politician and
visionary instead of victim/traitor
• Reappropriation of canonical poem “Yo Soy
Joaquin” (1967), based on Walt Whitman’s
“Song of Myself”
2. La Virgen de Guadalupe
According to Catholic doctrine:
• Appeared on December 12, 1531 to
• (Saint) Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, an indigenous
• First indigenous American saint (canonized in 2002)
• Speaking in Nahuatl
• On the hill of Tepeyac (former shrine to pre-Aztec
mother Goddess Coatlicue) outside of Mexico CIty
• Inviting indigenous peoples to join the Catholic faith
• Miraculous proof: roses fell out of Juan Diego’s coat in
December when he visited the Archbishop of Puebla
Virgen vs Malinche
• Virgen = innocent, “pure”, maternal, selfsacrificing, forgiving
• Malinche = guilty (treason), sexual, vindictive
• Represent binary image of femininity
• “Virgin/whore” dichotomy
• -> Leaves few options for women…
• -> QUEERING la Virgen
Delilah Montoya
(*1955, Ft Worth, TX)
Ester Hernandez.
“La Virgen defendiendo los derechos
de los Xichanos” (1975)
Yolanda Lopez.
Yolanda Lopez.
Ester Hernandez. “Wanted” (2011)
Alma Lopez. “Our Lady” (1999)
Quinceañera (2006)
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E43fgtbhj
• Set in LA’s Echo Park in 1990s
• Gentrification, gender roles, etc
3. La Llorona
• “the Weeping Woman”
• Haunts the Rio Grande in search of her lost
• The “madre dolorosa” whose children were
taken away from her (=La Virgen, la Malinche)
• The medusa-like mother who takes revenge
on her unfaithful husband by killing their
Delilah Montoya
(*1955, Fort Worth, TX)
2 literary reapprorpiations
• Sandra Cisneros. “Woman Hollering Creek”
• Felicia Luna Lemus. Trace Elements of Random
Tea Parties (2003)
“Woman Hollering Creek”
“Woman Hollering Creek”
• Reverse border crossing: USA->Mexico
• woman returns to Mexico after her Mexican
American husband’s domestic abuse
• Saved by Felice
• A truckdriving woman who “hollers” –
• Gritona vs Llorona (scream, don’t cry)
• -> narrative of female empowerment and
Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties
• Set in lesbian subculture in urban LA in 2000
• "Buckle up, doll, I promise I’ll try not to tangle
your quinceañera dress.”
• “my girl weeping”
• La Llorona both haunts and protects narrator,
grandmotherly figure
II. Sci-fi and speculative fiction
• Sleep Dealer (Dir. Alex Rivera, Mexico, 2008)
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW8oSRS
• Ultimate outsourcing – only labor, no
“foreign” bodies
• Migrant memories for sale
Lunar Braceros (2125-2148)
by Rosaura Sanchez and Beatrice Pita (2009)
• Migrant laborers dispose of Earth’s dangerous
waste on the moon
• From “Cali-Texas” reservations
• Revolutionary movement
• UFWM in space
• Environmental justice
Atomic Aztex (2005)
by Sesshu Foster
Speculative history
Aztec Empire won the conquest
Is now colonizing Europe
Zenzontli, Keeper of the House of Darkness, is
haunted by nightmares of an alternate
• Undocumented immigrant in meat-packing
district in LA
• “Perhaps you are familiar with some worlds,
stupider realities amongst alternative
universes offered by the ever expandingomniverse, in which the Aztek civilization was
‘destroyed.’ That’s a possibility. I meant that’s
what the Europians thot.“
• “The Europians figured they’d wipe us out,
Plan A, enslave our peoples down at the
corner liquor store, crush all resustance thru
germ warfare and lawyers…burn our sakred
libraries, loot our capital, install Christian
theokratic dictatorships…Could we let it
happen? Of course not. Did we care if they
had a Plan B? Hell no. Cuz in no way does that
fit our aesthetic conception of how the
universe is supposed to run.”
• “Luckily we Aztex believe in circular concepts
of time where reality infinitely kurves back
upon itself endlessly so all that has existed
does exist and will always exist and so forth
into eternity. It’s the only POV that makes
sense in the end.”
Sample questions
• 1. How does Chicana/o literature relate to
other “ethnic” American literatures?
• 2. Which genres do you consider particularly
effective and why?
• 3. Which examples of “queering” can you
think of in other texts you have read thus far?
• If you have questions or comments, please do
not hesitate to contact me at
• [email protected]
• Thank you!
Related flashcards
Historical eras

16 Cards

History of India

20 Cards

History of Japan

20 Cards


17 Cards


32 Cards

Create flashcards