Helena Rodriguez: Hispanic/Chicano writers part of our history


By Helena Rodriguez

Guest Columnist

I wrote recently about famed writer Rudolfo Anaya. It’s ashamed to call him a “New Mexico writer.” He’s a nationally known Hispanic writer. He broke the regional borders. I wonder when historical borders will be broken for Hispanics within our borders.

I’m not talking about those born on the other side of the border.

Let me explain.

Hispanic writers are often constricted, perhaps falling victim to the controversial label of “multiculturalism.” There is negativity with that term because of efforts to use that label to undermine Christian principles established by our nation’s founding fathers.

Yes, everyone has their own version of history. But some things that have survived for more than 2,000 years have passed the test of time.

Then there is the other side of multiculturalism. Putting political correctness aside, multiculturalism is the voice of us Americans who bring a different flavor and shade to the melting pot. We are not a garnishment to be placed for presentation, but rather, to be blended in.

When I was in high school, I was aware of my Hispanic/Chicano culture. My parents were activists for social justice. I proudly wore T-shirts and jackets bearing silk-screened or embroidered images of Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa and Che.

And I would excitedly turn to the back of my social studies book my eighth grade year, eagerly waiting for us to get to that last section of contributions to American history by other minorities. I looked at the pages near the index, with glossy colored photos of Cesar Chavez and Edward James Olmos. They were the brown faces of America.

But when we finally got to that section, the student teacher completely skipped it.

Flash forward three decades, and now I’m an English teacher at an alternative high school. My students do most, but not all of their lessons online. I wanted to expose them to Anaya and so we did a lesson, reading excerpts from his novel “Bless Me, Ultima,” and studying the characterization.

As a reward, I let my students also watch the movie. I wanted them to be exposed to something they otherwise would not have been exposed to.

Then I got excited when one of my students told me that Rudolfo Anaya is featured in one of their online lessons about minority writers. It is a small blurb about Anaya and an excerpt from a lesser known novel of his.

I was a bit disappointed, but happy he was at least mentioned.  I was even gladder that I showed them the movie because, while I had to scrounge often to find our place in history — the place of my race — I want to have it served to my students on a silver platter, or rather, on a gold-lined book, metaphorically speaking.

My students will also read “Don Quixote” by Spanish writer Miguel Cervantes.

I read an article once that something was lost in translation and that Sancho Panza (typecast by Western cinema as a no-brained side-kick) is smarter in the Spanish version, than what he has been made out to be in English translations.

I’m sure my students will enjoy reading about this chivalry maddened knight as he engages in a sword fight with windmills. I especially want them to pay attention to the byline. Whether it is Cervantes from Old World Spain or Anaya from “New Spain,” these are the names that are part of our history, too.

Helena Rodriguez is a Portales native. Contact her at: Helena-Rodriguez@hotmail.com

Speak Your Mind