Caballeros and Indians: Mexican American Whiteness, Hegemonic Mestizaje, and Ambivalent Indigeneity in Proto-Chicana/o Autobiographical Discourse, 1858–2008

Posted in Articles, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2013-11-11 23:29Z by Steven

Caballeros and Indians: Mexican American Whiteness, Hegemonic Mestizaje, and Ambivalent Indigeneity in Proto-Chicana/o Autobiographical Discourse, 1858–2008

MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States
Volume 38, Issue 1 (March 2013)
pages 30-49
DOI: 10.1093/melus/mls010

B. V. OlguĂ­n, Associate Professor of English
University of Texas, San Antonio

In the spirit of a new people that is conscious not only of its proud historical heritage but also of the brutal gringo invasion of our territories, we, the Chicano inhabitants and civilizers of the northern land of Aztlán from whence came our forefathers, reclaiming the land of their birth and consecrating the determination of our people of the sun, declare that the call of our blood is our power, our responsibility, and our inevitable destiny.
—Alurista

I got up close with one of the enemy and after having pulled out lots of arrows he shot into me, I was able to fire a shot into his back, straight through from one side to the other. The Indian fell face down. Upon seeing this, Comelso Hernandez, who was close to me, ran towards the Indian saying “Now I’ll take away your fire!,” but since he was close, the Indian arose suddenly, fired an arrow shot hitting him below the Adam’s Apple, and going all the way through, the arrow stuck—the Indian, who perhaps had used his last bit of energy in this attack, fell dead, on his back—Hernandez, so terribly wounded as he was, dragged himself towards the corpse, took out a battle knife he carried and tried to stick it through his ribs, but it broke—Regardless, with the piece that remained he was able to make a big wound, and at the same time he was cutting towards the heart with his piece of knife, he said, as if the cadaver could hear: “I forgive you brother; I forgive you brother.”
—Juan Bernal (16-17)

The evening a diminutive twenty-two-year-old dark brown man with black hair and goatee read “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán” at the National Chicano Liberation Youth Conference in Denver on March 30, 1969 (excerpted as  the first epigraph), Chicana/o indigeneity was transformed into a central trope in Chicana/o literature, historiography, and related social movements. The reader, Alberto Baltazar Urista Heredia—who took the penname Alurista—would become renowned for his Nahuatl glosses, white cotton frock, and calf-length pants characteristic of indigenous dress in southern Mexico. Such neo-indigenous performances became commonplace in the 1960s and 1970s cultural nationalist spectacles that punctuated the political mobilizations collectively known as the Chicano Movement. One half-century after Alurista’s performance and the subsequent reification of Chicana/o indigeneity in a multiplicity…

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