Dangerous crossroads: Mestizaje in the U.S. Latino/a imaginary
Escobedo, John L.
Doctor of Philosophy thesis
My dissertation interrogates mestizaje and nationalism to rethink academic tendencies that construct resistant methodologies and singular national representations of hybrid theories and racial identities. To ground this argument, chapters one and two analyze how nationalism compromises current theoretical and feminist uses of mestizaje. The introductory chapter traces the influence of Latin American cultural theorists such as Jose Vasconcelos (1925) and Fernando Ortiz (1940) on contemporary U.S. Latino/a cultural critics. I argue that by selectively borrowing theoretical elements from Ortiz and Vasconcelos, U.S. Latino/a scholars unintentionally consolidate divergent Latino/a histories as well as ignore issues of nation building, class differences, and racial tensions to promote a unitary discourse of subversive mestizaje. Likewise, my analysis of Jovita Gonzalez's novel Caballero (1930) reveals how Gonzalez's feminist tactics counteract Mexico's patriarchal oppression of women by going against traditional feminist themes esteemed in Chicano/a Studies. For Gonzalez, nationalist tropes of indigenous curanderismo (spirituality) and magical realism insufficiently respond to the needs of oppressed Mexican American women. The final two chapters evaluate the ramifications of constructing unitary racial identities of whiteness and blackness. My final investigation uncovers the existence of ethnicities within North American racial categorizations of whiteness and blackness that provide new insights to mestizaje 's disruption of ordered classifications of race in the United States. Chapter three argues that the southeastern European immigrant experience of racial inclusion and exclusion from Anglo Saxon whiteness allowed Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton to play off of new conceptions of whiteness in an evolving imaginary of white U.S. mestizaje to write her novels The Squatter and the Don (1885) and Who Would Have Thought It? (1872). Chapter four examines the rise of the New Negro Movement during the Harlem Renaissance as a cultural event that required the erasure of individuals in the black community who did not mirror the collective identity of African Americans. This chapter specifically studies Puerto Rican archivist Arthur A. Schomburg as a figure who broadened the conception of the New Negro to recognize the intellectual participation and contribution of Afro Caribbeans to the Harlem Renaissance.
American literature; Hispanic American studies