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Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box

matos's picture

    In my previous paper I stated that the major issue I’d like to explore is how to balance race and gender, more specifically how to identify as a “Puerto Rican woman” and not “Puerto Rican” and then a “woman”.

            Professor offered me two suggestions, that I look at the work of previous Latina and Puerto Rican feminists or do a sort of ethnography, and I was ready to throw them both out.  I figured this is a literature class, I’m an almost English major I  should focus on how Latinas represent themselves in literature.

            However as I started writing this, and how I was thinking about it on my way to lunch, and started thinking about how to answer the question Professor Dalke left me: “How to do it?”   And it seemed to me that it would be best to start from the beginning, to provide myself with a foundation.  So I turned to the suggested reading Anne gave me.  These suggestions, along with the Latino Studies Symposium, friends and personal research, showed that the literature and subject of Latina feminism is much richer and larger than I ever thought.  Like I’ve said in previous posts, this class is my introduction to the “study of feminism”.  This goes the same with Latina feminism. 

            Thus I decided to keep one of Anne’s ideas.  I really want to explore these texts and explore ideas on how these women balanced  or combine their identities, especially Latina women living in the States.  Okay, now I have a plan on how to provide myself with a theoretical base to answer the question.  Now I needed a more active/practical plan on how to answer this question.

            Well, seeing how the question started with me and my struggles to combine identities, I do not want to do a theoretical “How Does a Latina Combine Her Role as a Hispanic Person and her Role as a Woman” sort of how-to guide, based completely on the theory and work of other woman.  I need to answer this question for myself.

            But now I have another question on how do I conclude myself in this academic paper.  To answer this question I brought back the other idea of Anne’s that I previously threw out the window, but infused it with an idea I got from the magnificent Susan Stryker.  In our class discussion with her, she described some of her academic writings as “auto-ethnographic”.  This seems to be now  a good frame for my project. 

            In my little one on one session with Professor Dalke last Friday, she described “auto-ethnographic” as a way of using one’s own experiences as a way of giving meaning to a larger story.  Susan Stryker in “My Words to Victor Frankenstein…” piece, used her struggles after the birth of her lover’s daughter to give describe the forced “gendering” that goes on in society. 

            In turn my piece will use my struggle to identify myself as “Latina” or “Boricua” will speak to some larger idea.  I don’t know what that it is.  It could be a women’s place in Latino society, it could be a Latina’s place in women’s society, blending identities, foregrounding identities, whatever. 

There will be three main sources or “source categories”.  One will be the Latina feminists that will provide a basis.  I haven’t read yet but I’ve got three ladies in mind, who I only know from their wikipedia articles.

 One is Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa .  She interested me because one of her ideas calls for a woman who is “aware of her conflicting and meshing identities and uses these ‘new angles of vision’ to challenge binary thinking in the ‘Western World’”.   I would love to read more about her idea of identity.  Second is Lydia Cacho Ribeiro.  She really interested me because she’s a journalist.  And when I learned this I guess I thought I could make her a symbol of my future self.  She’s written a book and I would like to read at least part of it, just to get inside her head a little bit.  Finally, I have Ana Castillo.  She writes about Chicana feminism and her fiction contains protagonists who are described as “fiercely independent”. 

My second “source category” is of course myself.  My struggle with identify, my family life, my life in New York, my life in the Poconos and my life at Bryn Mawr.

Finally, my third source category will be what I’ve learned from the women in my life, primarily the women in family.  Mostly my grandmothers and mother.

In conclusion, to end my rambling, I propose that my project will me an autoethnography of combining identities of woman and Latina.  The project will be modeled after Susan Stryker’s style of academic writing.  I will provide myself a base my exploring some writings by Latina feminists (possibly Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa, Lydia Cacho Ribeiro or Ana Castillo). 

I’m really excited about it.


Beatrice N's picture

excerpt from an email to Ann

After having goofed off for weeks, I tuned in today and have just read the undergrad grapplings in categories that interested me particularly: Latinas and women's colleges.

Having lived for many years in Mexico (14 years) and Nicaragua (the last two years of the Sandinista era) and having been part here of the now long defunct Women's International Resource Exchange, the Latin part was of obvious interest, as, of course, virtually by definition is true of women's colleges. By chance just a week ago I had a conversation with two of my grandsons on differences they detected in male and female peers at their respective institutions.

I don't think my undistilled reflections merit course comment, but [....] I feel kind of guilty about not following through with the readings, but am somewhat in the same boat as the undergrad who asked what she was doing here in literary criticism.

Anne Dalke's picture

unpacking those sardines

Of course I’m highly amused to get the narrative of your rejecting, then picking up again on each of my suggestions…and very glad to see that you are finding your way forward into this project.

I like it that you are going to answer your questions ‘for yourself,’ and delighted to see that your main sources include yourself and the women in your family (will you do interviews?? Why don’t you start with yourself and those women, rather than with the theorists??? See Tamarinda’s proposal for a similar let’s-talk-first-to-those-I-know approach….).

As far as some of the important Latina feminists go, what about Sandra Cisneros (if you are interested in representation, she plays with a form between short story and poetry—the vignette—that can quite powerful). And what about Cherrie Moraga? See, for example and starters, both "The Breakdown of the Bicultural Mind,” in Names We Call Home: Autobiography on Racial Identity, and “A Kind of Queer Balance: Cherrie Moraga’s Atzlan.”

Very much looking forward to seeing where you go with all of this.