Read! Write! Raza! (Was Ruben &...

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Msedano

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Oct 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/8/98
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Skin-Deep. Guy Garcia. NY: Farrar Straus Giroux: 1988.

Not being privy to the actual Urrutia-Navarrette dialogue nor familiar with the
Cyber Chicano Chat Room milieu, I can't venture an informed response to
Urrutia's three-edged indictment that Navarrette believes assimilation has
separated a heartland of Chicano, USA from its Mexican identity and that Ruben
is an unethical journalist and a poor writer.

The CCCR must be an interesting hangout, where they quote Lalo and attract
Manuel and this other fellow, and, it sounds like, chicano youth. Strikes me as
a couple of old farts battling for the hearts and minds of young readers. I
wonder if our young leaders care? The issues are vitally important but I
suppose the the "real" CCCRers see something akin to La Rochefoucaud's truism
that "Old men love to give good advice, it consoles them for the fact that
they can no longer set a bad example."

I've read Navarrette's Op-Ed pieces in the LA _Times_, and independently of
Urrutia's post had concluded simply to ignore Navarrette as just another
inimical conservative voice; let him sink into the melting pot. La Rochefoucaud
is wrong, Ruben is a bad example of a good Mexican. In Abelardo's words, "Nice
Chicano, who could be patted on the head and wouldn't bite."

I think of Navarrete the writer as the _agent provocateur_ on behalf of the LA
_Time's_ campaign to destroy chicanismo by ignoring our best voices and fuzzing
representations of our identity until we can't find ourselves any more. But
also, my feeling is Navarrette shouldn't be silenced. Left wing writers like
Gonzales and Rodriguez should get equal time. Then, there's Abelardo's next
line, "How dare you tell your boss, 'Go fly a kite.'"

Coincidental to Urrutia's send up of Navarrette's lack of netiquette (and by
the way, Navarrette wins this round if he claims "nyah nyagh, I represent
Chicanismo whether you like it or not"), I had just finished reading Guy
Garcia's 1988 _Skin Deep_ (NY: Farrar Strauss), where Ruben Navarrete may or
may not lurk in the skin of Garcia's Harvard educated chicano lawyer lured back
to East Los to solve the murder of an undocumented woman. Garcia, an LA _Times_
reporter, is pretty heavy handed in juxtaposing David's contemporaneous
identity in flashback deja vue, always with an ironic twist eroding the solid
foundation David Loya has built of himself over the years.

Garcia recounts crucial events that take Loya from a life as a happy child to a
30 year old intellectual property attorney on the fast track to partnership in
a Wall Street law firm, who tells people "my grandparents were from Mexico".

What happens when you take a boy out of east LA and bring him to adulthood
through Harvard undergrad and Harvard Law School? Does he become Ruben
Navarrette? Between where he'd been and where he might end up, David Loya
exists in a brown hole of cultural adaptation, sucking everything into itself
with new materials overwhelming ancient.

Is there something about chicanos at Harvard that makes them turn their backs
on home, or is this how others see those chicanos, a stereotypic envidia that
won't allow a chicano to become successful within the terms of a Harvard
education? Cultural inequalities erode David Loya's character to a point a
former personhood is on the edge of extinction, it's not a simple case of
mimeticism. For every 100 chicanos calling Navarrette "coconut" there is one
Anglo calling him a dirty little Mexican to his face. In counterpoint, for
every 100 Anglos calling Ruben a cool vato, 3 Hispanic Mexican Americans praise
the columnist's perspicutity.

Perception and Being struggle against one another as David Loya finds his way
further back into the LA of youth. As a chavalo, David struggles with the
culture gap, as the lawyer he undertands where he's come to, but struggles with
where this will take him. The adult David develops a pragmatic test to assess
and defend his comfort:

"Even the most trivial act of deference made David feel slightly diminished.
Despite Harvard Law, despite his income and position, his sensitivity to any
kind of implied subservience was never far from the surface. However, he
quickly learned not to take such minor humiliations personally. Paying lip
service to superiors was as intrinsic to the corporate culture as expense
accounts and two-hour lunches. If David had ever been a victim of
discrimination, he had not been aware of it. Of course, the combination of a
Spanish surname and impeccable academic credentials hadn't hurt, but he found
the idea of making allowances for someone because of their name or the shade of
their skin totally abhorrent.....
Any guilt he might have once felt about 'selling out' for a big-bucks job had
long ago been replaced by the conviction that the most useful thing he could do
for his people was to fulfill the promise of his own success and thereby set an
example for others to follow." 12.

Little David's alienation results of an ever more considered flight from
events, friends and family. Of themselves, events prove him right as rejecting
his friend Mando rejected gangs and crime, affirmed academics. Mando's gunshot
puts their other friend a junkie in a wheelchair, tecato por la raza of
rrsalinas' poetry. But vast as Loya's alienation it doesn't offer isn't a
crystal clear vision, big David knows:

"Their stories of life in Mexico seemed too fantastic to be real, as if the
characters and events described were not from another country but from another
planet. . . . David knew that as proud as his parents were of him, he could
never repay his debt as a son from so far away, and that by fulfilling their
dreams for his success in a world they could never know or enter, he had
simultaneously betrayed them." 35-

This self-pity, though, is the author's insight into David's struggle. When
David speaks in his own voice, a different chicano addresses the interested
reader. "I think Dad's just trying to say that he's proud of you, too."
explains David's 90210 Harvard roommate, son of a powerful California
politician who has just praised David's success being a role model for a
deserving but underachieving gente. David interrupts in a Harvardese "Ya Basta"
speech that rings true:
"And that he wishes all Mexicans were just like me." . . . . The Senator's
ears had taken on a pinkish tinge. . . . "I don't mean to sound rude or
ungrateful, but people like me became part of the system a long time ago. Sure,
we're respectable, all right, because we're assimilated. Some of us are even
Republicans." 42-

Attaboy, ese! You can take the homeboy out of the barrio...

But bring David home to mom and dad and the other side of the struggle breaks
loose; David the nightmare son:

'"Maybe your mother and I should go out and change our clothes? Susanna, go
get my tuxedo so that my son is not embarrassed." "Dad, lay off for once. You
know that's not what I meant."' 68-

Navarrete's out of a small central Califas oil or agriculture town so I wonder
if he has as much to be embarrassed about as David. I hope our journalist
homeboy -- congrats on the regular gig with that Arizona rag -- is a dutiful
and loving son. What brings a chicano to stop being chicano? Might there be a
single defining moment where, identity in the balance, the organism might have
turned toward a more generous direction? What if the Actor has considered the
Act in advance and knows to take the different path?

Navarrette is not old enough to have lived through the rage that followed the
Chicano Moratorium August 1970, so Ruben will have to remember his own moment
foreshadowing how his life would turn out, how others would see him. Teen-aged
David Loya's moment comes as he's running for his life to escape a police riot
abruptly ending a peaceful gathering. David and another youth race for safety
to reach a distant fence.

"Lifting himself to the top, David straddles the fence and hesitates. Then,
calculating his chances, he jumps. As he lands on the sidewalk, their eyes lock
through the wire mesh. "Why didn't you help me?" the boy's expression says. But
there is no time to answer--there _is_ no answer- because the officers have
grabbed him from behind and David is running. He runs as fast as he can. He
doesn't look back." 132-

Middle-aged David has come home again. He has forgotten how to drive so his
welcome home experience includes a bloody freeway crash. The dysfunction is not
just Boston / LA muscle tone, Loya's soul has begun rejecting his comfortable
skin; his carefully articulated but ritualized defenses are growing meaningful
again. His words have assumed a personal dimension again. Do the world's
Navarrette's or Tuchman's ever stare at a reflection in a mirror, wondering
whom s/he represents?

"He saw a thirty-year-old man with the Nautilized body of a middle class
professional. A man who had been variously mistaken as Indian, French, Italian,
and Spanish. A man who had been born in the barrio and educated at Harvard, a
stereotype of upward mobility. Toweling his face, David looked at his
reflection in the mirror and wondered what color he was." 160-

It has to be obvious or it has to be practiced but it has to be meaningful to a
trained mind. Young David was pretty sure about what he fled, older David
stands in his own mind suspended between chicanismo and not chicanismo. This
mirror scene hearkens Urrutia and Navarrette's colloquy on the latter's
"representing" us. Loya's anglo compadre resolves the issue in words that
certain tipos would acknowledge as a measure of competence:

"No matter what those Raza rebels told you, you aren't one of them and you
never can be," Kurt said, his voice growing firm. "You're a fucking Harvard
grad, for Christ's sake! You're American, not Mexican. David, you're one of
us." 165-

David Loya on Mexican vacation. Having dumped his NY artsy girlfriend, the Wall
Street law office, and his compadre, the rich turista dreams a mexican
innocence little David and his once again spry and ever alive granma.

One feels Urrutia would be pleased and Navarrette would write a column
enumerating the errors of Loya's decision, pointing out Loya returned to his
senses when the money ran out and runs the richest personal injury corporation
in Orange County (dos veinte dos veinte dos veinte dos!). Worse, Ruben could
write about raza identity from the Mexican Riviera, all expenses paid by tax
deductions and savor the ultimate reward of having Manuel pay for Ruben's good
time. Chicano fatalism.

Read Raza! Write Raza! Write good books, Raza. Read Write Raza.

mvs
--
Michael Sedano
--
Mse...@aol.com
c/s

J. Manuel Urrutia

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Oct 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/8/98
to
Msedano wrote:
>
> Skin-Deep. Guy Garcia. NY: Farrar Straus Giroux: 1988.
>
> Not being privy to the actual Urrutia-Navarrette dialogue nor familiar with the
> Cyber Chicano Chat Room milieu, I can't venture an informed response to
> Urrutia's three-edged indictment that Navarrette believes assimilation has
> separated a heartland of Chicano, USA from its Mexican identity and that Ruben
> is an unethical journalist and a poor writer.

Come, come, Michael, you too can be privy to the "dialogue." It is
available at

http://www.physics.ucla.edu/~urrutia/chicano/rn2.html

(the article itself is at .../rn.html. BTW, you should consider
collecting your posts, such as this, in your Web site).

You see, if I tell you that la burra es parda es porque tengo los pelos
en la mano. Maybe I am color-blind, but I think that I am correct.

> The CCCR must be an interesting hangout, where they quote Lalo and attract
> Manuel and this other fellow, and, it sounds like, chicano youth. Strikes me as
> a couple of old farts battling for the hearts and minds of young readers. I
> wonder if our young leaders care? The issues are vitally important but I
> suppose the the "real" CCCRers see something akin to La Rochefoucaud's truism
> that "Old men love to give good advice, it consoles them for the fact that
> they can no longer set a bad example."

Well, that is true. But there are plenty of veteranos that participate.
Some are even your age!?!

> I've read Navarrette's Op-Ed pieces in the LA _Times_, and independently of
> Urrutia's post had concluded simply to ignore Navarrette as just another
> inimical conservative voice; let him sink into the melting pot. La Rochefoucaud
> is wrong, Ruben is a bad example of a good Mexican. In Abelardo's words, "Nice
> Chicano, who could be patted on the head and wouldn't bite."

Yeah, but RN is being paraded as "The Voice of the Mexicans," whether he
admits it or not.

> I think of Navarrete the writer as the _agent provocateur_ on behalf of the LA
> _Time's_ campaign to destroy chicanismo by ignoring our best voices and fuzzing
> representations of our identity until we can't find ourselves any more. But
> also, my feeling is Navarrette shouldn't be silenced. Left wing writers like
> Gonzales and Rodriguez should get equal time. Then, there's Abelardo's next
> line, "How dare you tell your boss, 'Go fly a kite.'"

Nobody is asking that he be silenced. I am asking that he be rebuked by
those of us with the intestinal fortitude and materia gris to spare.

>
> Coincidental to Urrutia's send up of Navarrette's lack of netiquette (and by
> the way, Navarrette wins this round if he claims "nyah nyagh, I represent
> Chicanismo whether you like it or not"), I had just finished reading Guy

SNIP...
(a wonderful and topical review snipped for brevity.)

> One feels Urrutia would be pleased and Navarrette would write a column
> enumerating the errors of Loya's decision, pointing out Loya returned to his
> senses when the money ran out and runs the richest personal injury corporation
> in Orange County (dos veinte dos veinte dos veinte dos!). Worse, Ruben could
> write about raza identity from the Mexican Riviera, all expenses paid by tax
> deductions and savor the ultimate reward of having Manuel pay for Ruben's good
> time. Chicano fatalism.

Damn. You can take the boy out of the barrio, but you cannot take him
out of his ca'tedra. You write good, Michael, why did you ever quit
oficial teaching?

Yes, I can see the schizophrenia of growing up Chicano (thankfully, I
have been spared that). And I can certainly appreciate how one can be
twisted by "success" ("The Last Angry Brown Hat" comes to mind, they put
everything there but the kitchen sink!). But can people live with their
conscience? Or are they in complete denial? That is the esssense of what
I wanted to say: here is a successful Chicano, yet, he is pandering to
the xenophobic gringada. Why? Are you the same? Am I?

> Read Raza! Write Raza! Write good books, Raza. Read Write Raza.

Yes, la palabra es el arma ma's poderosa.


--
* J. Manuel Urrutia | En tierra de ciegos, *
* urrutia...@ucla.edu (remove TAKEOUT!)| el tuerto es rey *

nopa...@yahoo.com

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Oct 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/8/98
to
In article <361D0088...@ucla.edu>,

"J. Manuel Urrutia" <urrutia...@ucla.edu> wrote:

>BTW, you should consider
> collecting your posts, such as this, in your Web site).

Hear, hear! Michael, you write about books so well, why not upload those
reviews and advocacies to the site?! It could be a great (and entertaining)
reference tool for those interested in Chicano literature. Hell, I didn't
really know where to start until I read some of your posts and started
branching off on my own from there. You've been hard on my wallet, but good
for my soul and brain. :) I'm not sure any such thing really exists, except
perhaps in sterile suggested-reading-list form. Great suggestion, Manuel.

You feel so passionately about encouraging Raza to read, and you know what
you're talking about when you talk about lit, so why not? Besides, you're a
damn good writer yourself. Don't you want to be immortal? :)

By the way, I found it amusing that Amazon.com's automated book suggestion
feature thinks I need a copy of the Cliff's Notes to "Bless Me, Ultima."

- Dean, seconding that motion

-----------== Posted via Deja News, The Discussion Network ==----------
http://www.dejanews.com/ Search, Read, Discuss, or Start Your Own

Tiny Egg

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Oct 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/10/98
to
Dear Tiny Cactus

We all enjoy M Sedano's book reviews, but that doesn't mean we need to
swear. You said "h%#ll, and thats not right. I know you kids speak a
different language now, but us even younger kids don't need to hear that
kind of talk on a family chatline. Nuff said, que no? TE


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