What does Hecho en Tejas mean
Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas Mexican Literature edited by Dagoberto Gilb
It takes more than one generation for a group not secure politically or economically to produce artists. Immigrants to America who are not wealthy, or the conquered peoples of America, or the enslaved of America - not only Africans but also Japanese - typically don't become poets: They work. And they work the worst jobs in the land. Hindered by language barriers, lack of financial resources and prejudice, immigrants huddle in close communities, dreaming of a better life for their children. Success comes when those children enter mainstream America as businessmen, lawyers, doctors, accountants, financial investors and the like. Their duty is to elevate the family's economic standing and therefore, they are under great pressure to succeed. Deciding to become, say, a sculptor would effectively be a betrayal of the family, especially if the family is footing the bill.
It's the third generation, the second one away from poverty, that typically has the security and the luxury to choose to be artists, the safety net of family resources available in the event of failure. It's a scenario that has been repeated over and over in this country, from the Irish to the Italians to African-Americans to Jews to American Indians and Asians.
Texas-Mexicans, however, present a different scenario. Because many are themselves descendants of conquerors, and then historically go back and forth between being the victor and being the defeated, the generational climb toward the condition of art has been anomalous.
Hecho en Tejas reflects the social and economic span of Texas-Mexicans, a group that is by no means homogenous. From Cortina's battle cry "Death to the Gringos!" to the fiction of Iowa Writers Workshop graduate Sandra Cisneros, Texas-Mexican literature is everything from the threatening lyrics of Austin's Ruben Ramos, who writes, "They call me El Gato Negro, all the laws are already looking for me / I am dangerous, so they say, ruthless and a criminal "to the savvy Houstonian Tony Diaz's Aztec Love God, the chronicle of a Chicano who aspires to be a stand-up comedian.
Many of the authors included in Hecho en Tejas (the title means "Made in Texas") have worked the fields, and their writing bluntly states sociopolitical views that reflect their struggles. Other authors come from families of means, producing work less overtly political and didactic.
Gilb's anthology boasts a list of truly remarkable authors - not just "Mexican-American" authors but "authors" without the minority label: luminaries such as El Paso's Benjamin Alire Saenz, the Rio Grande Valley's Rolando Hinojosa, Ray Gonzalez of El Paso, Hargill's Gloria Anzaldua, and the world-renowned John Rechy from El Paso.
If there is one theme that seems pervasive, it is the Tejano's sense that his role in Texas has been difficult. Jose Angel Gutierrez, whose credentials include a doctorate from the University of Texas and a law degree from Bates College in Houston, in "The Beginning of Chicanismo" says it like this:
"Anglos historically have learned how to dominate Mexicans without a large police force; psychological violence, fear, physical harm, and economic reprisals were their methods. The police and Texas Rangers were effectively employed against us from 1826 to the present time. In addition, economic dependence on whites has been the formal arrangement. With our lands stolen and now in their hands, the whites have the ability to profit from our land, our labor, our consumption of goods, our tax payments, and our presence as' illegals. ' We have to work for them, by and large, and we work for them on their own terms. Any attempt to organize or rebel has historically met with immediate retaliation. By making some of us 'illegal,' they pit us against each other, and all of them against all of us, legal or otherwise. "
Texas-Mexicans have at this point, however, fully arrived artistically. Gilb concludes his Introduction to Hecho en Tejas with this proclamation: "The publication of Hecho en Tejas is hereby a formal announcement: We have been here, we are still here. I want this book to overwhelm the ignorance - and I emphasize the 'ignore' root of that word as much as its dumb or mean or nasty connotation - about Raza here in Texas, the people who settled and were settled and still remain in Texas, who will soon be the largest population group in the state, not to mention the region beyond.
"Onward y adelante!"
Onward and ahead.
Eric Miles Williamson's third book, Oakland, Jack London, and Me, will be published this summer. He lives in the Rio Grande Valley, eight miles from Reynosa, Mexico, and teaches at the University of Texas-Pan American.
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