This study attempts to define the heretofore amorphous body of Mexican American literature as well as providing an understanding of what American literature should have been: that is, a literary fabric not exclusively woven on the Atlantic frontier by the descendants of New England Puritans and Southern Cavaliers, but one woven in the American Southwest as well, and with marvelous Hispanic threads which reach back not only to the literary heritage of the European continent but also the very heart of the Graeco-Roman world.
Like the British roots in the new American soil, the Hispanic literary roots have yielded a vigorous and dynamic body of literature which unfortunately has been studied historically as part of a foreign enterprise rather than as part and parcel of our American literary heritage. Thus, Hispanic works dealing with the Southern and Southwestern parts of the United States have in fact become the neglected aspect of American literature. The implication here is that such works are not properly within the traditional Anglo American definition of American literature since most of the works were written in Spanish. Consequently, these works have been neglected save as special studies of the Southwest. This neglect has produced unfortunate literary consequences for Mexican Americans, for they have come to see themselves and their Mexican kinsmen portrayed in our national literature in terms of racial cliches and caricatures. This study, then, examines the development of contemporary Mexican American literature in terms of the people, their history, and their struggles as the second largest ethnic minority in the United States.
In truth, in order to be fully comprehended the ethnic phenomenon of Mexican Americans since World War II must be seen in the more personal context of their literature. Indeed, Mexican Americans--approximately ten million of them--have a rich literary heritage. Unfortunately, few of them are aware of its existence as an organic body. For a people whose origins antedate the establishment of Jamestown by well over a century (and more, considering their Indian ancestry), this bespeaks a shameful and tragic negligence. The shame and tragedy are compounded when Mexican American youngsters learn about their Puritan fore- bears at the expense of their Hispanic forebears about whom they have as much right--if not more--to be proud. Instead, Mexican American youngsters "read of the cruelty of the Spaniard towards the Indians, of the Spaniard's greed for gold, of the infamous Spanish, always Spanish, Inquisition, of Mexican bandits, and of the massacre at the Alamo." They seldom if ever "learn that alongside the famous men at the Alamo there were other men, unknown and unsung heroes of American history, killed in the same battle and fighting on the Texas side; men like Juan Abamillo, Juan Badillo, Carlos Espalier, Gregorio Esparza, Antonio Fuentes, Jose Maria Guerrero, Toribio Losoya, Andres Nava," and others.
Mexican Americans have contributed to American literature in substantial measure as this study attempts to show by tracing that contribution from the earliest Hispanic works written in or about the Southwest to the Chicano Renaissance of the late 1960's.
Level of Degree
First Committee Member (Chair)
David A. Remley
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Ortego, Philip D.. "Backgrounds of Mexican American Literature." (1971). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/engl_etds/307