Presentation Title

Identity as a Territorial Space in Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican and Cristina Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Elizabeth Sturgeon, Mount Saint Mary's University, Los Angeles

Start Date

18-11-2017 9:45 AM

End Date

18-11-2017 10:00 AM

Location

15-1828

Session

Humanities 2

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

Borders have been created by man to separate groups of people, thus creating a sense of hierarchy where one person or culture is more privileged than the other. It is because of old colonial thought that these borders are made, manifesting the desire to feel superior to another nation or country. This is how dominating groups have had success in controlling others, namely because they manage to divide people. These artificial divisions create a sense of confusion with one’s identity. Latinx literature has demonstrated the effects that oppressive factors have created within female identities, in particular, and in how characters in this literature have managed to internalize their own identities. The main female characters in When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago and Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia are a small representative sample of the voices of those living in the borderlands. This essay identifies several oppressive factors that these characters face and how the borderland environment shapes their identities. The constant back and forth movement between the characters’ two cultures create travelling and shifting identities where they literally and figuratively travel and move between at least two different cultures. Female characters in these novels find themselves negotiating between their cultures, thus making identity territorial, a space where they choose what beliefs and customs that they would like to integrate to their everyday lives.

Summary of research results to be presented

This research paper was a product of the Keck Summer Research program that was offered on the campus of Mount Saint Mary’s University under the guidance of my mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Sturgeon. The purpose of this project was to use interdisciplinary modern literary theory to demonstrate the degree in which Latinx literature tackles the criticisms in the Academy for being too simple and/or transparent. For my take, this research paper has primarily focused on the Marxist theory. Marx’s theory of power specifically helps explain the oppression that people face living in the borderlands as Gloria Anzaldúa defines it as a “vague” and “undetermined” place where the prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants. In both these books, the characters encounter situations where a culture and a nation try to colonize their identity. Living in a space of ambiguity causes confusion in one’s identity. In this case, the characters in these books are confused about their own identities due to conflicting cultures and belief systems. A person’s hyphenated identity is comparable to Pérez Firmat’s comparison of a “seesaw” that tilts “one way then another” giving one the freedom to mix and match from beliefs and customs. The constant back and forth movement between the characters’ two cultures create travelling and shifting identities where they literally and figuratively travel and move between at least two different cultures. Being able to mix and match from their two different cultures allows them to negotiate their identities, thus making identity territorial. The female characters in these books are victims of borders that suppress their identity; it is not until they take action that they are able to assert their own sense of self.

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Nov 18th, 9:45 AM Nov 18th, 10:00 AM

Identity as a Territorial Space in Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican and Cristina Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban

15-1828

Borders have been created by man to separate groups of people, thus creating a sense of hierarchy where one person or culture is more privileged than the other. It is because of old colonial thought that these borders are made, manifesting the desire to feel superior to another nation or country. This is how dominating groups have had success in controlling others, namely because they manage to divide people. These artificial divisions create a sense of confusion with one’s identity. Latinx literature has demonstrated the effects that oppressive factors have created within female identities, in particular, and in how characters in this literature have managed to internalize their own identities. The main female characters in When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago and Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia are a small representative sample of the voices of those living in the borderlands. This essay identifies several oppressive factors that these characters face and how the borderland environment shapes their identities. The constant back and forth movement between the characters’ two cultures create travelling and shifting identities where they literally and figuratively travel and move between at least two different cultures. Female characters in these novels find themselves negotiating between their cultures, thus making identity territorial, a space where they choose what beliefs and customs that they would like to integrate to their everyday lives.