With Cinco de Mayo upon us, it’s important to consider what Latino culture imparts within the arena of literature.
Texas educators recently considered whether to place a Mexican-American literature course within the curriculum. At some schools, including some area colleges and universities, the course is offered.
Hopefully, students will sign up for such courses, which help them to become well-rounded citizens.
Whether you take a course at a college or simply read independently, it’s important to hear the voices of these groups, which include so many more people than Mexican Americans.
There are Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans, Chileans, Dominicans and a host of others whose cultural, linguistic and ethnic roots that intersect with those of Spain.
Within that diaspora there are varied genetic mixtures — from African to Swedish.
So it’s not surprising that when you look at the canons of literature, you may not know of Julia Alvarez, Gary Soto, Rudolfo Anaya and a host of others so numerous that the list can be overwhelming.
If you’re interested in doing a little reading about Latin culture and its people, Ilan Stavans is a good place to begin. He has written an interesting text on Latino culture itself, but his anthology provides a fine selection of writers and is a good place to start. “The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature” is not comprehensive but includes excellent writers — all presented in English.
We should not overlook writers such as Cabeza de Vaca, who wrote an extensive narrative of his interaction with the Karankawas, who inhabited Galveston Island and the Texas Coast.
Recent writers such as Luis Alberto Urrea, who wrote “Into the Beautiful North,” make important statements about the immigrant experience.
Of course, we should not overlook those staples of Chicano experience, Sandra Cisneros and Richard Rodriquez.
Do plan to begin with Stavans’ anthology, where you’ll get a good solid overview of the field.