The Cariboo Cafe

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Immigrant Tragedy in "The Cariboo Café"

Helena Maria Viramontes grew up in Los Angeles where relatives used to stay and live with her family when making the transition from Mexico to the United States. This is where she got her first taste of the lives of immigrants in this country within the urban barrios. Viramontes's writing reflects this theme along with expressing her political opinions on the treatments of immigrants, especially Chicanos and Latinos. In her short story "The Cariboo Café," Viramontes brings these ideas to life through three sections narrated by different individuals tied into the story.

"The Cariboo Café" is a story of Chicano immigrants and a Central American refugee. Along with these characters is the owner of the Cariboo Café, who comes in contact with the others. The story progresses in three short sections. Each section involves a different scenario and is told from the point of view of a different narrator. The three separate settings do not fully come together until the end of the last section. This approach makes the story initially very complicated to understand and difficult to connect the sections as a coherent stream of events. However, it is possible that this was Viramontes's intent. Perhaps the situations presented in the story were ones that posed this amount of confusion and frustration in real life to those who lived through them. Maybe Viramontes needed to convey in her story that what really happened in the urban barrios of Los Angeles never really made sense to anyone.

The opening section of this story is a third person narrative. The narrator immediately introduces a poor Chicano family with two young children. A few initial facts that the reader picks up in the opening paragraph are that both parents have to work, the children often play by themselves in back allies and carry their own keys, and the father has warned the children to always avoid the police.

Viramontes sets a...
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