Themes of a Marginalized Culture

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  • Topic: Sandra Cisneros, Chicano, Mexican American writers
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  • Published : March 10, 2013
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Themes of the Marginalized Culture

There are countless genres of literature throughout the world. From fiction, to nonfiction, biographies and autobiographies, they are all different. Yet they all share a common purpose which is to convey a message. Some pieces of literature known as autoethnographic texts are written to illustrate the hardships of people in contact zones. Contact zones are areas in which two different cultures meet and live in very different ways. This often creates an uneven power relationship between the two cultures. One culture will almost always have a greater legitimacy and is seen as dominant. The other, in contrast, is much less significant and is seen as marginalized. A few examples of autoethnographic texts are Pocho by Jose Antonio Villarreal, …And the Earth Did Not Devour Him by Tomas Rivera and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. In all three texts, the protagonists are a part of a marginalized culture of Mexican Americans in the United States. In order to survive, the marginalized group must adapt and take on the ideals of the U.S. dominant culture. This presents many essential themes and gives a greater understanding of the protagonists' lives as members of a marginalized group. The primary themes portrayed in the novels Pocho by Jose Antonio Villarreal, …And the Earth Did Not Devour Him by Tomas Rivera and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros are machismo, religion and education.

            Machismo is an exaggerated sense of manliness. This is something that Mexican men didn’t take lightly during this time period. They all believed that as men they were entitled to machismo and full responsibility of their families. Sadly for Richard Rubio, who is the young protagonist in Pocho, this concept was a struggle for him to understand. At one point, he fights a girl named Zelda and she chases him all the way home. Once Juan Rubio, his father, realizes what has happened to his son, he gives Richard a lesson on manliness. The narrator describes it like this, "Juan Rubio took his belt off and beat his son on the legs and buttocks with it. 'Go out there!' he said angrily. 'I'll show you what will happen to you any time you run from a girl!" (Villarreal 68). Even though Richard goes back out and is beaten up again by Zelda, he learns "an important lesson" from his father. Richard is taught to stand up for himself like a man and that he cannot fear a girl. Throughout the novel, Richard learns the importance of machismo.             Sadly, the disrespect of woman was very common in this time period due to the overwhelming prevalence of machismo. With all of the power in the hands of men, there was often little say for women. Many were beaten, abused, and treated poorly by men. In the novel …And the Earth Did Not Devour Him, there is a prime example of machismo when a boy confronts his ex-girlfriend about her unfaithfulness. Here, Rivera writes, "I don’t care if we broke up or not. You're gonna pay for this. Nobody makes a fool out of me. You're gonna pay for this one, one way or another." (Rivera 126). This passage shows the theme of machismo because the boy has no regard for the girl’s feelings. Even though the girl does not necessarily do anything wrong because they are broken up, in his eyes she has disrespected him. He believes that she must make up for the pain that she has caused him because she owes it to him as a man. This is a reoccurring theme in the novels because most of the men carry this persona with pride at all times.

The household is likely to be a place where machismo is exposed and modeled in Mexican-American families. Due to the stereotypical masculine father, machismo is present in many situations. This is evident in the text The House on Mango Street. One girl in the text, Sally, comes to school with bruises and scars because her dad abuses her at home. In this section, the reader is presented with conversations. Here,...
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