Note to Teachers
A bestseller when it was published in 1970 at the height of the Mexican-American civil rights movement, Chicano unfolds the fates and fortunes of the Sandoval family, who flee the chaos and poverty of the Mexican Revolution and begin life anew in the United States. Patriarch Hector Sandoval works the fields and struggles to provide for his family even as he faces discrimination and injustice. Of his children, only Pete Sandoval is able to create a brighter existence, at least for a time. But when Pete's daughter Mariana falls in love with David, an Anglo student, it sets in motion a clash of cultures. David refuses to marry Mariana, fearing the reaction of his family and friends. Mariana, pregnant with David's child, is trapped between two worlds and shunned by both because of the man she loves. The complications of their relationship speak volumes-even today-about the shifting sans of racial politics in America. In his foreword, award-winning author Rubén Martínez reflects on the historical significance of Chicano's initial publication and explores how cultural perceptions have changed since the story of the Sandoval family first appeared in print. "Vasquez is a writer of power and honesty; his novel is a chapter in our own history."—Los Angeles Times "A melting-pot novel in the tradition of Upton Sinclair, touched with authentic color and understandable bitterness."—New York Times Book Review "In my hunger for works that spoke to my realities, my traumas—and perhaps my hopes——as a drug addict and gang youth, I came across Richard Vasquez's novel in a bookstore. The title stopped me cold. Chicano. That's what I was! Us barrio street kids had used that term long before it became the moniker of a movement (which I eventually found my way into). Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd see "Chicano" on a book cover—a book one could find by accident in a bookstore or library. I bought that book. One of the few I ever did in those days. I read it. I connected to it. And perhaps, somewhere, a seed that had been planted in jails and juvenile halls became further nurtured to allow me deep consideration of a writing life. Years after, in my mid-twenties, working in a steel mill and facing a jobless future in industry and a nebulous one in literature, I finally decided to become a writer. I never met Richard Vasquez. But I know inside his words sang and his stories flowed. His writer's blood filled my pen. Thank you for the reissue of a classic in Chicano literature. It feeds me still."—Luis J. Rodriguez, author of Always Running and Music of the Mill
About the Author
Born in 1928, Richard Vasquez worked for several newspapers, including Santa Monica Independent, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times. In addition to Chicano, he published two other novels, The Giant Killer and Another Land. He died in 1990.
Questions for Classroom Discussion
1. In what ways and to what extent are the experiences of the Sandoval family, over four generations, reflected or repeated in the United States today? To what extent have circumstances changed? 2. In his introduction, Rubén Martínez writes, "Maybe in the end there is something essentially American about being Chicano." (p. xii) What might be essentially American regarding the Sandovals, their endeavors, their relationships, and their experiences? How is "the relationship between white and brown in the American Southwest," as presented in Chicano, "an essential territory of American cultural, social, economic, and political geography"? (p. xiii) 3. Martínez contends that in our global age, "there will be many more Chicanos—and not all of them will be Mexicans. . . . They will exist wherever journeys of necessity bring together, and draw apart, distinct peoples to summon new identities." (p. xxiii) What journeys of necessity does Vasquez present in Chicano, how do they
bring people together or draw them apart, and to what kinds of new identity do they lead? What other "journeys of necessity" have brought new people into the American mix? 4. When Hector, in Trainwreck, thinks of the United States, he thinks of the thousands who "were fleeing either tyranny or poverty in Mexico." (p. 29) What other reasons might Mexicans have had then, and what other reasons now, for undertaking the grueling and perilous crossing into the United States? Why does Hector think, on the night of Neftali's desertion from the federales, that in los Estados Unidos "there will be no more of all that makes us suffer"? (p. 30) 5. After the Sandovals jump off the train upon their arrival in California, "A great sense of being alone in unfriendly territory gripped the family." (p. 33) To what extent does that "great sense of being alone in unfriendly territory" persist for members of the Sandoval family? What other instances are you aware of in which people felt this same kind of aloneness? 6.
In what ways are the experiences of black Americans and Mexican-Americans similar, and in what ways different? How similar or different are the barriers that each group has had to overcome in order to enjoy, at least to some degree, the advantages of living in the United States?
7. Vasquez writes that among the second-generation Mexican-American families, even if the first child is a girl-as in Neftali and Alicia's family—only the eldest son could be "second in command in the family. . . . This was a custom, a way of life which the family accepted without question . . ." (p. 77) What other customs are carried over from Mexico to the United States, and with what consequences? What customs in your family have continued intact, and which have been changed or discarded? 8. Neftali pulls sixteen-year-old Angelina out of school and sends her to work "to help support the family;" but Gregorio is kept in school, because—in Neftali's words—"It's necessary that he prepare himself." (p. 81) What expectations and ambitions could girls and boys of the various generations entertain? How did those expectations and ambitions change over the years? How are they similar to the expectations and ambitions of young people today, and how are they different? 9. When Neftali's sons come home on leave during World War II, Neftali notices that, "With the exception of Gregorio, they seemed only to tolerate the family system and traditions . . ." (p. 82) What events and circumstances contribute to changes in attitudes toward family traditions and values among each new generation? What other changes came about "in the younger generation raised away from the old country"? (p. 85) 10. In what ways do the traditions and cultural values of the Mexican immigrants come into conflict with the traditions and values of Anglo society? What circumstances give rise to these conflicts, and what are their consequences? How might such conflicts and their adverse consequences be prevented or alleviated? 11. As they set off to buy new clothes for Pedro and Minerva's wedding, Neftali informs Victorio that "people should stay near where they're raised and be content." (p. 171) Later, talking with his sister, Marge, about Mariana, David comments, "We have to fit in where our nests are made back home . . . Things are the way they are and they won't change." (pp. 361-2) What effect have such attitudes had on the living conditions and life styles of various immigrant groups in America? What are the consequences, even today, of staying near where you're raised and being content?
12. What injustices against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans does Vasquez chronicle? What similar injustices are perpetrated against minority groups in the United States today? How might those injustices be lessened or done away with? 13. As Pete begins to look for a new house, Vasquez writes: "It was an old story, but new to Pete. The ghetto protects as well as imprisons." (p. 219) In what ways does the ghetto protect and in what ways imprison? What instances and images of protection occur in the novel, and what instances and images of imprisonment? 14. To what extent do you think the Neumans and the Sandovals' other neighbors on Corson Street are representative of widespread attitudes and behavior among white Americans today? What similar instances of direct and indirect prejudice in your community have you experienced, observed, or been told about? 15. How does Vasquez use the experiences and observations of the various members of the Sandoval family, over four generations, to chronicle not only the lives of Mexican Americans from 1920 on but also the main events and developments in American history during that time period? 16. Explaining to his sociology class their project to study the causes and incidence of high-school dropouts in East Los Angeles, Professor William Rowland explains: "We want to know what in the cultural barrier[s] is so insurmountable to the individual and why." (p. 286) How might we explain the what and the why of high-school dropouts among specific minority groups and among youngsters of economically disadvantaged families? 17. David realizes that everything about Mariana "was composite. If there was a culture here, it was the culture of being a subculture." (p. 304) To what extent and in what ways is American culture actually a composite of numerous subcultures? How has each subculture contributed to the one culture that is American? 18. How does Vasquez depict the interconnections among the generations of the Sandoval family? Why do you think that key members of the younger generations maintain contact with the older generations—e.g., Mariana and Neftali? How are the Sandoval interrelationships similar to or different from interrelationships among generations in your family? 19. After their visit to Neftali and Alicia, David says to Mariana: "I see I, or any professor, for that matter, will never be able to identify problem areas until they get to know . . . and see things . . . like I'm doing." (p. 308) What does each of us have to do to see and know things about other groups in order not only "to identify problem areas," but to acquire an understanding of the cultures, values, and expectations of those other groups? 20. What commemorative ethnic celebrations similar to the Days of the Dons occur today? In what ways might these celebrations reinforce ethnic stereotypes and in what ways do they promote ethnic pride and an increased acceptance of a multicultural nation? 21. As Sammy walks through Tijuana, Vasquez writes: "To any tourist, Sammy seemed a native . . . But to any Tijuana native, he would be instantly spotted as an American, considered 'gringo.'" (p. 411) What effect on individuals might this kind of split identity have? What instances of this kind of thing have you observed or heard about?
22. What are the circumstances, causes, and consequences of the various family disintegrations and casualties suffered by the four generations of the Sandoval family? Is there a pattern to those disintegrations and casualties through the years, or are they specific to each generation? How significant might it be that the chronicle of the Sandoval family ends with heroin-addict Sammy's arrest and Mariana's death from a botched abortion?
1. Lead the class in a discussion of people in the class or your community whose forebears emigrated from Mexico or elsewhere in Central or South America. What distinct cultural conflicts and changes accompanied their search for better lives? Invite older people who have made such a move to talk to the class about their experiences. 2. Invite parents and grandparents, or other older people, from various ethnic groups to address your class about their relocation from one region of America to another, or about their immigration to America, about the new circumstances they faced, and about how they coped with those circumstances. 3. Have your students research, through family interviews and other resources, their family backgrounds, and construct family trees or genealogical charts showing relationships, locations, and movements. Post the trees and charts in a prominent place. Discuss as a class what the students have learned by completing this activity. 4. Invite community civil-rights or human-rights leaders or advocates to address the class—or the entire student body in assembly—on the history of human rights in this country, on the Chicano movement of the 1960s and '70s, and/or on the present status of human rights here and elsewhere. 5. Have your students research and report upon the circumstances and locations of the establishment and operation of ethnic neighborhoods in your community. Collate the reports and compile and post the common elements and characteristics of those neighborhoods. 6. Have your students research the demographics of Chicano and Latino population groups in the United States. They might start with the U.S. Census Bureau, at www.census.gov. Then have the students prepare distinctive graphs showing key demographic statistics—locations, population numbers and distribution, age distribution, economic status, etc.—for each group. Display the graphs in a prominent location and invite discussion with other classes. 7. Conduct a class discussion of the various issues touching on migration within and immigration to the United States, and have the students record their opinions and attitudes. Then have them compare their findings with articles and reports in the current media. How do the two sets of findings compare or contrast? 8. Using newspapers, magazines, and Websites, research the various aspects and issues involved in the present debate over immigration, particular illegal immigration, and the status of illegal immigrants in the United States. Prepare summary statements of the key arguments and a set of formal recommendations, and send the summaries and recommendations to your senators and representatives and your state legislators. 9. When possible, invite local Mexican American authors to talk with or read to classes. Correspond with one or
more authors located through web sites. 10. Have the class watch Harvest of Shame, the legendary 1960 CBS documentary, narrated by Edward R. Murrow, and the 1990 PBS Frontline report, New Harvest, New Shame, and lead the students in a discussion of the films, of working conditions at the times, and of working conditions for migrant workers today. 11. Construct a family chart or family tree for the Sandoval family, beginning with Hector and Lita, and include notations of place, movement, occupation, and relationship. In so far as possible, include representative photographs and other illustrations from newspapers, magazines, family collections, and the Web. 12. Invite a real-estate broker to explain to the class the laws and regulations governing the sale and purchase of houses in your community and state. Question the broker regarding any instances in which those laws and regulations have been ignored or violated 13. Conduct a class discussion of prejudices and stereotypes, asking each student to express her or his view of people of another ethnic, religious, or economic group and leading the class in a clarification of attitudes and opinions.
1. Research and report on the Mexican-American civil-rights movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, focusing on two or three incidents or events that were of particular significance or importance. 2. Research and report on a leading figure of the Mexican-American civil-rights movement, explaining the contribution that person has made to the advancement of Mexican-Americans and to the improvement of Chicano/Latino-Anglo relations. 3. Write a brief essay comparing or contrasting Chicano with one of the novels listed below in terms of a major theme (family dynamics or cultural conflict, for example) or in terms of the main characters. 4. Research and report on the reasons for and conditions of a migrant labor force throughout the United States. What has been the role of migrant workers—Mexican, Chicano, Latinos, and others—in the American economy? How have their work and living conditions changed over the years, and how have stayed the same? 5. Imagine that you were a teenager participating in an activity or event associated with the Chicano Movement, and write a letter to your family or a friend, describing the event and explaining your reasons for participating? 6. Imagine that you were a reporter covering the Chicano Movement, and write an article informing your readers about the causes of the Movement and its objectives. You should report on the Who, What, When, Where, and Why appropriate to the Movement itself or of to a specific event. 7. Write a brief story or poem centering on a specific experience of a Chicano or Chicana teenager or on that teenager's feelings about the cultural conflicts encountered in the United States.
8. Describe a wedding in your family in a way similar to Vasquez's narration of Pedro and Minerva's wedding, comparing and contrasting the settings and components of the ceremonies and commenting on the similarities and differences. 9. As Pete Sandoval begins to look for a new house in a better neighborhood, Vasquez writes: "It was an old story, but new to Pete. The ghetto protects as well as imprisons." (p. 219) Prepare a report on either: 1) The ways in which the ghetto protects and the ways in which it imprisons; or 2) Instances and images of protection and of imprisonment that occur in the novel. 10. Research and prepare a written or oral report on the arguments for and against the mandatory use, in the United States, of English in schools and business and for all public and political activities? Why or why not should all immigrants and their children be required to speak English within a specific time period?
Your school and public librarians will be able to assist students in finding appropriate books, movies, and Websites -in addition to those listed here-and other materials dealing with the lives of Mexican immigrants to the United States and of Chicanos and other Latinos, the lives of men and women of other ethnic groups, family relationships, and other topics and issues of note in Chicano. Many universities, colleges, and libraries have Chicano, Latino, and/or Hispanic departments programs, or collections. Students may, of course, perform appropriate Web searches to discover sites related to relevant topics. (Neither HarperCollins nor any other individual or organization involved in the production of this teacher's guide is responsible for the content of the books listed here or of Web sites that may be accessed by anyone working with this guide.)
Fiction Julia Alvarez. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. 1991. Paper: Plume Books, 1992. Rudolfo Anaya. Bless Me, Ultima. 1972. Paper: Warner Books, 1994. Rudolfo Anaya. Heart of Aztlán. 1976. Paper: University of New Mexico Pres, 1988. Richard Bradford. Red Sky at Morning. 1968. Paper: Harper Perennial, 1999. Ana Castillo. So Far from God. 1993. Paper: Plume Books, 1994. Denise Chavez. Face of an Angel. 1994. Paper: Warner Books, 1995. Sandra Cisneros. The House on Mango Street. 1984. Paper: Vintage Books, 1991. Sandra Cisneros. Woman Hollering Creek, and Other Stories. 1991. Paper: Vintage Books, 1992. John Nichols. The Milagro Beanfield War. 1974. Paper: Holt, 2000. Judith Ortiz Cofer. The Meaning of Consuelo. 2003. Paper: Beacon Press, 2005. Tomás Rivera. Y no se lo tragó la tierra/And the Earth Did Not Swallow Him. 1971. Paper (Bilingual Edition): Arte Publico Press, 1987. Henry Roth. Call It Sleep. 1934. Paper: Scribner's, 1997. John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath. 1939. Paper: Penguin Books, 2002. Jose Antonio Villarreal. Pocho. Paper: Anchor Books, 1970. Victor Villaseñor. Rain of Gold. 1991. Paper: Delta Books, 1992. Nonfiction
Rudolfo Anaya & Francisco Lomeli, editors. Aztlán: Essays on the Chicano Homeland. El Norte Publications, 1989. Gloria Anzaldúa. La Frontera/Borderlands. 1987. Paper: Aunt Lute Books, 1999. Leo R. Chavez. Shadowed Lives: Undocumented Immigrants in American Society. Paper: Wadsworth Publishing, 1997. Ernesto Galarza. Barrio Boy. Paper: University of Notre Dame Press, 1971. Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez. Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings. Paper: Arte Publico Press, 2001. Elva Trevino Hart. Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child. Paper: Bilingual Press, 1999l. Maria Herrera-Sobek. Northward Bound: The Mexican Immigrant Experience in Ballad & Song. Indiana University Press, 1993. Tiffany Ana López. Growing Up Chicana/o: An Anthology. 1993. Paper: Avon Books, 1995. Rubén Martínez. Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail. 2001. Paper: Picador, 2002. Pat Mora. House of Houses. 1997. Paper: Beacon Press, 2001. Michelle Herrera Mulligan and Robyn Moreno, eds. Border-Line Personalities: A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass, and Cultural Shifting. Paperback: Rayo, 2004. Himilce Novas. Everything You Need to Know about Latino History. Paper (Reissue): Plume Books, 2003. Himilce Novas. The Hispanic 100: A Ranking of the Latino Men and Women Who Have Most Influenced American Thought and Culture. Citadel Press, 1995. Edward James Olmos, Lea Ybarra, & Manuel Monterrey, editors. Americanos: Latino Life in the United States. Little, Brown, 1999. Americo Paredes. With His Pistol in His Hand: A Border Ballad and Its Hero. Paper: University of Texas Press, 1958. Jorge Ramos. Dying to Cross: The Worst Immigration Tragedy in American History. Rayo, 2005. Jesús Salvador Treviño. Eyewitness: A Filmmaker's Memoir of the Chicano Movement. Paper: Arte Publico Press, 2001. Trinidad Sanchez, Jr. Why Am I So Brown? Abrazo Press, 1991. Esmeralda Santiago. When I Was Puerto Rican. 1993. Paper: Da Capo Press, 2005. Luis Albert Urrea. Across the Wire: Life & Hard Times on the Mexican Border. Paper: Anchor Books, 1993. Luis Albert Urrea. The Devil's Highway: A True Story. 2004. Paper: Back Bay Books, 2005. Victor Villaseñor. Burro Genius: A Memoir. 2004. Paper: Rayo, 2005. Victor Villaseñor. Thirteen Senses. 2003. Paper: Rayo, 2004. Oscar Zeta Acosta. The Revolt of the Cockroach People. 1973. Paper: Vintage Books, 1989.
Chicano Art & Life "presents the many voices of today's Chicanos via a traditional art exhibit 'Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge' and a multi-media exhibit 'Chicano Now: American Expressions.'" Includes a 37-page teacher's guide. Chicano Resource Center, East Los Angeles Library. ". . . established in 1976 to serve the information needs of the Mexican-American (Chicano) community and to make information about the history and culture of this group available to the general public." National Council of la Raza. ". . . the largest national constituency-based Hispanic organization and the leading voice in Washington, DC for the Hispanic community." We the People: Hispanics in the United States, Census 2000 Special Reports. U.S. Census Bureau. A 20page report on Hispanic life in the United States. Census Bureau. Contains information from the 2000 and 1990 censuses, as well as the Population Surveys from 1994 through 2002. Bodacia.com, "Latino/Hispanic Resources." Includes Web directories & resources, information on performing arts & the media, links to regional sites, information on Mexican & Chicano culture & other
Latin cultures, and more. Digital History, "Mexican American Voices." Consists of links to information covering all aspects and eras of Mexican-American history, from the Spanish Borderlands to "The Struggle Continues." Reforma, The Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking People of the U.S. An affiliate of the American Library Association. A History of the Mexican-American People. Revised edition. By Julian Samora & Patricia Vandel Simon. The full text is accessible, ranging from the Conquest of Mexico to What the Future Holds. Rayo publishes books that embody the diversity within the Latino community, in both English and Spanish-language editions, connecting culture with thought, and invigorating tradition with spirit. Information Resource Centers, U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany. "Chicano Literature and Culture." Consists of Learning Resources (including a "Teacher Cyber Guide" focusing on Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales's poem, "I Am Joaquin"), links to Background Resources, & links to Articles & Statistics. Infoplease: Hispanic Heritage Month. Includes links to a variety of information sources. Recommended US Latino Websites: Diversity & Ethnic Studies, by Susan A. Vega Garcia. (Iowa State University.) Links to "Chicano / Mexican American, Puerto Rican, and Cuban American Web resources, as well as sites that pertain to Salvadorans, Dominicans, Colombians, Guatemalans and other Latinos residing in the US. Only websites that are reflective of US Latino realities were considered . . ." The Library of Congress, Hispanic Reading Room. "The Hispanic Reading Room serves as the primary access point for research relating to those parts of the world encompassing the geographical areas of the Caribbean, Latin America, and Iberia; the indigenous cultures of those areas; and peoples throughout the world historically influenced by Luso-Hispanic heritage, including Latinos in the U.S., and peoples of Portuguese or Spanish heritage in Africa, Asia, and Oceania." Hispanic Magazine. "The leading source of news information and services geared at Hispanic Americans." Billing itself as The Voice of the Hispanic Community, Hispanic's "editorial focus is on business, career, politics, and culture, with upbeat, informative, and timely stories on people and issues of interest to Hispanics." Thomson Gale, Hispanic Heritage, "Celebrating Hispanic Heritage at Your Library or School." A free collection of activities, biographies, and information on Hispanic history & culture, as well as a very good list of links to other appropriate Websites. Lanic: Hispanic/Latino. A wealth of links in categories ranging from Academic Resources and Business & Economy to Popular Culture and Public Affairs, and including Gender & Sexuality. Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation. ". . . celebrates the outstanding achievements of Hispanic American leaders and promotes the next generation of role models." Includes information on winners of the awards, including the youth awards, as well as full information on applying for a youth award.
This Teacher's Guide was prepared by Hal Hager & Associates, Somerville, New Jersey. Hal Hager has taught literature at several colleges, has been active for many years in editing, marketing, reviewing, and writing about books and writers, and is the author of numerous teacher's guides and reading group guides.