Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Required Poet: Cherrie Moraga

Woo Hoo! This is it! I can’t believe I actually kept up with this thing through my whole list. This is my last post on any of the actual works, but not my last post before the test. I will still go over the timeline, a list of terms, and then I’ll attempt to bring the two together and distinguish between time periods using fancy words. Exciting!


Once again, we got Chicana, we got feminist activists, we got politics, and much like Anzaldua, we have queer theory. And again, I went for the label of poet when Moraga was also an essayist and a playwright. In fact, for the list, there are more essays of Moraga’s then anything else, but I decided to stick with the poetry label, if only for continuity’s sake.

Queer Aztlan: the Re-formation of Chicano Tribe

This section from Moraga’s book, The Last Generation, has similarities with Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera. Moraga confronts the issue of being from two different worlds (her father was white, her mother was a Latina), the issue of the Native Americans and how their land was taken from them, the issues of border patrol on the US/Mexico border, and she also deals with the marginalization of gays and lesbians and how their insight would be valuable to ignite change. Also, much like Anzaldua, Moraga points out that even within the Chicano culture there can be extreme sexism, racism, and exclusion. Like Anzaldua, Moraga is calling for a new or reformation of the Chicano culture to rise up and ignite change.

Loving in the War Years

This poem to me is actually pretty literal as well as metaphorical. There is a sense of a war of some sort going on around the two characters in this poem. What type of war is never quite clear, but I would assume it is the same type of war Moraga talks about in “Queer Aztlan.” But there is also a sort of competition between the two characters in the poem, despite the fact that they seem to care a great deal for each other. They can’t quite seem to explain or express their love for each other, but instead they play games and “size each other up.” By the end the speaker realizes it is because this war has hurt them before; however; they should accept each other as they are.

La Guera

Moraga once again confronts her experience as a biracial woman who looks more white than Latina. Growing up, this was seen as a blessing and known as “la guera.” Moraga points out that only the oppressed are fighting for their own liberation because the ones that aren’t oppressed or at all affected don’t see a reason to. Their ignorance keeps them blind and happy, and she states that she experiences this same ignorance growing up because she took advantage of “la guera.” When she realized this, she felt ashamed and felt that she had abandoned her people and also her mother tongue by not speaking Spanish. She also once again confronts the issues of exclusion between the races among feminists and the exclusion of gays and lesbians within any movement.

A Long Line of Vendidas

This is a very short little paragraph (I don’t think I can all it a poem) that Moraga actually dedicated to Anzaldua. She speaks of the night she had a fight with her lover that sent them both to separate beds where she dreamed of “church and cunt.” It was a mix of the Catholic Church fused with the sensation of having sex with a woman. The speaker explains that it is an issue and a journey she must work out for herself.

Looking for the Insatiable Woman

In this essay Moraga talks about her experience in attempting to write her own story of La Llorona, or The Mexican Weeping Woman. La Llorona, after being sexually betrayed by her man, drowns her children in either a fit of jealousy, rage, or even just pure retaliation. As punishment for her crime, she is not allowed to enter heaven but is instead subject to forever search for her undead children only to never find them. Moraga describes the effect this traditional Mexican story has had on her, even though she was never told it growing up. When she finally did hear the story of La Llorona, she immediately recognized her as a fellow sister, and that led her to investigate further. She eventually starts looking at other stories of “insatiable women” across cultures and bringing the threads together and linking them. At the time Moraga wrote this essay, she still had not completed her La Llorona story and wonders if she ever will. What she wants to write is something real and not in translation; something not just for entertainment.

Out of our Revolutionary Minds Toward a Pedagogy of Revolt

For this one, it is a miracle that I was able to get my hands on a copy of the book this came from to read this essay. All of the other required stuff that came from Moraga's Loving in the War Years, 2nd edition I was able to find online or in the library. But apparently this particular essay is only available in the second edition, and while "Looking for the Insatiable Woman" is too, I was at least able to print that one off the internet. Only after browsing through the books of a recently deceased but dearly professor whose books in her office have been left to graduate students did I finally find this gem. The last book I needed was found through the death of the instructor that originally was supposed to hold my hand through this process in the first place. Awesome.

And now that I have finally read this essay, I am glad I did. Moraga pretty much laments the state of academia in the sense of how it has treated minority scholars and the literature and history of their own cultures. However, she does not put total blame on the ones who are in charge. As her title suggests, those who wish to be part of the revolution against the dominant Euro-American world view have failed to protest fully and effectively. Moraga feels that many colored students went off to college because, 1. many are the first in their families to do so and minority parents want more than anything for their children to take advantage of that which they could not. But also, 2. Moraga believes many of these young colored students feel that going to college is a way to participate in the revolution. But the thing is, once the student gets to college, they are taught their literature and their history and their culture, and very little about their own - so what was the point? Therefore, these students must move past "revolution," which hasn't gotten them very far, and more towards out and out revolt: complete rejection of or refusal to acknowledge any authority one entity may have over another. I have to say that, while I don't agree with everything Moraga says, I do like this essay very much.


As I mentioned in the history section of the post on Anzaldua, Moraga co-edited This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color with Anzaldua. And while Moraga also focuses on gays and lesbians, she seems to put even more emphasis on the value of their insight, and also their general value. Moraga believes they have a special insight because of their ability to love their own gender.

And there you have it. I am done. I know this process has been immensely helpful to me, and I hope it also has been helpful to whoever is actually reading this thing. There are some serious monsters on this list, and I have now faced all of them. I’m still scared of a few, but you know, one step at a time.


Anonymous said...

So the exam is Monday and I put off reading Moraga until the end. Like you I found everything I needed online except "Out of our Revolutionary Minds ..." I'm glad I at least found your synopsis. Hopefully it's good enough to get me through any question my committee asks!

Space Coyote said...

Glad I could help! For some reason it is incredibly difficult to find some of Moraga's work, but I lucked out. And I actually was never asked about it, but you never know. Let me know how everything turns out.