I wish I could agree with Mr. Cheuse that ''American literature is already not the same'' (as a consequence of Chicano literature), but that is simply not true. One needs only to examine the texts and anthologies of American literature to see that Chicano writers are not there.
The problem of Chicano literature is not that there are not enough Chicano writers and good work. The problem lies in our concept of American literature. Until we face squarely that American literature ought to reflect the sum of our cultural parts, then Chicano literature will seek separate outlets.
Indeed, Chicano literature is a rich vein of Americana still to be discovered by the majority of Americans, a discovery that may in part require a knowledge of Spanish, for Chicano writers produce works in Spanish as well as English or, like the poet Alurista, in a combination of both. . . . FELIPE DE ORTEGO Y GASCA, Director Institute for Intercultural Studies and Research, San Antonio
Juan Rodriguez, a professor in the Center for Mexican American Studies, discusses the development of Chicano literature and poet Raul Salinas reads some of his work. Rodriguez explains that Chicano literature largely reflects its working class origins. He then discusses the different types of Chicano literature. He explains that it originated in the late 19th century and is infused with Chicano struggles against Anglo domination in the southwest. This theme appears in multiple genres of Chicano literature, including corridos, legends, and jokes, which were passed on orally and only later recorded. He argues that because of limited educational opportunities, Chicanos did not fully develop a written literary tradition until after World War II.
In the mid-1960s, poetry became the most popular form of Chicano literature, in part because activists could easily incorporate poems into political speeches, demonstrations or newspapers. Salinas then reads from his poem, “Un trip through the Mind Jail.”
Rodriguez next discusses drama and its popularity among Chicanos. He traces its roots to Luis Valdez’ Teatro Campesino which appealed to Chicanos of various class backgrounds. Rodriguez also explains the novel’s limited appeal in the middle of the century. Rodriguez then discusses the popularity of cultural resistance as a theme in Chicano literature. He explains that contemporary Chicano writers have sought to use their work to educate the community about its indigenous heritage. Rodriguez concludes with a brief discussion of recent efforts to increase the distribution of Chicano literature.