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Southwestern American Literature


Southwestern American Literature is a biannual scholarly journal that includes literary criticism, fiction, poetry, and book reviews concerning the Greater Southwest.

Since its inception in 1971, the journal has published premier works by and about some of the most significant writers of the region.

Southwestern American Literature is indexed in The MLA International Bibliography, which can be found in most North American and European higher-education institutions, and Humanities International Complete, which can be found in libraries throughout North America.

ISSN 0049-1675facebook

© Center for the Study of the Southwest, Texas State University.


Current Issue: Volume 44 | Number 1 - Fall 2018

In 1935, Ignacio Lozano, the editor of La Prensa in San Antonio, published a serialized novel by Jorge Ainslie titled Los Repatriados [aka The Deportees]. From late September to late November, Ainslie regaled his readers with the trials and tribulations of Cuca and Peña, one-time owners of a grocery store in Los Angeles forced to sell all their goods and merchandise and join a southbound auto caravan to make their lives in a country they never knew. Ainslie describes the situation as:

Fourteen cars weighed down with furniture, clothes, radios, kitchen utensils, and a grand array of objects were aligned, waiting together and ready to start the long journey. The large number of police called to keep the peace barely held against the avalanche of people that pushed and pulled the cars, moving the cars back and forth, like boats overtaken by a strong undertow, seeking to find their friends and family.” (Ainslie 19)

La Prensa readers in San Antonio knew these scenes, both having been covered closely by La Prensa and probably having friends or family forced to leave Texas for a better chance in Mexico.

Ainslie’s Repatriados turned the tragedy of mass displacement into a picaresque examination of downward mobility, using the widely shared humiliations of debt collectors, border inspections, language encounters, and rental inquiries to connect San Antonio readers to the tribulations of a once ascendant novelized family of Pochos, the Los Angeles bred middle-class children of Mexican immigrants making their way in Chihuahua City, Guadalajara and Monterrey (Ainslie).  Ainslie became first novelist to fictionalize one of the largest expulsions of people in United States history.

 

SAL Fall 2018

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Having been horrified by current images of families warehoused under concrete overpasses by federal authorities in El Paso, I had decided to search for analogues during the repatriation waves of the 1930s. To my surprise, I found truth and fiction in central Texas. First, breathless front-page coverage of the organizing of a 104-vehicle caravan of Repatriados leaving Karnes City and planning stops in Kenedy, Green, Pettus, Normanna, Beeville, Skidmore, Mathis, Casa Blanca, Alice, San Diego, and Laredo (“Los Mexicanos”). People in these small towns were caught in one of the largest forced migrations in United States history. Four years later, La Prensa serialized the fictional travails of a shopkeeper family to narrate the displacement of U.S. born Mexican Americans to Mexico. Novelists and artists carve their way through these shared travails and in a way bring these challenges to our attention.

The writers and poets in this edition have carved their way, sculpting their own narratives from iconic situations in the Southwest. Some decided to bring out the high drama of our everyday lives.  Poet Andrea Lee Dunn hints at the energy it takes a Mexican Elder to make beauty from caterpillars, moths and doves. Seth Copeland traces the imprint left behind by lead lakes, swimming pools, Kung Pao, Flag Day, and spiced rum. Adrianne Beer forces considers the evanescence of water around us, in the way moods change as quickly as sun into rain in “Arizona.” Linda Ravenswood shares what is left after phone conversations wash over her time on a train. Water carries a heavy narrative weight in these contributions.  Andrew Alexander Mobbs charts the explosive impact of monsoons, who “scatter the freshness of newly split atoms” across our southwestern lives.  For Kim Cope Tait, water in the air carries a hint of the divine and of the desires that shape our lives.

Water in the ground shapes conflicts above, defining the social hierarchies that constrain many lives.  Diego Ulibarri’s “Sangre in the Water” dramatizes the intimate and personal conflicts over water in the small towns dotting the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The authors here trouble our ideas of poetic landscapes. Georgette Unis shifts the frame away from the border and uses schools and hospitals, births and graduations to retell the loss and trauma that accompany working-class migration and settlement. Ariana Brown recalls the impact of Texas landscapes on her, “I miss the huge agaves, the magueys, the aloe vera growing in people’s yards,” as she also points to the way landscape frames existence: “My Mexican grandmother was a farmworker in South Texas, while my African American great grandfather was a sharecropper in East Texas. Tracing the lineage of these violences helps provide context for my own existence.” Small towns house these lives, small towns enable these violences. The stuff of our lives becomes part of that art and craft that help make the cultures of the Southwest.


Works Cited

  •  Ainslie, Jorge. “Los Repatriados, Capitulo Dos,” La Prensa [ San Antonio, TX],  6 Oct. 1935, p.22.  *Translation of Jorge Ainslie here by John Mckiernan-González
  • Garza, Melita. They Came to Toil: Newspaper Representations of Mexicans and Immigrants in the Great Depression, Austin: U of Texas Press, 2018. Print. 
  • “Los Mexicanos Nos Deben De Alarmarse Por La Salida De La Caravana De Karnes City.” La Prensa [San Antonio, TX], 11 Oct. 1931, p. 1.