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La traduction dans les cultures plurilingues

Francis Mus
Karen Vandemeulebroucke
Lieven D’Hulst
et al.

Écrivains plurilingues

Translation in heterotopia: Alejandro Morales’s novel Waiting to Happen

An Van Hecke

Texte intégral

1. Between translation and creation

  • 1 In 2005 Morales published a volume of three short stories, Pequeña Nación, in Spanish (Turlock CA: (...)

1In this paper, I would like to discuss the novel Waiting to Happen by Alejandro Morales, a Chicano writer from Southern California. Within Chicano literature, the case of Morales is undoubtedly one of the most interesting ones in its confrontation with bilingualism, as his work reflects the linguistic evolution that the whole of Chicano literature has gone through. When he started writing in the seventies, he published his first two novels in Spanish, as did other Chicano writers at that time. An important factor in the revival of Spanish in Chicano literature has been the Chicano Movement of the sixties. In 1983, however, Morales published Reto en el Paraíso, a Spanish/ English novel. This experiment can only be understood by readers who have a command of both Spanish and English. With his next novel, The Brick People, published in English in 1988, he started a new chapter. From then on, Morales has written almost all his works in English including his last novel but one, Waiting to Happen, which dates back to 20011. In an interview with Gurpegui, from 1996, Morales explains this shift from Spanish to English:

I wanted to broaden my audience, my readership... so I started to write in English. [...] That is not to say that I am not going to Write in Spanish. Actually I write all my short stories in Spanish, and I think it is very important that we [Chicano writers] continue to write in Spanish (Morales in Gurpegui 1996: 8).

2The way Morales confronts the diglossic language situation between English and Spanish is not that simple. On the one hand, he gives the impression that he lets himself lead by inspiration as in “automatic writing”, not knowing in advance in which language he will write: “When I start a book or story I don’t really know if I will write a paragraph, section, story, a novel in English, Spanish or in both languages” (Morales, personal correspondence, April 2009). On the other hand, considering his work as a whole and knowing from interviews that he works a lot on each novel by rewriting it several times, it is clear that Morales is very conscious of the way he works or rather “plays” with both languages. Consequently, the concept of “the writer’s linguistic supra-consciousness” as established by Lise Gauvin is especially useful in the case of Alejandro Morales. Gauvin defines this phenomenon as the “desire to explore the language afresh, going beyond simple ethnographie discourse” (Gauvin 2005: 328).

3Before analyzing the use of languages in Waiting to Happen, I will briefly summarize the content of this novel. The story is primarily situated in Mexico City during the Salinas regime (1988-1994). The main character of the novel is called J. I. Cruz, a Mexican woman, bom in the United States, who works for a finance company. Gradually, the reader discovers that she has the qualifies and the characteristics of the great Mexican poet of the seventeenth century, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Miracles happen because of her magical powers, which make her a dangerous person to political and religious institutions. J. I. is called a modem “ilusa”. This word refers to colonial Mexico, when crazed women were “denounced to the Holy Office as ilusas, that is as deluded women” (Franco in Morales, Epigraph of Part 4, p. 137). In the first description, J. I. appears as an attractive and intelligent Chicana:

  • 2 From now on, when I quote from the novel Waiting to Happen, I will only add the page.

J. I., a transculturalized, United-States-bom Mexican, proud of her slim figure, her hair and eyes as black as onyx. [...]. J. I. was a feminine force, a body desired, also much more to the Mexican men eating and flirting in that old hacienda porfiriata in the old money section of a city intense with history. She was the answer to their dreams. She was their Virgen de Guadalupe, la Coatlicue, la soldadera, la prostituta, all under control in J. I. [...] (Morales 2001: 2)2.

4The interesting thing in Morales is that J. I. reunites in her person the characteristics, not only of Sor Juana, but also those of the “Virgen de Guadalupe, Coatlicue, la soldadera y la prostituta”. All these names appear in Spanish, which suggests that the essence of her identity comes from Mexico. Nevertheless she is a “transculturalizada”, a Chicana. Unlike the stereotypes that stigmatize the Chicano as a traitor, rejected by the Mexicans of Mexico, for Mexicans in this quotation, J. I. is the star, the dream wornan. At the same time, Waiting to Happen can be considered as a detective novel. Some of the main characters work for the President’s Antinarcotic Brigade. They get involved not only in drug violence but they also discover that there are plans for secret nuclear plants and weapon factories in Mexico.

5Waiting to Happen is a novel, and as such the reader approaches the story as pure fiction, a story about the extraordinary life of J. I. Cruz. Nonetheless, the author creates ambiguity from the beginning as he chooses the strategy known in literature as the manuscrit trouvé, the found manuscript. In the acknowledgments, the author presents his book as non-fiction: “Waiting to Happen is based for the most part on real people and happenings. No matter how absurd or unbelievable events might seem, there is historical documentation to authenticate these cases [...]” (Morales, “Acknowledgments”). In other words, he claims that this book is not his story, but the result of a research based on conversations with the characters, and also on documents, especially “the chronicles of Cassandra Arenal Coe”, a Mexican joumalist. What Morales says about the language of these documents is interesting:

Coe wrote about 60 percent of her chronicles in Spanish; the other 40 percent, containing the most violent and graphic descriptions, she composed in English. It seems that the latter she designated for international publications. The interpretations of several outlined incidents and the translations are mine. I did the best I could (Morales, “Acknowledgments”).

6The author presents himself as a mediator, a translater, and he does so in a very modest way: “I did the best I could”. The question is, in other words, whether this is just a literary strategy, and the whole text is Morales’s invention, or, whether there is some kind of truth in what he writes in the acknowledgments? In that case it means that what we read in English is partially or mostly based on Spanish sources. When I asked the author directly about these so-called sources, he answered:

I translate many different kinds of texts: literary, joumalistic, historical, theoretical, comic, cartoons, words, painting, images, statues, bridges, buildings, clothing, music, film, water, stuffed animais, sounds, memories, etc. From a short paragraph in a newspaper article I might interpret and translate and Write several pages, or a chapter of a novel (Morales, Personal correspondence, April 2009).

  • 3 For an interesting study on Spanglish, see Morales (2002).

7This quotation makes it clear that Morales does not use the word “translation” in the strict sense of translating texts. For him, as a writer, it is equally important to take into account the “translation” of “images, statues, bridges, etc.”. This perception of “translation”, which goes beyond the textual, can be placed under the concept of “cultural translation”. As Delabastita and Grutman (2005: 14) explain, in this viewpoint “we understand ‘translation’ not just as an abstract or ‘technical’ operation between words and sentences, but as cultural events occurring, or significantly not occurring, between people and societies in the real world. This viewpoint entails a radical questioning of traditional divisions between disciplines”. In this paper, however, I will limit my analysis to textual or interlingual translation. I will examine where and how Spanish “survives” in the process of “translating” ail these “texts” in the novel. Morales does not use typographical indications to distinguish Spanish from the rest of the text. Nevertheless, Spanish can be detected at three different levels: without translation, with translation, and finally in English texts where Spanish is clearly the language of origin. It must be clarified from the beginning that this presence of Spanish does not mean that the language in this novel can be defined as “Chicano English” or “Chicano language”, at least not in the strict sense. Chicano language is basically Spanish, but composed of archaic Spanish, Náhuatl, Caló and English (Gutiérrez Martinez-Conde 1992: 53-56). In what follows, I will briefly analyze some cases of code-switching between English and Spanish3.

2. Analysis4

2.1. Spanish texts without translation

  • 5 Part 1: La vecindad de los placeres. Part 2: Descarnando la cabeza / Los Guadalupe / La fábrica del (...)

8The majority of the chapter titles are in English, but quite a few are in Spanish5. Spanish also frequently appears without translation in dialogues. Here, we distinguish two types of code-switching. In the first place, complete sentences in English alternate with complete sentences in Spanish. It reminds the Anglophone reader of the original context in which the dialogues happen. For instance: “¡Dios mío, insistes en los sacrificios!” (p. 47). From a closer look we see that, in most of these cases, what is reproduced in Spanish, are especially exclamations, strong expressions, or screams. E.g. “¡Ay, mamacita! ¡Las cosotas que hace Dios!” (p. 3). Remarkably, Spanish sentences express also insults as we see in “¡Drogaadictos!” “¡Putas fanáticas!” (p. 216). Prayers or exclamations with a religious character are in Spanish as well: ‘ “Ave Maria que estàs en los cielos...’ [...] ‘¡Ay, Jesús! ¡Mi Salvador!’ she screamed.” (p. 170). In several cases, these are the sentences the crowd is screaming, which makes Spanish the language of the collective voice. The second type of codeswitching happens when only a few Spanish words appear in sentences that are basically English, in syntax etc. For instance: “Por su culpa, five of my men are dead!” (p. 45). It is quite logical that this type of code-switching also appears in forms of address, as these are the words that are easily maintained in the foreign language, because they refer to family or friends: “No mi’ja, you must not be silent” (p. 176).

2.2. Spanish texts with English translation

9When Spanish appears with English translation, it is called “interpersonal autotranslation” (Jiménez Carra 2005: 46). This strategy is not frequent in Morales, although some examples can be found. The English translation appears in the same context, whether this is in the same sentence or in the next one. It can be in any order, Spanish-English or English-Spanish. For instance: “Angeles screamed that she carried el engendre de la maldad, the fetus of evil” (p. 36). The sentence is written in an “indirect style” that actually contains the words Angeles said, “el engendra de la maldad”, a strong and striking image. It requires necessarily translation for the monolingual reader, and for the bilingual reader the repetition has a stylistic effect. Translation is used explicitly to emphasize.

2.3. English texts that are translations of Spanish sources

10Mexican authors use a lot of intertextual references, specifically to Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. In Part 1, we read the following sentence: “Foolish men, you are the cause of what you censure” (p. 12). This sentence is whispered in English by J. I. and appears within quotation marks. The source text is also announced by the context. The sentence before expresses J. I.’s inner thoughts: “Frida painted to show her outrage; Sor Juana wrote poems that accused men of inciting women to do evil”. Even without the context it is easy to detect the source text as it refers to one of the most famous verses of Sor Juana: “hombres necios que acusáis/ a la mujer sin razón, / sin ver que sois la ocasión/ de lo mismo que culpáis”. The English sentence is not a literal translation, but a one-sentence summary of the four lines of the poem.

  • 6 Intertextual references in this novel are almost exclusively to Mexican authors. It must be said th (...)

11Morales also includes references to modem Mexican writers, and in the first place to Octavio Paz: “Four hundred plus years later, Octavio Paz reached back to Malintzín’s expérience and condemned her as the mother of Mexican psychosis. He branded her la traidora, la violada, la chingada, mother of all bastard mestizo Mexicans, and the cause of Mexican suffering” (p. 119). Morales strongly criticizes Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude. Paz’s vision is explained in English, but the key-words are kept in the original language: “la traidora, la violada, la chingada”. These are exactly the words that have reinforced the negative image that La Malinche already had in history. Another Mexican writer that appears in the novel is Carlos Monsiváis. There is an epigraph from Monsiváis (p. 1) and the famous Mexican chronicler also appears as a character in the novel, together with other great Mexican writers, in a strange excerpt, when they all “comment” briefly on the miracles realized by J. I. Not only the living writers Monsiváis, Poniatowska and Fuentes are mentioned, but also the dead, Paz, Revueltas and Castellanos (p. 221). Morales really ‘translates’ or ‘rewrites’ Mexican literature for his English-speaking readers6.

3. Living and writing in heterotopia

12It becomes clear that the choice to write in English is not any longer a question of “broadening the audience, the readership”, as Morales explained in 1996. When I recdently asked the author which kind of reader he has in mind while writing, he gave a quite different answer, which reveals an important change in his view:

I don’t know if I intentionally write for a particular reader. As the novel is created the reader is also created. I want the writing to be a challenge that attracts, captures, ensnares the reader in a kind of language web. I believe that in my books the reader is always exposed to two visions of the world translated through two languages. Even if the novel or story is completely written in Spanish or in English there is always the presence of the other language (the other vision) deep in the language that is being read by the reader (Morales, personal correspondence, April 2009).

  • 7 The same criticism appears at the end of the novel, where Morales reflects on a metafictional level (...)

13Language and vision are put on the same level. The Spanish language, as well as the Mexican/Latin American vision is always present in the English text of Waiting to Happen. If we compare this work by Morales with the oeuvre of another Chicano writer, Sandra Cisneros, there is an essential difference (it must be said that both authors are also completely different in style and topics). Sandra Cisneros, one of the bestselling Chicana authors, writes mainly in English. In her early work, she only introduces a few words in Spanish, while in her latest novel, Caramelo, Spanish is much more present. Cisneros uses Spanish words and phrases mostly to express emotions or nostalgie sentiment. Spanish is the language of dreams, of hope, of flavors (of Mexican food), of music (through quotes of lyrics of Latin American songs), of intimacy (Spanish is the preferred language when making love, cf. Van Hecke 2007). In Morales’s novel, on the contrary, Spanish emerges at very different levels, either much more complex or much more rationalized. It is also the language of emotions, but as aforementioned, it is not the same kind of émotions as in Cisneros; neither can we talk of an exotic function of Spanish. In this novel, Spanish appears especially when tensions mounts, when there is anger and violence, when people shout and scream, when they insult, or when there is fear. Already in 1992, Gustavo Sainz wrote: “Alejandro Morales is the most ambitious, the most arrogant, the most complex and the most irascible of Chicano authors” (Sainz in Morales 1992: 449, “Acerca del autor”, my translation). I very much agree with this characterization of the author and it is still applicable to his recent work. It is, therefore, not surprising that Morales is critical of other Chicano writers also when it cornes to language: “Today there are writers publishing in major houses who salt and pepper their novels with Spanish words perhaps to make them more commercial, more poetic, more culturally diverse” (Morales in Gurpegui 1996: 8)7. Morales’s work is not a typical case of Chicano literature, wich is still considered a “minor” literature in the United States. This novel clearly illustrates that Chicano literature is not only the expression of the discrimination of a population in a formerly colonised space. Morales goes beyond traditional boundaries by showing different and often oppositional views of Mexico and the United States. For him, the Southern United States and Mexico form one area: it stretches seamlessly from Los Angeles to Mexico City and vice versa. It is his vision of “heterotopia”, a concept that Morales uses frequently in Foucault’s sense of the word, as a space “perceptible only by change”, a space “accommodating a wealth of displacement of different entities” (Morales in Gurpegui 1996: 22-23). The concept of heterotopia is used not only to characterize the borderlands, but also Mexico City. This space called “heterotopia”, a palimpsest of space and time, a fragmented area (Spires 2002: 287), is exactly what Morales represents in Waiting to Happen, especially through the main character. J. I. is a perfect example of a person living in this multilingual and conflictive culture, between the U. S. and Mexico.

  • 8 In his essay “Dynamic Identifies in Heterotopia”, Morales recalls the difficulties and lack of inte (...)
  • 9 Already in 1927, the Mexican anthropologist Manuel Gamio held a linguistic survey among Mexicans. O (...)

14What makes Mexico especially interesting is its history and mythology. Ancient myths still have an immense power. In the novel, the birth of the monster-cyclope Endriago is a reinterpretation of the myth of the impregnation of the goddess Coatlicue and the birth of Huitzilopochtli. This is an example of how Morales restores the myths of ancient Mexico and “translates” them into an unstable and conflictive modem context. Reference is also made to historical figures who became popular myths, such as la Malinche, Sor Juana and Frida Kahlo. J. I. communicates with these spirits. Waiting to Happen ranges between magic realism and social realism. There is a very strong denunciation of social injustices, whether in the U. S. or Mexico. On the one hand, the author criticizes the marginalization of Chicanos within the U. S. and the subaltern position of Mexico as a result of its domination by the U. S. On the other hand, he directs his criticism at the Mexican government and Mexicans in general. At the end of the novel, there is a comment on the way Mexicans view the Chicanos8: “Chicanos and ethnicity had become popular subjects [in Mexico City] to the point that Chicanos were now more tolerated, even when they stumbled over the Spanish language” (p. 234). It is true that in the past, Mexicans did not tolerate the deterioration of Spanish by the Chicanos9. This situation has indeed recently changed. Mexicans have started to show interest in Chicano culture and are more tolerant ofthe language (s) Chicanos use.

15For Americans in Mexico City, there is a newspaper published in English, the Mexico City News. Morales mentions it a lot, amongst other Mexican newspapers. Morales not only reflects the bilingual situation of Spanish in the U. S., but also the presence of English in Mexico City. Displacement, in other words, occurs in both directions. English newspapers are of course common in all major cities in the world, but the interesting thing is that for a Chicano the Spanish newspapers are not enough. He needs the English daily as well. For Morales’s so-called “research”, the Mexico City News is as important as are the others.

  • 10 Calpulli: organizational unit of different families, calmecac: school, telpochtlatoque: teacher, am (...)
  • 11 The association with Disneylandia is not arbitrary. In his essay “Dynamic Identities in Heterotopia (...)

16The fact of not understanding, of not knowing a language, has implications for all of our surroundings, even nature: “Birds darted across the sky, leaving colored blurs on the surface of Vanessa’s vision. Like the Indians, the birds sang in a language she did not understand. Vanessa stood alone amidst the grandeur of the flora and fauna of an unfamiliar expanse.” (p. 76). This image reflects the strangeness of being in an unfamiliar place surrounded by people whose language you do not understand as if it were the song of the birds. As this image shows, things get even more complicated. It is not only a matter of bilingualism as there is a third language involved, the one the Indians speak: Nahuatl. In some cases, these Nahuatl words are directly translated into English, i.e. when they appear for the first time, e.g. “a Tlamantini, an elder priest” (p. 124). In other cases, they appear without translation: “The calpulli temples, the calmecac, the telpochtlatoque, and the amoxcalli had been obliterated10 (p. 127). For Morales, multilingualism is not a matter of two or three languages, but many. In 1996 the author explained: “Today in Southern California approximately eighty languages are spoken. Each has a literature that should be recognized and developed. Multilingualism is a fact and the future.” (Morales in Gurpegui 1996: 20). Southern California is finally the place where J. I. returns after her long and turbulent stay in Mexico. Theplace she retums to is called “bizarre Aztlandia” (p. 247). “Aztlandia” seems to be an invention of Morales, a neologism or a transformation from Aztlan, and it may be significant that the new word is formed with a Spanish ending, “-landia”, as in Finlandia, Islandia, and even Disneylandia, another “magical” or “fantastic” entity in Southern California11. In the twenty-first century, it is impossible for Morales to restore Aztlan as an exclusively Chicano space. Aztlan is nothing but “a memory, a myth, a ‘no space’” (Albaladejo Martinez 2007: 564-565, my translation).

4. Conclusion

17As we saw at the beginning, Morales uses the concept of “translation” not in a strict, but in a very wide sense of the term. Translating images, statues, bridges, music..., it all forms part of the same act of writing. In the next quotation he even underlines other aspects of his task as a “translater”:

I am a “Translator/Creator” “Traductor/Creador” [...]. I translate not only the words, but also the paper on which the words appear and also how the words look, are they big or small, are they printed or cursive, typed or computerized, sloppy or neat etc. I translate not only what they say, what they mean but how they feel to me (Morales, Personal correspondence, April 2009).

  • 12 Ramón Saldívar explains this aspect of Chicano literature as follows: “In Chicano narrative the his (...)

18This quotation reveals that for Morales translation cannot be reduced to the simple act of translating words. His role as a translator necessarily includes all these other aspects that are linked together. His way of considering translation and including paper, typeface, and the feeling they transmit, is actually understandable if we think of what Chicano authors in general have been trying to do for a long time. One of their greatest challenges has not been to translate Mexican history or Mexican texts for their audiences in the U. S., irrespective of whether they are Chicanos. Instead, one of their strongest desires has always been to restore the forgotten history of the Chicanos, the one that has been silenced by official American history, the one that can only be found in the empty spaces between the words, between the lines12. There is no doubt Morales takes his rôle as a “translator”, in the widest sense of the term, very seriously. For him, it seems that being a Creative writer is only possible by being a good translator.



Albaladejo Martínez Manuel, « La presencia del español en la literatura escrita en los Estados Unidos: La literatura chicana », Arscreatio, 30 Oct. 2008, 1: 2006, http://www.arscreatio.eom/l/articulos/009-chicana.asp.

– , Hacia una cartografia de Los Ángeles en la literatura chicana, Universidad de Alicante, Tesis Doctoral, 2007.,pdf?incr=1

Delabastita Dirk & Grutman Rainier (eds), Fictionalising Translation and Multilingualism, special issue of Linguistica Antverpiensia (New Series), 2005, 4.

Gamio Manuel, El Inmigrante mexicano, Mexico, Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales-UNAM, 1969, p. 122-173.

Gauvin Lise, « Frontiers of language and frontiers of narrative », Comparative Literature Studies, 2005, 42: 4, p. 328-344.

Gutiérrez Martínez-Conde J., Literatura y sociedad en el mundo chicano. Incluye... y no se lo tragó la tierra de Tomás Rivera, Madrid, Ediciones de la Torre, 1992.

Gurpeguí José Antonio, Alejandro Morales: Fiction Past, Present, Future Perfect, Arizona: Bilingual Review/Press, 1996.

Hermans Hub. & Francisco Lasarte (eds), Foro Hispánico 9, Literatura Chicana, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Rodopi, 1995.

Herrera-Sobek Maria, « The Monstrous Imagination: Cyclope Representation in Art and Literature, Díaz-Oliva and Alejandro Morales » in M. Herrera-Sobek, F. Lomelí & J. A. Perles Rochel (eds), Perspectivas transatlánticas en la literatura chicana. Ensayos y creatividad, Málaga, Universidad de Malaga, 2002, p. 161-166.

Jiménez Carra Nieves, « Estrategias de cambio de codigo y su traducción en la novela de Sandra Cisneros Caramelo or Puro Cuento », TRANS: revista de traductologia, 2005, 9, p. 37-60.

López López Margarita, « Narrativa histórica posmoderna: utopía en la historia. Voces heteróclitas en Waiting to Happen de Alejandro Morales » (s.d.).

Morales Alejandro, Reto en el paraíso, Grijalbo, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1992.

– , Waiting to Happen, San José, CA, Chusma House Publications, 2001.

Morales Ed., Living in Spanglish. The search for Latino Identity in America, New York, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002.

Rosales Jesús, La Narrativa de Alejandro Morales: encuentro, historia y compromiso social, New York, Peter Lang, 1999.

Spires Adam C., « El lado grotesco de la pureza y el impulso distópico en Waiting to Happen de Alejandro Morales » in M. Herrera-Sobek, F. Lomelí & J. A. Perles Rochel (eds), Perspectivas transatlánticas en la literatura chicana. Ensayos y creatividad, Málaga, Universidad de Málaga, 2002, p. 287-299.

Van Hecke An, « Espacios heterotópicos y mágicos en The rag doll plagues de Alejandro Morales » in R. De Maeseneer (ed.), Convergencias e interferencias: escribir desde los borde (r) s, Valencia, Excultura, 2001, p. 179-194.

Van Hecke An, « De la carencia al deseo del idioma. La tension lingüistica en la narrativa de Sandra Cisneros », V Congreso Europeo CEISAL de Latinoamericanistas, Brussels, April 2007, forthcoming.


1 In 2005 Morales published a volume of three short stories, Pequeña Nación, in Spanish (Turlock CA: Orbis Press). Morales’s last novel was published in 2008, The Captain of All These Men of Death (Tempe, Arizona: Bilingual Press / Editorial Bilingüe). It is written in English.

2 From now on, when I quote from the novel Waiting to Happen, I will only add the page.

3 For an interesting study on Spanglish, see Morales (2002).

4 For this analysis, I got inspired by the triple scheme established by Nieves Jiménez Carra (2005) in her study of code-switching in the work of Sandra Cisneros: “1 . Término en espanol y su traducción en inglés, 2. Espanol sin traducciôn, 3. Otras estrategias”. Although it is a very useful scheme, I did not follow it strictly.

5 Part 1: La vecindad de los placeres. Part 2: Descarnando la cabeza / Los Guadalupe / La fábrica del patrón / Las encueractrizes. Part 3: Un iluso / Una periodista / Un periodista / Autoanálisis / No confirmado. Part 4: La bella y loca / Un espectáculo en Bellas Artes / Dios es acción / El pamaso. Part 5: Arranquen el corazón / La luna / La condenada biblioteca.

6 Intertextual references in this novel are almost exclusively to Mexican authors. It must be said that there are no intertextual references, at least not in any explicit or visible way, to American writers.

7 The same criticism appears at the end of the novel, where Morales reflects on a metafictional level on being a Chicano writer (p. 235).

8 In his essay “Dynamic Identifies in Heterotopia”, Morales recalls the difficulties and lack of interest he experienced in Mexico with several publishing houses in his attempt to publish his first novel, Caras viejas y vino nuevo. He remembers how they let him wait until he finally went to Joaquin Mortiz who accepted the manuscript for publication (Morales in Gurpegui 1996: 18).

9 Already in 1927, the Mexican anthropologist Manuel Gamio held a linguistic survey among Mexicans. One of the results was that Mexicans simply did not like Chicanos because they wanted to speak English and they spoke very bad Spanish (Gamio 1969).

10 Calpulli: organizational unit of different families, calmecac: school, telpochtlatoque: teacher, amoxcalli: library.

11 The association with Disneylandia is not arbitrary. In his essay “Dynamic Identities in Heterotopia”, Morales writes: “The heterotopian ambience of Southern California, the ceaseless creation of fantasy, mythology, and mytography is generated from three principal entities: Hollywood, Disneyland, and the border” (Morales in Gurpegui 1996: 24).

12 Ramón Saldívar explains this aspect of Chicano literature as follows: “In Chicano narrative the history of the people [the Chicanos] is the subtext which must be recovered from the oblivion to which American social and literary history have consigned it. Our literary texts will show how aesthetic and cultural productions often turn out to be the ideological rewritings of that banished history” (Saldívar in Hermans and Lasarte 1995: 32). López López also refers to this reading between the lines in Morales’s work, to the blanks that are left by the official history (López López n.d.: 3).


Department of Applied Language Studies. Lessius/K.U. Leuven, Belgique.

© Artois Presses Université, 2011

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