Response # 2

AnnMarie Mark

Professor Alvarez

English 255

27 February 2012

“A Study of Symbolism and Obligation to Latin Society”: Identification and Exposure in Luis Leal’s “In Search of Aztlan” and Eugenio Maria De Hostos’ “League of Puerto Rican Patriots”

The Pioneer of Chicano Literature

Throughout literary tradition in America, the most notable critics belong to the Anglo-Saxon male. However, Luis Leal (1907-2010) a Mexican writer and critic of Latino literature immigrated to the United States. Leal’s prominence stems from establishing Mexican and Chicano literature. Chicano Literature focuses on the struggles and challenges of the Latino within society. As a critic, Leal believes in closely evaluating and analyzing literature particularly dealing with a group of people or community. Leal’s method of criticism identifies symbolism that has significance to the community. His critique correlates with a Marxist approach because of such factors as social, economic, historical, and psychological. In his essay “In Search of Aztlan” Leal writes:

In the case of Chicano literature, a literature that has emerged as a consequence of the fight for social and human rights, most of the symbols have been taken from the surrounding social environment […] Chicano literary symbolism cannot be separated from Chicano cultural background. […] We must consult the large bibliography that already exists and pertains to the social, racial, linguistic, and educational problems that the Chicano has confronted since 1848 (Leal 552-553)

Leal’s focus shows a relationship between the author and their community while identifying the reasons behind the specific diction, and literary symbols that inhabit a particular piece of literature. Leal believes that symbols take the reader outside of the material to bring forth an emotion that relates to the symbol. He recognizes that the symbols at times only have significance to the particular community that identifies with the specific literature. Leal deems “literary symbolism” and “Chicano cultural background” as one. He says that they “cannot be separated”. He delves into the injustices that pertain to the identity of the Chicano, such as “social, racial, linguistic, and educational”. Leal directly points out the symbolism of the Aztlan, and the meaning it holds to the Chicano. Leal describes the Aztlan as a “black eagle in the white circle over a red background”. The eagle symbolizes the Chicano and the success of the farm worker’s union who fought to improve living standards. This symbol has importance to the Chicano, just as the bald American eagle which represents freedom and strength, has significance to the American. These symbols both derive from a historical and a spiritual past. The Aztlan eagle produces an inherent feeling of pride among the Chicanos that they will possess no matter where they live.

Citizen of the Americas
Latinos have dealt with constant struggles mainly pertaining to social, political, civil, and human rights. Throughout the years many intellectuals from Latino descent steadily fought for civil liberties for their people. Known as the “Citizen of the Americas”, Eugenio Maria De Hostos (1839-1903) of Puerto Rican descent excelled as an educator, a sociologist, a philosopher, a journalist, and a creative writer. At an early age Hostos became deeply involved in Puerto Rico’s challenges with attaining political freedom which also includes the abolition of slavery. Most of Hostos’ writings deal with moral concerns along with philosophical, sociological, educational and political. In 1898, he established the League of Puerto Rican Patriots which articulates a determination and pursuance of rights for the Puerto Rican natives after the United States annexed the land. In a speech delivered in 1898, Hostos says:

Our presence and attendance at this Assembly is compelled by the fulfillment of our duty; it is a response to our belief that we have an obligation as Puerto Ricans, working towards the improvement of the social, economic, and political welfare of our people […] The political goal is less important to the League in comparison to the social objectives […] It is indispensible for education to encompass at the same time social, civic and military concerns (Hostos 250).

Hostos’ passion to provide Puerto Ricans with appropriate means for progression reflects his undeniable passion that speaks from the heart. The abundance of words in his speech demonstrates his dedication. Hostos believes that the League along with himself has a “fulfillment of duty”. Hostos says that “we have an obligation as Puerto Ricans, working towards improvement of the social, economic, and political welfare of our people.” But, he also stresses that the political goal pales in comparison to the efforts by the League to acquire a social development of the country which focuses on education. Hostos believes that education equals knowledge and freedom. He believes that Puerto Ricans should acquire a wealth of education which includes a balanced variety of topics not excluding social, civic and military.
While Leal critiques the social, economic, political, and historical struggles of the Chicano during his time through literature, Hostos uses activism as a means to voice his unconditional passion for knowledge and freedom during the span of his life. Hostos encompasses autonomy and progression. Both men in their own rite evoke the idea of Marxism because they use the wrongs in society to bring about social change or understanding. Leal identifies the wrongs through literature, and Hostos identifies on the forefront.

Works Cited
Leal, Luis. “In Search of Aztlan”. Trans. Gladys Leal. The Norton Anthology of Latino
Literature, Eds. Ilan Stavans, Edna Acosta-Belen, Harold Augenbraum, Maria
Herrera- Sobek, Rolando Hinojosa and Gustavo Perez Firmat. New York: W.W.
Norton & Company, 2011. 551-58. Print.

De Hostos, Eugenio Maria. “League of Puerto Rican Patriots”. Trans. Edna Acosta-Belen
and Susan P. Liberis-Hill. The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature, Eds. Ilan
Stavans, Edna Acosta-Belen, Harold Augenbraum, Maria Herrera-Sobek,
Rolando Hinojosa and Gustavo Perez Firmat. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2011.
248-52. Print.

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