As a young woman, now confident on my femininity and identity, I have a keen interest in feminism, particularly in the indigenous one since I find it closer to our experiences and national identity.
And so I stopped at Ana Castillo because her literature and feminism are different. Most Chicana literature is about being different, hence oppressed. It is about injustice, sufferance, inbetweenness. It is the literature of the victims. However, Castillo's literature is refreshing and her feminism is milder and more balanced. It does not advocate for a world without men; it does not encourage feelings of hatred towards men. Instead, it proposes a multi-nucleus society by challenging the old dichotomy between the One (the male, the concrete, the centre of the social system) and the Other (the female, the unseen, the peripheral). Hence, through her feminism, Castillo does not aim to inhabit the nucleus of the One's world; nor that of white women. What it seeks to accomplish is to create a multi-centred society, with a nucleus for each ethnic group, freely and equally interrelating with each other.
For Ana Castillo Los Estados Unidos is a land of Xicanistas, a term coined by her to represent her (and her gente's) feminism when she felt that the mainstream movement failed to illustrate their experiences, their lives. Thus, Los Estados Unidos is a land in which Xicanistas fight back. They resist, revolt, inform and create. They live according to their needs and their desires. They dream, hope, love. They exist; and they do so under various selves. They are gradually or in the same time soldaderas, Gritonas, curandera, virgins, saints, mothers, lovers. They are everything they need and want to be.
I strongly believe that Ana Castillo's strength as a writer of novels comes not from her intricate, at times miraculous and humorous plots, but from her female characters and from the readers being able to identify with them. Castillo wrote for&about beautiful, strong, confident, unique, mysterious brown women. But above all, she wrote about herself and the various aspects of being different.
Hence, I believe Castillo's novel So Far from God should be read not as the story of a five member family (the sixth, Domingo, being more absent than present), but as the individual, the independent stories of Sofia's four-fated daughters, who are magnetized to the centre, drawn together towards Sofia, the all-encompassing self, the survivor. Her daughters are all facets of herself: Esperanza – Fe – Caridad – La Loca. Hope – faith – charity – saintliness.
The fact that only Fe (the one trying to live the American Dream) died properly shows that only this aspect has disappeared from little Sofi's intricate self. She no longer wants to achieve and live the Great White Way. With the other three daughters miraculously disappearing (Esperanza in a war zone, Caridad experiencing a miraculous and magnificent descend into earth, and La Loca's transcendental departure), we feel that one by one a shadow is cast on each of these aspects of Sofia's personality, though continuing to exist. All but her faith in the American Dream.
All in all, Castillo's world is the world of Xicanistas who finally have a room of their own and are now furnishing it with hope, strength, beauty and femininity.
Tonantzín Reborn (Mosaic Mural) by Colette Crutcher – detail
|Coatlicue, the all-encompassing deity|