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Campobello’s Cartuchos and Cisneros’s Molotovs: Transborder Revolutionary Feminist Narratives

  • Author(s): Gano, Geneva M.
  • et al.
Abstract

Though “revolutionary” acts and attitudes were frequently claimed in various civil rights–era movements in the US, this article considers the specific meaning of the term in a Mexican-Chicano context through a simultaneous examination of Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street (1984) and Nellie Campobello’s Cartucho: relatos de la lucha en el norte de México (1931).  By way of a formal allusion to Campobello’s revolutionary text, Cisneros forces her readers to reconsider Mango Street from a hemispheric perspective, prompting new readings of her work. Most broadly, it resituates the text within a broader Latino tradition of the modern testimonio, which demands recognition of its sociopolitical significance. More specifically, the formal connection Cisneros forges insists on a similarity between the violent spaces of the post-WWII barrio and revolutionary Durango. Thus Cisneros collapses national and temporal distinctions that would assure US readers (Cisneros’s main audience) that poverty, violence, and revolution cannot happen here. To Gano, this radical use of form threatens not just literary conventions (this is not simply an assertion of “revolutionary style”) but also contains the suggestive threat that the barrio is a potential site of revolution, inseparable from violent acts. That this is a woman-centered story is significant: Cisneros’s kindling world is comprised largely of women and children who are inundated with daily episodes of violence. Often dismissed as political actors, these individuals are transformed in Cisneros’s work into potential revolutionaries.

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