Introduction to Latina and Latino Literature/Jovita Gonzalez

Jovita Gonzalez edit

Brief Biography edit

Born on January 18th, 1904, Jovita González (also known as Jovita Gonzales de Mireles) was born on her grandparents' ranch near Roma, Texas. There is some controversy as to the exact date of her birth but there is agreement as to the year, as claimed by Oxford Bibliographies, finding that she was born the same year as the arrival of the St. Louis, Brownsville, and Mexico Railway to the Rio Grande Valley in 1904. As a child, her father, who was a teacher in Mier, Tamaulipas, forbid her to speak English at home and this made it difficult for Gonzales when the family moved from Tamaulipas to San Antonio in 1910. At this time, the Mexican Revolution was in full swing, as Mexican immigrants left Mexico for parts of Texas.

Prior to the move, her father educated her but once in Texas, she attended schools in Roma and San Antonio. As claimed by the Texas State Historical Association, Jovita Gonzalez went on to receive a B.A. in Spanish from Our Lady of the Lake College in San Antonio after leaving the University of Texas at Austin. In 1929, Gonzales became affiliated with Junta del Club de Bellas Artes, a middle-class organization of Mexican- descent women and would go on to become a pioneer in Mexican folklore in the Rio Grande valley as well as becoming one of the first Texas Mexicans to earn a Master’s degree and work as a professor. Her master's thesis, written in 1930, "Social Life in Cameron, Starr, and Zapata Counties," was one of a few produced at the time that did not view Mexicans as a social problem. After earning her M.A., in 1935, Gonzalez married Edmundo E. Mireles, after meeting at the University of Texas while they were both teaching at the school.

In her career, Jovita Gonzalez is best known for writing Caballero, which she wrote in collaboration with Margaret Eimer (also known as Eve Raleigh). Described by the Texas State Historical Association as “a historical romance that inscribes and interprets the impact of the United States’ power and culture on the former Mexican northern provinces as they were being politically redefined into the American Southwest in the mid-nineteenth century,” Caballero has been considered the standout of Gonzalez’s writing career. Gonzales and Eimer worked on the novel in the late 1930’s throughout the 1940’s by mailing the manuscript from one to the other. It took Jovita Gonzalez twelve years to compile the information for Cabellero and she did so from memoirs, family history, and historical sources. In 1983 González de Mireles died of natural causes in Corpus Christi, where she was recognized as a local historian. The Mexican Americans in Texas History Conference, organized by the Texas State Historical Association, honored her in 1991. Her papers are housed at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin and in the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University-San Marcos.

Place In Latina/o Literature edit

According to Humanities Texas, Jovita Gonzalez’s legacy began to flourish following her death and her two novels, Dew on the Thorn and Caballero, were published. Literary scholars regard the two historical romances as closely detailed accounts of the turbulent racial conflicts which ravaged the Texas-Mexico border. Likewise, they highlight what she spent her life doing- chronicling “the beauty of faith, of lore, and of tradition, amidst the sufferings of life.”

Analysis of Specific Text edit

Like Jovita Gonzalez, themes such as policing women’s sexuality and being ostracized from the community are similarly seen in the works of Americo Paredes. As in the story “Macaria’s Daughter”, we see Marcella’s sexuality being curbed from a young age by her mother and once older and married, it is further curtailed by her husband. She is also ostracized from the community due to her mother’s reputation whereby the women of the community saw her as both a sexual threat and a threat to their chastity. She has been verbally depredated and it aids her husband’s decision to murder his wife.

Likewise, the theme of cultural conflict is evident in both author’s works. As in Gonzalez’s two previously mentioned works, Macaria is the envy of her community because she has seemingly ascended from Mexican culture into that of America by means unacceptable to the community. In “The Hammon and Beans,” the characters are similarly at conflict with American culture and struggle to maintain their Mexican traditions or way of life under the dominant influence of the American army base.

Analysis Of Specific Text edit

In her works, “Without A Soul” and “The Woman Who Lost Her Soul,” Jovita Gonzalez explores themes such as shame and regret. In the former piece, González tells the story of an affair between Carmen and Julio, which also involves Carmen’s best friend and Julio’s fiancée, Rosario. Carmen, Julio, and Rosario each suffered greatly as a result of the affair, with Rosario committing suicide after she learns of the affair and leaving Carmen and Julio to bear the shame as the news of their transgression reaches the community. As the conversation between Carmen and Don Francisco goes on, it becomes evident the extent to which Carmen suffers from her “sin”. Though Julio leaves the town, Carmen remains and takes on the identity of “La Desalmada,” an accursed woman without a soul, for she believes that Rosario’s spirit tortures her on earth and has taken her soul to Hell. The story ends with a toad entering the room and Carmen screaming of panic. As it stares at her, she moans, “My soul is gone- My soul is lost.”

The latter work, “The Woman Who Lost Her Soul,” operates as an explication of “Without A Soul”, picking up where it left off. After Carmen falls to the ground with convulsions, Don Francisco visits the priest. Upon his visit, the priest reveals to Don Francisco the severity of the shame and regret which Maria feels which, in addition to being responsible for Rosario’s death and being ostracized within the community, she was also abandoned by her parents, who he sees more at fault than her. As the priest explains, her parents spoiled her, encouraged her behavior, and took pride in her conquest. Carmen has suffered the loss of love, friends, family, and community. The story concludes with Carmen being taken away, her peace returned to her with her soul in tow.

This shared theme of shame and regret are so prominently featured by the author as an attempt to bring light to the other forces which attribute to Carmen being so engrossed by these feelings. As Don Francisco revealed, Carmen’s parents are partially responsible for the affair as well as the community for their reaction to the news. The story also has strong implications as to the abandonment and displacement children, such as Carmen, feel when they commit transgressions when it is the job of their parents and the community to forgive and guide them. Without such reprieve, the story would seemingly perpetuate Carmen’s treatment and continued detrimental influence of both parents and the community.

Literary Criticism edit

Despite being regarded as her most prominent work, González’s Caballero faced criticism stemming from how it is categorized. Literary scholars who identify themselves as Chicano find it problematic that the story was co-written by González, a Mexican- American, and Eimer, an Anglo-American. This made scholars question the books authenticity. Likewise, critics took issue with González’s aristocratic heritage and relationship with J. Frank Dobie, whose “paternalistic attitude toward Mexicans is much maligned.

Link to Online Copies of Text edit

Miscellaneous Links edit

Texas State Historical Association

Humanities Texas

Mexican Revolution

Syllabi edit

Bibliography of Secondary Sources edit

•Kaup, Monika. “The Unstable Hacienda: The Rhetoric Of Progress In Jovita Gonzalez And Eve Raleigh’s Caballero” Modern Fiction Studies 51.3 (2005)

•Lopez-Pelaez Casellas, Mila "What about the Girls? Estrategias narrativas de resistencia en la primera literatura chicana" (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2012)

Limón, Jose E. “Folklore, Gendered Repression, and Cultural Critique: The Case of Jovita Gonzalez” Texas Studies in Literature and Language Vol. 35 No. 4, Fluid Boundaries: Essays in Honor of the Life and Work of Joan Lidoff (WINTER 1993), pp. 453-473

•Limón, Jose E. “Nations, Regions, and Mid-Nineteenth-Century Texas: History In ‘On The Long Tide’ and ‘Caballero’” Amerikastudien / American Studies, Vol. 53, No. 1, The Americans in the Nineteenth Century: Inter-American Perspectives on U.S. Literature (2008), pp. 97-111

•Manriquez, B.J. “Argument In Narrative: Tropology In Jovita Gonzalez’s Caballero” Bilingual Review / La Revista Bilingile, Vol. 25, No. 2 (May – August 2000), pp. 172-178

•Rodriguez, J. Javier. “Caballero’s Global Continuum: Time and Place in South Texas” MELUS, Vol. 33, No. 1, Race Space, and “National” Boundaries (Spring 2008), pp. 117-138

References edit