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Moraga and revolt (Emily McGinn)

October 18, 2009

Though our focus for Heroes and Saints will likely be focused on toxicity, and the disproportionate effects of contamination on poor and working class peoples, there are some connections to a larger history of victimization that I was hoping you  could help me work through.

On page 102 (or the last lines of Act I: Scene 5) Jaun and Cerezita are discussing the idea that the poor will lead the rich into heaven. Juan cites Rosario Castellanos’ Balún Canán while Cerezita adds that it was a Mayan concept first.  The invocation of Castellanos is interesting to me. Her work The Book of Lamentations is a fictionalized account of the Chiapas rebellions of 1869 in which a Tzotzil woman functioning as a spiritual leader, leads an uprising against the ladino establishment. The uprising includes the crucifixion of a child martyr.  Though I have not read Balún Canán, the title itself is the Mayan name for current day Comitàn, the seat of government in Chiapas (wiki) and the book picks up similar themes of indigenous rebellion this time through a child female visionary (Balun).

Given the overlapping themes of female visionary, crucifixion, and child martyrs, do these change the way we think of uprising in Heroes and Saints? If we link Moraga to Castellanos, can we link the contemporary plight of farm workers with the continuing plight of “indios” in Central and South America? Is this scenario just one in a long history of land disputes and oppression? How does the land specifically connect to each group of people? To women specifically? Can we then make ties to Refuge?

Also, how does the re- appropriation of Catholic/Christian iconography figure into the structure of rebellion? Is it a reclamation of land and a simultaneous reclamation of philosophic and ideological identity from a colonial past?

Though these questions may be a bit off topic from the rest of the items we’re reading this week, they were stuck in my intellectual craw and seemed worth a bit of exploring. I’d love to hear what you think.

1981 Ester Hernandez screenprint. Image courtesy of Ester Hernandez screenprint.

Image courtesy ofán,_Chiapas

One Comment leave one →
  1. kmckimps permalink
    October 18, 2009 7:21 pm

    After reading the play, I couldn’t help but feel that though the attempt was made to portray Cerezita as a radical kind of fisher king, her attempts would be unsuccessful. Burning the crops protests the poisons akin to a–pardon the pun–“scorched earth” policy, but it also serves to destroy the town’s industry. The appropriation of cultural identity into the religious iconagraphy seemed to emphasize the religious wasteland of the beginning.

    If it is a redemption, I think it of the hardest kind, forcing the population to move out, and thereby stop the poisoning, allowing the land to heal but at the cost of displacing a culture and a people.

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