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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   



12. Migrant
Struggle


•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Rudolfo A. Anaya
- Carlos Bulosan
- Robinson Jeffers
- Alberto Ríos
- Tomas Rivera
- Muriel Rukeyser
- Upton Sinclair
- John Steinbeck
- Henry David Thoreau
- Helena Maria Viramontes
- Suggested
Author
Pairings
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Helena Maria Viramontes (b. 1954)

Protest for Legislature to Improve Conditions [for Migrant Farm Workers]
[6125] Anonymous, Protest for Legislature to Improve Conditions [for Migrant Farm Workers] (1969), courtesy of the Denver Public Library, Western History Collection.

Helena Maria Viramontes Activities
This link leads to artifacts, teaching tips and discussion questions for this author.
Viramontes is a Chicana writer who was born in East Los Angeles, California. She attended Immaculate Heart College and the University of California, Irvine. She is co-founder of the Southern California Latino Writers and Film Makers group and teaches at Cornell University. Her first published book of short stories, "The Moth" and Other Stories (1985), focuses on everyday oppression in the lives of ordinary women, mostly Chicanas. In 1993 she published Paris Rats in E.L.A., which she also rewrote as a screenplay. Her best-known work, the 1995 novel Under the Feet of Jesus, portrays the life of Estrella, a young migrant worker who must cope with the many difficult situations in which she and her family find themselves. Viramontes's most recent novel is Their Dogs Came with Them (1996), which explores the brutality of the Spanish Conquest of the Americas. Viramontes's powerful style is sweepingly realistic in scope and uses natural and religious symbolism.

Because Viramontes believes that writing can bring about social change, she tackles social issues in her work. In Feminism on the Border, Sonia Saldivar-Hull notes that many of Viramontes's works are not typical Latina "quest for origins" stories but rather seek to transform and rework concepts of the Chicano family. They tend to disrupt the notion of the monolithic Latino/a family as a refuge from racism and class exploitation and instead relocate "chicano families from secretive, barricaded sites of male rule to contested terrains where girls and women perform valued rituals that do not necessarily adhere to androcentric familial traditions." According to Saldivar-Hull, Viramontes's work permits both Chicanas and Chicanos to exist as unique subjects in a U.S. Latino/a America.



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