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A Chicana Hagiography for the Twenty-first Century

Ana Castillo’s Locas Santas
  • Rita Cano Alcalá
Part of the New Directions in Latino American Cultures book series (NDLAC)

Abstract

In many ways it is no surprise that a novel set in a small town in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of New Mexico—where penitent brothers and miracle-seeking pilgrims visit the sacred grounds of Chimayó—would integrate the medieval religious genre of the vidas de santos (the lives of saints). In the vidas de santos, miracles and exemplary lives were portrayed to enseñar deleitando (teach by entertaining), with one writer, Gonzalo de Berceo, being described as an intermediary between the science of the clergy and the ignorance of the masses. Rather than represent the lives of martyred saints as role models to emulate, however, Ana Castillo’s So Far from God1 calls attention to martyrdoms that must be eliminated. The novel seeks to inspire with “saintly” examples of extraordinary everyday people who struggle to improve their own and others’ lives in a turn-of-the-century milieu of illness, poverty, and war. So Far from God aims to raise consciousness, to concientizar its readers in the spirit of Castillo’s somewhat apocalyptic Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma.2 At the same time, it entertains readers in a way that the essays of Massacre of the Dreamers could not. The vidas of these locas santas are related by an entertaining chismosa (gossip) in what has been described as a telenovela (soap opera) tone that, like the Spanish-inflected language and use of dichos (popular sayings), lightens their didactic overtones. So Far from God enseña deleitando and shows how humor, too, can be a tool against oppression.

Keywords

Unfair Labor Practice American Dream Compulsive Gambling Moral Lesson Catholic Doctrine 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Ana Castillo, So Far from God (New York, London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1993).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ana Castillo, Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Jacques Lafaye, Quetzalcóatl and Guadalupe: The Formation of Mexican National Consciousness 1531–1813. Trans. Benjamin Keen. Foreword by Octavio Paz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 224.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Enid Alvarez, “La increible historia de la santa Loca y sus martirizadas her-manas,” Las formas de nuestras voces: Chicana and Mexicana Writers in Mexico. Ed. Claire Joysmith (México, D.F.: UNAM/Centro de Investigaciones sobre América del Norte, 1995), 141–151.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Aurelio M. Espinosa, “New-Mexican Spanish Folk-Lore,” Journal of American Folklore 23 (1910): 400–402. According to Espinosa, the malogra or malora (from mala hora [bad hour]) “is an evil spirit which wanders about in the darkness of the night at the cross-roads and other places. It terrorizes the unfortunate ones who wander alone at night, and has usually the form of a large lock or wool or the whole fleece of a sheep…. It presages ill fate, death, or the like…. It is also generally believed that a persona who sees la malora … forever remains senseless.”CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 22.
    Theresa Delgadillo, “Forms of Chicana Feminist Resistance: Hybrid Spirituality in Ana Castillo’s So Far From God,” Modern Fiction Studies 44.4 (1998): 888–916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 29.
    A New Mexican apparition dating to the seventeenth century and thought to be a Franciscan nun, Mother Maria de Jesús, from the convent in Agreda, would appear to warn the native people of the Franciscans’ impending arrival. Marta Wei-gle and Peter White, The Lore of New Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988), 316. I am grateful to Gail Pérez of the University of San Diego for this reference.Google Scholar
  8. 45.
    Gloria Anzaldúa, Prietita and the Ghost Woman/Prietita y La Llorona (San Francisco: Children’s Book Press, 1995), n.p.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Alicia Gaspar de Alba 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rita Cano Alcalá

There are no affiliations available

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