Mexican-American folklore in the short stories of Jovita Gonzalez

Term Paper, 2006

17 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Table of contents

I. Introduction

II. Historical occasions leading to the fusion of two cultures and the influence of it on the Hispanic literature

III. Jovita Gonzalez

IV. Folklore and its features in the short stories of Jovita Gonzalez
1. Issue of religion
2. Mexican-American Catholicism influenced by other factors
3. Connection with nature as an important factor in the life of Hispanics

V. Folklore as a mirror of everyday life of people

VI. Conclusion

VII. Bibliography

I. Introduction

In chemistry by adding an element into another one can get a completely new element. In the painting by adding one colour into another one can get a new and completely different colour. Looking at the development and history of Mexican-American relationships one can observe the same: the birth of a new folk and a new culture. The fusion of two societies, mentalities, languages offers an opportunity to find out the dominating features of the both. One gets an opportunity to study both cultures at the same time, to compare them and to make own conclusions. There are a lot of ways to research a certain nation or its culture: one can observe the behaviour of the people living in a certain region, make opinion polls or investigate the literature. The aim of this work is to find out the peculiarities of the Mexican-American relationships and the lifestyle of Hispanics in these relationships at the beginning of the 20th century. For that purpose I chose such way of investigation as folklore. From my point of view nothing can better mirror the thoughts and the feelings of a nation as folklore. Studying folklore one can see the wisdom and habits of a nation, its relationships and development.

Jovita Gonzalez described the features and feelings of her folk in the beginning of the 20th century in her short folklore stories in the best way. She collected the folklore stories and later published them. But being one of the first female feminist authors, she gave to these stories her own female shade. She described the way of life of her folk from the side of women. That was one of the reasons, why she has been chosen as an example for investigation. There are so many male authors who show the development of the Mexican-American relationships from their male view. And there have just been view female authors at the beginning of the 20th century. So this area has not been investigated enough and is up-to-date every time.

II. Historical occasions leading to the fusion of two cultures and the influence of it on the Hispanic literature

Some Chicano/a critics and historians see the rise of Mexican-American culture and literature as a succession of Mexican-American War (1846-48). That time around 80.000 Spanish-speaking inhabitants settled down in South of America and became American citizens. Some years later the number of immigrants from Mexico to the USA increased because of America’s better economical situation. The Mexican occupants were allowed to keep their language and culture, but the dominant English-speaking majority didn’t treat Mexicans as the equal citizens and oppressed them. As the result of it, the main aim of the Mexican minority the next years was the struggle for equal rights and at the same time a rediscovery of the own culture. This period of transition can be considered as the time as Mexican-Americans were on the way of looking for their identification between two cultures and societies that was greatly expressed in literature. But one should notice that the majority of authors wrote their works in Spanish at that time and they could reach just a little amount of readers.1

Some people see the period between the Mexican Revolution and the World War II as the time of impetus for Mexican-American culture and politics.2 In the 1910 the Mexican population in the USA rose again. One of the reasons for this sudden immigration was the expansion of American industry as the result of the World War I. The second reason was the agriculture of California and its increasing demand for working forces. It doesn’t matter if Mexicans were just looking for a job or came to the USA as refugees; it was the important moment for the further development of Chicano culture. Although many of Mexicans have already been born in the USA and one can observe the certain process of americanisation, the rise of ethnic self-consideration and cultural opposition also took place. The new waves of immigrants permanently brought the Mexican element into the society.

The process of assimilation of Mexican culture with American culture could also be observed in literature. Especially the themes and motives of Spanish-Mexican past stayed in literature for a long time. The relationship to its Spanish part was especially marked in the area of New Mexico. But it was found out that although a huge part of folklore of New Mexico was really of Spanish origin, it was changed greatly under the influence of Mexico and modificated by Mexican-Americans.3 As a result of estrangement and oppression through the Anglo-Americans, the new formed society of New Mexico is longing for the lost unity of the world that can be found just in the mythical past.4 That explains an interest in the folklore, myths and history of the old Indian Mexico and a new foundation of the Mexican-American literature as a mixture of Spanish, Indian and Anglo-American cultures.

The predominating elements of the literature of that time were historical and personal narratives, short fiction, poetry and folklore.

The next step of this work is to introduce you Jovita Gonzalez and to explain why we chose this author for our investigation.

III. Jovita Gonzalez

Jovita González was born near the Texas-Mexico border in Roma, Texas on January 18, 1904. Her father was a teacher and her mother a housewife. Her family moved to San Antonio so that the children could be educated in English. After high school, she earned a teaching certificate and taught in Rio Grande City while earning money for college. She attended the University of Texas at Austin for a year, but because of lack of funds she returned to San Antonio to attend Our Lady of the Lake College where she was able to obtain a scholarship. In the summers she continued to study Spanish at the University of Texas, and it was in the summer of 1925 that she met J. Frank Dobie. Dobie shared González's interest in the folklore of the Texas-Mexican border people and encouraged her to write down their stories. She did so, and some of them were published in the Folklore Publications and the Southwest Review. Dobie was not only supportive of Ms. González's writing, but he provided references for her scholarships, underwrote bank loans for her, and he and his wife invited her to dinners in their home. Ms. González was also very involved with the Texas Folklore Society which Dobie helped to resurrect in 1922. She gave several lectures at their annual meetings and published articles in some of their journals. With Dobie's endorsement, Ms. González was elected to serve as the Texas Folklore Society's vice president in 1928 and as president for two terms from 1930 to 1932. After receiving her B.A. from Our Lady of the Lake in 1927, she taught for two years at Saint Mary's Hall, an Episcopal school for girls, until she was awarded the Lapham Scholarship to do research along the border, and to work on an M.A. at the University of Texas. Her M.A. research resulted in a Rockefeller grant award in 1934. Jovita continued as educator and advocate of Spanish language teaching in public schools until she retired. She died 1983. Her collection of more than 30 folklore-based stories were written between the 1920s and 1940s and published in some magazines and books.

From my point of view Jovita Gonzalez is a good example of representative in the Mexican-American literature and folklore of that time. Her stories reflect in the best way the cultural situation and the way of thoughts of her folk in that time. One of the features of Chicano literature is a search for the identification of the own nation and that is also presented by Gonzalez. The main factor of identification is language. By Chicano literature it is not the fact that the stories are written in English, but the fact, that they are written in the language that is spoken by Chicanos in the USA, a mixture of English and Spanish.5 That was the language that Jovita Gonzalez used to write down the folklore stories.

I also think that Jovita Gonzalez can be seen as an ethnic author. Walter Piller wrote, that ethnicity can be observed in different fields of the society, especially in literature when a certain folk can be considered as a minority. So the ethnic author creates his works from this social and cultural content, he “…represents the interests of his folk toward the rest of the society”.6 And that is exactly what Jovita Gonzalez does in her works. Her stories are like a mirror of Texas-Mexican people souls, like a cry for fairness of people who are tired of oppressions and that kind of life.

The next issue we are going to come down is folklore in general and how its features can be seen in Jovita Gonzalez’s works.


1 Walter Piller: Der Chicano Roman: Stufen seiner Entwicklung, 1991, Verlag Peter Lang AG, Bern, p.24

2 E. Jacobs: Mexican-American Literature: The Politics of Identity, published by Routledge, Abingdon, p.7 4

3 Walter Piller: Der Chicano Roman, p. 28

4 Walter Piller: Der Chicano Roman, p. 33

5 Walter Piller: Der Chicano Roman p.4

6 Horst Tonn: Zeitgenössische Chicano-Erzählliteratur in Englisher Sprache: Autobiographie und Roman, 1988, Verlag Peter Lang, Frankfurt a. M., s.18. In: Walter Piller: Der Chicano Roman, p.7

Excerpt out of 17 pages


Mexican-American folklore in the short stories of Jovita Gonzalez
University of Duisburg-Essen
Mexican-American Literature
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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426 KB
Mexican-American, folklore, Hispanics, Jovita
Quote paper
Olesya Franiel (Author), 2006, Mexican-American folklore in the short stories of Jovita Gonzalez, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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