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Under the Feet of Jesus

Helena Mara Viramontes

b. East Los Angeles, California, 1954.

MA Graciela Obert - MA Miriam Germani

Helena Mara Viramontes

PUBLICATIONS y Novels Under the Feet of Jesus. New York, Dutton, 1995. Their Dogs Came with Them. New York, Dutton, 2000. y Short Stories The Moths and Other Stories. Houston, Texas, Arte Publico Press, 1985. Paris Rats in E.L.A. N.p. 1993.

Helena Mara Viramontes

y Other

Chicana Creativity and Criticism: Charting New Frontiers in American Literature, 1988. Chicana Writers: On Word and Film, 1995. (both Co-authored with Maria Herra Sobek) Contributor: - Short Stories by Latinas, 1983. - Woman of Her Word, 1984. - Breaking Boundaries: Latina Writings and Critical Readings, 1989. - New Chicana/Chicano Writing, 1992.

Under the Feet of Jesus

describes the harsh reality of the daily existence of a Chicano family of farmworkers in California, and their relationship with other migrant families. Central characters: Mexican-American migrant farm workers: Petra and her five children Perfecto Flores Estrella Alejo

Under the Feet of Jesus

written in English, interspersed with Spanish words, phrases and sentences. Purpose: to analyze uses of code switching, and other forms of language alternation in the prose of the novel and the speech of migrant workers, to show the intercultural dynamics of the Chicano communities living in border areas.

Under the Feet of Jesus

the juxtaposition within the same speech exchange of passages of speech belonging to two different grammatical systems or subsystems (Gumperz 1982, p. 59.)

Under the Feet of Jesus

Code-switching: ... is a more widely used device for conveying the sense of cultural distinctiveness. It acts to signify the difference between cultures and illustrates the importance of discourse in interpreting cultural concepts. (Ashcroft, Griffiths & Tiffin, 1989: 63) Code-switching (Lpez Morales , 1985:173): * tag-switching or one-word switch * intersentential switching - outside the sentence or the clause level * intra-sentential switching - within a sentence or a clause

Code-switching: tag-switching
1. -She wants to know if he s related to us.

-I think we should say Yes. -Claro, replied the mother. Tell her he s my nephew. (Viramontes, 1995:138) ( Claro is syntactically disconnected) 2. -Just a few more trees before the dark hits, okay mano? (opus cit.:1) ( mano is a vocative) Novel: 11 tag-switches, most are vocatives: mano , mi ja , mi jo , Am .

Code-switching: intersentential switching

The twins began kicking each other over space and the fighting upset the mother more. Te voy a dar un nalgazo con la correa. -How you feeling today, mama? -Ya no hay ajo. And this was all she needed to say. (opus cit.:61) (sentences in Spanish in the text in English) Novel: about 70 cases, mostly (around 50) are part of exchanges between characters.

Code-switching: intra-sentential switching

1. Tell them que tienes una madre aqu. (opus

cit.:63) 2. Ya cllate, before you spook the kids. (opus cit.:61) (both languages share the same sentence; the syntax of both is obeyed) Novel: 114 cases- the most numerous.

Intra-sentential switching: prose

Estrella danced like a loca around the room (opus cit.:19) As she stood on the porch, the gray morning ... reminded her of papel picado. (opus cit.:118) The trabajadores like Seora Josefina who might be thinking about what to make for dinner (opus cit.:54) Users code-switch when they are each fluent in both languages in a manner consistent with the syntax and phonology of each one.

Types of switching combined

1. Keep your manitas outta my eyeballs, gordita (opus cit.:104) ( little hands = manitas ; vocative gordita ) 2. PRONTO! Or you ll get a chanclaso! (opus cit.:106) (Petra orders the children to cross the road. Pronto! one-word sentence; intra-sentential switching (chanclaso)

Mixed language = linguistic fusion

* Watcha las nias (Spanish prep. a added to Eng. verb watch) * Pshale ( S pronoun le follows E verb push, word is stressed following stressing rules of Sp language) * Qu racketa! (exclamative sentence for Qu estafa! E word racket followed by vocal a makes word sound Spanish) A mixed language is a language that arises through the fusion of two source languages, normally in situations of thorough bilingualism. (Wikipedia) Novel: 3 examples.

Phrases or full sentences in Spanish, somehow translated into English.

Get back this minute, huercos fregados, who do you think you are, corriendo sin zapatos? Te van a comer los nios de la tierra! Without so much as putting on your shoes, huerquitos fregados! (Viramontes 1995:9) 2. ... he came from a long line of intelligent people, not like his cabeza de burro father, God rest his stupid soul; (opus cit.:54) 3. -Qu dices? What? (opus cit.:61)

Theoretical considerations
The technique of leaving untranslated words is a signifier of the fact that the language which actually informs the novel is an/Other language (Ashcroft et al 1989:64) Untranslated words not only register a sense of cultural distinctiveness but force the reader into an active engagement with the horizons of the culture in which these terms have meaning. What is significant about the use of untranslated words is that they constitute a specific sign of a post-colonial discourse (opus cit.:64).

Theoretical considerations
* ... then return to the pisca again... (Viramontes, 1995:50) The piscadores heard the bells of the railroad ... (opus cit.:54) pisca / piscadores: reinforce idea that most farm workers in California are of Mexican descent.

Theoretical considerations
Therefore, untranslated terms refer to * Typical Mexican food: burritos, tortilla * Plants: ajos, jalapeos, nopales * Kitchen utensils: comal, molcajete * Feelings: y Petra, to reprimand or warn her children: * -Don t go near ese perro loco! Petra yelled. (Viramontes, 1995:107)

y Petra, in songs while doing the housework:

* Te vengo a decir adis, No quiero verte llorando. Petra whispered the lyrics ... Estoy viendo tus ojitos que de agua se estn llenando. (opus cit.:40)
y Perfecto Flores, when he is angry:

* Think. Think. Think, Perfecto, you cabeza de burro chingado. (opus cit.:163)

* Religion:

Petra: devout follower of the Virgin of Guadalupe

and of Jesus Christ. * Gracias a Dis, she answered, and Perfecto cranked the parking brake. (opus cit.:6) * Three crates in the corner would be a good place to set up Petra s altar with Jesucristo, La Virgen Mara y Jos. (opus cit.:8)

* Customs and traditions: 1. Petra flipped the dough, sprinkled flour, turned to remove the tortilla already baking on the comal, returned to roll from east to west until the tortilla was , then place it on the comal, get more dough, sprinkled flour, turned to remove the baked tortilla from the comal and stack it on top of the others. Spoon the potatoes in the flour tortilla so nothing would spill. Fold the bottom of the tortilla, then the top, then the sides so that the burrito was a perfect envelope, then rewrap the burritos in foil for the lunches. (opus cit.:119-120)

2. Today was Alejo s turn to bring the lunch. He had packed burritos made of fried potato and French s mustard wrapped in flour tortillas, with fresh jalapeos crunchy like apples, ... (opus cit.:51) 3. Petra went back to cleaning nopales. (opus cit.:124) * Mexican names of songs and bands: 1. One of them whistled a long, mournful ballad while another tried remembering the lyrics of os pasajes or Me voy pa l norte. (opus cit.:68) 2. Someone turned the portable volume to ten and Los Panchos sang out a sweet bolero loudly. (opus cit.:85) 3. A woman had called in and requested the D.J. play Las Maanitas for her husband. (opus cit.:83)

* Superstitions and healing (in relation with Petra): 1. He s sick, Petra. Sicker than any yerba, ...could cure. (opus cit.:96) 2. She would pray tonight, burn incense made of mustard seeds and corn and cachana. (opus cit.:124) 3. Is that what you want, the mother yelled, a child born sin labios? Without a mouth? (opus cit.:69) * Chicanos talking with other Chicanos: the context influences the choice of the language (Bruce-Novoa, 1980:29) Example:

1. - Y tu primo? asked one of the piscadores. Taking a leak, replied Gumecindo. -Cmo? He seemed not to understand. - A poco no sabes ai take a leak? -Qu es eso, take un leak? - En serio? Gumecindo mused. -Regaron las plantas, replied a man ... -De dnde eres? -Del Valle del Ro Grande. -Es un estado en Mxico? -Texas ya es parte de los Estados Unidos. 2. -S lo s, said another. Muy bonito. Muchas chicharras. -Como msica de maracas! (opus cit.:64)

Under the Feet of Jesus

El Correo de la Unesco (1998:32): 94 % of Mexican Americans born in the US speak English correctly. But, only 51 % of those born abroad speak English well. Petra and P. Flores (English daily with one another, difficulty when talking to a native ) Estrella and Alejo (English between themselves and with Americans; Spanish with adult Chicanos.

Under the Feet of Jesus

code-switching and untranslated words: common ways of installing cultural distinctiveness in the writing (Ashcroft et al. 1989:72) Viramontes includes words, phrases or sentences in Spanish to reaffirm the presence of the Mexican culture in a hostile environment, and as ways of installing cultural distinctiveness in the writing (72) Only one and a half percent (about 600) of the more than 39,000 words are Spanish words.

In border spaces a cultural fusion is produced, which is overtly manifested in the everyday language of the Chicanos, in the form of a bilingual style. English and Spanish: a unique hybrid in the discourse of the Chicanos. English: language of ethnic dominant group Spanish: language of the Third World, of the poor (Arteaga 1997:69-71)

The Spanish language -used in relation to certain aspects of the Mexican culture-, serves to keep the Chicano culture alive in an environment marked by continued discrimination. Spanish: everyday dialogues, names and surnames, names of places and food, songs, prayers, etc.

In the post-colonial text the absence of translation has a particular kind of interpretative function. Cultural difference ... is inserted by such strategies. The post-colonial text, by developing specific ways of constituting cultural difference and bridging it, indicates that it is the gap rather than the experience which is created by language. The absence of explanation is, therefore, first a sign of distinctiveness ... (Ashcroft et al., 65)

Works Cited
y ARTEAGA, Alfred. Chicano Poetics. Heterotexts and

Hybridities. USA:Cambridge University Press, 1997. y ASHCROFT Bill, GRIFFITHS Gareth & TIFFIN Helen. The Empire Writes Back. Theory and Practice in Postcolonial Literatures. London & New York: Routledge, 1989. y EL CORREO DE LA UNESCO, Organizacin de las Naciones Unidas para la Educacin, la Ciencia y la Cultura. Pars: Francia, Noviembre 1998. y GUMPERZ J.J., Disourse Strategies, C.U.P., Cambridge, 1982. y LOPEZ MORALES, Humberto. Sociolingstica. Madrid: Editorial Gredos S.A., 1985.