The subject of land, working it and owning it, is an inherent part of Chicano/a autobiography, as exemplified by the life writings of Elva Treviño Hart. The term “im/migrant” connotes transition and mobility, crossing borders, shifting parameters, all of which are fundamental facts of life for Chicano/a authors. A collective sense of community proves to be the only stasis in the narrators’ young lives, and the migrant camps become a microcosm in which societal and cultural rituals are conducted, despite the lack of control over the constantly shifting spaces they occupy. Being Mexican American, however, signifies a precarious existence in both the Mexican (home, barrio, field) and the Anglo world (school, marketplace), and this coexistence creates a tension between the collective and the individual, which results in an “open wound,” as expressed by Gloria Anzaldúa. From the outset, Elva Treviño Hart depicts her life on the periphery in terms of work, class, ethnicity and gender. Her physical detachment at the edge of the field is symbolic of her sense of alienation at home and in Anglo society. Like Treviño Hart, many Chicanos/as portray their family’s need to claim their own space, to declare ownership, and to procure a sense of stability in an often alien(ating) world. Ultimately, however, many of these authors reconcile the two worlds they navigate by separating from their community through the process of writing and self-discovery. In so doing, they embrace their culture and become empowered, not devalued, by their difference. Thus, these Chicano/a writers help to restructure the traditional notion of autobiography by (re)claiming their space and re-defining and re-negotiating the literary and cultural parameters which once were perceived to be immutable.

Note on the Author

Michelle Johnson Vela, Assistant Professor of Spanish, Texas A&M University - Kingsville, Texas