Posted: June 6th, 2022
Put into conversation the Key Concept readings from this unit (“Latinidad/es” + “Intersectionality”—attached PDFs) and TWO creative nonfiction texts read during this unit listed here (“What We Pack” by Jennine Capó Crucet [attached PDF], , “The Armadillo” by Joaquin Fernandez, and “Beach City” by Jaquira Diaz) in a short literary analysis (500-800 words) responding to the following questions/prompts:
How do your two selected texts create or enact a “strategic Latinidad”? Summarize what you take this to mean for each text/writer and analyze each “state of unfixity” with examples.
Then, describe what audience(s) are served by these texts, the intersections involved, and the states of unfixity achieved in them and to what end.
Lastly, synthesize your analysis of these two texts: what does your analysis make clear about Latinx literature beyond the texts?
include in-text citations and works cited info at end of document; keep it to 500-800 words.
by JAQUIRA DÍAZ • May 9, 2016
We talked about Miami Beach like it belonged to us, convinced that the tourists who came down to swim in our ocean and dance in our nightclubs were fucking up our city. We were seventeen, eighteen, nineteen-year-old hoodlums, our hair in cornrows, too-tight ponytails, too much hairspray, dark brown lip liner, noses and belly buttons pierced, door-knocker earrings, jailhouse ankle tattoos. We didn’t have time for boys from Hollywood or North Miami, busters who drove their hoopties with the windows down because they didn’t have A/C, calling out to us trying to get phone numbers as we crossed Washington Avenue or Lincoln Road, our chancletas slapping the sidewalk.
What did they know about surfing during hurricane winds, fucking on lifeguard stands, breathing under water? What did they know about millions of stray cats pissing in the sand dunes, entire flocks of rogue seagulls dropping shit torpedoes, about refugees and kilos of cocaine and bodies washing up on our shores?
We were the ones who knew what it meant to belong here, to be made whole during full moon drum circles, dancing, drinking, smoking it up with our homeboys. We knew what it meant to bloody our knuckles here, to break teeth here, to live and breathe these streets day in, day out, the glow of the neon hotel signs on the waterfront, the salt and sweat of this beach city.
One night we parked Brown’s Mustang behind the skating rink on Collins, hoofed it to the beach. We took our bottles of Olde English and Mad Dog 20/20, the six of us passing a blunt and listening to 2Pac’s “Hit Em Up” blaring from somebody’s radio, and every time they sang, “Grab your Glocks when you see 2Pac,” the boys grabbed their dicks, and we all laughed our asses off. Brown danced, stripping off his clothes while we cheered him on, me and A.J. keeling over, slapping our knees. Flaca, China, and Cisco climbed to the top of the lifeguard stand, singing, “Go Brown! Go Brown!” When he was down to just boxers, Brown gave up, and we booed him, threw our balled-up socks and sneakers at him.
Me and A.J. were out behind the lifeguard stand, sand between our toes, feeling for each other in the dark. We ran around laughing and laughing, and I took his hand, danced circles around him in slow motion.
I don’t remember when A.J. first told me he loved me, or even if he told me, but I knew. I felt it every time he came around, every time our thighs touched while sitting together on China’s couch, or when the six of us had to squeeze into Brown’s Mustang and I sat sideways on his lap, my lip brushing against his ear, his arms around my waist. Or when we stayed up all night talking even though he had to get up early for school the next morning—something I didn’t have to worry about since I was a high school dropout. Or on nights when the liquor and the weed made my head spin, the heat and the high coming down on me all at once, and only A.J. around to keep me from falling.
Down by the shore, Brown was so fucked up he dropped to his knees, then lay down sideways on the sand. Later, we would all carry him back to his car. Flaca would drive us to her place a few blocks away. We would all stagger up the stairs to her little studio, put Brown to sleep in the bathtub, and smoke Newports on the balcony. He would wake up with the munchies an hour later. “You got any cheese?” he’d call out from the bathroom. Cisco would grab an entire pack of Kraft Singles from Flaca’s fridge, and the two of us would toss them into the tub, slice by slice, while Brown tried to catch them in his mouth.
But before all that, the six of us dancing and running around on the beach, China chugging down Mad Dog, Flaca and Cisco kissing on the steps of the lifeguard stand, and A.J. looking at me under the moonlight, a cloud of smoke all around us, I wrapped my arms around him and said, “Don’t let me go.”
We were laughing, hitting the blunt.
We were the faraway waves breaking, the music and the ocean and the heat rising rising rising, like a fever.
We were bodies made of smoke and water.
The Armadillo by Joaquin Fernandez
I still don’t know if I want the story to be true.
At eight years old, my asthma was at its worst. I remember staring at the ceiling the day after I got out of the hospital, sweating through my t-shirt, anxious and breathless and anxious about being breathless. I can’t remember if it was April or June or September, some indistinguishable month in the endless Florida summer of my childhood, but I remember the heat as if it were still pressing down on me. I was propped up on couch cushions in my twin bed, watching the brown thumb of my chubby body contract and expand, contract and expand, never finding quite enough air to clear the rasp from my wheezing.
Just like me.
My mother spoke to me, as always, in a clear, enunciated spanish, the secret ever-present language of my youth. It would be decades before I realized that she spoke a version that read as rich and educated, almost off-putting in its formality. Growing up poor, it was easy to forget that she had once been wealthy.
She put a damp cloth on my forehead, as if I had a fever. In South Florida, the fever was everywhere, I just felt it more, like a broken bellows pulling only heat with my every struggling breath. She frowned at me in a way that made me want to feel better. She hated that I hated the part that came next. I knew where she was going when she left the room.
She came back holding a big covered pot with a tight fitting lid, pluming a trail of smoke behind her as she entered. She had done this every night for a month, following the bruja across the street’s instructions to the letter. Eucalyptus leaf and Vaporub boiled for twenty minutes. Lid off, under the bed, let the steam rise through me.
Te digo un cuento?
Can I tell you a story?
She held my hand while the world went hazy. My glasses fogged. My eyes watered. My lungs burned, bright and sharp with every cautious breath. The smell was an assault. When I inhaled I could feel the parts of myself that didn’t work. I coughed. Every night, I coughed, exhilarated with relief. I could feel the steam razing the asthma out of me with every painful inhalation.
Can I tell you a story about my asthma? In Colombia?
My mother squeezed my hand and I could see her there in the house she grew up in. It was a house I’d never been in, in a country I’ve never been to. I could see her as my grandfather led her down the stairs into the basement.
Some days my breathing was worse than yours is now. But in Colombia, do you know what the cure was?
I could see the cigarette dangling from my grandfathers lips, a man I’d never meet, living forever mid-laugh in page after page of black and white photo albums.
What’s the word for armadillo in english? Is it armadillo?
When she tells me the story, I can see it, hanging from a beam by leftover clothesline. Was it even struggling? She tells me it wasn’t. She tells me it didn’t look real until her father cut its throat with a kitchen knife. She tells me about how calm he was holding the armadillo still with one hand, his other hand maneuvering to catch the spraying drip of something fully trapped still trying to run. She tells me that’s when it struggled. She tells me that it screamed until it didn’t. She never tells me why she didn’t run. When her father turns and offers her the glass, she makes sure to tell me she didn’t hesitate. She makes sure to tell me she drank it all at once, like medicine.
Do you know what it tasted like? Fresh milk.
After the story, she kisses me on the forehead and I can feel it linger for a long time after she leaves. After the story, she turns out the light and I pretend not to hear the back door click closed when she steps out to smoke her secret cigarettes. After the story, I can see her, staring at the glass in her father’s hand while it fills with blood. I can see her growing more and more certain of what will come next. I can see the little girl that would grow into my mother step forward and take the glass and know what she had to, had to, had to do.
I’ve told that story a hundred times, told it to everyone who’s ever met my mother. When I tell that story while she’s in the room, she always laughs at the end. I don’t know if she’s laughing at us for believing her. I don’t know if she’s laughing out of nervousness, like whistling past a graveyard. I don’t know if she’s laughing about a lifetime of locked up secrets or a million more impossible everyday stories from the parallel universe of her youth in a different time, a world away. I still don’t know why she never hesitated. I still don’t know why she didn’t run.
I still don’t know if I want the story to be true.
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