By Johanna Dickson, Digital Publicist
Cinco de Mayo originated in Mexican-American communities in the 1860s in the American West, Southwest, and Northwest as a way to honor their heritage and pride. It was first celebrated by Mexicans and Latinos living in California during the American Civil War. The holiday became increasingly popular in the 1940s during the rise of the Chicano movement. Today there are more than 120 official celebrations of the holiday in 21 states across the country.
Chicano literature tends to focus on the themes of identity, culture, discrimination, history and Chicano culture in the United States. Another important theme is the experience of living and speaking two languages. The literature is written in either English or Spanish or a combination of the two: Spanglish.
In honor of Cinco de Mayo, here are five Chicano authors to add to your reading list:
Sandra Cisneros: The Chicago-born author is most well-known for her acclaimed debut novel The House on Mango Street. The book was published in 1984 and is a coming-of-age story about Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina growing up among Chicanos and Puerto Ricans in Chicago, and her quest for a better life. Cisneros is also the author of Women Hollering Creek and Other Stories, a collection of short stories.
Richard Rodriguez: The son of Mexican immigrants, Rodriguez is a noted prose stylist, who has worked as a teacher international journalist and educational consultant. He is the author of Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, a collection of autobiographical essays, Mexico’s Children, and Brown: The Last Discovery of America. His most notable work is Days of Obligation: An Argument With My Mexican Father which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
Gary Soto: An American poet, children’s book author, and editor whose writings often focus on the daily experience of being a Chicano. His first collection of poems The Elements of San Joaquin won the United States Award of the International Poetry Forum and his second collection The Tale of the Sunlight was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He is also the author of the Chato children’s picture book series. The books are in both Spanish and English and feature a cool cat, a low rider from the barrio of East Los Angeles.
Rudolfo Anaya: Anaya is considered one of the founders of contemporary Chicano literature. He is most well-known for his 1972 book Bless Me, Ultima. The book is a coming-of-age tale and reflects 1940s Chicano culture in New Mexico. It is one of the most widely read and critically acclaimed novels in the canon of contemporary Chicano literature. Anaya is also the author of children’s books, non-fiction and anthologies, a book of poetry, and several plays. He was the recipient of the NEA National Medal of Arts Lifetime Honor in 2001.
Rodolfo Acuña: A historian, professor emeritus, and a scholar of Chicano studies. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos which chronicles the history of the Southwestern United States and Mexican-Americans. The book is now in its seventh edition.