"I see a mosaic pattern (Aztec-like) emerging, a weaving pattern, thin here, thick there . . . This almost finished product seems an assemblage, a montage...now appearing, now disappearing in a crazy dance. The whole thing has a mind of its own, escaping me and insisting on putting together the pieces of its own puzzle with minimal direction from my will." – Gloria Anzaldua.
English 380A, Winter 2011
Professor Deborah Miranda

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Clothing in Norma Elia Cantu’s Canicula

This story titles itself a collection of “snapshots” and in doing so emphasizes moments frozen in time. The reader is less drawn into plot, character development, and other long-term structural devices of the novel and is more captivated by imagery and more aware of nuanced details.

One genre of such detail, especially as it relates to the visual imagery built into the structure of the stories, is the clothing worn by the characters in the pictures. Indeed, dresses or lack thereof, the type of fabric and the utility of the clothes are all of extreme importance to Cantu. This is a theme much less emphasized in the other books we have read and perhaps it speaks of a certain feminine quality inherent to this story.

The clothing of women is often a reflection of personality or character. Mamagrande, always working even during a life of hardship, has her, “… handkerchief a la mano in her apron pocket ever ready for the tears of joy or pain” (17). Nena’s proud mother “…holds her skirt and points her foot as instructed; on the wide-brimmed charro hat the embroidery screams, Viva Mexico!” (42) Even the men’s clothing seems important, denoting their status, as Cantu here describes her father’s young adulthood as a wild rancher, “He wears a hat that cast a shadow over his face, but I can tell he’s smiling his ‘I’m so proud smile’” (15).

Nena’s clothing is of particular importance; the white dresses she wears as a baby highlight her innocence, in Polka Dots, her and her sister’s similar, but not identical, dresses seem to have meaning. One of my favorite pictures, a “sexy photo” of Elisa, Nena, and her father, shows off a sleeveless blouse. Though it is not expressly mentioned this is one of the less traditional outfits Nena wears in the story, it seems to imitate the rebellious and glamorous feeling Nena gets from Elisa at a young age. The blouse, however, was still made by Nena’s mom.

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