"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.
CHICAN@ LITERATURE: A MOSAIC, A WEAVING, A PUZZLE
English 380A, Winter 2011
Professor Deborah Miranda

Monday, March 21, 2011

Helena Maria Viramontes: And Their Dogs Came With Them

Please view the  Helena Maria Viramontes video of her talk at Cornell - notice how she speaks of history, sociology, political science, and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, all in the same speech!  Pay special attention to the Q & A after her talk, when she tries to explain further her idea that "Writing is the only way I know how to pray."  Central to her writing is a belief that compassion - for ourselves, for each other, for those who do not have a voice, for those who have privilege - must be our primary goal, and that writing is a way to bring more compassionate thought and action into the world.

How can her talk help us think about this book as a form of prayer, reverence, meditation, petition, memorial?

In what way is this book not just a resistance to colonization, but a form of decolonization, or at the very least, a call for decolonization of the mind/soul/body?

Here is the material I meant to bring to class today:

(excerpt from “Extermination of the Joyas: Gendercide in Spanish California” by Deborah Miranda, GLQ 16:1–2)


Spanish soldiers had a different, less patient method. They threw the joyas
to their dogs. Shouting the command “Tómalos!” (take them, or sic ’em), the Spanish
soldiers ordered execution of joyas by specially bred mastiffs and greyhounds.11
The dogs of the conquest, who had already acquired a taste for human flesh (and
were frequently fed live Indians when other food was unavailable), were the colonizer’s
weapon of mass destruction.12 In his history of the relationship between
dogs and men, Stanley Coren explains just how efficient these weapons were: “The
mastiffs of that era . . . could weigh 250 pounds and stand nearly three feet at
the shoulder. Their massive jaws could crush bones even through leather armor.
The greyhounds of that period, meanwhile, could be over one hundred pounds
and thirty inches at the shoulder. These lighter dogs could outrun any man, and
their slashing attack could easily disembowel a person in a matter of seconds.”13
Columbus brought dogs along with him on his second journey and claimed that
one dog was worth fifty soldiers in subduing the Natives.14 On September 23,
1513, the explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa came on about forty indigenous men,
all dressed as women, engaged in what he called “preposterous Venus.” He commanded
his men to give the men as “a prey to his dogges,” and the men were torn
apart alive.15 Coren states matter-of-factly that “these dogs were considered to be
mere weapons and sometimes instruments of torture.”16 By the time the Spaniards
had expanded their territory to California, the use of dogs as weapons to kill or eat
Indians, particularly joyas, was well established.


An eye witness account:
They hanged 13 natives at a time in honor of Christ Our Saviour and the 12 Apostles.  Straw was wrapped around their torn bodies and they were burned alive.  They took babies from their mothers’ breasts, grabbing them by their feet and smashing them against rocks.  They would cut an Indian’s hands and leave them dangling by a shred of skin and threw others to the dogs and thus were torn to pieces.” —Bartolomé de las Casas (Spanish colonist, priest, first Bishop of Chiapas, who went from owning Indian slaves to protesting the treatment of Indians to Pope and Spanish Crown.

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