These are facts.
Let me show you my wounds: my stumbling mind, my
“excuse me” tongue, and this
with the feeling of not being good enough.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Outside my door
there is a real enemy
who hates me.—Lorna Dee Cervantes, “Poem for the Young White Man”
Our current political climate calls for the affirmation of Latinx lives and the insistence on Latinx peoplehood, regardless of point of origin. It demands the rejection of the abject racism emanating from the US presidency, its pundits, media outlets, and congressional allies. It also demands a confrontation with electoral and population bases that benefit from, if not outright believe in, the race-baiting, fear-mongering discourses surrounding immigration, citizenship, job security, personal safety, and the ostensible sanctity of America’s gone greatness. We make no pretense that such sentiments are new to the United States or unique to the present administration’s pendejadas. Latinx peoples and their aspirations, ideas, stories, loves, labors, books, and bodies have for quite some time been on the run in the United States, with one foot in the grave from political, economic, social, cultural, and linguistic warfare. That Cervantes’s 1981 poem continues to resonate with us is proof positive that Latinx lives, in any context, are already marked targets.
After all, “Let’s make America great again” was Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign slogan too, and there are “sharp-shooting goose-steppers round every corner” these days as well.1 They showed up in Charlottesville wearing khakis and bearing tiki torches. It may seem we are enduring a moment of unprecedented white nationalism, but the lives, literatures, and letters of Latinx peoples remind us that living in the United States at any period has always been a struggle, survival, migration, and returns. It’s been one of anonymity and targeted identification, crossings and dislocations, affirmations and negations, translations and transnationalisms—all under the weight of the X, which also marked the spot over the heart of subjects facing the firing squad. (“They’re not aiming at you.”)2
“Latinx Lives in Hemispheric Context” pushes against the violence of our current anti-immigrant moment by presenting the lives of Latinx people, communities, and bodies of writing across the hemisphere as resilient forms of expressive culture that speak to the here and now. We thereby heed María DeGuzmán’s argument on the “here-ness” of Latinx studies: “Although the ‘x’ of Latinx is anonymous and reminds us of what has not yet been determined, the ‘x’ functions as a marker of presence. . . . The ‘x’ does not orient, but it does locate. It signifies, in shorthand, ‘Here! ¡Aquí!’ And this ‘aquí’ demarcates presence in a given space without that presence defaulting into assimilation as neutralizing or conforming absorption.”3 Beyond the possibility of reading Latinx as an inclusive, gender-fluid term that discards the binary Latina/o, framing X as aquí stakes a claim to Latinx presence ever more vital in our political climate. By exploring questions of migration, community, and archive, the issue interrogates how Latinx literary, cultural, and scholarly productions from the nineteenth century through today circulate throughout the Americas in much the same way as the lives and bodies of Latinx people migrate and mobilize. The following essays and position papers confront the historical and ongoing archival fragmentation of Latinx lives and narratives while assuming the “here-ness” and wholeness of our lives, literatures, and stories.
Juan Poblete opens the collection with a position paper arguing that although coloniality remains a powerful force, we must imagine the possibility of a transamerican future free of fear. Claudia Milian’s essay follows suit by demonstrating the need for such a future as it argues for the humanity of the Central American child over and against the survey used to process unaccompanied child minors who arrive in the United States without documentation. David Sartorius delineates how “papers” obtained at great cost and meant to signal belonging can also fail to do so, while Rachel Conrad Bracken examines how the United States regulates the bodies, rather than the papers, of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the US-Mexico borderlands. Anna Brickhouse’s reflection on how Junot Díaz’s Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao can reframe events at the August 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, closes the first section. Combined, the pieces foreground the very processes of abjectification that Latinx bodies endure under the signs of citizenship, legality, and naturalization. Migrant bodies are marked bodies, X’s already X’d out—often through the power of surveys and papers—before they ever arrive to become Latinx in the first place.
The second section makes a double movement. It marks the incomplete, fragmentary, and even forged nature of historically obscured Latinx archives; simultaneously, it excavates the excesses of latinidad that shape Latinx archives. Here the linguistic, racial, and national multiplicities that emerge through historical migration and colonization leave traces of latinidad for scholars to recover. Rodrigo Lazo opens the section by interrogating a literary-historical circulation of X that challenges the ostensible inclusivity of Latinx, and Ralph Bauer reminds us how a “hermeneutics of discovery” vexes the very hemispheric context we invoke as he calls for continued critique of the idea of discovery as both history and a paradigm of the Americas. With a critical turn to the archive, Anita Huizar-Hernández’s essay discovers the forgery of latinidad at the heart of the 1895 Peralta land grant trial, in which Latinx race, gender, and sexuality become entwined in fictions of racial formation, while Alberto Varon’s position paper about the fragmentary, migrant, multilingual, and multigeneric excesses of the Latinx archive insists on engaging the United States as a national framework for Latinx studies. John Alba Cutler’s and Kelley Kreitz’s essays take on such a challenge by working through both Latinx and Latin American frameworks. Cutler tracks printings of Rubén Darío’s poetry to argue for a heterogenous genealogy of modernismo across Latinx print and reading cultures; Kreitz, alternatively, traces modernismo’s emergence at the moment when the advent of electricity, the telephone, and the telegraph pressured notions of time and space in print. Even though the Latinx archive remains largely hidden to scholars outside Latino/a, Latin American, and hemispheric studies, its archival excess embodies the history of Latinx lives in hemispheric context: showing up again and again, in different iterations, across different times, and within different communities, known and familiar but also unrecognizable or a little bit changed—hidden and in excess, aquí y de allá.
The final section resists presumptions of fragmentation, tracking how geographic, (trans)national, linguistic, and ideological Chicanx and Latinx communities continually (re)shape themselves within and against forces of racism, xenophobia, nationalism, capitalism, and history. Marissa López argues for Chicanx studies and against pressure to adopt a broader Latinx framework. Exemplifying such an emphasis, Yolanda Padilla discusses how marginalized borderland print communities—particularly that of Laredo’s La crónica—engage both Mexican and US traditions. Elise Bartosik-Vélez’s position paper questions how translation, publication, and anthologization define national literary traditions, while Kenya C. Dworkin y Méndez argues for the importance of performance and “curriculum culture” in cohering Cuban émigré communities in the United States. Joshua Javier Guzmán closes the collection by reading the X of Latinx as a sign not of inclusivity but rather of the continued failure of language to represent latinidad. As Latinx, Chicanx, or Latina/o studies, our essays and position papers are also declarations: of story, knowledge, history, presence, community, and difference. They sound Spanish notes in an English-language journal to reassert, “Every day I am deluged with reminders / that this is not / my land / and this is my land.”4
We wish to thank our authors for their excellent contributions, and we gratefully acknowledge the army of anonymous readers who generously reviewed essays. We thank Erica Sabelawski, ELN’s managing editor, for her editorial assistance. Laura Winkiel, ELN’s senior editor, has enthusiastically supported this issue from the start.