Invasion of the Books/ de los Libros

Let`s suppose you live in Hobe
Sound, Grosse Pointe, Greenwich, Connecticut, or on Park
Avenue, in Manhattan. Suppose also you`re White
Anglo-Saxon Protestant, a member of the Sons/ Daughters
of the American Revolution, and are listed in the New
York Social Register. 
Suppose further you are interested in
culture—in particular the cultural heritage created by
your Anglo-American ancestors. 
Now suppose you feel the urge to celebrate that
culture publicly, and apply for local, state, and
federal funding to underwrite the lavish celebration in
Hobe Sound, Grosse Pointe, etc. 
Just what kind of reception do you imagine your
application is likely to receive?

The prevailing attitude is that
the Euro-American
culture

remains the majoritarian one in the United States and
therefore has no moral standing to honor, promote, or
even be conscious of itself. 
Let`s accept that logic just for now, while
taking a look at the relationship between dominant and
minority cultures in the state of New Mexico….

The Land of Enchantment is an
anomaly among the fifty states. 
Settled by the Spanish before the Pilgrims landed
at Plymouth Rock, New Mexico is, culturally 
speaking, neither Mexican nor American but
something in between. 
The state`s upper half, from Albuquerque north,
is dominated by “Hispanics” who consider themselves
descendants of the conquistadores
and are scornful of Anglo-Americans and Mexicans
alike; the lower one heavily populated by people of
Mexican descent, many of them immigrants or the children
of immigrants from Mexico, who are quietly resentful of los gringos. One way or another, New Mexico is not—and never has
been—culturally Anglo. 

Of course, this is only another
way of saying that the Californians,
Upper-Midwesterners, and Northeasterners who have
immigrated in substantial numbers to the state over the
past three decades or so are a minority group within New
Mexico, not part of the dominant majority.  
If multiculturalism means anything, it means the
Swedish, Norwegian, Polish, British, Danish,
German—or, for that matter, just plain American—cultures
of these immigrant peoples and their forebears should be
studied and celebrated by the Hispanic majority,
doesn`t it? 

Or does it?

You know the answer. 
During my two years in Las Cruces, New
Mexico—less than forty miles from the Mexican
border—I must have come across the word
“multicultural” a thousand times in the Las
Cruces Sun-News,
nearly always in connection either
with some “minority” (i.e. Latino) gripe about
“discrimination” practiced by the “majoritarian”
culture, or else attached to a four-color photo of a
mariachi band performing on the plaza in Old Mesilla,
dancers in traditional Mexican garb, or the annual Chili
Festival.  (Why
didn`t I think to round up a few scattered members of
the Mayflower Society from the Picacho Hills Country
Club so we could dress in buckle shoes and hats to eat
codfish and baked beans on the steps of San Albino?)

By far the most deliberate of New
Mexico`s unicultural manifestations, though, is the Border
Book Festival
,
which recently wrapped up its seventh annual spectacular
in Las Cruces.  Called
by Publishers Weekly one of the top regional book festivals in the
U.S., the BBF is the brain-child of Denise Chavez, a
novelist who won a National Book Award several years ago
and pops up from time to time in the events section of PW;
its offices are housed in a donated stucco house in
the city`s slightly shabby downtown residential area. 
I visited there three years ago, and while it may
all have been a function of my paranoid imagination/bad
Anglo-male conscience, I can`t say I was made to feel
particularly welcome there.   

This year, the theme of the
festival (March 11-18) was “Ancestral Voices: A Living
Legacy.” It presented “the work of
writers/artists/storytellers who are carriers of the
word—the healthy transformative living spirit of the
ancestors/los antepasados—not only human, but also
those forces and spirits we call river, mountain, the
countless forms and energies – whose lives resonate
within us.” (Do you suppose whoever composed that
sentence could have learned English as his/her second
language?)

The Festival`s logo
shows open books winging their way northward across the
Rio Grande.  While it might not be immediately apparent to the casual
observer, the symbolism is dead-on. 
The Border Book Festival isn`t about two
cultures meeting, but about one culture (guess which)
overrunning the other. 
Though a number of Anglos appeared on last
month`s program, their literary interests and subjects
turned out almost exclusively to be cultures other than
their own: Hispanic, Chicano, Indian.  Whatever cultural interchange actually takes place every year
at the Border Book Festival, it flows in one direction
only. 

For the BBF the multiculturalist
motto is, Anything But
Western Culture!— unless that culture has been
heavily diluted by feminism, homosexualism, paganism,
disableism, and other leftist manifestations.

This year, a kickoff event was
billed as “A reading from the Frontera Divina/Divine
Frontier Oral History and Writing Group” (funded by a
Lila Wallace Reader`s Digest grant and directed by Ms.
Chavez) whose purpose is to “explore the concepts of
family, history and borders.” 
(Whoever`s spent any time on the U.S.-Mexico
border knows “divine” is absolutely the last
word any sane or honest person would use to describe
the region.)  “The
workshop,” the schedule continues, “explores,
gathers, records and honors the border/frontera
community and gives it the respect and recognition it
deserves.”

A few other samples from the busy
eight-day program:

·       
“English and Spanish blend together as
Greg Pedroza shares the experiences of growing up in a barrio
in Texas with a large extended family with grandparents
who spoke only
Spanish
and worked in the Texas fields.”

·       
“Larry Littlebird is a master
storyteller from Laguna/Santo Domingo Pueblo. 
Larry`s life is dedicated to his vision of
re-awakening people to the power of the spoken word, as
experienced in Tribal
American
oral tradition.”

·       
“Demetria Martínez is an author and border
issues activist
based in Tucson, Arizona. 
Her books include…Turning
(Bilingual Press), part of an anthology of three Chicana
poets….She is currently working on a book of essays
for the University of Oklahoma Press, entitled Just
What Exactly Is Olive Skin?

·       
“Simone Swan, student and apprentice of Egyptian
architect Hassan Fathy, will give a Plátic/Talk about her work with him and
his continuing legacy with the Swan Group, a team of
skilled workers who want to stay together to uphold the human
right
to decent housing.”  (Seems
this event has nothing to say about books, everything to
do with leftist politics.)

·       
“Haiku: The Tiniest Poem – Marian
Olson….”Haiku, the briefest of all poetic forms,
originated in Japan in the 17th century.
Because the form is rooted in the human soul… [it is]
truly multicultural
and multigenerational.”

·       
Lee
Merrill Byrd
is the co-founder of Cinco
Puntos
Press, a small press that has received
national recognition for its fiction, nonfiction,
poetry, and children`s bilingual literature from the American Southwest, the U.S./Mexico
border region, and Mexico.”

·       
” Luis Urrea[`s]… book, Across the Wire, depicts life at the edges of the dumps
in
Tijuana…. [His book] Vatos is
a tribute to Chicano
men who are too often forgotten, ignored, and
misrepresented by the larger culture…migrant
workers
toiling for a better life, homeboys in the barrio…activists
on the streets….” 
(“The word Vatos,” Urrea explains, “means
dude, guy, pal, brother…One of OUR dudes. Ain`t
white.  Ain`t
Cuban.  Is a
crazy dude…talks the talk, knows the walk, takes the
proper stance. Remember that the Vato was once The Vato
Loco. The ultimate in Pachuco cool….One of OUR
BOYS.”

·       
Describing the photographs he made for Vatos,
José Galvez says, “[they] arise from my sense of
responsibility to my family, my community, and my
culture….This is my
culture
, a culture that I am deeply proud of.” 

That`s nice for him, but where
in all this is our
culture?  It used to be a property of a border/frontera that it had two sides to it, dividing something from
something else.  So
where is the
something else?

In the literary world today,
it`s who you are that counts, not whether what you
write is any good or not. 
Nearly all of the “writers” involved in the
Border Book Festival are amateurs or poseurs, read only
by themselves and by each other, but that`s not the
point to be made here. 
What`s important is, the deliberate use of
multiculturalism and bilingualism as a publicly funded
stealth weapon of cultural displacement designed to
promote an aggressive uniculturalism infinitely more
intolerant, restrictive, race-minded, and discriminatory
than the culture
it seeks to
replace.
 

Who published N. Scott Momaday (a
participant in this year`s festival) if not white
publishers at a Western state university built on the
plains where his Kiowa ancestors once roamed?  The only Anglos to be included in the Border Book Festival,
on the other hand, are quislings of multiculturalism who
for some reason or another have chosen to exchange their
own mess of pottage for one belonging to someone else. 
That seems like a pretty steep price to pay, even
for the privilege of living on la divina frontera.

According to its website,
“…the Border Book Festival believes that literature
and the arts can bridge the many boundaries—racial,
ethnic, generational, cultural, socio-economic, and
gender-based – that divide our community.” 

That`s the liberal strategy at
work: First, antagonize, alienate, and split people
apart from one another through
“consciousness-raising.” Then bring them together
again in the name of the false, self-serving unity
called multiculturalism: a shell game in which every
shell but one disappears.

Chilton
Williamson Jr.

is the author of The
Immigration Mystique: America`s False Conscience

and an editor and columnist for Chronicles
Magazine, where he writes the The Hundredth Meridian
column about life in the Rocky Mountain West.

May 11, 2001