This study offers a comparative analysis of Rosario Castellanos' Balún-Canán and Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima, novels that provide examples on how children construct their identity in hybrid communities in southeastern Mexico and the U.S. southwest. The protagonists grow and develop in a context where they need to build bridges between their European and Amerindian roots in the middle of external influences that complicate the construction of a new mestizo consciousness. In order to attain that consciousness and free themselves from their divided selves, these children receive the aid of an indigenous mentor who teaches them how to establish a dialogue with their past, nature, and their social reality. The protagonists undertake that negotiation by transgressing the rituals of a society immersed in colonial dual thinking. They also create mechanisms to re-interpret their past and tradition in order to create an image of themselves that is not imposed by the status quo.
In both novels, the protagonists have to undergo similar processes to overcome their identity crises, including transculturation, the creation of sites of memory, and a transition from orality to writing. Each of them resorts to creative writing and becomes a sort of shaman who pulls together the "spirits" from the past, selects them, and organizes them in a narration of childhood that is undertaken from adulthood. The results of this enterprise are completely different in the cases of both protagonists because the historical and social contexts vary. The boy in Bless Me, Ultima can harmoniously gather the elements to construct his identity, while the girl in Balún-Canán fails because of the pressures of a male-centered and highly racist society.
College and Department
Humanities; Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Nava, Tomas Hidalgo, "Through the Eyes of Shamans: Childhood and the Construction of Identity in Rosario Castellanos' "Balun-Canan" and Rudolfo Anaya's "Bless Me, Ultima"" (2004). Theses and Dissertations. 146.
Rosario Castellanos, Rudolfo Anaya, Balún-Canán, Bless Me, Ultima, Shamans, Tomás Hidalgo Nava, construction of identity, Chiapas, Mexico, New Mexico, Ladino, mestizo, Chicano, Mexican American, childhood, Octavio Paz, José Vasconcelos, Gloria Anzaldúa, René Girard, Edouard Glissant, Pierre Nora, lieux de mémoire, milieux de mémoire, hybrid, hybridity, transculturation, Fernando Ortiz, Angel Rama, syncretism, written narration, shamanism of letters, Homi K. Bhabha, colonial discourse, mestizo consciousness, sexism, colonialism, Tzeltal, indigenista, orality, mestizaje, transgression of rituals, Paulo Freire, Mexican literature, Chicano literature, Mexican-American literature, transculturation and nature, Virgin of Guadalupe, curandera, Amerindian roots, racism, Spanish conquest, acculturation, assimilation, project of modernization, imposed views, Antonio, Ladino girl, Comitán, racist society, colonial dual thinking, identity crisis, creative writing, sites of memory, U.S. southwest