Monday, December 15, 2008

Neto's Tucson by Ernesto Portillo Jr. : His drive to read, write transcended humble border roots

The well-known Chicano author, Miguel Méndez, tells his life story. Over 78 years living on the U.S.-Mexico border gives him a unique perspective in the immigrant experience. DP

Neto's Tucson by Ernesto Portillo Jr.

In the world of Miguel Méndez, storytelling is not linear. There are multiple intersections, progressions and digressions. Inside is outside, and distortions are simplified.

It's a literary world created over 78 years living on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, filled with complexities to the outsider but clear to Méndez's eyes and ears.
An author and professor emeritus of Spanish at the University of Arizona, Méndez is cited in numerous anthologies of Latino and Chicano literature.

His 1974 "Peregrinos de Aztlán,"later translated as "Pilgrims in Aztlán," is considered a seminal work in Chicano literature, a genre rooted in the Mexican-American immigrant experience. He has authored about 40 books and essays, including his 1996 autobiography, "Entre letras y ladrillos," translated as "From Labor to Letters."

Méndez has done all this and more with a fifth-grade education.

"I read as many books as I could. My house was filled with books," said Méndez.
We talked in his small UA office, which he shares with junior professors, in the basement of the UA's Modern Languages Building. The office, with its institutional metal desks and chairs, belies the body of work Méndez has created since his 1974 landmark.

Méndez, who was born in Bisbee, has chronicled border life through his novels, essays, short stories and poetry. He continues to pore through his history and the stories of Yaquis, Anglos, Mexicans, pachucos, blue-collar workers, bosses, women and men.

"I can't stop writing," he said, while telling me several stories of his life.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

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