Dynamics and Structures of Power and Oppression in the Hispanic Community

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“The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros and the poem “You Who Seek Grace from a Distracted God” by Luis Alberto Urrea are filled with vivid images and descriptions of the Hispanic community. The accounts in these works give small details which showcase the lives of the people in them. The small details point to dynamics and structures of power such as class and earning ability. At the same time, they point to the dynamics of oppression such as freedom and dignity.

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The aspect of class is evident in both Cisneros’s and Urrea’s work. Cisneros begins her work by telling readers that the characters have moved a lot in their life until they finally bought the house on Mango Street. She writes, “We didn’t always live on Mango Street. Before that, we lived on Loomis on the third floor, and before that, we lived on Keeler. Before Keeler, it was Paulina and before that, I can’t remember. But what I remember most is moving a lot” (Cisneros). From this statement, it becomes evident that Esperanza comes from a poor background. Their family can be classified as a low-class family because the narrator’s parents could not find a stable household to raise their children safely. Every house they found was crumbling down in some way. They had to keep shifting from one area to another. The narrator, Esperanza, stated that she remembers moving a lot. This automatically brings out a class dynamic. More importantly, however, are the conditions in which they lived. Esperanza says that they had to leave the flat on Loomis because water pipes broke and the house was too old.

At the same time, the house had hallway stairs and they had to share a washroom. However, the case was not different in the house they bought on Mango Street. Esperanza says that the house is “small and red with tight steps in front and windows so small you’d think they were holding their breath” (Cisneros). Additionally, she claims that the bricks are crumbling in places and the front door is so swollen you have to push hard to get in. The house lacks many things she had been promised, it would have. This points to the class dynamic. Her parents cannot afford a house with better facilities because apparently, they live according to their earning power. From the way they live, it becomes evident that this family can only fit in a lower class.

The class dynamic of Cisneros’s characters sharply contrasts with the individual Luis Urrea describes in his poem. Urrea writes, “your great fortune is to have a job, / you never ate government cheese, / federal peanut butter” (Urrea). From this statement, it’s clear the individual has never relied on government aid, coming from a self-sufficient family. Unexpectedly, this financially stable family falls on hard times. This fact is apparent as the individual now sleeps in his brother’s spare rooms. Several lines depict how this person’s life has turned upside down. For instance, Urrea writes, “You kneel in Ma’s broken tub now, no shower/- no heat- a plastic tarp over the crumbled wall—promising to fix that” (Urrea). He adds that there is no shampoo, no car, and the previously bustling household is dark—”rush part house windows bright” (Urrea). These statements clearly show that the character’s previous comforts have evaporated with changing financial circumstances. He belonged to a high-class household, but life has altered drastically. Still, Urrea assures that he has a chance to invert this downfall, emphasizing again, “Your great fortune is to have a job” (Urrea). Later he mentions the prospect of him making “eighty dollars a week, for her electricity, for food” (Urrea). The character now has a fighting chance to alter his and his family’s circumstances. Unlike Esperanza’s parents, who can’t afford luxuries on The House of Mango Street, this character might enjoy some comforts with his weekly eighty dollars.

Racial profiling features prominently in both works as well. In The House on Mango Street, the narrator Esperanza recalls an incident involving a nun from her school. Meeting near Esperanza’s home, the nun asked, “Where do you live?” (Cisneros). Esperanza pointed to their dwelling, prompting an incredulous, “You live there?” (Cisneros) from the nun. Esperanza then describes the room on the third floor with “peeling paint, wooden bars Papa had nailed on the windows so we wouldn’t fall out” (Cisneros). The nun’s follow-up question made Esperanza feel belittled, a blatant instance of racial profiling. Such a dismissive reaction inflicted emotional turmoil on the young Hispanic girl, lowering her self-esteem. She confessed, “I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One that I could point to” (Cisneros).

In “You Who Seek Grace from a Distracted”, the individual employs certain words with the intent of racially profiling the Hispanic community for reasons known only to him. For example, he refers to “the papists, the terrorists, these aliens” (Urrea). He initiates with the term “these,” indicating that he is referencing more than one person. Therefore, it can be inferred that he is intentionally profiling individuals from the Hispanic community. He suggests that all Hispanics are terrorists, which is evidently untrue. Simultaneously, he portrays Hispanics as aliens, which is not only profiling but derogatory. People from the Hispanic community, even if not originally from America, have the right to live there legally. There is no need to remind anyone that just because they come from a different race, they are considered an alien. Another instance of racial profiling arises when he states, “Bus comes, gasps, doors unfold alike aluminum scorpions jaws- Oh Christ /everybody there just dug panicked between couch pillows” (Urrea). This comment bears racial profiling implications because it implies he takes pleasure in the conditions Hispanics endure. He states “everybody there” as a method of profiling Hispanics. It’s striking because although it’s a Hispanic neighborhood, Hispanics don’t live in isolation; they coexist with people of other races. He fails to acknowledge that there could be a white or a Black person on that bus.

Dynamics and structures of dignity also come to light. The narrator in “The House on Mango Street” earnestly desires to live a life of dignity. She longs for a time when they will own a better house with ample amenities, free from the need to share with others. Once they move into their own home, she frequently highlights the benefits, proclaiming, “we don’t have to pay rent to anybody, or share the yard with the people downstairs, or be careful not to make too much noise” (Cisneros). By listing these advantages, she expresses a yearning for a dignified life. The narrator dreams of a permanent residence, wishing for “a real house that would be ours for always, so we wouldn’t have to move each year”. This desire represents the dignity she would feel owning their home and not having to shift residences regularly.

Such yearning intensifies at the story’s conclusion when a nun from her school belittles their home. As the narrator states, “But this isn’t” (Cisneros), it demonstrates that she is seeking dignity because even though they managed to acquire a house, it didn’t dignify her.

The issue of dignity is also prevalent in “You Who Seek Grace from a Distracted”. The persona depicts the kind of life Hispanics lead. He tries to show that the person in question does not live a dignified life. For instance, he says that “you, who sleep where you fall, sleep/beside women, not yours who keep you warm, sleep” (Urrea). This depicts the undignified life the person leads. At another point, the persona says, “Bus comes, gasps, doors unfold alike aluminum scorpion jaws- Oh Christ /everybody there just dug panicked between couch pillows”(Urrea). This shows the kind of life the people in this neighborhood lead. They struggle to make ends meet at all levels but Urrea seems to find humour in that. He says, however, that the person in question has a chance of turning his life around and leading a dignified life. This is because he has a chance of making eighty dollars a week.

It is evident from the two works by Urrea and Cisneros that dynamics of power and oppression exist. Instances of class difference in the Hispanic community are prevalent, with the people in both works struggling in the lower class. At the same time, there is also racial profiling, whereby people in this community are racially profiled because of being Hispanics. These people, however, try to restore their dignity in a community where racial profiling and poverty are the order of the day.

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Dynamics and Structures of Power and Oppression in the Hispanic Community. (2019, May 15). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/dynamics-and-structures-of-power-and-oppression-in-the-hispanic-community/