MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States
Sandra Cisneros's Caramelo, or, Puro Cuento: A Novel (2002) dramatizes the functions of travel and tourism for members of the Mexican and Chicana/o diaspora, particularly for second-generation Chicana protagonist and narrator, Lala Reyes. Caramelo showcases travel's critical role in cultural identity formation, maintenance, and contestation for diasporic peoples, while also demonstrating the variability and mutability of diasporic cultural identity as mediated through travel. My explication of the novel's representations of cultural identity formation through travel contributes to critical conversations regarding the relationship between diaspora and tourism, argues for elastic understandings of diaspora itself, and brings needed attention to the particularities of the Chicana/o diaspora. Drawing from relevant strands in Chicana/o Studies, Indigenous Studies, Travel/Tourism Theory, Diaspora Studies, Postcolonial Theory, and Human Geography, I argue that Lala Reyes contends with multiple monolithic, colonially rooted views of what it means to be Mexican, US American, and Chicana, and that she ultimately forges a sense of self that refuses cultural binaries. In the process, she critiques and refutes expectations of cultural purity that suggest migration and change over time necessitate a tainting or dilution of that identity. For Lala, storytelling becomes a medium with the elasticity she requires to interweave competing aspects of her cultural inheritance and lived experiences in the two nations she regularly inhabits, identify links between herself and generations of Reyes women, and thereby cultivate what Gloria Anzaldúa terms a mestiza consciousness.
Copyright © 2014, Oxford University Press.
Oxford University Press
Szeghi, Tereza M., "Weaving Transnational Identity: Travel and Diaspora in Sandra Cisneros’s 'Caramelo'" (2014). English Faculty Publications. 29.