The Chicana Por Mi Raza collection of video autobiographies was fascinating to compare with the book “Under the Feet of Jesus.” The stories told in each are very different, but feature similar figures: resistant young women and power structures that seek to hold them back. This is my favorite kind of story. I loved the emphasis on women and their relationships in “Under the Feet of Jesus,” particularly Estrella and her mother. Although Petra is much “weaker” and less exciting character than Estrella, I saw strength in the way she raises her children, and in her perseverance. She may be afraid to take risks but that is undoubtedly because of how she has been treated as a woman her whole life. But she does not treat Estrella like this, she encourages her in her own small ways, with faith and love. This matriarchal bond is also present in Eloisa Gomez’s oral history. In her first segment, she discusses her confident grandmother who was always in charge of the family. She carved out a space for herself in the privacy of the home, and was empowered through that. Eloisa was inspired by this to extend her own space to her community, wanting to feel powerful and have agency no matter where she was. Although that matriarchal figure is far from Petra, both care intensely for their families and are willing to work ridiculously hard to support them.
As I mentioned in class, I loved the interwoven Spanish in the Gloria Anzaldua piece we read. I noticed some of the same in both “Under the Feet of Jesus” and several of the oral histories I watched. I noticed that often, in the oral histories and the book, Spanish would be substituted when English simply would not do. Often, when speaking as a multilingual person, you will find yourself wanting to use a word that does not exist in the language you are speaking. In those cases, other languages sometimes just slip in. The other situation I was reminded of was comfort- when you are more comfortable in one language than another, often that will show through in times of stress or relaxation. When Petra calls Estrella mi’ja, which is an endearment meaning daughter, it shows that she is comfortable in Spanish and uses it around family. In Eloisa’s narrative, she speaks ‘perfect’ English but uses Spanish words as she sees fit. It is not a failure of literacy or speaking ability, but rather a beautiful pairing of elements to create a new, better way of speaking.
Viramontes, Helena M. Under the Feet of Jesus. New York: Dutton, 1995. Print.