Published: Feb. 1, 2008 By

“I cannot continue to use my body to be walked over to make a connection.”

–Cherríe Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back, xv

There is “[n]o sense talking tough unless you do it.”

–Estrella, Under the Feet of Jesus45

[1] In her 1980 preface to This Bridge Called my Back, Cherríe Moraga explains that despite the exclusion of women of color and the prevalent homophobia in the U.S. feminist movement, she dreams of a bridge between women. Regarding the exclusiveness of the feminist movement, she asserts: “I call my white sisters on this” (xiv). She calls for changes from Anglo feminists, and writes of her “faith” and “visions” of alliances between women, acknowledging the toll such attempts at alliances have taken on her body. Throughout Moraga’s poetry, especially her poems in Loving in the War Years: lo que nunca pasó por sus labios (1983), plays, autobiographical writing, and essays, her body as a Chicana and the Chicanas she writes about carry the physicality of a history of colonialism, a physicality that particularly connects them to an exploited land, to a landscape of continued violence against Chicanas. Moraga’s play Heroes and Saints(1994) and Helena María Viramontes’s novel Under the Feet of Jesus (1995) map the continued violence against Chicana farm workers, particularly the effects of pesticide poisoning on female farm workers and the collusion of agribusiness and the United States government. Such a mapping foregrounds their intervention in feminisms that fail to look at what bell hooks has referred to as “interlocking systems of oppression:” their writing asks questions about the relationship between Anglo women and the exploitation of Chicana farm workers, about the invisibility of the material conditions of women farm workers’ lives, and the relationship of such realities to feminisms.

[2] Although Moraga writes of a bridge between women in This Bridge Called My Back, she specifically articulates that it will not be at the expense of her own body to make that connection. The politics of location that Moraga’s play Heroes and Saints and Viramontes’s novelUnder the Feet of Jesus enact mirror the tactics of resistance for feminisms that Chela Sandoval terms “differential consciousness,” inMethodology of the Oppressed (2000). Such an oppositional consciousness, as Sandoval delineates, allows for “coalition politics that are vital to a decolonizing postmodern politics and aesthetics, and to hailing a ‘third wave,’ twenty-first-century feminism” (44). She explains that such a method is “mobile,” a “kinetic motion that maneuvers, poetically transfigures, and orchestrates while demanding alienation, perversion, and reformation in both spectators and practitioners” (43). Many women of color in the U.S. from at least as far back as Harriet Jacobs, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Sarah Winnemucca, and Sojourner Truth in the nineteenth-century—and some fewer Anglo women allies (such as Helen Hunt Jackson, Lucy Stone, and Angelina and Sarah Grimké)—have been articulating the necessity for an anti-colonialist based feminist politics, and feminists such as Audre Lorde, Gloría Anzaldúa, Cherríe Moraga, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Paula Gunn Allen, Devon Mihesuah and numerous others have continued to point to the necessity of looking at intersections between race, gender, class, and sexuality since the publication of This Bridge in 1981. Yet it still remains a crucial task to continue efforts to decolonize feminisms in the twenty-first century, particularly as it relates to work that more feminists are making to define feminist struggle as a recognition of particular effects of constructions of gendered, racialized economies in the struggle for human rights. Such recognition—and the real work involved in the process—can continue to then inform theory, politics, poetics, and praxis.

[3] Part of the continuing colonial reality in the twenty-first century in mainstream American culture, as well as in feminist theory and praxis, is the invisibility of the working conditions and daily struggles of farm workers. The importance of buying and consuming organic fruits and vegetables, for health conscious consumers, has made organic produce more visible at U.S. grocery stores, yet the damage that pesticide exposure causes to the health and lives of farm workers is all too invisible. However, the harmful effects of pesticide exposure are well known (at least scientifically). For example, in an article in theWestern Journal of Nursing Research, published in 2004, Mary Salazar reports that farm workers come in contact with toxic poisons daily. Although the number of reported cases diagnosed by physicians is 10,000-20,000 each year, the Environmental Protection Agency calculated in 1997 that every year approximately 300,000 farm workers suffer from illnesses as a result of pesticide poisoning, many of whom are children who are especially vulnerable (Salazar et. al 147). The number of diagnosed cases of pesticide exposure is clearly much lower than the reality of illnesses people experience. For one, many people do not have access to and cannot afford health care. Additionally, a number of sources attest to the harmful effects on children (Western Journal of Nursing Research 147, Salazar, Hosansky). A 2004 article in Cancer Weekly notes that although guidelines were set up by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1994 to attempt to protect farm workers and their families, the poisons still cause “an important health risk that won’t be reduced” without further changes (par. 1). In his article “Regulating Pesticides,” David Hosansky provides an explanation for the fact that “the government is still struggling to determine safe pesticide levels” (667). He points out that while farmers, who depend on using one billion pounds of pesticides every year, are anxious that regulating pesticide use will have dire consequences for their businesses, others assert that the government is moving too slowly (668). The failure to establish safe guidelines for workers is largely due to a political economy within which the profits of agribusiness outweigh the health and lives of workers.

[4] Both Moraga’s Heroes and Saints (1994) and Viramontes’s Under the Feet of Jesus (1995), published within a year of the United States government’s attempt to establish “safe” guidelines for pesticide use, call for changes that would place the health and lives of farm workers over economic profit. In these two literary works, Viramontes and Moraga protest the use of pesticides and the racist ideologies that foster the notion that farm workers’ lives are expendable; as well, they demonstrate how such racist ideologies—rooted within a history of colonialism—provide fuel for a capitalist system of exploitation. While dominant discourses of history have attempted to render invisible the exploitation of Chicanas and Chicanos in the United States, both Viramontes’s and Moraga’s writings map the experiences of farm workers in California in the late twentieth century. In a note to her play, Moraga explains that, although McLaughlin is a fictional town,Heroes and Saints responds to the events surrounding the 1988 farm workers’ boycott in McFarland during which Dolores Huerta, Chicana activist for farm worker rights, was brutally beaten by police. Huerta had been holding a press conference to make it known to the public that the then-president George Bush refused to acknowledge the outbreak of cancer amongst farm workers. Although both Moraga’s and Viramontes’s protests were written a decade ago, they are still as relevant today, since a disproportionate number of farm workers and their children have developed cancer. In Under the Feet of Jesus, Viramontes tells the coming of age story of a Chicana girl, Estrella, as she comes into awareness of the injustices of the exploitation of her family and the history of racism enacted on the people who have inhabited the land for centuries. Estrella and her mother, Petra, work in the fields, earning substandard wages, alongside a boy Estrella’s age, Alejo, who is dying from pesticide exposure and has neither the means to travel to a health clinic nor the money to pay for necessary health care. Moraga’s and Viramontes’s writings attest to the necessity for a continued counter-hegemonic strategic resistance to violence enacted upon the land and environment as well as upon the bodies of its Chicana and Chicano inhabitants, a history of violence that has dehumanized them as other, as foreign, as alien.

[5] More specifically, Moraga and Viramontes point to the gendered experiences of Chicana farm workers, experiences that include rape, pregnancy, and the struggles of mothers to care for their children. In this way, Moraga and Viramontes enact what Chicana theorist Sonia Saldívar-Hull calls “feminism on the border”: “Chicana feminist theories present material geopolitical issues that redirect feminist discourse, again pointing to a theory of feminism that addresses the multiplicity of experiences, what I call ‘feminism on the border'” (48-9). Saldívar-Hull critiques the absence of acknowledgement of issues confronting Chicanas in mainstream Anglo feminisms, and as she situates her theory on the physical spaces of the border she calls attention to the necessity for transnational feminist alliances particularly between what she terms “U.S. Third World women” and “Third World women” globally. Both Heroes and Saints and Under the Feet of Jesus point to the possibility of alliances between women on a transnational scale, particularly regarding the exploitation of women workers. Viramontes and Moraga insist on what theorist Emma Pérez calls, in her book The Decolonial Imaginary, “sexing the colonial imaginary,” that is, looking at how the colonialist imagination affects colonized women. For Pérez, the “decolonial imaginary” is a “third space” between the colonial and the decolonial, a third space from which change is envisioned and where Chicanas speak from the “interstices.” Pérez employs Foucault’s genealogy that “asks that disciplines, their categories, their girds and cells be exploded, opened up, confronted, inverted, and subverted; genealogy recognizes howhistory has been written upon the body” (xvi). Moraga’s Heroes and Saints as well as Viramontes’s Under the Feet of Jesus intervene from what Pérez calls an “interstitial space where differential politics and social dilemmas are negotiated” to not only write Chicanas into history but also negotiate changes in feminist praxis and theory (6).

Perhaps because they do not directly refer to feminisms, Viramontes’sUnder the Feet of Jesus and Moraga’s Heroes and Saints have not been examined in relationship to their intervention in feminisms or their critique of European and Anglo American feminisms. In fact, very little critical work has been done on both of these works. Anne Shea’s article, “‘Don’t Let Them Make You Feel You Did a Crime’: Immigration, Law, Labor Rights, and Farmworker Testimony,” provides helpful contexts for reading the political protest ofUnder the Feet of Jesus and looks at the criminalization of farm worker subjectivity and Dan Latimer’s article provides a useful reading of the tar pits, but does not locate it within a gendered context.

[6] In Viramontes’s novel, Anglo women hold powerful positions in the institutions of health care and education, and their racism toward Chicanas demonstrates how power and privilege can not only prevent alliances between women, but also cause many Anglo women to enact colonial power. The Anglo women in Viramontes’s novel are in positions of institutional power, and they are using the “master’s tools” that Audre Lorde critiques in her 1979 essay “The Master’s Tools will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” Lorde questions the complicity of Anglo women who align themselves with Anglo men, with colonial power, in order to succeed. As Lorde explains, this will “never dismantle the master’s house”—it will just allow Anglo women a more powerful role within that establishment. Lorde further asks “what do you do with the fact that the women who clean your houses and tend your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory are, for the most part, poor and third world women?” (100). Viramontes and Moraga ask, what about the working-class Chicanas who harvest the fruit that other women and their families eat?

[7] Moraga’s 1981 publication of This Bridge Called my Back, with Gloria Anzaldúa, validated the experiences of women of color in the United States, and the collection of writings made a crucial intervention in and critique of the mainstream Anglo feminist movement. In an 1986 interview, Luz María Umpierre asks Moraga, “what kind of feminism do you purport?” Moraga responds,

That is also hard to answer because I think I have been very discouraged by the Feminist Movement, so, you get me on one of my bad days and I’ll say ‘those feminists.’ I remember what Feminism meant to me when it occurred to me that there was an analysis on sexual oppression. I would never say I was not a Feminist. I thought feminism made visible a lot of very invisible kinds of oppressions that happened indoors. (64)

Emerging from Moraga’s discouragement with feminisms though is her hope for more inclusive feminisms and alliances between women, themes that are woven into her writing, particularly Waiting in the Wings: A Portrait of a Queer Motherhood (1997) and “La Güera.” In the social protests of Heroes and Saints andUnder the Feet of Jesus,Anglo women are either absent, or antagonistic and racist toward Chicanas, suggesting that Anglo women are all too often either apathetic or unaware of the material conditions of Chicana farm workers or, in some cases, hold powerful institutional positions as a result of using the master’s tools—and from this position reproduce racism against women of color. One of the sites of power for the Anglo nurse in Under the Feet of Jesus is her family, and her ties to economic, white, heterosexual privilege. Both Viramontes’ and Moraga’s writings demonstrate the inter-relationship between white, heterosexual, and economic class privilege that are intertwined in ways that can explain resistance on the part of some Anglo women to substantial social change. Yet there is a hopefulness in both texts that suggest possibilities for new directions in feminisms.

Brief Overview of the Chicano Movement and the Role of Chicanas:

[8] In 1965, the year that most people mark as the beginning of the Chicano Movement, the National Farmworker’s Association (later known as the United Farm Workers) formed under the leadership of Dolores Huerta and César Chávez and the Crusade for Justice began, led by Rudolfo Corky Gonzalez. Additionally, Reies López Tijerina led La Alianza, which focused on land grants and redistribution of land, and, in that same year, a variety of student groups including MAYO and MECha formed to combat racism in education, including curriculum. As Adelaida del Castillo has discussed, at the 1969 Chicano Youth Conference in Denver, Colorado, several Chicanas voiced perspectives about traditional gender roles as limiting, but these topics were dismissed. As Sonia López and the documentary¡Chicano! have documented, Chicanas were expected to cook and clean during the movement and not take leadership positions (though it is important to emphasize that some women like Dolores Huerta still did). Many Chicana writers such as Ana Castillo, Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa, Bernice Zamora, la Chrisx (especially in her poem “La Loca de la Raza Cosmica”), and numerous other Chicana writers have critiqued the subordinated yet nonetheless important role of Chicanas in the Chicano movement, and the failure of the movement to address sexism and homophobia within and outside of Chicano culture.

[9] In Moraga’s Heroes and Saints and Viramontes’s Under the Feet of Jesus, Chicanas play an active part in the protests that take place. Each author negotiates central tenants of the Chicano movement such as land claims, exploitation, and the education system while also emphasizing the specific ways that these colonialist violences affect Chicanas—in this process they situate Chicanas as active agents who have, despite criticism and challenges, played central roles in social protest and leadership.

Brief Overview of Limitations of the Women’s Movement and New Directions for Feminisms:

[10] Many Chicana writers (Anzaldúa, Moraga, Viramontes, Lorna De Cervantes, Sandra Cisneros, Bernice Zamora, and many more) contextualize sexism within Chicano culture by also looking at racist sexism from Anglo culture, combating a prevalent tendency in American culture to critique machismo in Mexican and Chicano culture while leaving Anglo men unaccountable for their misogyny and sexism. In the anthologyChicana LesbiansEmma Pérez writes, “Many Anglos, particularly white feminists, insist that the men of our culture created machismo and they conveniently forget that the men of their race make the rules” (163). When teaching feminist theory classes, I emphasize the necessity of critiquing misogyny and sexism in relationship to colonialist violence and power so that Latino men are not demonized as exemplifying a “savage” kind of misogyny. Under the Feet of Jesus and Heroes and Saints dismantle such accusations by pointing to the various forms of power that Chicana and Chicano farm workers are confronted with, particularly as exploited working-class people, and by portraying men who do not embrace stereotypical “machismo” character traits.

[11] One of the critiques that Chicana feminists and other Third World U.S. feminists have made of first and second wave feminisms includes using the term “woman” to generalize about all women’s experiences in a way that really only includes bourgeois, Anglo, heterosexual women. As Audre Lorde asserts, women do not “suffer the same oppression simply because we are women” (95). In Betty Friedan’s 1963 The Feminine Mystique she assumes that all women have the privilege not to work, that all women are college educated, and that all women are white and heterosexual (as bell hooks points out in “Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory”). In what is often referred to as a groundbreaking work in feminism, The Second Sex(1953)Simone de Beauvoir postulates that “woman” is a category of “Other,” an object to man’s subjectivity. Her work provides a strong analysis of gender, power, and identity, yet she does not consider the way that women of color are othered doubly, or that men of color do not have the same access to male power that Anglo men do. Feminists can (and have) learn(ed) from such oversights, and we can continue to benefit from critiquing and learning from the past as we envision feminisms for the future.

[12] In an attempt to deal with racism in the feminist movement, the focus for the 1981 National Women’s Studies Association conference was “Women Respond to Racism.” Chela Sandoval writes that it was the “first [conference] sponsored by the women’s movement to confront the idea of ‘racism’ and over three hundred feminists of color attended from all over the country,” but discussions of racism were “controlled and constrained” (59). To address this problem, some women demanded a separate meeting and, according to Sandoval, the coalition that emerged between some Anglo women and women of color was successful. They proposed changes to the organization’s structure in order to “directly address the issue of racism in the women’s movement,” however, their proposal was not accepted by the Anglo delegates of the organization (60). Though nearly thirty years have passed since this meeting, there is still a need to further address racism within feminisms.

[13] In Moraga and Anzaldúa’s 1981 anthology This Bridge Called my Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, their prefaces express a hope for connections between women, and though there is particular emphasis on alliances between women of color, Moraga states that she hopes it will be a “consciousness-raiser for white women” (xxvi). Some of the goals of This Bridge include: addressing the “in/visibility of women of color” in the feminist movement; noticing the ways “Third world women derive a feminist political theory specifically from our racial/cultural background and experience;” articulating the “destructive effects of racism in the women’s movement;” and the theme of writing and revolution for a feminist future (xxiv). Noting that within the women’s movement “connections between women of different backgrounds and sexual orientations have been fragile, at best” (30), Moraga hopes that by confronting problems collective resistance against oppression is possible:

It is essential that radical feminists confront their fear of and resistance to each other, because without this, there will be no bread on the table. Simply, we will not survive . . . we women need each other . . . the real power, as you and I well know, is collective. I can’t afford to be afraid of you, nor you of me. If it takes head-on collisions, let’s do it: this polite timidity is killing us. (34)

Both Viramontes and Moraga portray the realities of the lived experiences of Chicana farm workers to confront the lack of awareness or concern amongst (too many) Anglo feminists, and the continued violence against Chicanos and Chicanas as rooted in a long history of racism. Their portrayals of the harsh working conditions for farm workers in the United States recognize limitations in feminist movements in the United States, and also allow for the possibility of making further connections to exploitation in the context of globalization and transnational feminist alliances.

Re-mapping Feminisms: the Exploitation of Chicanas in Under the Feet of Jesus and Heroes and Saints

[14] Both Moraga and Viramontes situate their critique of current exploitation within the context of United States history and constructions of race that have been used by Anglos to attempt to justify exploitation. In the early twentieth century, Dr. George Clements, from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce’s Agricultural Department, stated that “‘due to their crouching and bending habits,’ the ‘oriental and Mexican’ were suited to tasks in the fields, while whites were ‘physically unable to adapt’ themselves to such work” (Takaki, 321). Such ideologies attempt to naturalize white supremacy while defining Chicana and Chicano bodies as naturally suited to harsh conditions of field work. Similarly, in Extinct Lands, Temporal Geographies: Chicana Literature and the Urgency of Space (2002) Chicana theorist Mary Pat Brady refers to early Anglo travelers in what used to be Mexico, who mapped Mexicano and Mexicana bodies as cheap labor: they took stock of ways to exploit the land and the people inhabiting the land by defining Mexicana and Mexicano subjectivity as suited to labor (21). Brady also historicizes the production of spaces such as borders, monuments, and other sites that represent and manage colonial power, pointing out that the production of spaces includes the regulation of what space means: the “labor” of that space serves to construct dehumanizing identities at the same time that it “naturalizes violent racial, gender, and class ideologies” (6). Brady’s theory of the “labor” of the border is exemplified in the way that Moraga and Viramontes denaturalize such violent, racialized ideologies about Chicana and Chicano subjectivity to render visible the exploitative labor of Chicanas. Given the history of exclusion of working-class women and women of color in feminist movements, such renderings ask how these women’s daily lives can be better addressed in feminist movements and organizations.

 "Sun Mad Raisins" with Skeleton Maid - Ester Hernandez

Figure 1

[15] Viramontes confronts the erasure of the realities of exploitation in mainstream American culture by questioning the way that grapes are packaged for consumption, specifically the romanticized image of a female farm worker on the front of a raisin package. The farm worker on the package, named a “Sun Maid” by the raisin company, also serves as the name of the raisin company. The smiling, packaged Sun Maid exemplifies how knowledge about the working conditions of laborers is constructed and produced. Viramontes clearly responds to the famous political painting by Chicana artist Ester Hernandez, in which the Sun Maid, a skeleton, smiles from beneath her sun bonnet on the package of a raisin box. Like Hernandez, Viramontes dismantles this pre-packaged epistemology of farm work. She describes what agricultural work is like for Estrella, the thirteen-year-old heroine of the novel who works in the fields with her mother:

Carrying the full basket to the paper was not like the picture on the red raisin boxes Estrella saw in the markets, not like the woman wearing a fluffy bonnet, holding out the grapes with her smiling, ruby lips, the sun a flat orange behind her. The sun was white and it made Estrella’s eyes sting like an onion, and the baskets of grapes resisted her muscles, pulling their magnetic weight back to the earth. The woman with the red bonnet did not know this. Her knees did not sink into the hot white soil . . . (49-50)

Reappropriating the image of the Sun Maid with the bonnet, Viramontes confronts the oppressiveness of the heat of the sun and other bodily effects on farm workers. Just as the woman with the red bonnet did not know the difficulties of agricultural work, so too are most consumers unaware of the conditions within which commodities are produced. Such ideological oversights and lack of knowledge in American culture effects many feminist discourses, praxis, and theories, and it is in this way that Under the Feet of Jesusintervenes.

[16] Moreover, many Americans, including feminists, are unaware that so much farm labor is done by children. Viramontes herself grew up in East Los Angeles and spent most of her summers picking grapes with her family in central California (as did Moraga’s mother). In 2000, the writer of The Peace Review notes information from the National Agricultural Worker Survey: approximately 409,000 children comprise about 25% of the agricultural labor in the United States (466). Viramontes makes visible the labor performed by child farm workers. As Anne Shea points out, federal laws protecting workers, including the laws against child labor, do not apply to agricultural workers (127). Additionally, as Shea indicates, employers are not required to pay minimum wage, overtime, or allow breaks (127). Further, she explains that “[a]s a result, it is not unusual for farm workers to labor ten to twelve hours a day seven days a week, without adequate breaks, food, water, or sanitation facilities (127). Throughout Under the Feet of Jesus, Viramontes testifies not only to inhumane working conditions, but also to the difficulties that many families experience because the wages they earn are not sufficient even to purchase enough to eat. The image Viramontes paints of the Sun Maid portrays her not as basking in the sun, but rather as a child weary under the burden of her labor and from malnourishment.

[17] Throughout Under the Feet of Jesus, Viramontes often refers to Petra as “the mother,” emphasizing her role and responsibilities as a mother and the ways she is doubly burdened—by her work in the fields and her work as a mother—and thus, like bell hooks inFeminism is For Everybody, effectively confronts discourses about motherhood that focus on work for women as an empowering opportunity that began with and resulted from the feminist movement. Viramontes writes of the burden on the mother bodily: “The mother struggled upward, straightening one knee then the other, and Estrella noticed how purple and thick her veins were getting. Like vines choking the movement out of her legs” (61). Such an image conveys, with haunting violence, how the labor has consumed her body, and the grapes are like a parasite devouring her body from within. Varicose veins often occur when pregnant women spend too much time standing up, thus the image conveys the double labor of farm workers who are mothers. Further, Viramontes carefully emphasizes that women still labor while they are pregnant: “Even then, the mother seemed old to Estrella. Yet, she hauled pounds and pounds of cotton by the pull of her back . . . The sack slowly grew larger and heavier like the swelling child within her” (51). In telling this story of one woman, Viramontes evokes a history of Chicanas who have labored doubly, in the field and by giving birth. For instance, Rosaura Valdéz, a female farm worker in the 1930s, testifies to a triple burden:

I am an agricultural working woman. I came to this camp with my husband and baby. I have to get up before the men get up. I feed my baby and then I am supposed to help in the kitchen. . . . Although there is a paid cook, I am supposed to help. I have to go out with the men at the same time, taking my baby with me. . . . Really I am suffering doubly. There must be several thousand women like me in the fields. (Between Borders, 47)

She thus labors doing unpaid “women’s work” in the kitchen of her employer, the unpaid work of caring for her baby, and the extremely low paid work in the fields. In “Chicanas and Mexicanas Within a Transnational Working Class,” Elizabeth Martínez and Ed McCaughan contextualize Valdéz’ testimonio, and stress that “from the early days of North American colonization, Mexicana women have been superexploited, performing the unrecognized and unwaged labor of producing and reproducing labor power in the home while filling the lowest-paid, most exploitative jobs outside the home” (47). Further, Martínez and McCaughan explain that the example of Valdéz in the 1930s is “all too true today” (47). Avoiding references to Estrella’s mother’s name throughout most of the novel, and instead referring to Petra as “the mother,” Viramontes critiques a long history of a political economy within which mothers’ labor is doubly exploited: their bodies labor in the fields but the labor of childbearing also produces children, the products and laborers of a future capitalist system. Viramontes draws attention to the economies of this gendered landscape, mapping various effects of a history of exploitation on women. Thus,Under the Feet of Jesusoverturns myths about women working outside of the home beginning in the 1960s or 1970s, as many working-class Chicanas have been working outside of the home long before that.

[18] Viramontes and Moraga both stress the reality that female farm workers often have children who are poisoned by pesticides. In Under the Feet of Jesusafter Petra, Estrella’s mother, finds out that she is pregnant again, she wonders, “Would the child be born without a mouth, would the poisons of the fields harden in its tiny little veins?” (125). Petra’s anxiety is not one of paranoia. In 2004, an article inCancer Weekly explains that “adults exposed to pesticides can experience neurological deficits, increased risk of cancer, and reproductive problems. Effects for children can include birth defects and developmental delay” (56). In her play Heroes and Saints, published in 1994, just a year before Under the Feet of Jesus, Moraga also emphasizes the struggles of mothers whose children either die from or are born physically debilitated from pesticide poisoning. Moraga critiques the fact that the rancheros (growers) try to keep these deaths invisible, hidden from view of the public. To protest this, the farm workers in her play begin putting babies who have died from pesticide exposure on crosses in the fields. Their actions expose that which many would like to remain hidden, particularly because these actions draw the attention of the media. Hosansky further explains the economic justifications for the use of pesticides: “Without these products, growers say they would lose billions of dollars in crops. Food would cost much more, and produce would be full of blemishes” (667). Moraga explicitly critiques the political economy within which so many children are dying and demands that her readers and audience answer the question: at what cost are these pesticides being used?

[19] The heroine of Heroes and Saints, Cerezita, was born without arms and legs due to pesticide poisoning. She maneuvers around on a platform by pushing a button with her chin. If the written play causes readers to visualize Cerezita, conveying her physical immobility, so much more must the play when performed. Her name, Cerezita, means little cherry in Spanish: she literally embodies the physical disabilities of pesticide poisoning and her name causes her to become the fruit that has no arms, no legs, and even no torso. After her sister’s baby dies, despite the fact that the growers have threatened to shoot anyone who enters the field at night, Cerezita decides to put the baby’s body on display in the field. As Cerezita puts it, “Nobody’s dying should be invisible, Juan. Nobody’s” (2.6.49). The same year that Moraga’s play was published, 1994, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set up the Worker Protection Standard but as of 2004, ten years later, pesticides were still causing disproportionate incidences of cancer amongst agricultural workers (Cancer Weekly,Hosansky). Moraga unmasks the goals of profit and production that motivate crimes committed against farm workers each day in the fields. In the process, Moraga’s cartography of a troubled land maps the effects of pesticide poisoning on Chicana bodies—both in the case of Cerezita who is physically disabled, and in the physical and emotional suffering of her sister Yolanda, whose breasts ache with the milk of her dead baby.

[20] Based on real incidents surrounding protests led by Chicanas in the 1980s in the San Joaquin Valley in California, Heroes and Saintsemphasizes the importance of the efforts of so many Chicanas who protested in the past as well as the work of Chicana activists in the present. Moraga explains in the introduction that Amparo, a Chicana activist in the play, “is my tribute” to “Dolores Huerta, a woman whose courage and relentless commitment to Chicano/a freedom has served as a source of inspiration to two generations of Chicanas” (89). Amparo leads a protest to voice the demands of mothers in the community, which include: 1) that a contaminated well be shut down; 2) that the government pay families to relocate to a safe environment, since their houses are contaminated; and 3) that the government establish a free health clinic for families and to “monitor the growing incidence of cancer in the region” (2.3.6-14). The demands made by Chicana protesters in Heroes and Saints provide concrete solutions for institutional changes that still need to take place.

[21] By making Chicanas central to the protest in the play, Moraga emphasizes the importance of their continued activism, but she also evokes a history of protests by Chicanas. Many have noted the importance of Mexican American women in protests well before the Chicano movement in the 1960s. For example, as Takaki points out, in 1933, 12,000 laborers went on strike in the San Joaquin Valley of California, a strike in which Mexican American women were particularly active (325). During a protest in Heroes and Saints, a policeman assaults Amparo with “slow, methodical blows” and injures her spleen (133). As Moraga informs her readers in the foreword note, Dolores Huerta was brutally beaten in 1988 during a “press conference protesting George Bush’s refusal to honor the boycott” against pesticide poisoning (89). Moraga thus critiques a specific incident in history in which a Chicana was violently punished for voicing protest. Further, Moraga scathingly questions the systemic lack of recognition by the government for the concerns, health, and lives of farm workers. As Heroes and Saints makes clear, the refusal to acknowledge people’s labor conditions and concerns reflects the ideological standpoint that their lives are dispensable. Moraga’s portrayal of Amparo’s opposition decries the attempt to silence her protest of a capitalist, racist system of exploitation and voices urgency for social change. Moraga maps the specific ways that women are affected by a violent geography, writing Chicanas onto a cartography of continued resistance to the brutal landscape of injustices held in place via a collusion—even if not openly acknowledged—between government, police, and agribusiness.

[22] For both Moraga and Viramontes, the land does not figure as a romanticized space; in fact, their writings can be seen as anti-pastorals in which violence is enacted against both land and women. In one example, Viramontes depicts the threat of rape that Estrella must contend with. While Estrella is picking grapes she

did not recognize her own shadow. It was hunched and spindly and grew longer on the grapes. Then she noticed another overshadowing her own, loitering larger and about to engulf her and she immediately straightened her knees and rubbed her eyes. She went over to the vine clutching her knife. (56)

At this point Estrella thinks she sees another worker across the rows and calls out. A man then stands up fully—”uncertain as to why she called”—so Estrella quickly thinks to offer him a peach that she happens to have in her pocket (56). Viramontes subtly conveys the importance of his presence at that particular moment: “He thanked Estrella, but it was she who was thankful” (57). Viramontes articulates Estrella’s fear, thinking she is by herself out in the fields when a shadow suddenly looms over her. Just a few pages after the threat of rape in the fields, when Estrella is on her way home, the lights of a baseball game shine in her eyes and blind her; she attempts to

shield them with an arm. The border patrol, she thought, and she tried to remember which side she was on and which side of the wire mesh she was safe in. . . . The perfect target. The lushest peach. The element of surprise. A stunned deer waiting for the bullet. A few of the spectators applauded. Estrella fisted her knife and ran, her shadow fading into the approaching night. (59-60)

Viramontes expresses through metaphor the way that Estrella is doubly hunted and dehumanized: as a woman and as someone assumed to be “alien,” perceived as an animal for the predators that hunt her. Estrella’s fears of being harassed or deported also points to her racialized status—even though a citizen of the United States, her subjectivity is marked as other, foreign, alien. After running home from the baseball field, she breathlessly says to her mother, “‘Someone’s trying to get me.’ ‘It’s La Migra. Everybody’s feeling it,’ the mother explained” (61). Petra continues:

If they stop you, if they try to pull you into the green vans, you tell them the birth certificates are under the feet of Jesus, just tell them . . . Tell them que tienes una madre aquí. You are not an orphan, and she pointed a red finger to the earth, Aquí. (63)

Viramontes points to the violence of exploiting people upon the very land that they have been forced to move from as a result of colonialism, and in the words of the mother, re-maps the land by claiming a right for her and her family to that land. Further, by paralleling the two threats—rape and deportation—Viramontes leaves readers questioning to what extent the legal system does justice to Chicanas who are survivors of rape. Under the Feet of Jesus asks how exploitation thrives off of accepted notions of who qualifies as an “American,” of racist conceptions of both documented and undocumented Latinos and Latinas in the United States, and constructed definitions of subjectivity such as “illegal alien.” Viramontes asks how such accepted ideologies contribute to exploitation of both U.S. citizens and non-citizens. For feminist theory and praxis, such questions point to the necessity of transnational feminist alliances to resist the construction of Chicanas who have migrated to the U.S. as “illegal,” when in reality their exploitation should be illegal. Viramontes also raises questions for feminisms about how rape can be theorized and how anti-rape activism can take place without considering how class, race, difference, citizenship, and power affect the concrete reality of rape and the justice system in the United States.

[23] Paralleling the threats of deportation and rape with the violence of pesticide poisoning, Viramontes contextualizes a landscape of violence and exploitation of farm workers in relation to the history of people who had been living on that land for centuries. It is no coincidence that the child in Under the Feet of Jesus—poisoned by pesticide and left to die in the end of the novel—is named Alejo Hidalgo. This name recalls the historical context of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, when the U.S. government had promised Mexicanos citizenship and rights to their land, but in reality denied people their land claims. As Takaki points out, many Mexicanos found themselves working as laborers for white ranchers on that very land. In Under the Feet of Jesuswhen a plane flies over and sprays Alejo, only fifteen years old, with pesticides, Viramontes describes how “air clogged his lungs and he thought he was just holding his breath, until he tried exhaling but couldn’t” (77). Then he

closed his eyes and imagined sinking into the tar pits. . . . Black bubbles erasing him. Finally the eyes. Blankness. Thousands of bones, the bleached white marrow of bones. Splintered bone pieced together by wire to make a whole, surfaced bone. No fingerprint or history, bone. No lava stone. No story or family, bone (78).

Viramontes uses the image of the tar pits throughout the novel as a metaphor for the history of violence enacted on Mexican Americans in the United States and for the erasure of that very history. The repetition of the word “bone” emphasizes the death, destruction, and violence enacted on people’s bodies. Tar pits are created from thousands of years of death, and the erasure of the history of the animals and people who died in the tar pits parallels the history of those who die from pesticide exposure: their histories are too often unacknowledged by dominant discourses. Algimiro Morales, a farm worker, explains, “Our words mean nothing to the Americans. They don’t listen to us and we have no way of showing them that they’re wrong, that the problems in this country come from inside their own society” (qtd. in Shea 133). Viramontes’s novel voices such invisibility. In Under the Feet of Jesus, the land figures metaphorically and literally as a site upon which there has been and continues to be an erasure of violence. In the context of the history of feminisms in the United States, the voices and concerns of women of color have too often been invisible: present realities as well as the past are often erased in the depths of metaphorical tar pits.

Divisions Between Women: Political Economies of Violence

[24] Given the portrayal of Anglo women in Under the Feet of Jesus, a reading of the tar pits as feminist history in the United States elucidates the intervention that Viramontes’s novel makes to colonial history and feminist movements. Poisoned by pesticides, Alejo Hidalgo becomes seriously ill, and Estrella, her mother, her siblings, and Perfecto Flores compile all their money to take him to a medical clinic. The blond Anglo American nurse there charges ten dollars instead of the regular fifteen, because “times are hard” (144), for an examination that tells them what “they already knew” (147): that they must take him to the hospital. But after paying her all their money, they will not have enough for gas to get to the hospital, let alone to compensate for further medical care. At this point, Estrella

remembered the tar pits. Energy money, the fossilized bones of energy matter. How bones made oil and oil made gasoline. The oil was made from their bones, and it was their bones that kept the nurse’s car from not halting on some highway . . . that kept them moving on the long dotted line on the map. Their bones. Why couldn’t the nurse see that? (148)

Dan Latimer labels Estrella’s act of resistance “an act of violence, not her first; she steals the $9.07 from the clinic nurse” (336). However, Estrella did not “steal” the money from the clinic—she merely demanded their money back for a service that was useless. Further, Estrella’s use of the crowbar really raises questions about the reality of violence inflicted on farm workers everyday as a result of pesticide poisoning and how violence is perceived. It is their labor, their bodies, their energy that is used and exploited; just as oil forms from bones over time, so too is money and wealth made at the expense of farm workers’ bodies. And yet in an exploitative economy they do not have enough “energy matter” to get Alejo the health care he needs. As Viramontes visually places them “moving on the long dotted line of the map” (148), her cartography locates them within a history of capitalist exploitation and profit that has been and still is at the expense of the bodies who produce the “energy matter” (148). It is their labor, then, that fuels the nurse’s car, that empowers her to be mobile, and to commute to her job. She benefits at their expense.

[25] Viramontes questions why for the Anglo nurse the political economy is invisible. As Shea explains, “For the nurse, Alejo’s pesticide poisoning does not appear to be an act of violence” (139). Viramontes thus vehemently protests not only the poisoning of Chicana and Chicano bodies, but also the apathy that many Anglo Americans have about it. The violent paradox is that the food, the “energy matter” harvested by farm workers is considered more important than people. The nurse symbolizes Anglo women who are not aware of the effects of exploitation on Chicanas, and who have benefited from feminism. When Estrella asks “Why couldn’t the nurse see that?” (148), the text points to the history of exclusion of the struggles of Chicanas from feminist movements. In the medical clinic, Estrella and the others need to get their money back so they can pay for the “energy matter,” the gas needed to drive Alejo to the hospital. They attempt to explain their situation to the nurse. The nurse holds a position of power, representing authority in the medical field—though she has benefited from feminism, as a nurse she inhabits a very gendered space, lower on the hierarchy to doctor. She does not even listen to Estrella: “she didn’t even look up as she filed the folder away” (148). Because of the ineffectual results of voicing their needs, Estrella takes a crow bar and slams it on the nurse’s desk, a tactic the nurse listens to. Estrella demands their money back for the health service that they never received. She reflects on the situation with her mother later, “You talk and talk and talk to them and they ignore you. But you pick up a crowbar and break the pictures of their children, and all of a sudden they listen real fast” (151). By breaking the pictures of the nurse’s children, Estrella symbolically threatens the safety of the nurse’s children and family, evidencing the Anglo woman’s distancing of her concerns for her own family from the families of farm workers. Her class privilege in inextricably linked to a kind of white heterosexual privilege, symbolized by the photos of her children that evoke the institution of family. Further, because of the facts that 1) the Anglo nurse does not inhabit the power of the title doctor; 2) her power is limited—as she puts it “I only work here. I’m real sorry . . . I couldn’t say” (145); and because 3) she, like Petra, is also a mother, she inhabits a space that could enable her to be an ally; however, she is enmeshed in the institutions of racism and capitalism, and ensnared in her own set of gendered, classed, social expectations—represented by the numerous references to her red lipstick—to see past her own “lipstick smeared” lips and see the blood spilled by the exploitative system of capitalism. Such a portrayal does theoretical work of pointing to some of the ideological divisions between women that have prevented alliances between women—or, in this case, the divisions that often cause Anglo women to be aligned with colonial power and institutions that exploit Chicanas. Because this Anglo woman is so unsympathetic, it effectively urges her Anglo women readers to not be like this Anglo nurse.

[26] Viramontes draws a parallel between the institutions of health care, the family, and education—and Anglo women’s roles respective roles—and the naturalization of violence against farm workers and racism within agribusiness. Under the Feet of Jesus denaturalizes the racist words of the teacher, Mrs. Horn, who taught Estrella that “words could become as excruciating as rusted nails piercing the heals of her bare feet” (25). Estrella wanted to learn, to be empowered through knowledge,

[b]ut some of the teachers were more concerned about the dirt under her fingernails. They inspected her head for lice, parting her long hair with ice cream sticks . . . They said good luck to her when the pisca was over, reserving the desks in the back of the classroom for the next batch of migrant children. (25)

Viramontes confronts such institutionalized racism in the school system as part of the ideological fuel that fires the machinery of capitalism. When they are headed to the medical clinic the car gets stuck in mud, and at this moment, Estrella “thought of the young girl that Alejo had told her about, the one girl they found in the La Brea Tar Pits. They found her in a few bones. No details of her life were left behind, no piece of cloth, no ring, no doll . . . Estrella’s shoes were completely buried in the mud” (129). Estrella sinks into the mud, and her life and her struggles are metaphorically paralleled with the girl in the tar pits. As Carlos Gallego explains, when Estrella learns of the girl who dies in the tar pits she understands the economic realities of her life in relation to others (Lecture). Significantly, the physical act of resistance by Estrella takes place after she thinks about the tar pits, the history of the land, and the political economy of exploitation that the nurse—and by implication many other Anglo Americans—cannot see. With her tool in her hand, Estrella, which means star in Spanish, radiantly challenges the ways that Chicanas and Chicanos have been forgotten in the dominant discourses of history, erased from a history of the land.

The Absence of Anglo Women in Moraga’s Heroes and Saintsand the Portrayal of Chicano Masculinity:

[27] Whereas in Under the Feet of Jesus two Anglo women reflect the reality of racism and a history of divisions between women, in Moraga’s Heroes and Saints Anglo women are absent. Given the emphasis that Moraga places on alliances across race in Loving in the War Years, Waiting in the Wingsand This Bridge Called my Backthe evident lack of Anglo women in Heroes and Saints attests to the reality of the failure on the part of Anglo women to protest the exploitation of farm workers. The public protests in the play are organized by Chicana mothers who are farm workers and whose babies have died. A Chicana, Amparo Manríquez, founds the “Mothers for McLaughlin” protest movement, and the play is centered around the effects of pesticide poisoning on Chicana mothers. Because the play is based on history, Moraga’s choice not to include Anglo women is grounded in historical reality. The absence of Anglo women in Heroes and Saints should suggest to Anglo women audiences and readers—especially feminists—the necessity for joining and supporting such boycotts and other forms of protest by Chicana farm workers.

[28] Moraga maps a gendered geography of a violent landscape, from the police brutality against Amparo—based on the beating of Dolores Huerta—to the damages that pesticide poisoning causes mothers’ reproductive systems and the wounds inflicted on Chicana bodies. In the final scene of the play, Cerezita gives a speech, boldly protesting exploitation, pesticide use, and attempts by ranchers to cover up the numbers of babies who have died. She proclaims, “Put your hand inside my wound. Inside the valley of my wound, there is a people. A miracle people” (2.11.80-81). Cerezita’s body is itself a wound. As a talking head she literally represents the physicality of violence enacted against farm workers: she has no arms, no legs, not even a torso. This character’s physical disability further renders her other, and yet she uses the only weapon her body has: her tongue. In the end, reminding them that they presumably live in a “land of plenty,” Cerezita tells the farm workers to have courage, empowering them to resist: “today, this day, that red memory will spill out from inside you and flood this valley con coraje. And you will be free. Free to name this land Madre. Madre Tierra. Madre Sagrada. Madre . . . Libertad. The radiant mother . . . rising” (2.11.101-104). Moraga connects protest and social justice for farm workers to the land, to the environment. After this powerful speech Cerezita uses her chin to push a button on her motorized platform and exit the stage with Juan, the Priest, to put Cerezita’s sister’s dead baby on a cross in the vineyards. A helicopter sound, followed by machine gun fire, presumably kills them; their act of protest had been deemed illegal because it drew media attention to the death that results from pesticide poisoning.

[29] Cerezita’s brother Mario had left to live in San Francisco, but it is crucial that he reappears for the final protest scene and that it is a queer Chicano and a severely disabled Chicana who rally the people to resist. Mario’s and Cerezita’s roles in the play suggests the importance of alliances between gay, lesbian, queer, and straight Chicanos and Chicanas. In the last words of the play, he suggests, “Burn the fields!” and the people, El Pueblo, reply “¡Enciendan los files! ¡Asesinos! ¡Asesinos! ¡Asesinos! (2.11.107-110). The people support Mario’s radical call to burn the fields, echoing it in Spanish, along with a just accusation aimed at the murderers, the betrayers of the farm workers. Mario had previously left the farm worker community, and had been rejected by his mother Dolores for being gay: “Why you wannu make yourself como una mujer? Why you wannu do this to the peepo who love you?” (1.12). As Yarbro-Bejarano points out, Moraga uses Dolores to critique the way that Chicanas perpetuate homophobia in Chicano communities. When Mario’s mother suggests that he get married, Mario explains to his mother that he does not want to be like his father, a womanizer who abandoned his family: “That’s not the kind of man I want to be” (1.9). Mario’s character thus rewrites possibilities of Chicano masculinity as well as sexuality and simultaneously acts in resistance to colonial male power and profit in the agribusiness industry.

[30] Both Moraga’s and Viramontes’s depictions of Chicanos challenge the assumption that Emma Pérez rightly critiques, that Anglos, including feminists, all too often critique Chicanos as sexist but fail to recognize that “men of their race make the rules” (163). Moraga also portrays a straight Chicano positively, further questioning the negative stereotype of Chicano masculinity and suggesting that men have choices about their actions. For example, Don Gilberto plays a minor, but significant supporting role as husband to Amparo. Right before her protest speech she confides to him: “I think I got the cold feet” (1.9). He encourages her, reminding her that all the people are there waiting for her: “You got all this gente here esperándote. (She hesitates). ¡Adelante, mujer!” (1.9). Later, he explains that he does not want to be like his own father: “When a man leaves his wife alone to raise his kids, well to me that no longer qualifies him to be a man” (1.12). His character challenges definitions of masculinity, and alongside Mario’s character they both question gendered expectations for Chicanos. Because Mario and Don Gilberto do not want to be like their fathers, Moraga points to the reality that definitions of masculinity are learned, and can thus be unlearned and questioned rather than repeated.

[31] In Under the Feet of Jesus, Perfecto Flores is a good man whose struggles emphasize that the Anglo farmers and the Anglo woman in the medical clinic “make the rules.” His name alone, in English, means Perfect Flowers, which causes him to symbolically embody what would be thought of as opposite to masculinity. He teaches Estrella how to use tools, and it is the crow bar that she uses to resist the Anglo woman and get Alejo to the hospital. When they arrive at the hospital they leave Alejo at the door because they cannot pay for help. Perfecto Flores is powerless as a man to do anything more for Alejo except hope that the hospital will care for him. Estrella thanks him, and he reflects:

He had given this country his all, and in this land that used his bones for kindling, in this land that never once in the thirty years he lived and worked, never once said thank you, this young woman who could be his granddaughter had said the words with such honest gratitude, he was struck by how deeply these words touched him. (155)

As a Chicano farm worker he is not valued in American culture—he does not have the power that those who run the agribusiness have. Similarly, Moraga demonstrates through Don Gilberto, a janitor, and Mario, a gay son of farm workers, that feminist analysis of gender oppression and masculinity necessitates attention to intersecting issues of race, class, and sexuality. Mario’s lack of privilege, as a working-class queer Chicano, and Cerezita’s lack of privilege as a disabled Chicana whose working-class mother hides her in a closet, serve to underscore the inter-relationship between the Anglo nurse’s white, heterosexual, bodily, and economic class privileges in Under the Feet of Jesus, privileges which contribute to resistance on the part of some Anglo women to radical social change.

Feminist Theories and Praxis:

[32] Moraga and Viramontes protest the naturalization of continued violence against Chicanos and Chicanas, but also the prevalent ideologies about labor and the people who perform it. In 1994, just a year before Under the Feet of Jesus was published, and the same year that Heroes and Saints was published, Proposition 187 was passed in California. The proposition attempted to refuse state services such as medical care and education to undocumented people and their children (Cacho, 389). Basically, as Lisa Marie Cacho explains, the “supporters of 187 requested that mothers give birth in the streets, that people die from curable diseases, and that families go hungry. But, they did not ask that undocumented workers stop working” (389). The passing of this proposition reflects the anti-immigration and racist cultural contexts during which both Under the Feet of Jesus and Heroes and Saints were written. Given the current militarization of the U.S. Mexico border (compared to the attention the U.S. Canada border earns), continued anti-immigrant propositions (such as the ballots of 2006 in Arizona), and the executive actions by President George W. Bush in 2007 to build what he calls a whole new “infrastructure” along the border, there is an urgency to further work in feminisms that emphasizes the effects of such violent government practices on Chicanas.

[33] Under the Feet of Jesus points out that ideologies about the border affect undocumented workers as well as citizens of the United States, and thus suggests a necessity for feminist transnational alliances that address the effects of exploitation on Chicanas, Mexicanas, and Latinas. Perhaps, as we continue to decolonize feminisms, there will be more Anglo women acting in solidarity and protesting anti-immigration, pesticides, and exploitation. Both Moraga’s play and Viramontes’s novel function to raise awareness, which would then ideally lead to action. In the case of Under the Feet of Jesusthe negative portrayals of Anglo women confront the reality of racism on the part of Anglo women, but they also serve to encourage awareness and an unlearning of racism. As Lorde rightly suggests, romanticized notions of sisterhood that do not confront racism are useless: “For then beyond sisterhood, is still racism” (97).Heroes and Saints andUnder the Feet of Jesus intervene in feminisms and call for changes, for theoretical changes in feminismsand practical changes in praxis. As Moraga explains in This Bridge Called My Backin her essay “La Güera,” “We have failed to demand that white women, particularly those who claim to be speaking for all women, be accountable for their racism. The dialogue has simply not gone deep enough” (33).

[34] Viramontes and Moraga write the violences committed against the land and the people who labor on the land, mapping a geography of oppression within the gendered, racialized spaces of a capitalist system. They point to the reality that working-class Chicanos do not have access to the institutionalized corporate power of Anglo men, and thus suggest the necessity of not lumping all men under the label of patriarchy.Under the Feet of Jesus and Heroes and Saints de-romanticize the “corporate made” image of the “sun maid” as well as the colonial imaginings of a Southwestern landscape that erase the political economy of exploitation. Under the Feet of Jesus marks the brutality of industrialization on the land: “Still on her feet, Estrella turned to the long stretch of railroad ties. They looked like the stitches of the mother’s caesarean scar as far as her eyes could see” (59). The railroad, the often celebrated symbol of industrialization and American expansionism, is likened to the wound on a mother’s body. Similarly, in Heroes and Saints,Cerezita speaks of her body as a wounded landscape. Within a troubled landscape of exploitation and a history of colonialism, both Viramontes and Moraga write counter-hegemonic cartographies that de-romanticize labor and imagine further resistance.

[35] Further, Heroes and Saints points to a connection between the exploited people in the United States and the exploited people in San Salvador: a radio broadcast reports that six Jesuit priests, and their housekeeper and her daughter, were “brutally murdered” (1.11). They had been “outspoken opponents to the ruling rightist ARENA party” (1.11). Moraga thus makes a connection between Latina workers in San Salvador and Chicana workers in California. This moment in the play, when considered next to Moraga’s emphasis on alliances between women, points in the direction of transnational feminisms. Likewise, Under the Feet of Jesus addresses the realities of exploitation within the United States in a way that allows for alliances between women across national borders—particularly when considering that Latinas are exploited around the world by U.S. corporations. Considering the context of globalization and a political economy within which maximization of profits occurs more and more at the expense of women’s bodies, there is an urgency for people to see the scars that Moraga and Viramontes expose and strategically act in opposition to try to heal troubled lands because, as Estrella challenges her mother regarding resistance, there is “[n]o sense talking tough unless you do it” (45). Estrella’s bold statement could also be read as a call for Anglo feminists to think about how racism has affected their lives and ideologies and to (continue to) work toward decolonizing feminisms—not just in theory but in praxis—in the twenty-first century.

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