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Brown: The Last Discovery Of America

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Brown: The Last Discovery of America completes Richard Rodriguez's three-volume work in which he explains and explores the ethnic and racial future of America. In this particular book, the author defines the color brown not as the representation of the Hispanic race but as the color of the future. Black, white, yellow, the author explains, are incorrect racial categories for it is not how nature works. Nature yearns for combination of all different colors, and brown is the final result. In the chapter "Hispanics," as seen through imagery, personification, and humor, Richard Rodriguez upsets the reader to show that racial categorization is unfit and that racial barriers are meant to be broken.

Rodriguez begins the chapter by presenting the word "Hispanics." He defines it as "1. Spanish, adjective...5. Seen running from the scene of the crime... 'most fertile'...magical realism" (103). These definitions progress from the generally accepted to the disturbingly stereotypical. Since there are many different meanings, the frustrated author poses the question, "Do Hispanics exist?" (104).

Next, he attempts to answer this question by searching for the existence of Hispanics throughout history. The author first encounters the Latin Lover, a male "specialized in the inarticulate - 'dark' - passions" (107). However, the Hollywood actors who portray this fantasy are non-Hispanics. Abandoning the Latin Lover, Rodriguez move on to the Chicanos, who reject the term Hispanic and instead align themselves with "Latino." However, the Latinos, though they prefer not to be called Hispanics, nevertheless call non-Hispanics Anglos. Rodriguez questions their credibility as Hispanics because "Hispanics who call Anglos Anglo are themselves Anglo" (110). In other words, by using the Anglo language, the Hispanics themselves are also Anglos.

Because there are no "true" Hispanics, the author concludes that racial categorization, not only of Hispanics, is unfit. Americans, explains the author, do not speak English but "American English" (115). Americans have taken the English language and transformed it into their own property. While becoming a hybrid, the language has also devoured other languages as well, causing boundaries, whether literary or racial, to mesh together.

One of the devices in which Rodriguez employs is imagery; it is used to illustrate the confusion created by racial categorization. When the Nixon administration created the five racial categories - African American, Caucasian, Asian American, Native Americans, and Hispanic - mass confusion resulted:

Statisticians in overalls moved India - oufff - over beneath the green silk tent of Asia. Mayan Indians...were directed to the Hispanic pavilion (Spanish colonial), which they must share with Argentine tangoistas, Colombian drug dealers, and Russian Jews who remember Cuba from the viewpoint of Miami. (105)

This group, who shares nothing in common, is being forcefully pulled into the same category by a team of statisticians. The reader can picture that image and the conflict created by the mixing of these diverse groups. By doing so, Rodriguez visually stimulates the reader's mind to prove that "Nixon...attempted to describe the world [of distinct races] that exists by portraying a world that doesn't" (105). In other words, racial categorization is not natural; it is solely a human creation. Racial categorization is wrong and also has negative consequences. Rodriguez, in the beginning of the chapter, describes himself as "amassing data, abstractedly setting down his coffee cup at a precarious angle to its saucer, to the stack of papers and books and maps on which it rests" (104). This vivid picture - stacks of data, coffee cups - indicates that the author has gone mad while attempting to define Hispanic. Therefore, imagery visually shows the faults of racial categorization.

Humor further emphasis the reality of racial categorization. In a personal vignette, Rodriguez discloses that the first "slang" word he learned "was the unexpected word for one's father...and soda and what the weasel goes: pop" (113). This statement is funny because the reader himself is well acquainted with this term and probably has used it in his childhood. Though it is humorous, Rodriguez wants the reader to realize that the American language is unique because it has "its disinclination to be tied down" (113). The language itself is always yearning for the next generation to twist and form it to its own. Another comical section involves the character Miss Bolivia, a fictional character on a game show. The host, in the voice of Rodriguez, states that "she is destined for Hispanicity because [she] lives in the United States" (119). "Ñ--?", the girl responds. She considers herself to be "ÐŽBolivian!" (119). But the host does not care about Miss Bolivia's opinion and "bid farewell to [her] and asks 'Who's our next contestant, Johnny?'" (120). This scenario appeals to the reader because the host does not care for Miss Bolivia's opinion. She might think she is Bolivian, but she is going to be thought of as a Hispanic nevertheless.

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