In Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales’s “I Am Joaquin”, we see the anger and resentment the narrator holds towards “gringo society,” a reference to white U.S. society. In the poem, the narrator speaks of the pain in deciding between identities, the difference between death and survival:

And now!

I must choose

the paradox of

victory of the spirit,

despite physical hunger,


to exist in the grasp

of American social neurosis,

sterilization of the soul

and a full stomach. (Gonzales 788)

In this excerpt, the narrator claims that he “must” choose, that there is no allowance for the hyphen in this world he lives in, and the two options are “paradox[es].” It is a struggle between the “spirit” and “existence” within the American mainstream and to have “victory of the spirit” means one must starve as a result of keeping one’s own cultural identity, or one must undergo a “sterilization of the soul,” and cleansing, in order to survive and “exist” or have a livelihood (as suggested by “a full stomach”). The use of the word “sterilization” suggests that to have an ethnic identity outside of the “American” identity is unclean and to be American one must have no ethnic identity—one must be a blank slate. Both are unappealing choices because to keep one’s ethnic identity, one will be forced to sink in this society, but to stay afloat one must be a shell. Whereas Fulano in Alfau’s story reacts with hopelessness the narrator in “I Am Joaquin” is bitter and angry about being forced to decide essentially between identifying with an ethnic heritage and as a result being shunned by society, or falsely adopting the American culture and becoming spiritually empty, but given the means to survive. It seems from Gonzales’s poem, the narrator is one who has experienced this racial discrimination that both Schildkraut and Golash-Boza wrote of, but the narrator understands to choose either identity would mean death in its own way. It seems the narrator has more affinity with identifying with his or her ethnic background, but is forced to consider an American identity due to the threat of being shunned and marginalized by society.

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