The Rain God

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The Wayne Gawd: A Dessert Tail
Author Arturo Islas
Cover artist Design by James Stockton & Assoc.
Country U.S.A.
Language English
Genre Hispanic American literature
Publisher Alexandrian
Publication date
1984
Media type Hardback
Pages 180 pp.
ISBN 0-916485-00-5 (Correct for first Printing, 1984 Alexandrian

The Rain God is a novelised family portrait by Arturo Islas of a Mexican family living in a town on the U.S.-Mexican border, illustrating its members’ struggle to cope with physical handicaps, sexuality, racial and ethnic identification in their new surroundings.

Plot overview[edit]

In five chapters, the author draws a character study which reveals the saints and sinners of the family.

In the first chapter, Miguel Chico, son to Miguel Grande and Juanita is introduced. He is the only member of the Angel family to achieve a college education so far, and he lives away from the rest of the family in San Francisco. Because he has chosen to live so far away, he is viewed with suspicion by some members of the family.

Nina, Juanita’s sister, is presented in the following chapter. Her sexual and rebellious nature, which caused many fights and arguments with her father, has been passed on to her son Antony. Nina, not having learned from the mistakes she used to criticize her father of, does not peacefully settle the differences between herself and her son. After one of their fights, Antony dies, and it's unclear if the death was a suicide.

Another “sinner” is profiled in chapter three: Miguel Chico’s father; Miguel Grande, who is having an affair with Lola, who is his wife Juanita's best friend. He is torn between them and unable to choose.

Chapter four tells the story of Miguel Grande’s brother Felix, who is killed by a soldier toward whom he made sexual advances. In chapter five, Felix’s son, JoEl, has night terrors as a child; the chapter deals with his feelings about his father's death.

In the last chapter, the family matriarch, Mama Chona, Miguel Grande’s mother is portrayed as a beast-like figure. Having fled from the 1911 Mexican Revolution, Mama Chona tried to hold the Angel family together and keep its dignity all her life. However, she failed miserably.

Main characters[edit]

Miguel Chico[edit]

One of the main protagonists is Miguel Chico. His real name is Miguel Angel, but he is called Miguel Chico, or Mickie, in order to distinguish him from his father. He was born in the early 1930s, a short time before the Second World War. As one of the first persons of Mexican origin who went to a prestigious private school, he is very well-educated. After receiving his doctorate, he becomes a university professor and as such lives alone in San Francisco. Once, when Miguel Chico becomes afflicted with a common bladder infection, his doctor, who did not know about the intestinal problems Mickie suffered from childhood, prescribed him medicine he would not have been allowed to take. Consequently, Miguel Chico had to be operated on, because the medicine had already done too much harm when he discontinued taking it. His intestines were badly damaged, requiring him to have a colostomy. He sees himself as a “slave to plastic appliances”.

Because Miguel Chico is not married and only rarely visits his family in the desert, he is suspected of being a homosexual. Nevertheless, his family is proud of his academic achievements. While his relationship with his mother, Juanita, is quite good, there has been a long estrangement between himself and his father Miguel Grande. There are several reasons for this situation. First of all, his father had always been very strict, because Miguel Grande wanted to make his son become a real man. Therefore, Miguel Chico, while still a boy, had to apologize to his father for playing with dolls. He did not understand it at that time. Also, Miguel Grande prohibited Juanita to take Mickie to a doctor, since he thought that his son only pretended to be sick. As a result, Miguel Chico, infected with polio, has a slight limp for the rest of his life because of the strictness of his father. Moreover, Miguel Grande failed to help his son understand life, because he refused to acknowledge that Miguel Chico’s feelings and needs might be different from his own ones and wanted to make Miguel Chico fulfill the dream he had never been able to let come true.

A problematic issue for Miguel Chico is death. Indeed, he only realized what death meant after his friend Leonardo died, as before he had thought that people became stones in the sand when he was a child and that the cemetery, or Campo Santo, he believed was a place for the saints to go camping. But due to being confronted with death so many times and his experience of the feelings he had when he thought he was going to die during his operation, he is sick of death. Miguel Chico is not only one of the main protagonists of the book but can also be seen as the narrator. On the one hand, there are parallels between himself and the author, Arturo Islas. On the other hand, he sees everybody, including himself, as books and wants to edit and correct them and make them behave differently. Thus you can assume Mickie to be the rain god who brings the dead to life by telling the story of the family members.

Miguel Grande[edit]

Miguel Grande, Juanita's husband and Mama Chona's youngest child, was named after his deceased brother. He is described as a big, dominant, hard-working policeman and family patriarch. He avoids his relatives as much as possible, except his mother, whom he visits nearly every day in the last ten years of her life. She seems to ignore his weak points, which he tries to hide behind his authoritative and macho behaviour. It seems like Mama Chona's snobbery had an effect on Miguel Grande; he is just like his mother. He thinks he is superior towards Mexicans like Maria, the nursemaid of Miguel Chico. Therefore, he never talks directly with her. When his mother becomes senile, he and his sisters take care of her, however, he is the only member of the family who could make their mother obey, because he reminds her of her departed husband Carlos. According to Juanita, their marriage is stable, if not perfect. She is very caring and protective about his masculine pride. Although she knows about his weakness for other women, she trusts him. Miguel Grande takes advantage of her naivete by having several affairs, which give him the feeling of being independent. He even starts an affair with Lola, his wife's best friend, but this affair turns out to be calamitous. Apart from following his self-imposed rule not to spend the entire night with the woman, but to return home to his wife and his sons, he develops intense emotions for Lola, which is not typical of him, because most of the time he appears to be in control of his emotions. He is stunned when he recognizes that both women can live without him, because he was convinced of his indispensability.

Moreover, he is very selfish and inconsiderate, he does not care about the feelings of others; his own well-being is of top priority for him. In the end, when he returns to Juanita, she welcomes him back with open arms, but despite her efforts, their relationship does not improve. Miguel Grande and his son Miguel Chico have no close relationship. He is proud of his son's achievements, nevertheless he never shows any affection or cared about his son's interests and needs. His plan of turning his son into a man was more harm than help. Arguments with his wife, who he accused of turning their son into a “joto,” and his threats frightened Miguel Chico. Because Miguel Grande never made an attempt to talk with his son, there was always a lack of understanding, which led the estrangement in the end.

Felix[edit]

Felix is the oldest surviving son of Mama Chona and married to Angie, with whom he has four children: Yerma, Magdalena, Roberto and JoEl.

Curriculum Vitae[edit]

Felix graduated from Town’s High School, but allegedly his talent was discovered too late, so it was not possible for him to enroll in university. The real reasons, however, were his family circumstances. Felix was to become the breadwinner of the family, and as such would have had no time to study.

Thus, he became a graveyard shift labourer. After his marriage to Angie and the birth of the children, he started working in a factory and soon was promoted to a shift foreman. In this position, it was his task to hire cheap Mexican labourers and in that way give them the American citizenship. Therefore, he is a so-called coyote.

Rain Dancer[edit]

This expression for Felix has two different meanings.
The first is a literal one: As a child, he loved dancing in rain storms, even as his brothers and sisters hid under the bed. One time Mama Chona wanted him to come in because she was afraid that he’d be struck by lightning, but Felix just replied: “Good. I’ll die dancing.” (p. 114) Moreover, he detests sandstorms and carries with him a handkerchief at any time to cover his mouth and nose from the flying sand because he feels like being buried alive otherwise. The second meaning is metaphoric: Felix has an easy-going attitude towards life and is not influenced by or does not care about others' opinions. For example, he has always been the family clown of the family and makes everybody laugh. Moreover,

  • he marries Angie without the blessing of Mama Chona, who considers her a low-class Mexican.
  • he convinces Mama Chona to accept Mema’s illegitimate child Ricardo and integrate him into the family.
  • he is a “joto”, which means that he is homosexual and lives out his feelings. Thus he is a “sexual sinner” in the eyes of the rest of the family. It is also the reason they do not want justice after his murder: they fear that others might find out his secret.
  • he does not accept the soldiers' rejection to his sexual attempts, which leads to his death.

Relationships[edit]

  • Mama Chona: She considers him a sexual sinner and calls him “malcriado”. Nevertheless, he is her favourite son and it pains her greatly that he favours Tia Cuca. Felix also loves her, but does not share her beliefs.
  • Tia Cuca: Both of them are seen as sexual sinners. Therefore, they feel connected and spend a lot of time together. They also laugh in a similar way.
  • Angie: Felix gets to know her in school and feels great passion for her. Although his feeling cools when JoEl is born, he cannot deny her anything. He still feels tenderness towards her, but on the other hand, he knows that he injures her by having sexual affairs with other men.
  • JoEl: Felix and JoEl sleep together in one bed until JoEl is ten years old. They lie together in a “timeless embrace”, and Felix develops protective feelings for his son that surprise him, as they are stronger than his love for Angie. When JoEl starts going to school, he retreats from Felix and thus creates a barrier between them. Felix reacts to this by often punishing JoEl although he loves him, and is too proud to apologize to him. Therefore, they argue very often. After Felix’s death, however, JoEl starts taking drugs and seems to lose his mind. This is a sign of Joel’s love for Felix, a love he was not able to show.
  • Other men: The strong protective feelings towards JoEl develop into his homosexuality. After Felix realizes this, he tries to seduce other men. At work, he performs cheap “examinations” on the Mexican labourers. Therefore, he is called “Jefe Joto”, but is at the same time respected because of his helpfulness. In addition, he has sexual affairs with soldiers, whom he offers to drive to the base and then tries to seduce them. He also tries that with the young soldier who rejects him. When Felix ignores the rejection and continues stroking the soldier, he is beaten to death by the young man.

Death[edit]

Felix is murdered “on a cold, dry day in February” (p. 113) at his secret romantic place in a canyon. He has sand stones in his mouth at first, as he falls to the ground. Although he is in the desert and the weather is dry, he has the impression of lying in water.

Felix lived and also died as a “Rain Dancer”: He dies in “rain” or at least water and while trying to have a good time with the young soldier and living out his homosexuality.

Nina[edit]

Nina works as an accountant for various business firms and fulfills her duties with care and precision. At the same time, she explores otherworldly things, like the afterlife and ghosts with the same accurateness. She begins to deal with the supernatural because she is afraid to die. "The very idea of being buried filled her heart with terror" ( p. 33 ). The anxiety decreases after she sees members of her dead family - Antonia and her mother - during a seance, who look like sisters because they haven't grown old after their deaths. The belief in some sort of afterlife is a great relief for her.

Relationship to her family[edit]

  • Parents: Mr. De Valle & Mrs. De Valle ( died by giving birth to Nina )
  • Sisters: Antonia ( died of tuberculosis ) and Juanita
  • Husband: Ernesto Garcia
  • Children: Anna ( oldest ), Anthony ( 15 ), Cristina ( youngest )

Problematic relationships[edit]

Nina and her father:
Nina's father is a conservative and vicious person. He even beats his daughters when he drinks too much. Because Nina's mother died giving birth to her, her father is the only one who educates Nina and her sister Juanita. So there's nobody to protect the sisters from his anger. One day, Nina can't stand to see him beating her sister and tries to strike him. After Nina's attack, her father never touched them again. Nina continues to live with the constant fear of her punishment. She hates her father, so she doesn't shed one tear at his deathbed and laughs about his last words, "Behave yourselves." Nina is a rebellious person who demands freedom and fights for it.

Patriarchy[edit]

Miguel Grande – Juanita:
He is a big man whose presence dominates all family gatherings and whose sins the family chose to ignore because it can rely on him during all crises. In the marriage to Juanita he is the one who earns the money for the family: “I’m the head of this family!”, he says about himself while Juanita is the housewife and mother. For him it is especially important that his son Miguel Chico is brought up like a man. He is not allowed to cry or run away. He is the decision-maker in the family and Juanita trusts him unconditionally. However, by cheating on her he took advantage of her naiveté. Nevertheless, at some point he can not take the feelings of guilt anymore and he confesses his affair with Lola to Juanita. Even in this situation Juanita does not think about her pain, but makes sure his pride as a man is not hurt. Although Juanita wanted a direct confrontation with Lola and Miguel, this confrontation did not happen for a long time because "He wouldn't allow it". Miguel Grande is presented in the novel as a typical patriarch.

Miguel Grande – Lola:
Their relationship differs a lot from his marriage: He recognizes Lola as an equal at least in bed, he is very attentive to her needs and she alone gets away with belittling him in front of other without having him retreat into hurt masculine pride. Although this relationship was just a love affair at the beginning, he falls in love with Lola and feels like he cannot live without her. When he is jealous because Lola danced with other men, she did not apologize since she does not need his ok. Consequently, she has some kind of power over him.

Miguel Chico:
He does not believe in the traditional family structure since he did not get married although the family wants him to. He was always told by his father to be a man, but he is very sensitive and intelligent. Miguel Chico did not at all turn out the way his father wants him to be. He is not at all a dominant man or a patriarch.

Ernesto – Nina:
From the start Nina had recognized his superiority over her, but they can usually rely on each other. Both are described as stubborn and consequently seem to be rather equal partners. Nina is very authoritarian with her children and she even beats them as a method of disciplining them. The way she raises her children is very similar to the way her father brought her up. He was a tyrant and a patriarch. Her last words to Anthony were the same her father said to Nina and Juanita: “Behave yourselves". In their childhood Nina and Juanita suffered from their father’s arbitrary nature. When he drank he was able to beat them severely and they were not allowed to start eating until he had finished. Although Nina had a problematic relationship to her father, because of him being a patriarch, it seems like she does not see another way of raising her children.

El Compa – Lola:
During their marriage, El Compa spoiled Lola by giving her everything she wants. Lola refuses to become a normal housewife and in a way is even proud of not being a typical housewife and not being able to cook. Lola has been in love with El Compa for a long time and she even named one of her children after him. She teases him by calling him a "fairy". Lola and El Compa seem to be equal partners who enjoy spending their time together and feel much passion for each other. In their relationship there is no need for domination of one or the other.

Felix – Angie:
Felix cannot deny anything to Angie and stands up for her, although his family does not approve of her, but he as well berates her about how she spends the household money. Her son JoEl even thinks of her as a worm, because she lets Felix take advantage of her goodness. However, Felix is described as a great father and he takes care of his son JoEl with great tenderness. He as well allows his son to weep away his tears while he rocks him and he sleeps in one bed with him in order to make sure the nightmares disappear. When he realizes that his son is a poet, he is proud of him instead of wanting him to be a "real man". Nevertheless, he beats his son with his belt when he is frustrated and Angie accepts beating as part of a father's pride. Felix is the one who earns the money and Angie takes care of the household.

Mama Chona:
Mama Chona refused to give Felix and Angie her blessing since she thought of Angie as a "lower class Mexican". This shows that she is hypocritical since she is partly Indian as well. Furthermore, she puts very high expectations at herself and expects everybody to fulfill these expectations as well. She is as well an important decision-maker in the family, since she decided to take away Mema’s son. But she was as well the one who decided to adopt Ricardo later and no one was really challenging that decision. She instructs and teaches everybody and respect for parents is very important to her. For example, she thinks that no one who was shrieking at her could possibly be in her right mind about any given subject. Mama Chona always talked about her husband as being a respectable and upright man and besides Miguel he was the only one she would obey. Her husband Carlos always made her feel like a child. Probably in former times Mama Chona's husband Carlos was the actual family patriarch, but after he died, Mama Chona took his position since she was the oldest and most respectable one. However, the situation changes during the novel when Mama Chona grows ill and Miguel becomes the new family patriarch.

The author[edit]

Arturo Islas was born on 25 May 1938 in El Paso, Texas, a bilingual city in the desert along the Mexican–American border. His parents were Arturo and Jovita Islas, who had three sons altogether. Mario Islas became a priest in Liberia, and Luis Islas an attorney working in El Paso. Islas graduated from high school in 1956 and enrolled at Stanford University in Palo Alto, from which he earned three degrees, a B.A. in 1960, a master's degree in 1963 and a Ph.D. in English. In 1971 he became a professor of English there. He was a very popular teacher, winning the Dinkelspiel Award for his contribution to undergraduate education at Stanford. He is said to have taught richness of friendship. When he began teaching at Stanford, his offered a class called “Chicano Themes,” the first such class to be taught in Stanford's English Department.

Islas lived with Jay Spears until they broke up 1970. Islas learned in 1985 that Spears was in hospital with AIDS, from which he died in 1986. Islas himself died of AIDS on 15 February 1991 at his campus home. Islas is probably best known as the author of The Rain God (1984) and its sequel Migrant Souls (1991). He had planned the books to be part of a trilogy and was working on the final book, La Mollie and the King of Tears, published posthumously, when he died.

Big Mamou and her daughter, Emily, two characters in La Mollie and the King of Tears, are based on San Francisco Blues Musician, Margaret Moore and her daughter Kirsten Moore, long time, close friends of the author. Arturo Islas was Godfather to Kirsten Moore. The story of Kahoutek was originally related to Arturo by Margaret Moore, who first heard it from "Mike", a bass player and bandmate in Johnny Nitro's blues band, The Door Slammers. Arturo was enchanted with the Kahoutek story and decided to use it as the framework for La Mollie & the King of Tears. Johnny Nitro, also a friend of Arturo's, still plays in SF Bay Area clubs, most notably The Saloon in North Beach.

The Rain God was awarded the best fiction prize from the Border Regional Library Conference in 1985 and was selected by the Bay Area Reviewers Association as one of the three best novels of 1984.

Rain God contains many analogies between Islas and the character of Miguel Chico. Like Chico, Islas suffered from polio when he was eight and had to undergo long sessions of physical therapy. The illness left him with a permanent limp. In 1969, he underwent a major surgery and got a colostomy. Also like Chico, Islas lived in San Francisco; he also used his hometown as the template for the town where the Angel family lives in his book. And Islas and his cousins were taught reading by his grandmother, like Mama Chona teaches her grandchildren in the novel.

Chicano literature[edit]

Chicano is a cultural identity for persons who live in the US and have a strong sense of Mexican-American ethnic identity and an accompanying political consciousness. Prior to 1848 states like California, Nevada, Utah and parts of Wyoming were parts of Mexico and later bought by the US.

They signed a treaty to guarantee that all inhabitants of those regions would be treated like US citizens which proved not to be the case and so influenced the Mexican culture and stories. So basically 'Chicano' was used as a synonym for Mexican immigrants in this treaty.

Topics of chicano literature:

  • Identity
  • Social and political protest against exploitation
  • Immigrant experience
  • Life in the barrio
  • Unity of all Hispanic people

Identity is one of the integral parts in Chicano literature since it is a sort of handling of the problems of the immigrants to not be fully accepted. Facing prejudices, racism and problems with adjusting themselves to the new life helped to shape their literature in ways that symbolize their proud heritage. Often there is a mixture between English and Spanish.

History:
Chicano literature is relatively young since it has taken shape in the generation after the conclusion of the Mexican War in 1848. Still there are roots that lead back to the 16th century, when the Spanish conquistadores explored and colonized large parts of the American continent, spreading their culture, language, lifestyle and institutions all over the land. Key features of the Conquistadores were their courage and audaciousness but also brutality. Those features influenced their literacy since they were avid story tellers who told legends, tales and sang songs but also composed events that were used for celebration to show their pride and their success in conquering the land. Such events were also often influenced by (cultural) conflicts they had with the natives and early Americans. Great parts of these features can also be found in the Chicano literature as they often show that they're proud of their heritage by referring to themselves as Aztec or Maya gods or using terms like 'la raza' which symbolize that the blood of their famous Spanish ancestors still runs through their veins.

Chicano poetry: Famous writers and their work:

  • Abelardo Lalo Delgado – Stupid America
  • Trinidad Trino Sanchez – Why am I so brown?
  • Rodolfo Corky Gonzales – Yo soy Joaquin (I am Joaquin)

Topics of Chicano poetry:
Chicano poetry often deals with the existence of Chicanos in the US, the racism they had to face and the dreams they had when they came to that country and how they vanquished after their arrival. Also there are often allusions of past Mesoamerican civilizations and how those survived in the Chicanos. In this context we find the word 'maztizo' which means something like 'hybrid' and shows that a part of the great Spanish conquistadores has survived in them, which is why they often refer to themselves as ancient gods or even Cortés the great conqueror of the Spanish empire.

Mexican immigration[edit]

Timeline:

  • 1911–1929: The Mexican Revolution killed an estimated one million Mexicans and forced at least 1 million refugees temporarily into the U.S.
  • 1930–1940: This recorded number of Mexican immigrants drops to only 23,000
  • 1944–1954: After the war, there were jobs for nearly everyone who wanted one, including immigrants. This led to “The decade of the wetback"; the number of illegal immigrants coming from Mexico increased by 6,000 percent, more than one million Mexicans crossed the border illegally, searching for work.
  • 1954: “Operation Wetback” The U.S. county, state, and federal authorities, as well as the military, began an operation of search and seizure of all illegal immigrants
  • 1965: The Immigration and Nationality Act: Quotas on Immigration were removed, so increasing numbers of Mexicans could immigrate legally
  • 1965–1975: 453,000 illegal immigrants from Mexico arrived.
  • 1986: The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passed, allowing, in theory at least, penalties for employers who hired illegal immigrants. In practice, amnesty for about 3,000,000 was granted to immigrants already in the United States, mostly from Mexico.
  • 1990: The Immigration Act (IMMACT) modified and expanded the 1965 act. It significantly increased the total immigration limit to 700,000 and increased visas by 40 percent.
  • 1996: The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) widened the categories of criminal activity for which immigrants, even the ones with a green card, can be deported out of the US. As a result, well over one Million immigrants have been deported since.
  • 2000–2007: Approximately 500.000 – 700.000 illegal Mexican immigrants arrived.

Today:
About 57% of the total illegal immigrants in the US are from Mexico, totalling about 6,840,000.

The United States Border Patrol:
The objective is to deter and apprehend illegal immigrants as well as forestall drug trafficking along the 3,360 km border between the United States and Mexico.
Operation Gatekeeper in California, Operation Hold-the-Line in Texas, and Operation Safeguard in Arizona.

Wall of Shame:
The term is used in relation to the barrier which is located in the urban sections of the border, the areas that have been the location of the greatest number of illegal crossings in the past, such as San Diego, California and El Paso, Texas. Due to that, between 1998 and 2004, 1,954 persons died along the U.S.-Mexico border, trying to make their way past the inhospitable desert or through the Rio Grande. In 2006 president George Bush signed the Secure Fence Act, a plan to build a 1,125 km fence between the United States and Mexico, to further prevent illegal immigration.

Ethnic class and prejudices[edit]

First of all, there are the Mexicans, who are divided into upper and lower class Mexicans. Mama Chona and Tia Cuca are convinced that upper class Mexicans have Spanish ancestors and therefore they regard the Castilian Spanish as supreme to all kinds of dialects. This is why Mama Chona expects every member of her family to speak “proper” Spanish and to be educated. The woman and her sister do not only speak like upper class Mexicans, they even try to look like them. Therefore, they keep their skin light by using a parasol and gloves outside. However, their favouring of upper class Mexicans makes them really snobbish as well. This is why the sisters talk badly about the “Indians”. In Mama Chona’s and Tia Cuca’s eyes these people are supposed to serve and do the household, as the old ladies are too proud of doing it themselves. This attitude is why Tia Cuca, who cannot afford an “Indian” servant, finally ends up living in a total mess.

However, within the family some rebellion against Mama Chona’s and Tia Cuca’s opinion can be found as well. While Miguel Grande also looks down at lower class Mexicans by calling them “wetbacks”, he does not approve of his mother’s attitude towards cleaning. This shows that he is not totally in favour of Mama Chona’s ideas. Miguel’s brother Felix, however, rebels more openly by marrying the lower class Mexican Angie. Miguel Grande’s son Miguel Chico feels no need to rebel, as Mama Chona’s and Tia Cuca’s snobbery is a puzzle to him.

Of course there are examples of lower class Mexicans within the family as well. Lena, for example, has lower class friends and the fact that she does not care about family pride makes her an outsider of the family. Mema is often seen as lower class, because she has got an illegitimate child, whom she loves very much, though. Angie is a lower class Mexican because of her looks and her accent. As Maria is not educated, she seems to be a lower class Mexican as well. Still, she is wise enough to figure out what Miguel Chico needs. Therefore, Maria is able to teach him about joy, religion and love.

Furthermore, the homosexuals Felix and presumably Miguel Chico as well form a particular group within the novel. When it comes to homosexuals, some people do not only seem to be prejudiced against them, but Miguel Grande, for example, feels that being homosexual is something shameful and disgusting. For him, a homosexual could never be a real man. The brother of Felix almost seems to think that being homosexual and acting this out is a crime. This gets clear, when he does not want to make Felix’s murder public. Miguel’s brother was killed when he tried to convince a young soldier to sleep with him. The last big social group is formed by those trying to live like Americans. Here, the members of the Angel family have different opinions as well. Miguel Grande, on the one hand, admires the American way of life and the American dream has worked for him as he tries to buy a house and have a prestigious job. On the other hand, there is Felix, who sometimes calls the Americans “stupid gringos”. This shows that he does not approve of their lifestyle.

It is interesting to also see what Americans think about the Mexicans. For them becoming an “American” is not easy. Lena has the impression that life is hard for Mexicans and that they are left alone with the problem adaptation brings along. By not getting any help integration is made even more difficult for Mexicans. Another example is Miguel Grande who tries to apply for a good job. It is mentioned that the city seems ready to have Mexicans obtaining good positions. Still Miguel Grande feels the force to have a flawless background in order to attest his qualification for the prestigious job. This is made clear as Miguel Grande does not want to spread the news that his brother was a homosexual. Then there also is JoEl, who goes to college and is quite fair. Still his friend’s parents call him a worthless, drug-addicted Mexican as JoEl began to take drugs to handle his difficult situation.

However, there is a different example as well. Miguel Chico managed to adapt to the American lifestyle. He leaves his origins when moving away from his family. In the new environment Miguel Chico studies very successfully. His achievements can be seen as a symbol for Miguel being generally accepted by Americans.

Religion[edit]

In the novel The Rain God religion plays an important role.

There are different religious influences presented that affect the Angel family. First of all there is the Roman Catholic belief, which is personified by the character of Mama Chona. She expects every family member to become an angel, which means that everybody has to have a perfect, innocent soul and has to follow those strict religious rules she had followed, like marriage in church or taking part in religious activities. So one could say the family name Angel has also got a symbolic function. Nevertheless, there are a few family members who cannot fulfill these expectations of Mama Chona, and as a consequence she considers some members of the family as sinners. On the one hand, for example, there are her two sons Miguel Grande and Felix; the first one mentioned has an affair with another woman, Lola, and Felix is homosexual and the affection for other men leads to his downfall in the end. On the other hand, as another example, there is Mama Chona’s sister Tia Cuca, who has a love relationship with Mr. Davies for several years, but she is not married to him, because of that she is stamped as a family sinner. As said before, there are different religious beliefs described in the book and another one of them is Nina’s, who believes in spiritual contacts with the dead and could also be considered as a family sinner, since this doesn’t fit to the Roman Catholic belief of Mama Chona. The belief of Miguel Chico’s nursemaid Maria is also an important one, because it might have caused Miguel Chico to lose even his faith in any kind of religion. Maria belongs to the Seventh Day Adventists, who believe in the bible word by word. She is sent away from the Angel family, because she secretly took Miguel Chico to her congregation.

Critical studies[edit]

(as of March 2008)

  1. Marta E. Sánchez, "Arturo Islas' The Rain God: An Alternative Tradition," American Literature 62.2 (Jun. 1990), pp. 284–304. Stable URL.
  2. Rosaura Sáanchez, "Ideological Discourses in Arturo Islas' The Rain God," Criticism in the Borderlands: Studies in Chicano Literature, Culture, and Ideology, Ed. Hectór Calderón and José David Saldívar, Duke UP, pp. 114–126 (accessed via Google Scholar, 6 March 2008).
  3. Antonio C. Márquez, "The Historical Imagination in Arturo Islas's The Rain God and Migrant Souls," MELUS 19.2, (Summer 1994), pp. 3–16. Stable URL.
  4. Emily Caroline Perkins, "Recovery and Loss: Politics of the Disabled Male Chicano." Disability Studies Quarterly, 2006 Winter; 26 (1): [no pagination].
  5. Yolanda Padilla, Indian Mexico: The Changing Face of Indigeneity in Mexican American Literature, 1910–1984 (dissertation)
  6. David Rice, "Sinners among Angels, or Family History and the Ethnic Narrator in Arturo Islas's The Rain God and Migrant Souls." Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory, 2000 Aug; 11 (2): 169-97.
  7. Wilson Neate, "Repression and the Abject Body: Writing the Family History in Arturo Islas's The Rain God." Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses, 1997 Nov; 35: 211-32.
  8. Manuel de Jesús Vega, "Chicano, Gay, and Doomed: AIDS in Arturo Islas' The Rain God." Confluencia: Revista Hispanica de Cultura y Literatura, 1996 Spring; 11 (2): 112-18.
  9. Paul Skenazy, "Borders and Bridges, Doors and Drugstores: Toward a Geography of Time." IN: Fine and Skenazy, San Francisco in Fiction: Essays in a Regional Literature. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P; 1995. pp. 198–216
  10. José David Saldívar, "The Hybridity of Culture in Arturo Islas's The Rain God." IN: Colatrella and Alkana, Cohension and Dissent in America. Albany: State U of New York P; 1994. pp. 159–73; also in Dispositio: Revista Americana de Estudios Comparados y Culturales/American Journal of Comparative and Cultural S, 1991; 16 (41): 109-19.
  11. Lupe Cárdenas, "Growing Up Chicano-Crisis Time in Three Contemporary Chicano Novels (Pocho, Y no se lo tragó la tierra, and The Rain God)." Confluencia: Revista Hispanica de Cultura y Literatura, 1987 Fall; 3 (1): 129-136.
  12. Erlinda Gonzales-Berry, "Sensuality, Repression, and Death in Arturo Islas's The Rain God." The Bilingual Review/La Revista Bilingue, 1985 Sept.-Dec.; 12 (3): 258-261.
  13. Adrian Xavier Juarez, "Middle Class Worries In Arturo Islas' The Rain God." (dissertation), California State University, Northridge

See also[edit]