ILAN STAVANS INTERVIWED BY JM.PERSÁNCH

   

 

 Ilan Stavans      

 

Writing is like breathing. I write every day, generally at night because I’m not interrupted. Besides, at night I’m tired, which gives the mind a special sharpness.      

       Ilan Stavans was born in Mexico in 1961 to an Eastern European Jewish family. In 1985, after a sojourn in Spain, he moved to the United States and began writing while taking a doctorate from Columbia University. The past decade has established him as a distinguished Latino critic, editor and author. Currently he is the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Latin American and Latino Cultures at Amherst College. His published work, translated into several languages, includes The Hispanic Condition; On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language; The Essential Ilan Stavans; The Disappearance; and The One-Handed Pianist and Other Stories. He is the editor of The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories and The Oxford Book of Latin American Essays. Stavans has been a National Book Critics Circle Award nominee and the recipient of the Latino Literature Prize, the National Jewish Book Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other honours.       

 Foreword by JM.Persánch (2010):       

persanch@sarasuati.com      

I must admit that it was all new to me back in 2007. Living in Massachusetts, where I attended Carleen Basler´s undergraduate courses ´Latino Identity in the U.S´ and ´White Identity in the U.S´ at Amherst College, along with delightful informal conversations with Ilan Stavans about the historic situation and current life conditions of Hispanics in the United States which both widened and shaped my views in such a way that my PhD would never have been the same without this experience. I am thankful for all they did and said for they have inspired me with their work, which has unquestionably contributed significantly to the way I now perceive the world.     

The following is a short interview whcih focuses on some general aspects of the U.S life concerning Hispanics.         

  

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   

 Interview by José Mª Pérez Sánchez (JM.Persánch) at Amherst College in 2007       

                                                                                                                                       -This interview was carried out in 2007 at Amherst College, where I was a Spanish Teaching Assistant.-  _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________        

 

INTERVIEW 

 

JPS:     Can you briefly describe yourself?   

IS:        My Mexican, Jewish, and US identities shape everything I do. These identities aren’t at odds with each other; on the contrary, they complement themselves. Language, to me, is essential: Spanish, Yiddish and Hebrew, and English, are all unique lenses through which I perceive the world.   

JPS:     How do you perceive yourself in socio-racial terms?     

IS:        I’m a by-product of the Mexican middle-class in the 1970s. My ancestors were immigrants from Poland and the Ukraine.     

JPS:      Describe the US in one sentence…     

IS:       An imperfect yet hopeful social experiment, defined by “newness.”   

JPS:      Has US foreign policy gone too far on immigration matters? Has the ‘traditional’ pull-push theory of immigration been transformed or re-conceptualised recently as an effective tool of ‘indirect’ oppression?     

IS:        US foreign policy is a mess at the moment. The Bush Administration has tarnished the nation’s reputation at the global level. The issue of immigration is particularly chaotic. Our paternalistic approach to the Americas has pushed the region to the far left. Simultaneously, poverty and unemployment continue to push people northbound. Once in the US, immigrants are perceived as parasites. But this view—in spite of intolerant voices like those of Sam Huntington and Pat Buchanan—are the salvo of a dinosaur generation on its way out. I believe the nation is undergoing a dramatic cultural change at its core, becoming more heterogeneous, more global. Happily, the very immigrants being denigrated today will shape the foreign and domestic policy of this country tomorrow.   

JPS:      Has the Latino community evolved or involved in the past three decades, in terms of rights and social perception? What are the markers supporting your idea?     

IS:        It has unquestionably evolved. Latinos in the 1940s lived in the fringes; today we’re becoming part of mainstream culture. Take music, for example. Salsa, merengue, bachata, corrido, jazz, hip-hop—for the last fifty years Latin rhythms have been reinvigorating US culture.     

JPS:      Is a socio-hierarchical structural change possible in the US within a short period of time? Or will ‘whiteness’ re-invent itself all over again to reinforce the status quo?   

IS:        Is there really such a thing as “whiteness’? In any case, the US is already far more ethnically diverse than it ever was, certainly since World War II, and the future is quite promising.     

JPS:      According to Samuel Huntington’s article “The Hispanic Challenge,” “the persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages.” Is this true?     

IS:        Poor Professor Huntington, who lived so comfortably in his New England tower, deluded by paranoid visions of clashing and conflicting civilizations while dispensing sound bites of erudition! In the past I’d publicly invited him to join me in a weekend trip to Miami, all expenses covered. It’s easy to prove to him that the US isn’t likely to be divided into two peoples, two cultures, two languages. In fact, it will be divided into many more.   

JPS:      Thank you for you time.      

IS:        Thank you for your dedication.     

 __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   

TRADUCCIÓN AL CASTELLANO por JM.Persánch   

ENTREVISTA   

JPS:     ¿Podría describirse brevemente?   

IS:        Mis identidades mejicana, judía y estadounidense dan forma a todo lo que hago. Estas identidadtes no entran en conflicto unas con otras; al contrario, se complentan. La lengua, para mí, es esencial: Español, Yiddish y Hebreo, e Inglés, son todas lentes únicas a través de las cuales percibo el mundo.  

JPS:     ¿Cómo se percibe usted en términos socio-raciales?  

IS:        Soy un bi-producto de la clase media mexicana de la década de 1970. Mis ancestros fueron inmigrantes procedentes de Polonia y Ucrania.  

JPS:      Describa los Estados Unidos en una sólo frase…  

IS:       Un imperfecto pero esperanzador experimento social, definido por “newness.”  

JPS:      ¿Ha llegado demasiado lejos Estados Unidos en asuntos de inmigración? ¿Se ha transformado o re-conceptualizado recientemente la tradicional Teoría de inmigración conocida como Push-Pull (“Tira-afloja”) en una herramienta efectiva de opresión indirecta?  

IS:        La política de inmigración estadounidense es un desastre en estos momentos. La Administración Bush ha empeñado la reputación de la nación a escala global. La problemática de inmigración es particularmente caótica. Nuestro enfoque paternalista hacia las Américas ha empujado a la región hacia la extrema izquierda. Simultaneamente, pobreza y desempleo continúan forzando a la gente a venirse al norte. Y una vez en los Estados Unidos, estos inmigrantes son percibidos como parásitos. Pero esta opinión—muy a pesar de voces intolerantes como las de Sam Huntington y Pat Buchanan—son el salvo de una generación de dinosaurios en vía de extinguirse. Creo que la nación está inmersa en un proceso de cambio cultural dramático desde sus cimientos, convirtiéndose en más heterogénea, más global. Felizmente, los mismos inmigrantes que son denigrados a día de hoy darán forma a las políticas de inmigración y nacional de este país el día de mañana.  

JPS:      ¿Ha evolucionado o involucionado la comunidad latina en las tres últimas décadas, en terminos de derechos y percepción social? ¿En qué sustenta su respuesta?  

IS:        Incuestionablemente ha evolucionado. Los Latinos durante los años de 1940s vivían en los márgenes; hoy nos estamos integrando como parte del mainstream cultural. Toma la música, por ejemplo, Salsa, merengue, bachata, corrido, jazz, hip-hop—en los últimos cincuenta años los ritmos latinos han revigorizado la cultura norteamericana.  

JPS:      ¿Es posible un cambio estructural socio-jerárquico en los Estados Unidos a corto plazo? ¿O la identidad blanca se reinventa una y otra vez para reforzar el Status Quo?  

IS:        ¿Existe de verdad tal cosa como la identidad blanca? En cualquier caso, los Estados Unidos es ya mucho más diverso etnicamente de lo que fue jamás, ciertamente desde la Segunda Guerra Mundial, y el futuro es bastante prometedor.  

JPS:      Según Samuel Huntington en su artículo The Hispanic Challenge: “El persistente flujo de inmigrantes Hispanos amenaza con dividir los Estados Unidos en dos pueblos, dos culturas, y dos lenguas.” ¿Es esto cierto?  

IS:        Pobre Professor Huntington, quien vive (vivió) confortablemente en su torre de New England, carcomido por visiones paranóicas de choques y conflictos entre civilizaciones al tiempo que dispensa mordiscos sonoros de erudición. En el pasado le invité publicamente para que viniera conmigo de viaje a Miami, todos los gastos pagados. Es fácil demostrarle que los Estados Unidos no es probable que se divida en dos pueblos, dos culturas, dos lenguas. De hecho, se dividirá en muchas más.  

JPS:      Gracias por su tiempo.   

IS:        Gracias por tu dedicación.

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ILAN STAVANS INTERVIWED BY JM.PERSÁNCH por José María Pérez Sánchez (Licenciado en Filologías Inglesa e Hispánica), a excepción del contenido de terceros y de que se indique lo contrario, se encuentra bajo una Licencia Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Spain Licencia.

About JM.Persánch

ESPAÑOL -------------- Licenciado en filologías inglesa e hispánica por la Universidad de Cádiz; fue estudiante internacional en the University of Birmingham (Reino Unido), TA y estudiante internacional simultáneamente en Amherst College (EEUU, MA.); Doctor en Estudios Hispánicos porla Universidad de Cádiz. Mi área de investigación es interdisciplinar. Tengo interés en estudios culturales, estudios fílmicos, sociología e identidades comparadas, lengua y literatura, lingüística y el andaluz, entre otros temas. Actualmente soy instructor de español en la University of Kentucky (EEUU, KY), director fundador y coordinador del grupo literario palabras indiscretas , cónsul de la provincia de Cádiz (España) de poetas del mundo, editor de la revista literaria palabras indiscretas (RLPI) y colaborador permanente de la sección de estudios hispánicos y co-editor en la revista digital de humanidades Sarasuati. Hago de revisor en revistas académicas como Nomenclatura, LL Journal y UDP. * * * * * ENGLISH --------------- I graduated in both English and Hispanic Philology at Universidad de Cádiz, Spain, previously an International Student at the University of Birmingham (England, U.K) in 2005-06, and in 2006-07 simultaneously TA and International Student at Amherst College (MA, U.S.A.). PhD in Hispanic Studies from the Universidad de Cádiz, Spain. My research field is interdisciplinary, the objects of which are the Latino and White identities in Films. I am interested in Cultural Studies, Film Studies, Sociology and Comparative Identities, Language and Literature, and Andaluz among other subjects. Currently, I am Instructor of Spanish at the University of Kentucky (KY, U.S.A.), Founding Director and project co-ordinator of the Literary Group Palabras Indiscretas (GLPI), Consul of the Province of Cadiz for Poetas del Mundo, Editor of the Literary Journal Palabras Indiscretas (RLPI), and permanent contributor to Hispanic Studies and Co-editor for the e-Journal of Humanities Sarasuati. And Revisor Peers Review in academic journals such as Nomenclatura, LL Journal and UDP. * * * * *

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