The United States has often been referred to as a melting pot. Whether or not that statement is an accurate representation of the denizen of the United States, it still carries with it the appropriate connotation. The United States is a mixture of many different peoples, cultures, and traditions. For millions of people, that means that they identify with the culture of the country they come from, as well as the culture of the United States. This causes feelings of isolation and discomfort for people experience these potentially conflicting cultural identities. In the poems “Legal Alien” by Pat Mora and “The Translator at the Reception for Latin American Writers” by Julio Marzán, this theme ...view middle of the document...
Slipping back and forth also brings forth the image of a swinging pendulum, which does not stay on one side for long, nor is the pendulum in a permanent neutral position. Like a pendulum or handy token, the author is in a constant state of identity crisis. In “The Translator at the Reception for Latin American Writers”, Marzán faces a similar issue. However, Marzán chooses to take a more humorous approach to the topic. His use of the word ‘offerings’ in “offerings of cheese” (line 27) is perhaps one of the most effective uses of word choice in the entire poem. While the stated use of the word ‘offerings’ is prosaic, maybe even puerile, when coupled with an earlier reference to Mayan human sacrifice, it brings to mind the bloodiness rather than the grandeur of the Mayans.
Beyond diction, the use of irony in each poem is essential to understanding the meaning. In “Legal Alien”, the irony is thematic rather than existing within particular words, however the wording used helps to support the thematic irony. The central irony in “Legal Alien” is that Mora is Mexican and American, and yet, at the same time, she is neither Mexican nor American. This is represented in the poem when it says:
viewed by Anglos as perhaps exotic,
perhaps inferior, definitely different,
viewed by Mexicans as alien,
[their eyes say, ‘You may speak
Spanish but you’re not like me’]. (lines 9-13)
The people that Mora encounter put her into one of two categories. Either way, they view her as an ‘other’, not fitting into any one category. In “The Translator at the Reception for Latin American Writers”, the central irony exists in the perceptions the translator has about the author and about Latin Americans in general. The translator sees the Latin American culture as a shiny novelty that exudes glamour and grandeur, and the translator is disappointed when Marzán, upon being asked where he is from, answers “‘Puerto Rico and the Bronx.’”. (line 5) The translator had heard Marzán speaking Spanish, and assumed him to be a ‘real’ Latin American. Marzán compares the translator’s disappointment to a director who visualizes giant fake sets in compliance with the patent falseness of Hollywood and the movie...