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oh we’re out there LAU: For me, the bulk of my book was dictated by the epic nature of the story. We are the generation who grew up with James Michener and John Steinbeck. Maybe we are going through that tradition of the big American novel. Most of my books had been pretty slender. But there was so much to tell about Teresita that I am doing a sequel, which will also be a fat book. It is dictated by formby the stories you have to tell. TO: We have our Nino Fidencio, our Don Jaramillo and our Santa Teresita. What is it with our Chicano latter day, counterculture saints? LAU: I think it is the same thing with Guadalupe in her day. We need this Mexican sacrednesswe need a new world approach. I think it is interesting that Mormonism has been very interesting to Chicanos and mexicanos because it offers a new world theology, a new world Christianity. However, our metaphors are different. One of the curanderos I studied with [while researching Hummingbird] kept telling me, “You know the missionaries came here and they didn’t understand this continent. And they thought snakes were evil. We didn’t think snakes were evil. They did. So they attributed our belief to some kind of satanic demonic force, whereas the snake was holding the same metaphorical place for me and my tribe as for the Hebrews.” For me, with Teresita, it’s because it is personal. It is a family story. It is also taking ownership of our history. Learning how to tell our history. I worked on Teresita for 20 years before I could feel that I could write it and do it justice. So I think it is the whole body of work coming to fruition for all of us. I think Caramelo is a pretty personal text. And The Hummingbird’s Daughter is a personal text for me. Luis’ book [Music of the Mill] is a very personal text too. Ben Saenz and Gary Soto do a lot of poetry and young adult books. We are now everywhere. I don’t know what it meansI think we now have entry into the mainstream, and we will be taken seriously as American authors. I am still seen as a regional writer, but I made my first foreign sales with this new book. TO: Our earlier works were marginalized as too regional, while Faulkner, who wrote about a little postage stamp county, was considered universal. It wasn’t until Garcia Marquez started writing about Macondo that a change occurred. LAU: They didn’t recognize some of the cultural markers. [Chicano writer] Rudy Anaya used to tell me that your personal world is very political. He would come under fire in the old Marxist days of the movement for not being political enough. He told his critics, “What I write is very political. If you can make somebody from another culture think your grandmother is their grandmother, you then teach them something about humanity they hadn’t thought about.” I always took that to heart and I think he is right. As we move out to a more universal reading public, it’s not a change necessarily in us but in the reading public accepting it. The Hummingbird’s Daughter, is a universal book in that it has a connection with anybody regardless of culturewho has somebody in their recent past who was very connected with the earth even in a tribal way. I talk about this with my students all the time. But many say, “We are just white people, we don’t have a culture.” I said that is the strangest thing I ever heard. You have the culture everybody else is ripping off so you better look at it and what you are going to do. And sure enough they had a grandma who healed warts or a grandpa who had a folk remedy. Everyone has a connection to the earth. TO: That brings us back to healing the border. LAU: I used to think that the only thing that would be helpful, that the only thing I had to offer, was my art. To that end, we wanted to make a concert on one side of the river with Mexican musicians and gringos on the other side and serenade each other. The only thing that can pass the border without problems is musicart as a symbolic bridge. I think there is more brotherhood than we understand. We are programmed to think we are in competition. That we are against each other, that we are xenophobes. But the fact is we are often much more accepting of each other and welcoming of each other than we get credit for. Gregg Barrios is a Texas journalist and playwright. He lives in San Antonio. JANUARY 13, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23