RAIN OF GOLD BY VICTOR VILLASENOR Essay Example
Rain of Gold
Victor E. Villaseñor’s Rain of Gold is a dual biography telling of both his mother and his father’s lives, and their stories blend together to form their love story. Juan Salvador Villaseñor and Maria Guadalupe Gomez were both born in Mexico and grew up during the time of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, which was provoked by the political regime of Porfirio Diaz. Their families moved to the United States in the early 20th century, but even after they settled in their new home, the profound effects of the Mexican Revolution can be felt on their lives.
Both families feel an intense sense of “first loyalty» (Villaseñor 62) to the family “la familia,” which developed as a direct consequence of the war. It was decided that institutional authority could not be trusted on either side of the border. American involvement in Mexican affairs proved bothersome, manipulative, and even destructive to the workers toiling in American-owned mines. «These tricky gringos,» Lupe’s father says of a United States mining company, «they got it all planned out for us for the next two hundred years!» (184). The family is the only thing that can be counted on in the midst of the turmoil. The worst disaster that can occur in RainofGold is losing family honor and self-esteem — becoming gente sin nombre (160), as Juan feels they have done when he sees his mother reduced to begging (159). Not even the families’ religious faith can be counted on to be a significant help to them.
Both the Gomez and the Villaseñor families are deeply religious. A main theme in the book is the struggle against loss of faith in God, and in the connections to one’s own people. There is one emotional scene in the book in which Juan starts to bite himself because he is so upset when his friends refuse to stand up for themselves in a labor dispute. His mother cautions him:
Mad is good. Be good and mad and go talk to Archie and talk to Febronio, too, and work things out with them, if you can. That’s why God gave us the word; the word was our first step out of darkness. The word is our sword to fight off evil. So go and talk and be mad, but … what I don’t want is for you to carry hate (Villaseñor 527).
Salvador’s future wife’s faith is not as tested as his is. She is content to thank God daily for giving her hands and a body to work and make her way through the world (Villaseñor 35). She finds God’s blessings in every day occurrences, and even sees the sun as “the right eye of God” (46). Lupe’s faith in God is a little stronger than Salvador’s, as is her belief in her own abilities.
Lupe struggles to attain an education in the hopes of bettering herself and her family’s position, even though she is faced with obstacles on ever side, not the least of which is her own teacher’s comment: «You dirty little Mexican prick-tease! Who do you think you’re kidding? You’re too old to be in school!» (Villaseñor 274). She believes that she can learn, and her belief is reinforced by her mother’s encouragement – yet another example of how when others try to hold you back and push you down, your family will always be there to pick you back up. Lupe is an example of an oppressed individual who stays within the confines of the oppressive system, and yet still succeeds in making something of herself. Salvador, in contrast, is an example of resistance.
Salvador’s family struggled to find their way to the northern border when he was 12 years old. When he was fourteen, Salvador was imprisoned for stealing six dollars worth of silver from the mine where he had worked. He later escaped from the Arizona prison. Enraged with the exploitation of Mexican workers by the white man, he gives up this lifestyle to become a gambler, bootlegger, and fugitive from the law. Then he meets Lupe, and from almost the first moment he sees her, he is in love with her. He shirks all his duties just so he can follow her and find out more about her (Villaseñor 281). Finally, Salvador is able to woo and win Lupe, and they are married in Santa Ana, California, in 1929.
Both Lupe and Salvador face many obstacles as they try to improve their economic status and build a home. Along the way they are confronted with low wages, poor housing, and racial discrimination. With money he earned as a professional bootlegger, Juan buys a pool hall in 1933 that he and Lupe operate in the barrio of Carlsbad, California. Their determination has paid off. They faced the societal barriers placed before them, and hurtled over them, proving once and for all that they learned the lessons of loyalty, love, optimism, and survival that their parents tried to teach them.
Villaseñor, Victor. Rain of Gold. Houston, TX: Arte Publico Press, 1991.
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