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Group Commentary: Marias Journey Gregory Vega Pepperdine University


Marias Journey is a powerful narrative that details the life and experiences of Maria, the matriarch of the Arredondo family whose roots originated in Northern Mexico and stretched across the U.S., ultimately settling in industrial Northwest Indiana. Co-authored by her son, Ramon, and daughter-in-law, Tricia, Marias Journey is a story of assimilation and perseverance that is firmly rooted in cultural identity and the strength of a family bond. The stories that are told within the pages of Marias Journey are rich in terms of their cultural value, giving the reader an insight into the life of one woman whose story mirrors that of many others who shared in similar experiences during the period of time in which the text is set. Most significantly, the content within the pages of Marias Journey can be applied to convey and relate three large-scale concepts. First, as an ethnographical piece that gives the reader insight into the uniqueness of the lives of Maria and her family through a lens that focuses on the cultural perspective. Next, the historical context of Marias Journey is detailed in a manner that gives cultural significance to events such as the great depression, World War II, and the era of McCarthyism. And, finally, the concept of regional culture is explored deeply, from geographical location to the industrial workplace setting. Though not exhaustive in terms of subject matter that can be applied to a learning experience, these three aspects of the text serve as a valuable means for analysis and understanding in a cultural context. As an ethnographical piece, Marias Journey offers a look into the life of an individual and family whose cultural perspective and experience is both uniquely their own, while concurrently representative of the countless families who shared in similar experiences at the time. Major themes such as immigration and assimilation

Running Head: GROUP COMMENTARY are explored in depth, and the sentiments related in Marias anecdotes fall on a spectrum that ranges from uplifting to heartbreaking. Recounting Marias stories give the reader a look into the life of an individual whose family ties and cultural identity are of the utmost importance. The ethnographical value of Marias Journey is especially valuable because it is, otherwise, difficult to ascertain an accurate

picture of exactly what life was like for the individuals who lived through these sorts of life experiences. The anecdotal quality of Marias Journey gives the reader an opportunity to understand the difficulties and struggles that an immigrant family was likely to experience during the early and mid 1900s in the U.S. Furthermore, the value of the stories that are recounted in the text, in terms of their potential as a tool for learning, is increased as a result of the fact that they can relate information that extends beyond an analytical account of what life might have been like it shows, instead, what life was in fact like. The historical context of Marias Journey is another aspect of the text that is valuable in terms of its strength as a tool for learning. Maria lived a long life and her experiences took place during a number of periods of historical significance. The accounts of Marias experiences not only revisit these periods and events, but they offer a perspective and interpretation that diverges from the typical, dominant narrative. The Great Depression, for example, was a time where almost all Americans were profoundly impacted. Immigrants, however, are almost entirely missing from the historical accounts that discuss the Great Depression. Stories such as the necessity to scrounge up money to purchase 100 pound bags of beans to feed the family give the reader a fresh take on the depression era that is not commonly

Running Head: GROUP COMMENTARY discussed or considered historically significant in terms of the typical, master

narrative. World War II is another major historical event that is contextualized with the aspect of culture. The members of Marias family who joined the American army and fought in WWII are representative of all immigrants who aided the allied war effort, but are rarely discussed or given their just recognition. Again, the master narrative of WWII all but ignores the fact that immigrants made a significant contribution, but were overshadowed by the patriotism and nationalism that existed during that period of time. Finally, during the era of McCarthyism, when paranoia over the expansion of communism, held the U.S. hostage, the accounts of Marias experiences during this time offer a new perspective on what life was like for a family of immigrants at this time. It seems difficult to imagine what life must have been like when being accepted in society was already difficult, and then dealing with the increased scrutiny of the red scare. Marias stories, however, make this seemingly distant sentiment a tangible notion and, again, the reader is struck by the fact that this sort of account is absent from the typical narratives that discuss the era of McCarthyism in a historical context. Overall, its historical context and significance is an overwhelmingly important aspect of the text that, when tied to the cultural component, makes for a tool that can be effectively applied in any learning experience. In addition to the ethnographical and historical value that Marias Journey provides, its significance in terms of understanding culture from a regional perspective is another aspect of the text that can be used as a powerful learning tool. The title, Marias Journey, is appropriate, in terms of both its literal and figurative

Running Head: GROUP COMMENTARY meanings. Her birth in Mexico established her roots that would define her cultural identity as she traveled across the U.S. before ultimately settling in the area of East

Chicago, Indiana known as the harbor. The cultural perspective of Marias story in terms of its regional significance is explored, as is life in an industrial, blue-collar setting. The working class status of the Arredondo family contrasts the ideal notion of the city life that is often associated with cities such as Chicago. Ultimately, the perspective, in a cultural context, diverges from the master narrative in this instance as well. Marias stories, however, echo those of many working class and immigrant families who inhabited the region during this period of time. Although Marias experiences are that of only one individual and one family, they are representative of many others whose experiences may have mirrored her own. Understanding Marias Journey in a cultural context allows the reader to relate these stories to their own experiences and apply the lessons to all other cultures. The stories and perspectives that are found in the text can facilitate discussions that can encompass all cultures and transcend any boundaries that may separate or divide different cultures. An individual account, as a learning tool, is powerful in its ability to convey material that cannot simply be learned by reading a text or studying cultures. As a framework, Marias Journey could even be utilized to explore and analyze ones own family history. This, as a result, strengthens the argument for using texts like this as a mechanism for cultures in a learning environment.