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Héctor Tobar’s The Tattooed Soldier and the Latino/a trauma narrative

Research paper by Crystine Miller

Indexed on: 05 Sep '16Published on: 02 Sep '16Published in: Latino Studies



Abstract

This article posits Guatemalan American writer Héctor Tobar’s novel as an alternative to Latina/o representations of historical trauma following immigration to the United States. Scholarship on US Latino/a trauma narratives predominantly argues that past trauma experienced by immigrants in their Latin American or Caribbean homelands finds resolution through the existence of a collective Latino/a community that is able to perform the therapeutic function of witnessing. Tobar’s novel, however, represents ongoing traumas in order to question the possibility that this kind of community can exist for Guatemalan immigrants. This reading challenges accepted notions that narrative can heal historical traumas by giving voice to past atrocities and instead highlights the ongoing traumatic consequences of US imperialism in Central America, subsequent differential immigration policy towards Guatemalans, and the incorporation of US immigrants into US-Latino/a racial categories that make invisible important ethnic, class, and national origin differences among immigrant groups. This article posits Guatemalan American writer Héctor Tobar’s novel as an alternative to Latina/o representations of historical trauma following immigration to the United States. Scholarship on US Latino/a trauma narratives predominantly argues that past trauma experienced by immigrants in their Latin American or Caribbean homelands finds resolution through the existence of a collective Latino/a community that is able to perform the therapeutic function of witnessing. Tobar’s novel, however, represents ongoing traumas in order to question the possibility that this kind of community can exist for Guatemalan immigrants. This reading challenges accepted notions that narrative can heal historical traumas by giving voice to past atrocities and instead highlights the ongoing traumatic consequences of US imperialism in Central America, subsequent differential immigration policy towards Guatemalans, and the incorporation of US immigrants into US-Latino/a racial categories that make invisible important ethnic, class, and national origin differences among immigrant groups.