Diaz’s Golden Mongoose and the Rhetoric surrounding “Non-native” Species

I’ve consistently found that the study of transnational literature in this course has been the study of definitions. Not only those brought to us by Appadurai or Merriam Webster, but definitions of geographic boundaries, as well as conceptual understandings of genres, politics, nationality and race. I continually found myself looking for the “fine lines”, and trying to figure out what lay on this or that side of them – not necessarily to bolster these definitions (as I’m sure we would all sooner interrogate these concepts than reinforce them) – but to thin the lines further, and demonstrate their permeability.

I lead with a digression, primarily because another fine line has come to my attention: that between “Non-native species” and “Invasive species”. The former suggests the controlled introduction of an animal species to a certain area, most often with the intention of using said organism to favorably change the landscape, by eating pests or cultivating the habitat. The latter is the downside of the prior definition; a creature that after migrating to (or have been brought knowingly into) a new continent, becomes uncontrollable, spreading and damaging its surroundings.

The “golden” mongoose that shows up repeatedly in Diaz’s narrative, coming to the aid of Beli and Oscar in turn, performing what might be classified as a Zafa for them both, was once a innocent non-native species, but eventually came to be seen as invasive by farmer’s and average citizens alike. Originally from Asia, the mongoose was deliberately introduced in the 1800s into Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, West Indies and Hawaiian islands in an attempt to control rat populations in sugarcane fields. Since their introduction, they’ve expanded their populations, becoming agents of disease, and economic hindrances to poultry industries.

It is difficult to ignore the way that the language of invasive animal species can translate to the language of human foreignness; of immigration, of the slave trade, of any number of conflicts caused by ethnic and racial tensions that increased with the globalizing world. In truth, it saddens me how easily transferable this way of speaking is to the subject of humanity. What transnational movement itself exposes, in Diaz, in Bulawayo, in Hamid, in Larsen, in Didion and Bowles even, is how we prickle at the idea of the unfiltered flowing of people across borders and boundaries. Most notably, these works have revealed our short memories; how easily we can forget that the individuals now decried for residing in a certain region may once have been those introduced for the purposes of aiding that region. We might forget that they did their jobs well. We might only remember to see them as foreign, a slippery slope to the term “invasive”.

This picture has more or less been painted multiple times over, globally and historically. Yet the fine line between “native”, “non-native” and “invasive” in terms of human politics, continues to be utilized (although the language has transformed, or been bolstered or disguised) despite the fact that the rhetoric is hazy at best, and hateful at worst.

Tayryn Edwards

Multinational Muppets: Sesame Street Around the World

A few years back I visited my cousins in India, and one day we turned on the television in the living room looking for something to watch. After scrolling through news channels and Indian soap operas, we landed on the local cartoon station, greeted by a band of furry creatures immediately recognizable as Jim Henson’s muppets. I would later find out that the show we happened upon was Galli Galli Sim Sim, the Indian version of Sesame Street. The characters on the show speak a mix of English and Hindi, and most of them have counterparts in the original, American version of Sesame Street. For example, Boombah the lion bears several similarities to Big Bird, Googly the blue muppet is a pretty clear match with Grover, and Kewal Khadoosa is actually related to Oscar the Grouch himself (according to Muppet Wiki). Anyway, the point to all of this is that these Sesame Street characters are manifestations of transnational figures. Having grown up in America watching shows like Sesame Street, I was shocked that Indians would be able to watch Sesame Street in their own homes, let alone have their own modified version of the show.

Original Cast

In fact, Sesame Street has over 25 spinoffs in various countries around the world, ranging from Takalani Sesame in South Africa to Sesamstraße in Germany, and each show has a modified version of the original cast. Usually the cast is modified in a way reflective of the adopted culture, such as Boombah’s love for the Indian dance form of bhangra or the name Googly’s double meaning as a cricket term for a type of delivery bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler. In this way, the various iterations of Sesame Street characters are actually an interesting lens through which to look at transnationalism, as they highlight the universal love for children across the world for these multicolored creatures, while also playing off of the cultural differences that make each show’s characters unique.

– Joe Joseph

Transnational Unity in Casablanca and The Sheltering Sky

Set during World War Two, Casablanca stars Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, an American expatriate who runs an upscale nightclub in Morocco. Rick is entirely apathetic to the war in Europe, seeking no part in the traffic of human lives from war-torn Europe to the (then) peaceful United States. His apathy is challenged when an ex-lover, Ilsa Lund, arrives in Casablanca. She comes dating a new man — Victor Laszlo — a Cezch resitance leader struggling to escape to America. Rick’s nightclub is a veritable model of heterogeneity, featuring small clashes between a group of Nazi officers and allied patrons.

Tensions come to a head when a group of Nazi officers sing the German patriotic anthem in the middle of the club. Laszlo responds by telling the house jazz band to play La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. For a moment, the potentially disjoint group comes together in song. This is not Appadurai’s modern world – syncretism is not chaotic and plurality does not cause disjuncture. Spaniards, Americans, Brits, Moroccans, and Frenchmen all fervently unite in singing a French national anthem. Gone are the individualistic concerns of solitary nations; in their place a new transnational mode of thinking is born. The cries of “Vive la France” don’t refer to France as a specific nation, but rather to France as an ideal of Allied unity.

It is likely that the moment could only have occurred during wartime – during a period in human history wherein mutual fears of destruction push humans to hitherto unseen levels of solidarity. One has a hard time imagining anything of the sort happening in a post-war world (I count myself as one of the doubtless many Americans who does not know the words to La Marseillaise). World War Two pushed disparate people together in perhaps artificial and unsustainable ways. It is thus interesting to consider The Sheltering Sky as a foil to Casablanca — as an exploration of the limited forces that bind together men once war’s unifying thread is removed. For if Casablanca  ultimately urges the unification of Allied forces, The Sheltering Sky is by in large an exploration of what little binds those forces once war is over.


Maternalism and American Exceptional In Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Written in 1883 to commemorate the State of Liberty, Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” helps reify our discussion of American Exceptionalism. The poem was immortalized in 1903 when it was engraved on the statue’s lower pedestal. Its placement upon such prime real estate creates a relatively unique intersection of literature and international policy – the sponsorship of New York City governance transforms this poem from an exclusively literary object into a state-sponsored affirmation of America’s (ostensible) relation to the world.

The poem attempts to place America outside of a traditional imperial framework by defining America in maternalistic terms. If the international relations of other countries are dominated by a testosterone-fueled desire to conqueror with “limbs astride from land to land,” the Statue of liberty is a “mother of exiles” – a compassionate protector of the homeless. Possessing both “mild eyes” and an ability to “command / The air-bridged harbor that the twin cities frame,” Lazarus imbues the statue (and thus America) with a latent power that is held in check by a mild, “welcome[ing]” countenance.

In this sense, the poem is reminiscent of Sarah Jewett’s “The Foreigner.” Both works strive to exempt America from the pernicious effects of being a world power by framing America as a maternalistic nation – a country devoted to protecting oppressed peoples of the world, a country with none of the imperial intentions that define those other superpowers.

It is thus with the most bitter irony that the New-York State Woman Suffrage Assocation was denied attendance at the Statue of Liberty’s unveiling. To retaliate, the group “hired a boat for themselves and without asking anybody’s leave took up one of the most favorable positions for viewing the ceremonies on the island.” If the governors of New York were not willing to allow the Women’s Suffrage Association to attend the unveiling of this ostensibly maternalistic statue, it is dubious that Lazarus’ maternalistic ideal represents the reality of American ideology.


The Displaced Person–Flannery O’Connor


(Preface: I love Flannery O’Connor. Read her.)

Flannery O’Connor is one of the most regionally specific writers I can think of. She’s up there with Jhumpa Lahiri or Steinbeck (India & Boston and Central California, respectively.) Flannery’s stories all take place in the South and are about Southern people and the values they may or may not possess. Flannery O’Connor hated the south and I love her for it. Raised in the south, she went away to the University of Iowa to study creative writing, but had to return to her family’s farm in Georgia after being diagnosed with Lupus. She was a devout Roman Catholic, which I think really informs her understanding of human nature. She’s part of the “Southern Gothic” subgenre, which is characterized by a critique of southern values.

At this point, you might think I’ve forgotten this is a transnational lit class, however, I have not. O’Connor’s story “The Displaced Person” tells the story of a farm run by a widow that employs both black and white farmhands. The woman’s pastor has arranged for her to hire a family of Holocaust survivors, the Guizacs,  termed “displaced people,” coming from Poland after WWII. The father of the family is quite good at his job and has a variety of skills that the other white farmhand does not have. The widow eventually fires the white farmhand so that she can pay the D.P. more, to incentivize him to stay. The wife of the white farmhand has a stroke the day they have to leave the farm. The widow finds out the DP (to use O’Connor’s abbreviation) wants to bring one of his cousins to the US, securing her green card by marrying her to a black farmhand. The widow freaks out and intends to fire him. When she goes to fire him, he is run over by a tractor, which is sort of crazy. The widow dies lonely and destitute. This all occurs because the transnational enters the regional. 

This story deals with both xenophobia and racism. Until the point that the white farmhand is fired, the story focuses on the white farmhand’s wife, Mrs. Shortley, who is friends with the widow, Mrs. McIntyre. After they are fired, the focus switches to Mrs. McIntryre. Both women are extremely ignorant but insanely self righteous. Mrs. Shortley repeatedly says the DP cannot talk. The entire Guizac family can speak of course, they just don’t speak English. Shortley believes that their inability to speak English translates to an inability to drive a tractor or, strangely, tell that their curtains are made of red and green burlap, and so they don’t match. She also tells McIntyre that the Guizacs probably speak more English than they’re letting on, they just want to pretend to not understand so they can do whatever they like. Shortley is concerned about the stability of her husband’s job, and is suspicious of the pastor’s motivations in placing the Guizac’s at the farm.

McIntyre is in denial of the severity of the Holocaust. This is made evident when she finds out that father Guizac has plans to bring his cousin over to marry a farmhand. She says, “You would bring this poor innocent child over her and try to marry her to a half-witted thieving black stinking nigger! What kind of monster are you!” O’Connor is being heavy handed, because the cousin has literally been in three different concentration camps, subjected to the monster that was Hitler, but I think that her use of subject and situation makes the story intelligent and readable, rather than a straightforward tale of morality. She later says, “My obligation is to the people who’ve done something for their country, not to the ones who’ve just come over to take advantage of what they can get.” and repeatedly mentions how ungrateful the Guizac’s are of her hospitality.

I think what strikes me in this story is the conflict between these women’s racism and their fear of immigrants. Shortley hates the Guizacs because they are better workers than any of the “american” farmhands, black or white. McIntyre loves the immigrants until they do not share her racist ideas, at which point she attempts to get rid of them, saying that they don’t deserve her help. As I’ve reread this story, and now writing this, I just have to wonder; has anything changed? Sure, the homelands of the immigrants are different now, but fear of the other and racism are still present today. The judgement in O’Connor’s story is clear—Shortley dies, McIntyre loses her entire staff and dies alone, knowing she caused the death of a Holocaust survivor. Again, it’s heavy handed, but maybe it needs to be.


Frank McCourt

After writing my last post, I began thinking about the ways in which the people of a certain nation are exposed to the characteristics of people of different cultures and nationalities than their own (whether within that nation or throughout the world). Specifically, I was interested in how various kinds of media (and especially more “historical” accounts of certain peoples) can greatly influence cultural understandings or perceptions of them within a nation. I also thought it important to note the reliability and potential agendas of the source producing that media, and whether even the most “personal” of accounts carry more weight than they originally set out to. In essence, I came to wonder at how we choose which sources to give more weight to in shaping our understandings of various cultures, how we deal with subjectivity, how we attempt to bridge the gap between cultures, and if we can even do the latter.

To this day, my father contends that Angela’s Ashes (1996) by Frank McCourt is “the greatest book ever written in the English language.” My father is not Irish (as was McCourt), but he is an immigrant and is also familiar with Irish history. Still, I believe that his love for the book stems from the way in which McCourt describes the struggles that he and his family faced upon moving to New York in the 1930s. I have only read part of the memoir, but there is something of the universal experience of the (impoverished) immigrant traveling to the U.S. and struggling to assimilate and thrive which is quite apparent and quite compelling within even the first few chapters. Angela’s Ashes also deals with his family’s interactions with the Irish community within New York.

Thus, I thought that Frank McCourt would be a good candidate for an important transnational figure. McCourt was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1930 to two Irish immigrant parents: Malachy and Angela Sheehan McCourt. From McCourt’s youth, his father squandered much of the family’s money on drinking; the family thus struggled with poverty. After one of McCourt’s siblings died, the family moved back to Limerick, Ireland, wherein their quality of life worsened. Angela’s Ashes describes the desperate circumstances under which McCourt’s family had to survive in Ireland while navigating through its poor economic conditions and its entrenched cultural, social, and religious expectations. It is only by the time McCourt is nineteen that he finally earns enough money to travel back to the United States to endeavor, as did his family, once again for a better life. McCourt passed away in 2009.

On one hand, with recountings like McCourt’s, a nation might come to understand the unique contexts (and especially struggles) that people of other nationalities face. On the other hand, one cannot ignore that McCourt was writing from his personal experience and perhaps did not intend for his memoir to become the account of the Irish immigrant experience that it did. What makes such an account so compelling?

Could it be, perhaps, that its portrayal of the hardship of immigration is actually transnational in nature? That Frank McCourt is a figure for the transnational experience within a person (pitting the Irish experience against the American one)?

Angela’s Ashes won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography in 1996.


Ethnic Diversity in Fandoms


One experiment in diversity that’s gained a lot of attention on the internet is the idea of “race-bending” disney princesses. It started from an artist on tumblr known as Let There Be Doodles who reimagined the different Disney princesses if they came from different ethnicities. This was partly in response to the introduction of Princess Tiana, the first African-American Disney princess, to the franchise. This shows the discrepancy that the media franchise has with its fan base. One common criticism of the American media is that it has a tendency to “white-wash” movies and television, showing a far smaller representation of minorities than would be accurate within the time period and place of the movie. (I addressed this in a previous blog entry regarding Cinderella.) Fandoms are born from enjoying a certain genre, book, tv show, or another form of media, but they also are known to give opinions and make decisions about how they wish they could change aspects of the thing that they enjoy. This is one such example. It shows a new power in the social media: Any person with access to a computer may now respond critically to a form of media largely controlled by a homogenous elite, and converse with other people who share the same, similar, or different opinions. In this case, it shows a fandom wanting to impose more ethnic diversity in a well-known, largely white movie franchise.


How to Read Donald Duck

In class, we did not get the chance to discuss one of the readings that we were assigned after Oscar Wao: the chapter “From the Noble Savage to the Third World” from How to Read Donald Duck by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart. The chapter focuses on the ways in which characters from Disney comics, and specifically Donald Duck, reflected Disney’s capitalist and imperialist ideologies in their dealings with (and exploitation of) figures from “virgin territories of the U.S.,” including Latin America, among others (Dorfman, Mattelart 48). Supposedly the critique was supposed to be of Disney, but it could likely just as well have been attributed to U.S. policy or ideology at large.

What that chapter does not mention, however, was what exactly Dorfman and Mattelart were trying to prove in their studies — so I did a little digging. In the preface, the authors explain that in the wake of U.S. corporations losing their industries to the Chileans “in the middle of the Chilean revolutionary process” in 1971, that the United States government and various American corporations decided “to overthrow the constitutional government of Chile” (9). An embargo on the international sale of Chilean copper ensued, the authors continue, and the U.S. commenced “psychological warfare” through the media it exported to Chile, which focused on “restoring” the “king” and the “businessman”– of which the Disney comics were a part (9-10). Some Chileans partook in a kind of “cultural offensive” by producing a sizable quantity of “liberated” popular culture, including literature, music, and film (9-10).

Dorfman and Mattelart conclude:

“It is in this multi-faceted context, with a people on the march to cultural liberation — a process which also meant criticizing the ‘mass’ cultural merchandise exported so profitably by the U.S. to the Third World — that How to Read Donald Duck was generated. We simply answered a practical need; it was not an academic exercise.”

The third chapter itself begins with an indictment of Walt Disney: specifically, his vehement expectation that various countries and their inhabitants conform, and mold themselves, to his understandings of how they should be — he “built upon them his Disneyland palaces” — as well as the way in which he treats these “underdeveloped peoples” — as if they must “accept this definition of themselves” — in Disney comic books (48). The authors draw a parallel between Donald Duck as the modernized and Westernized “child-adult” and the “noble-savages” he encounters in these fictional lands (although bearing the names of real locations) as the less-developed nations over which the U.S. exerts an obvious influence: like the relationship between “empire and colony, between master and slave” (49).

Discussion then centers around specific instances within Disney comic books wherein U.S. corporate and imperialist agendas are propagated. The analysis focuses on the means by which the worth, intelligence, level of sophistication, civilization, and development — indeed, the humanity — of these so-called “noble-savages” is diminished, as well as on the corruption and tricks by which Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge extract goods from the natives. The text dubs this method “the barter relationship established with the natives by the first conquistadors and colonizers (in Africa, Asia, America and Oceania)” (49).

Disney’s attitudes towards colonies is also criticized: in one comic, Donald tricks the people of Congolia into believing him a magician so he may claim kingship over them (50-51). He then tricks them into doing the bidding of the previous Congolian king, then gets the people to reaccept his legitimacy. The text cites this elaborate scheme as an instance of the ways in which America learns to “ally [itself] with foreigners if [it] wishes to stay in power” (51).

The text is perhaps most vehement in its insistence that stripping these countries of their raw goods and natural resources, their land, and their riches, denies them the “right to build their own future” (52). Donald Duck’s exploits keep these peoples at subsistence-level living, capitalizing upon the fear that natives have of “any phenomenon which disrupts their natural rhythm of life” and acting under the guise of “the impartial judge” who only has their best interests at heart (52-53). Because Disney is able to present these images to the rest of the world, it is able to reinforce the stereotypes not only that America has of other countries, but that other countries have of other countries — thus placing Disney (and the U.S.) in a unique position of power which “justifies the social system on which it is based,” according to the authors (54).

The chapter itself is quite rich, continuing to build off of its own arguments based in comic book episodes towards a grander diagnosis of the culpability of Disney and the U.S. and their imperialist agendas. I remember cringing while reading the article: the subject matter was very hard to stomach because one does not really hear of Disney as promoting popular culture so blatantly suffused with the imperialist and exploitative motivations that the U.S. is often condemned of bearing (This is not to say that it does or does not.). It was eye-opening for me, but I am not entirely certain of how to receive it. I would like more information on the context that it was written in so as to be able to situate it better. I would also like to know how critics received it upon publication: whether, in fact, it was too scathing or just right or something else.

I wonder what everyone else thought of the article. Do you agree with the diagnosis? I wish myself that I had a better knowledge of Latin American history in the 20th century.

The PDF of How to Read Donald Duck can be found here.


America: Umpire or Empire?

In “Midsummer XXVII”, Derek Walcott describes the world of the West Indies as it is transformed by globalizing America. I think the poem is interesting in that, contrarily to the novels we have recently read, America is this pervasive influence that is not embodied into a character, but rather embodied in natural and non-natural processes. Indeed, the speaker of the poem starts off with

Certain things here are quietly American—

that chain-link fence dividing the absent roars

of the beach from the empty ball park, its holes

muttering the word umpire instead of empire (Walcott 486).

The first line seems a paradox in itself; the words “quietly” and “American” are not necessarily what one would use together, especially when it precedes “umpire” and “empire”. However, the silence or absence of sound seems like a recurring theme, as though the Americanization of the place is what quiets it. Indeed, what is American is the “chain link fence”, not “the absent roars/of the beach” (Walcott 486). The fence keeps the noises of the sea from reaching inland, yet the ball park, which can also be considered as American, is empty. This image seems to point out the flaws, the “holes” in the American imperialism; it removes and does not fill, distorts and does not improve. The word “empire” then distorts into “umpire”, yet the words both seem to talk about the United States. ‘Empire’ evokes sovereignty, control and domination, while ‘umpire’ is milder, softer, as it brings about ideas of impartial arbitration, authority and rules implementer. When looking at those two words, it appears that they both represent the United States in a way. The former has become the way the country behaves somewhat on a global level without claiming this title; the United States’ effect on global issues is very empire-like. Yet, the latter might be more of the mission it has giving itself without entirely sticking to it; this noble yet somewhat pretentious role of arbitrator is not the only thing the U.S. does by declaring wars and occupying countries (for example, “the Occupation in the last war” (Walcott 486)). It seems like both words touch at a certain aspect of American foreign politics and effects that are even truer today.

The poem furthers this concept of industrialization and non-natural processes through the lines “[b]ulldozers jerk/and gouge out a hill, but we all know that the dust/is industrial and must be suffered” (Walcotte 486). The speaker seems ironic by saying that the dust is “industrial and must be suffered”, not the industrial machines that cause it, as “[they] all know” (Walcott 486). As though the natives and people living in St. Thomas have been told this by the people responsible for all this “American rain” (Walcott 486). Yet, in the end, the speaker speaks the truth, lifting the veil upon their lack of innocence: “I fear what the migrant envies:/the starry pattern they make—the flag on the post office—/the quality of the dirt, the fealty changing under my foot” (Walcott 486).

Fuguet’s “Missing” and the Limitations of Cosmopolitanism

In Alberto Fuguet’s autobiographical novel Missing: Una Investigacion, he follows the story of his estranged uncle Carlos who, after a jarring move from Chile to the United States when he was 18 years old, eventually decides to abandon his family and “disappear.” Twenty years later, Alberto, who lives in Chile, hires a detective to hunt his uncle down, and is able to find him working in a hotel in Denver, Colorado—poor and overweight, but seemingly happy with his lot in life. Just the continuous movement of the author between Chile and the United States, and his interactions with Latinos, largely Mexican Americans, throughout the novel makes it a transnational work, but especially interesting are the complex and often conflicted relationships to US culture and ideas that Alberto and Carlos profess throughout the novel. Especially in light of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, these ruminations on what it means for something (or someone) to be American are intriguing.

In one scene in the novel, Alberto and his father get into an argument about a certain word: “drifter.” The detective tells Alberto’s father—who has lived in California for thirty years—that Carlos is probably a drifter, and that is why they haven’t been able to find him. Alberto notes that the concept of a “drifter” is distinctly American, then his father berates him for having a negative view of the United States. This scene is interesting on a transnational level for numerous reasons. First of all, the very fact that Alberto thinks a drifter could only be an American seems to relate to our discussion of cosmopolitanism, and the American feeling that borders do not apply. Interestingly, while being a drifter is usually considered a negative attribute, it is also the marking of someone who does not belong—and who does not want to belong—to a specific region, much the same way the cosmopolitans like to assert the fact that they do not belong to any one place, and can traverse borders as they please. This idea of Carlos as a drifter—someone who does not have to pay attention to borders or familial ties, the way Alberto insists a Chilean would have to—is complicated by Carlos’s impetus to leave his family behind. On the one hand, Carlos leaves his family because they will not allow him freedom, another seemingly American desire for independence and self-direction separate from his family. However, Carlos is also fleeing the law—he steals a car and drives to Las Vegas, and so part of the reason he must be a drifter is because he does not want to get caught. Fleeing from the law makes Carlos more of a reluctant cosmopolitan than a cosmopolitan in the sense that he feels that borders do not apply to him. This conflict in Carlos’s reasons for being a drifter mirrors his overall feelings about his lifestyle and his status as an immigrant: he is thankful for where he has ended up, but is not particularly gratified by how he got there.

In another instance, before he has completely left his family behind, Carlos is drafted into the US army and serves at an army base in Texas. On his first free weekend, he and his friends decide to cross the border into Mexico. Upon arriving at a whore house in Mexico, Carlos speaks only English to the prostitute, throughout almost their entire interaction, until the very end when he accidentally speaks to her in Spanish. The prostitute, excited that Carlos is a native speaker, tells him her whole sad story in Spanish, after which Carlos leaves the brothel immediately and returns to Texas, not even waiting for his friends. After this episode, he buys a Big Mac at McDonalds and vows never to cross the border again, feeling for the first time truly American. This instance, in which Carlos is able to flee the poverty that he sees in Mexico, refusing to relate to the prostitute despite their shared language, he feels that he has become truly American—and it seems he has, at least in the sense of an American as a cosmopolitan. For the first time, Carlos has the luxury of crossing the border and returning to the US, effectively negating any ties he might have with the Mexican woman. Unlike her, Carlos has the luxury of a US citizenship, and the possibility to cross borders that are completely inaccessible to the Mexican prostitute. It is fitting, then, that this marks his first identification as an American—it is the first time he is able to take advantage of this particularly American trait. This scene, too, complicates Carlos’s status as an American, and as a cosmopolitan. Even as Carlos is able to take advantage of his privilege to cross the border as he pleases, he is so threatened by what he sees on the other side that he vows never to leave the US again. It is interesting to consider whether Alberto, his nephew would consider this decision as “American” as his status as a drifter.