Victor Villaseñor presents a nonfiction novel, Rise from Gold, based on the experience of his family from Mexico to America. The novel tells a parallel story of Villaseñor’s parents, Lupe Gomes and Juan Salvador. The story predominantly describes family stories and the struggle of two Mexican families who find their space in a foreign land.
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The story of the book describes the struggles of three generations of Mexican immigrants through poverty, love, and prejudices. The main themes expressed in the book are that of love and life, prejudices, poverty, immigrant life, religion, and family. It tells small stories about family and expresses how the family evolved and/or devolved around the kitchen table. Family plays a pivotal role in shaping the structure and the plot of the novel.
This is so because family bonding forms the basis of the novel. The main aim of the paper is to understand how family is portrayed in the novel. The love and joy that family brought to each member and the strength that it conveyed when time was rough has been beautifully portrayed in the novel. The theme of familial life explicitly shows love and respect for one another.
The hardships the family faced brought them close. The strength of the family is definitely portrayed through the closeness they shared even when the children grew old. The bonding the protagonists had with their mother is important. Further, the matriarchy is considered the pivotal for a strong and loving family. The family chronicle of Villaseñor predominantly portrays the life of two families facing similar fate of immigrant life and poverty. Lupe’s family came from a village named La Lluvia de Ora in North Mexico.
They adjusted to the changing demands of the industrialized mining hub for many years, until the Mexican revolution breaks out. As the revolution closes on their village, they found themselves in mortal danger. It was then that the family decided to migrate to California from the money accumulated from selling cast-off gold. They reach Arizona where the family finds work in the mines. Nevertheless, fate soon takes them to California where Lupe meets Juan. Throughout these hardships, Lupe’s family stayed together.
They faced the incumbent revolutionaries together. Bad times bring a strong bonding among people who toil together. This is what has happened in case of Lupe and Juan’s family. Both the families have faced innumerable problems – of death, money, and prejudice – but they have stayed together, as a single unit.
On the other hand, Juan and his escape along with his family from Mexico. Juan is described at the beginning of the book as a troublemaker. However, even when Juan was facing the identity crisis of adolescence and immigration, Juan’s closeness to his mother, Doña Margarita, was indisputable. His love and respect for his mother surpassed all the lust for other misadventures. Even when Juan’s family was migrating to California, they faced acute poverty when they did not have enough food.
Even at that moment, Doña taught lessons of love and family bonding to her son. Familial love and the strength that family bestowed on man becomes apparent from the tales that Doña chooses to tell Juan. Similarly, Lupe too is shown extremely close to her mother, and it is her mother’s love that keeps up the joy in their poverty stricken life in California.
The conversations in the story are strewn with the word “family”. Every time the author mentions Lupe or Juan, he mentions their family, as if they and their family is a single unit. Family is important to every member of the community. This is evident from the book. The importance of family is obvious when Lupe’s mother drew them to prayer one night for Socorro.
They prayed to ask “God to help her find her family” (Villaseñor 196). In another instance, Juan’s mother says to Luisa, “We are a family, for better or worse. A family!” (Villaseñor 454). The stress on the family and its unending togetherness is stressed in this sentence of Juan’s mother.
Strength of a family helps man to be stronger. Villaseñor presents a strong bonding among the members the two families. The two protagonists are close to their mothers who nurture their character through love and caring. Lupe’s attachment to her mother becomes deeper when her mother, even in most desperate times, brings a gift for her. One day, the story describes Lupe chancing upon a beautiful peach dress that she wanted. However, it was too expensive for her family to afford.
Aware of the impoverished condition of her family, she does not speak of it to anyone. But Lupe “got the surprise of her life” one evening, when she found the dress one her bed and found out that her mother had sold the last of the scrap gold, her family’s only possession, to purchase the dress in order to bring a little joy to her daughter in such dreary times (Villaseñor 246).
Further, her mother confronted her father with a retort when Lupe’s father reprimanded her for buying an expensive gift when they had so little to live by. Lupe’s mother said that the shopkeepers had reduced the price of the dress and pointed out to Lupe’s father “refusing to be intimidated” that she had bought it with the last of the scrap gold they had and it did not “cost you a cent” (Villaseñor 246).
Doña Guadalupe, Lupe’s mother says, “All our lives we work and work, and for what … if we can’t have a little joy not and then? Now don’t you dare spoil it for Lupe, or I’ll brain you!” (246). The sheer power that Doña shows in face of the patriarchal head of the family to bring little joy for her daughter shows the strength of her family.
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In another instance, just before Lupe’s wedding she thinks of her family and the life she had with them. She thinks that with her marriage, she will no longer be a part of the family she grew with:
Lupe awake with a start and her mind went reeling, she remembered that today was the day she was to marry. She heard the sounds of her family in the kitchen, making chicken mole with the chickens that Salvador had brought by a few days before. She curled back up under the covers and drifted back to sleep, but she just couldn’t sleep anymore, all of these smells and sounds and feelings of her family weren’t going to be with her anymore. No, this morning – this moment – was the last one that she’d ever have with her family.
Tears came to her eyes, and Lupe sat up and took a deep breath, trying to keep calm, but she couldn’t. Her mind was racing, maybe, just maybe, she’d made a mistake and she shouldn’t marry, after all. (Villaseñor 531)
The heightened emotion expressed through Lupe in the above paragraph shows her attachment to a family with whom she had toiled through mortal hardships. The story of Juan and Lupe’s families show how they have bonded through events of “war and bloodshed” (Villaseñor 453). Throughout the novel, there are numerous incidents depicting violence, crime, war, and bloodshed, but the families in the novel are strong with “lots of love and respect” (453).
The novel repeatedly talks of families. The protagonists go through their life’s journey not alone, but with their family and in the end, it is the family they feel closest. Juan’s closeness to his mother is apparent when he speaks to her in front of the car while driving his family back that he was in love with Lupe and said that he felt that she is the girl for him (Villaseñor 419).
His mother advised him to waste no time and marry her and he followed her words. The closeness between a mother and son and mother and daughter shows the bonding two families had. Both Lupe and Juan’s families went through the same treacherous times and their fate intertwined in a foreign land.
Love and respect for family forms a central theme in the novel. Family is the bonding that stays intact even through the worst of times. Rise from Gold discourses the importance of such a family that helped Lupe, Juan and their siblings to rise from the ashes. Love and respect etched a permanent bond among the family members and held them strong even when the family faced their worst adversary.
The love they felt for each other brought them together. In all the hardship they went through, each of the family members shared their fate and did not abandon each other. Family is portrayed as a source of strength in the novel, a cool shade for all when they face the harsh realities of life.
Villaseñor, Victor. Rain of Gold. Houston: Arte Publico Press , 1991. Print.