Mystical Realism and Chicano
Author Daniel Olivas, a
prominent Latino and
Chicano Los Angelesbased
writer and attorney,
visited Santa Monica College to
conclude the fall 2008 literary lecture
series. An author of four books
and an editor for a contemporary
Chicano anthology, Olivas presented
his collections and his explanation of
culture through literature.
As a second generation immigrant of
Mexican heritage, Olivas received his
B.A. in English literature form Stanford
University, eventually receiving a law
degree from UCLA.
When at law school at UCLA, Olivas
was elected as co-chair of La Raza
Students Association in 1982 and in
1983, served as editor-in-chief of the
Chicano Law Review.
Olivas grew up enjoying classic
American shows, such as "I Love Lucy''
and "The Andy Griffith Show," but he
began to question the cultural reflection
that Hollywood productions lacked.
"[Los Angeles] has become a magnet
of so many different people with so
many different views," he said. "The
blockbusters that received the most
attention did not accurately present the
American melting pot."
With this desire for a true cultural
reflection in literature in productions,
Olivas called for Latino authors to
submit pieces for his first published
collection. This collection eventually
received contributions of over 200,000
words. It was eventually edited into less
than 350 pages.
In the audience, a woman asked about
a short story that Olivas had written
that describes the effects that racism
can have on young children of cultural
identities different than the population
around them. The story explains a young
boy of color that visited Disneyland,
eventually becoming amazed by the
beauty of a woman dressed up as
Cinderella. The child adores the actress,
but his parents overhear the woman
rudely say to somebody nearby that
they want the child to go away because
he "looks dirty." Although the kid
doesn't understand why his parents are
offended, he is dragged away, eventually
Themes of racism, cultural subjection,
and social identity are explained and
told through Olivas' works.
Olivas began writing in second grade,
but he didn't write his first mystical
realism piece until he reached 40 years
old. He drew inspiration from his wife
and son, who both share strong cultural
bonds that inspired him to write about
Chicano culture. His wife, after suffering
her seventh miscarriage, threw Olivas
into an emotional spin, inspiring him to
write "Anywhere but L.A.," which will
be released next fall.
Printing and publishing company
Denver Press will be releasing Olivas'
next project called "Crossing the
Border," in 2010. The collection will
be a compilation of poems that explain
the struggles of Mexican immigrants
coming to America.