ISSN 2692-3912

Latitudes of Bilingual Memory: Nostalgia, Cartography and Identity Maintenance



Chávez-Silverman’s transcultural experiences, multilingual encounters and globetrotter excursions in the Scenes from la Cuenca (2010) open new ways for a literary analysis of contemporary Latinx experience when considering nostalgia as a catalyst and theoretical approach. Within the pages of the Scenes, the reader encounters how the author frames her globetrotter life-journey through bilingual memories, questions her Latinx identity in the evolving urban and geographical spaces and rediscovers her inner self. While Killer Crónicas portrays an active Latinx globetrotter experience Scenes frames urban locales and linguistic coalitions catalyzed by the author’s nostalgic recollections. This article examines the composition of Latinx identity and bilingual memory by providing an interdisciplinary examination of Scenes.

          This paper employs Boym’s off-modern typology of nostalgia (2001) to approach literary manifestations of longing induced by contemporary urban and global experiences. Furthermore, the project approaches psychological implications of nostalgia and engages Davis’s Discontinuity Hypothesis and Ascending Orders of Nostalgia as functional platforms to examine the role of nostalgia as a lens of self-analysis that partakes in Latinx identity maintenance and continuity. The article denotes how Chávez-Silverman fuses her globetrotter experiences and reconfigures undesirable life events into a coherent life narrative through the implementation of nostalgic catalysts and bilingual memory.

 Keywords: Nostalgia, Latinx, Crónica, Chávez-Silverman, Identity Maintenance, Cartography


The twentieth century began with utopia and ended with nostalgia. Optimistic belief in the future became outmoded, while nostalgia, for better or worse, never went out of fashion, remaining uncannily contemporary.

Svetlana Boym “Nostalgia and its Discontents”

          Although nostalgia can be traced to antiquity, it came of-age during the Romanticism; however, it is not historically universal but rather epoch-oriented singularity. In the age of internet and globalization, the socio-cultural and urban milieus embrace widespread change over lesser periods amplifying nostalgia as a devoted syndrome of 21st century Human Condition illuminates Boym in the Future of Nostalgia. On one hand, nostalgia borrows vitality from historical, national and political events, which occurred in homelands. On the other, Boym reveals yearning enhanced through progress, urbanization, modernization and capitalist development, frequently transforms into a deep national, social and cultural spectacle. Nostalgia repetitively feeds on spatial and temporal separation and the lingering notion of impossibility of return to those old days. Once fast-tracked by progress, nostalgia puts an individual in the forefront who contemplates memorable signs and landscapes of memory while lamenting the irreversibility of time. What one may encounter, is an intersection of nostalgia, estrangement and modernity denotes Svetlana Boym (2001). Boym’s observation can be considered valuable platform in examining contemporary globetrotter U.S. Latinx experiences that emerge as a reaction to passage of time, social and urban reconfigurations, and diasporic or global movements.

          A salient marker of the U.S. Latinx texts often includes themes related to binary powers, loss and nostalgia, assimilation and identity development. Within the literature, readers often note the struggles of U.S. Latinxs living on the margins of both Hispanic and mainstream American culture, shaped by the historical exodus, post 1960. The political turmoil in Latin America predating the 1960s, such as Operation Bootstrap (1950-1960), the fall of Leonidas Trujillo’s Dictatorship (1930-1961) and the Cuban Revolution 1959, triggered large migration waves from the Caribbean mainly to the U.S. as well as produced outbreaks of nostalgia captured in literary projections of longing (Pawelek 2015). Nostalgia infiltrates the life narratives of many immigrants and provides a valuable platform to examine the contemporary U.S. Latinx experience, which typically includes travels between two locales.

          Nostalgia frequently progresses in literary texts as a reaction to the passage of time, social and urban reconfigurations, historical events and diasporic movements (Pawelek 2015). These personal transitions and collective events, captured in the literature written by U.S. Latinx writers and so-called 1.5 generation –those who came as children or adolescents to the United States, denote their experiences as they assimilate linguistically, socially and culturally to the mainstream. Works by Christina García, Sandra Cisneros, Junot Díaz, Esmeralda Santiago, Gustavo Pérez-Firmat, Susana Chávez-Silverman, Angie Cruz, among others, portray the issues of longing and belonging while factoring in the realities of adjusting to a new way of life, including the process of acquiring a new language, as well as social interaction with others in both Spanish and English.

          A notable feature of (semi)autobiographical literary texts written by 1.5 generation writers such as Santiago, Díaz and Pérez-Firmat is the inclusion of lexical items and popular expressions from Puerto Rican, Dominican and Cuban varieties of Spanish mixed into English sentences (Pawelek 2015). These Spanish insertions and phrases often reference socio-cultural values pertaining to life on the island as well as the portrayal of vivid dilemmas of what it means to be a 1.5 generation émigré and assimilate into the mainstream culture, society, and language. 1.5 generation Latinx writers question landscapes of memory, the mainland experience and the past predating the diaspora. They explore civic landmarks, national and cultural symbols, customs, and personal memories searching for dispraised fragments of what they left behind and who they became after having spent more time in the society of residence than in their native lands.

           Individuals who came as children or adolescents, transit across borders and find themselves in cultural and linguistic intersections shaped by hyphenated, bi-cultural or hybrid experiences (Pawelek 193). While the works of Santiago, García, Díaz and Cruz focus on bilateral geographies, and life between the Caribbean islands and the continental U.S., Chávez-Silverman’s works incorporate a wider scope of worldwide, pan-Latinx multicultural experiences and linguistic performances. Further, distinguishing Chávez-Silverman’s works from her contemporaries, Killer Crónicas and Scenes from la Cuenca de Los Angeles y otros Natural Disasters (Scenes) employ radical bilingualism using Spanish and English as a prominent feature of both texts, as well as the incorporation of other languages, denoting the author’s globetrotter experiences.[1]

            Theoretical perspectives that examine evolving pan-Latinx identity represented by globetrotter and transcultural experiences, highlight nostalgic reactions in a contemporary world in sustained bilingual mode, present in Scenes, are novel literary features and remain relatively unexplored in the U.S. Hispanic literary context. This paper implements theoretical perspectives by Boym (2001) and Davis (1979) to articulate nostalgic catalysts and their functionality in respect to globetrotter Latinx experiences and identity maintenance in Chávez-Silverman’s Scenes.

Susana Chávez-Silverman’s crónicas

          Scenes emerged from a grant in Montalvo Arts Center in California and similar to Chávez-Silverman’s previous work Killer Crónicas (KC), it originated from the author’s globetrotter journeys, e-mail correspondences, diary entries and letter exchanges. “Scenes of the Los Angeles Basin” consists of profoundly intimate, reflective epistolary pieces dedicated to specific muses, friends, loved ones who passed away or ghosts from the author’s past –detailed by their true names in “Cartografía humana/Space Map Crónica.” The vignettes trace Chávez-Silverman’s personal history from la Cuenca (California) to South Africa, Mexico and back to the United States. Moreover, they detail in a remarkable bilingual style the author’s memories anchored in distant geographies, urban spaces, elusive fragrances and objects of memorabilia. Notably, her bilingual crónicas filled with profound joy and loss are induced by an overpowering presence of nostalgia. The author emphasizes her globetrotter experiences through bilingual Spanish and English prose and occasionally includes terms in German, French and Zulu to reference her travel experiences.

            The majority of scholarly analyses of Chávez-Silverman’s crónicas examine the use of language found in her works (Torres, Spyra, Derrick, Casielles-Suárez). Other scholars have examined the crónicas with an interest in the role of global experiences and their relation to cyberspace (Allaston and Browitt), as well as linguistic transnational performance (Lee). Furthermore, Pawelek and Derrick examined KC under the lens of the literary representation of nostalgia as a response to globalization triggered by the author’s ethnographic, multilingual and multiethnic global encounters, which manifest through Chávez-Silverman’s hybrid mixture of Spanish and English and illuminate her pan-Latina identity. Pawelek and Derrick suggest the examination of U.S. Latinx literature in respect to nostalgic catalysts and symbols with an interest in how these modalities affect the evolving pan-Latinx identity.

          While the antecedent, Killer Crónicas accounts for the author’s active journey through Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Spain and Mexico, Scenes frames urban locales, distant geographies and linguistic coalitions induced by the author’s introspective journey, predominantly composed by unfathomable loss and joy, and catalyzed by nostalgia. The second part of the title, otros Natural Disasters accounts for to the revival of Chávez-Silverman’s experiences of loss, blocked off miscarriage memories that she did not have access to prior drafting her memoir. In this context, the writing retreat in Montalvo Arts Center in California, although a stationary location, resurfaces as a sanctuary of the mind that allows the author to access latitudes of bilingual memory. Arguably, Chávez-Silverman reactivates expelled memories through implementation of nostalgic discourses and ethnographic symbols, and consequently this process empowers her to reconfigure past experiences into coherent life-narrative culminating in identity maintenance.

          Due to the geographic, cultural and global experiences and linguistic complexity found within Scenes, the current article applies Boym’s (2001) “off-modern” typology of nostalgia to articulate representations of longing derived from urban and globetrotter experiences. Moreover, it employs Fred Davis’s Discontinuity Hypothesis (1979) as theoretical means to discuss nostalgic recall as a psychological filter of self-analysis that partakes in identity maintenance and continuity.

Nostalgia: From Homesickness to a Resource, a Brief Overview

          Parting from Davis’s Discontinuity Hypothesis, which has psychological consequences such as “fears, discontents, anxieties or uncertainties,” Wildschut et al. (“Nostalgia: Content, triggers, functions” 231-232) assessed the regulatory role of nostalgia. They distinguished four key psychological functions, (1) nostalgia serves as repository of positive effect, (2) nostalgia carries existential meaning, (3) nostalgia fosters affiliation or stronger social bonds, and (4) nostalgia maintains and increases self-positivity. Sedekides et al. (“Nostalgia counteracts”) followed by expanding on the regulatory function that takes place as nostalgia progresses from aversive states including negative life events such as divorce, break ups and the death of loved ones. Thus, these states may lead individuals to encounter self-discontinuity or restore self-continuity. As a result, Wildschut et al. (“Nostalgia as a repository”) distinguished social connectedness as a chief factor that counters self-discontinuity.

          Aside from psychological and sociological research directions, the phenomena of nostalgia have made a reappearance as a syndrome of contemporary times. Boym (2001) notes that modernity and modernism are responses to the condition of modernization and consequences of progress. Modern nostalgia is related to the mourning for an impossibility of return for a “loss of an enchanted world with clear borders and values” (8). In this light, modernity is an ambivalent, contradictory, critical and reflective on the nature of time as it encompasses fascination with the present and longing for another timeframe. Boym further explains that what drives migrants like Chávez-Silverman to tell their story is diasporic intimacyor a strategy of finding a feeling to substitute for home (50). In this context, nostalgia invites dislocated individuals to rethink their broader life narrative in the context of contemporary experiences and notion of home.

          The phenomenon of nostalgia penetrates diverse disciplines ranging from medical and social to the field of media, marketing consumption, including psychological and cognitive methodologies. This brief literature review favors presence of nostalgia across disciplines, societies, cultures, languages and periods. The next section portrays theoretical frameworks employed to examine the contemporary Latinx manifestations of nostalgia and psychological implementation of nostalgic discourses that foster identity maintenance in Scenes.

Theoretical Methods:

          Ethnographic and psychological elements of nostalgia anchored in Chávez-Silverman’s Scenes are topics of particular interest. Scenes offers a vivid testimony of the author’s globetrotter experiences, geographical, social and cultural transitions and linguistic hybridity that is filled with loss, joy and yearning progressing from the passage of time, personal dilemmas, urban and global experiences. Boym’s aforementioned approach highlights a conflicted relationship between individuals and modern modalities that foreshadows manifestations of nostalgia while Davis’s study proposes nostalgia as a resource of identity maintenance progressing from events that cause discontinuity in one’s life. In respect to Chávez-Silverman’s personal and social transitions Davis’s Discontinuity Hypothesis and Ascending Orders of Nostalgia are plausible platforms to consider as they highlight the role longing partakes in events that cause discontinuity in one’s life, yet also functions as a psychological resource in respect to identity maintenance and continuity.

          Regarding the latter (global transitions and urban experiences), Boym’s “off-modern” approach to nostalgia as a byproduct of contemporary times offers a valuable paradigm in analyzing Latinx experiences and indisputably can be extended to pan-Latinx and global perspectives. According to Boym (2001) yearning augmented through modern day technologies, capitalist developments and globalization, more frequently transforms into a profound social and cultural narrative. In this regard, Boym’s off-modern nostalgia invites individuals to excavate landscapes of memory rooted in specific timeframes and urban locales, but those who engage and cope with nostalgia, face estrangement and continuity, memory and forgetting, fascination and disdain. In a wider context nostalgia as a reaction to social and urban reconfigurations, modernization and global movements in the contemporary times can be regarded as a vital angle of analysis when considering Chávez-Silverman’s Scenes as a product of her bilingual testimony of Latinx and transcultural experiences.

          Textual symbols of nostalgia and Chávez-Silverman’s recollections in continuous Spanish-English bilingual code perpetually emerge within the crónicas. Within this context, Davis and Boym provide a theoretical space that underscores sentimental catalysts and delivers a platform to analyze how bilingual nostalgic recall partakes in Latinx identity formation and maintenance, and foregrounds a testimony of contemporary Latinx literature. The next section employs Boym’s off-modern typology and delineates Chávez-Silverman’s approximation urban recollections.

Nostalgia, Cartography and Urban Landscapes:

          The recollection inspired by modernization of urban landscapes and a shifting perception of time are topics of particular interest in analyzing Chávez Silverman’s bilingual chronicles, Scenes from la Cuenca and other natural disasters. As the title suggests, the author mediates between her home, or “la Cuenca” and “natural disasters” or other natural losses. Vivid aspects of the Urban Crónica allocate the subject as both the chronicler and a historian documenting oneself and what pertains to the collective urban experiences (Pawelek and Derrick 2018). Reactions against passage of time, modernization, the internet era, that the author witnesses awaken longing and invite Chávez-Silverman to reconstruct her life-narrative in the evolving metropolitan milieu.

           Chávez-Silverman contemplates “¿Habré cambiado? Yo tanto que ya no puedo regresar, no longer recognize myself en estos landscapes urbanos?” (29). A mixture of entrapment and fondness within urban locales are elusive and call the author to explore diverse memories and experiences rooted within specific timeframes, and metropolitan areas. The rhetorical questions resurface as a navigational device and comprise an urban undertone in “On Going Back Crónica”:

          ¿Cómo aguanto tanta nostalgia? How can I even bear up bajo el peso de volver (volver, volveRRRRR) este spring/inpaciente verano, tanto revisting nuestros former lugares en el mundo: San Francisco, the Bay Area? […] Después de dos decadas away. Hubo muchos returns visits. Pero that’s all they were: two-to three day escapades de SoCal, cuando todavia hangueaba con los remaining friends (so many had died of AIDS, or move away…) 36.

          In the above passage, the city no longer wavers toward the future, instead promises a renewal of the past embedded in specific timeframes, topographies, and shared social experiences. The urban revival of memories is no longer futuristic, but rather nostalgic. Nonetheless, the direction of “volveRRRRR” or return is misleading. Related to such ambivalence, Boym elaborates, in the off-modern scope that longing, estrangement and affection form a junction and confuse the sense of direction (The Future xvii). In the off-modern way, individuals like Chávez-Silverman revisit former places to feed on longing yet is not a place they seek. Nostalgic individuals face juxtaposed reactions such as absence and presence, memory and forgetting, continuity and estrangement.

            After two and half decades, the familiar surroundings lose their charm. The occasional escapades to SoCal with the remaining friends become mournful signifiers of the common past, place and memories of those who perished. In this off-modern scenario, Boym remarks that diasporic intimacy drives individuals to share their stories. What defines diasporic intimacy is that it is composed and empowered by defamiliarization and uprootedness, and can be approached from indirection and intimation, and oftentimes includes stories as well as secrets (Boym 235). Chávez-Silverman inspired by diasporic intimacy, confronts its modalities. Correspondingly, she delivers a discourse in foreign languages that reveals the inadequacies of translation and indirection while the intimate secrets resurface within her urban chronicles of life.

           In a similar manner, Chávez-Silverman continues her bilingual discourse: “En estas two and a half decades, post SIDA, y luego, todo lo del dot-com boom y bust. Tanta yuppification y millonarios, all over…Tan hollow. Tan . . . después. Yuck. Casi irreconcible. What remains?” (37). Californian places of the author’s adulthood have been altered by time, progress and the age of internet labeled dot-com boom y bust. Chávez-Silverman instead of finding coherence in the new millennium, faces a sense of defamiliarization, estrangement and affection which dwell on technophobia and produce nostalgia. While Chávez-Silverman engages in sentimental dialogue with the past, the civic theater emerges as an alternative microcosm of memories and a somber reminder that only those shared memories can restore the golden moments. In an off-modern fashion, nostalgic recollection is not a place that the author seeks, but rather to reconstruct a timeframe. This evocation sets an undertone to her urban chronicles and foreshadows a mental journey inspired by the author’s globetrotter journey and life longings.

          While Boym’s nostalgia highlights an impossibility of a return to specific timeframe and places, in an off-modern way, it sends the individual elsewhere feeding off both negative and positive states that are anchored in the author’s past. The upcoming segment employs Davis’s theory to ponder how Chávez-Silvermann’s nostalgia progresses from adverse states, attains psychological dimensions, and partakes in identity maintenance.

Feeding off/on Nostalgia: Pain, Loss and Desire   

          In an interview with Daniel Olivas from La Bloga, Chávez-Silverman comments: “[t]he act of writing—even when grounded in acts of remembering—always implies an art of composition…This book [Scenes from la Cuenca] is more ‘soul baring’ than Killer Crónicas, in a way; it deals with visceral memories and feelings I didn’t even have access to.” While drafting Scenes, the author reaches the core of her inner self, and gradually unearths those visceral memories and feelings. In Scenes, pain, imagination, and eros fuse and form an interplay of memory and life longings. The subtitle “other natural disasters” suggests the author’s soul baring mediation and other losses. The text gradually uncovers the author’s love-hate relationship with Howard (South African lover), a failed attempt to move back and live with him in Pretoria, Africa, and the recovery and eventual acceptance of sealed off miscarriage memories. These modalities elicit the soul baring meditation, which prevails in, “The Montalvo Diary,” infiltrates “Momentos Hemorrágicos,” “On Going Back,” and culminates in “Currawong” Crónicas. Accordingly, current work focuses on the selected Crónicas. The analysis traces the implementation of author’s nostalgic catalysts and delineates how they partake in reconciliation of blocked off experiences, and how these nostalgic practices lead to maintenance of the author’s Latinx identity.

          “The Montalvo Diary” reveals Chávez-Silverman’s habits of remembering and existential questions progress from the past. In the prelude, the reader encounters three quotations: “Yo no puedo olvidar nada. Dicen que es mi problema” (Amuleto, Bolaño), “[…] algo de pasado despertó y nos ha emborachado. Nos ha puesto a sonar” (Magia blanca, Piña), “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past” (As I Lay Dying, Faulkner), (Scenes 17). All three entries evoke nostalgic behaviors towards the past and foreshadow Chávez-Silverman’s query. Bolaño’s highlights a past that one cannot simply forget because it is too vivid. Piña’s references intoxicating memories that awake daydreams, while Faulkner’s highlights how the past regains vitality in the present. These three quotes resonate the author’s quest and prelude a revival of bittersweet recollections. In this context, the interplay of bilingual memory and life longings foster a critical lens of remembrance and entail a leitmotif that prevails throughout Crónicas.

             Davis remarks that nostalgia, as a response to the experience of loss, can be regarded as an essential resource to cope with the discontinuity in one’s life. Suitably, nostalgia arises from ambivalence and may resurface as a useful lens that assists subjects with feelings of loneliness and loss (of a lover, friends, an unborn child), as well as social changes, all experienced by Chávez-Silverman. Specific catalysts such as sensory agents, scents, tunes, places, foods, and people (friends, family members, etc.) trigger those states (Heeper et al.). Also, a romantic partner, relationship break up, or a divorce might stimulate a nostalgic episode (Wildschut et al. “Nostalgia: Content, triggers, functions”, Sedikides et al. “Nostalgia counteracts self-discontinuity”).

         Chávez-Silverman’s awakened memories follow patterns of pain, desire, and loss associated with her true love: “My reconnecting with Howard now. Duele, de algún modo. Un chingo” (Scenes 26). These experiences bring forth vivid images, which fuse both negative and positive feelings and emotions, such as love, pain and loss.  As pointed out by Davis, nostalgia is “the search for continuity amidst heats of discontinuity” (35). In this view, the disconnecting elements of Chávez-Silverman’s life must first become building blocks. Her life experiences recurrently consist of multiple geographies, languages, timeframes, and self-perspectives.

          To this point, the author comments on past locales and her former self: “My San Francisco and South Africa self. Escendida de mi pasado. De Howard. De la que fui. Y sigo siendo, coño. I am still her, ¿no?. Ella es yo” (Scenes 24). Chávez-Silverman recognizes herself as an object of analysis on the verge of progressive transformation and acknowledges the need to reconfigure her self-perspective. The author’s life longings alternate with and highlight the pathos of loss and transition where I, yo, and ella are not separating (escendida) her past. Rather they illuminate cartographical references to distant geographies, timeframes and bilingual modes of remembering. These references emerge and merge via Chávez-Silverman’s act of remembering and re-drafting of her bilingual life experiences. This mediation between I, yo and ella corresponds to Davis’s “Interpreted Nostalgia”, as it targets nostalgic recollection, and aims “[to] cultivate appreciative stances toward former selves” and emphasizes continuity between the past and present (Davis 35). At the same time, upon the revival of those bilingual memories, Chávez-Silverman naviagtes various geographies, languages, and life stages. She charts her own cartography spanning North America and Africa, while mediating between herself, Howard and other loses. Davis’s Discontinuity Hypothesis proposes that nostalgia is an effective resource for coping with an existential threat, and accounts for a depository reaction to events that prompted discontinuity in one’s life. Similarly, Chávez-Silverman’s Scenes mirrors a self-narrative filled with loss, desire and longing.

          So far, we identified Chávez-Silverman’s personal experiences with Howard and her globetrotter journeys and urban transitions as a basis of a nostalgic enactment. In Scenes, this mental journey can be traced to a much earlier stage of the author’s life. The next segment focuses on Chávez-Silverman’s 1982 diary and her approximation to blocked off miscarriage memories and employs Davis’s premises to examine how longing progresses from negative life events, achieves regulatory functions, and ultimately fosters identity maintenance and continuity.

1982 Diaries and Reassembly of Life Narrative

          The author’s 1982 diary stands out ­­­as token of bittersweet memories and a sentimental medium, which holds silent memories of her miscarriage. Chávez-Silverman comments: “En ese cuaderno chino de 1982. I had blocked that memory [miscarriage] totally, suppressed it. […] all the feelings of loss from twenty-six years ago –de tremenda promesa y amor lost” (25). Fred Davis’s key finding indicates that nostalgia may attain soul healing dimensions because it is capable of countering psychological ills by ‘fostering an appreciative stance towards former selves; reinterpreting “marginal, fugitive, and eccentric facets of earlier selves” (44-45). Upon revisiting her diary so many years later Chávez-Silverman, unlocks once expelled memories, which she labels “la caja de Pandora” (26). The Greek mythological reference resonates the difficulties Chávez-Silverman must overcome in order to retrieve those eccentric memories of tremendous promise and lost love. Chávez-Silverman revisits the 1982 memoir, carefully recounting the broken fragments of her memory and fostering an appreciative stance towards her former selves. Chávez-Silverman further comments about this process:

          “Part of my past burning up. Burning away. Esos extranos, harsh winds de ayer, they must be fanned it. Hoy quiero –necesito–escribir […] en esta relectura, in my broad calligraphic fuchsia pen-strokes en la página. Coupled, now with a keening pain of, the awareness of, no, el reconocimiento de la perdida” (Scenes 27—emphasis)

          In Davis’s view, (35-37) longing perceived as an empirical catalyst aims to establish the dialogue with the past from the present perspective. In order to achieve continuity, one must examine the broken strands of memory. Similarly, Chávez-Silverman unfolds the painful past and gradually digests it. Metaphorically speaking, “harsh winds de ayer” leave a bad aftertaste of nostalgia and a reconfiguration is needed. With this regard, the act of rewriting and rereading creates a growing awareness of Chávez- Silverman’s painful loss and love, the lost entity of her past. This reasoning parallels what Davis posits as, “yearning for return, albeit accompanied often by an ambivalent recognition that such [return] is not possible” (21). Paradoxically, once an individual removes oneself from past yearnings and embraces present perspectives, a transformation may occur.

          In a broader picture, nostalgia’s functionality allows for interaction with strains of the past, present and future, as well as with an individual and their collective experiences. Chávez-Silverman engages these memories through longing (for geographies, urban spaces and languages) and loss (of loved ones and miscarriage). Most importantly by indicating the impossibility of a return, a forthcoming acceptance of the loss may occur. This notion can be traced equally to the author’s allusion to Lacan, “esa haunting presencia de una ausencia” which mirrors the author’s search for missing absences (Scenes 27). Chávez-Silverman’s desire to liberate herself from loss and reception of absence echoes her quest in the pages of the memoir, what forms an undertone of the narrative. The unifying process of dispersed memories gradually leads to “el reconocimiento de la perdida” (Scenes 27). Longing, loss, and inability to return cross paths and mitigate between Chávez-Silverman’s former selves and her losses. Davis (35-38) argues that the recognition of the loss as unattainable through acceptance of lack, serve as a chief factor within the Ascending Orders of Nostalgia. In turn, the mnemonic practice once activated, fosters self-analysis through all three constitutes absence, loss and longing, thus may lead to self-continuity.

          “My Country Crónica” underlines the author’s dilemma: “for so many years the slightest reference to Suid-Afrika, just the slightest mention, and I’ll get teary, nostalgic: I was there, I lived there. Was it when I began to embrace my Latinidad, con ahinco? (Scenes 54). Although longing progresses from negative or bitter life events and memories with Howard in South Africa, it achieves regulatory functions and questions her identity as Latinx. The analysis of the negative self-discontinuity experienced by Chávez-Silverman, leads her to implement experiences from diverse geographies and languages, and allows her to mediate between her collective experiences. Experiences digested after 26 years through the lens of loss, lack and longing, resurface as a medium nurturing personal stability. From this perspective, nostalgia emerges as both existentially and socially valuable qualities. It provides a foundation to analyze change, to reconcile it with the remembered past, and relate it to the strands of continuity in the present. These troublesome experiences transpire in “Montalvo Diary” and culminate in “Momentos Hemorrágicos Crónica.”

          The Montalvo residency in Chávez-Silverman’s studio accounts for much more than an intimate grant-writing retreat. The author’s solitary moments in her “glass walled studio,” grow into a sensitive oculus where the author revitalizes her past (Scenes 19). In the author’s own words: “[o]nly here in this Montalvo tunnel or memory vortex did its heel-tapping magic take effect. So here, now let me rewind, Let me remind you [Howard]. Let me tell you, my way” (Scenes 114). Thus, the Montalvo residency facilitates emancipation of her painful memories and activates what the author labels as memory vortex. This memory tunnel can be regarded as a lens of empowerment and self-analysis, capable of fusing the author’s past life experiences between self and other. The addressee in question, Howard, stands out as nostalgic medium awakening latitudes of intimate memories. He is highlighted in her 1982 diary as her true love, and is the source of loss, pain and loneliness. Thus, the bittersweet perceptions of the shared experiences with Howard opens a space, which enables the author to mediate between her previous and current selves and reconfigure those stages in her autobiographical narrative. At the core of this mnemonic journey, the author comes to terms with her blocked off miscarriage memories that resurface during her and Howard’s joint Mardi Gras trip in New Orleans:

I am remembering with you. Abrí la caja de Pandora, I clicked my heels here in this Montalvo Emerald Forest y los ruby slippers de estas páginas me transportan patrás, back to San Francisco, to New Orleans. Back to you. Estas diary pages, with me all this time, todos estos años this memory, esta sangre (Scenes 115).

In this excerpt, the past gives vitality to the present, both periods fortifying the formation of Chávez-Silverman’s life experiences. The ruby slippers emerge as a sentimental memory marker, a catalyst resurrecting shared past. This process indulges the movements between distant geographies, US, New Orleans and South Africa, as well as personal dilemmas and mutual experiences with and without Howard. Essentially, the imaginary trip culminates in rediscovery and acceptance of her suppressed memories. The author comments: Leí de la sangre, our blood/loss, y te juro, Howard, era como el so-called New World. Like a Discovery, uncannily, rather than retrieval, a remembering…ultimately, los funcionamentos de la memoria (Scenes 116). Remarkably, this longing first bridges the geographical displacement and estrangement from her lover, and then liberates her miscarriage memories. In respect to Davis’s Interpreted Nostalgia, the memory itself resurfaces as the entity in question. this retrieval and rediscovery of miscarriage memories becomes a product of analysis (37).

          Concurrently, the author’s bilingual memories transcend time, place, and geography, and are retrieved, understood, and finally accepted. The recollection process constitutes of longing, loss, and the acceptance of the past. This transformational process serves as a basis of Chávez-Silverman’s mnemonic journey. Nostalgia’s power of recollection holds both existentially and socially valuable qualities. They resurface as a tool allowing individuals to comprehend change, settle with the remembered past, and relate it to the present as means to enable identity maintenance and continuity. This intimate dialogue aids Chávez-Silverman in reconfiguring undesirable life events and threading together her past, present and future into coherent Chronicles of Life while accepting other natural disasters or losses.


          Although the historical origins of nostalgia considered it as a medical disorder connected to homesickness, it currently represents memories and experiences that induce longing featured in literary, psychological and sociological discourses. As pointed out by Davis, Sedikides et al. “Nostalgia counteracts self-discontinuity”. Nostalgic recall often illuminates transitory or migrant experiences, which engage both the individual and one’s cumulative experiences, and highlights its regulatory functions. In this context, the notion of nostalgia serves a plausible literary platform for examining pan-Latinx globetrotter experiences in the 21st century as the contemporary U.S. Latinx experiences subsequently encompass urban and global transitions, modernization and the increased use of multiple languages. I this light, the lens of nostalgia provides a valuable examination of these experiences in relation to global encounters and socio-urban reconfigurations present in Scenes. Within the text, we note evidence of these multi-geographical experiences represented through the author’s creative use of sustained code switching. Chávez-Silverman’s mode of self-expression and incorporation of nostalgia allows her to recall events, continue and maintain her pan-Latinx identity. Thus, the author is able to revive her globetrotter experiences through recalling bilingual Spanish and English, while longing and the search for missing threads, provide an undertone to her crónicas, and prompt a mnemonic journey to her inner self.

          As a result, her innovative linguistic code illustrates diverse instances of nostalgic recall progressing from negative life events, yet in turn; the engagement of bilingual memories foster regulatory functions of longing and culminates in the continuity of her pan-Latinx identity. In conclusion, through the lens of nostalgia as an empirical catalyst, the paper analyzed the ways in which Chávez-Silverman revitalizes remote urban experiences, reconfigures her fragmentary past through meditation with undesirable life events that illuminate loss, lack and longing. Future areas of study could examine (a) the functionality of nostalgia as a cognitive resource related to identity maintenance and (b) analyze memoirs written by U.S. Latinx authors with a comparative interest in the ways they utilize nostalgic catalysts in their texts.

[1] The Simple Nostalgia is a unexamined state of beliefs about a past where everything was happier, healthier, the individual does not reflect critically upon the past. Reflective Nostalgia takes into account a critical consideration and connects an individual with his or her historical and social events. Interpreted Nostalgia is a critical account of nostalgic recollection itself with exponential power to “cultivate appreciative stances toward former selves” and emphasizes the continuity between past and present (Davis 35).



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