27 November 2011
Cultural Fusion in Edgardo Vega Yunqué’s The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow Into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle
Language serves a critical role in Edgardo Vega Yunqué’s The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow Into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle. The dialects of both Omaha and the Puerto Ricans, which seem to flood this particular section of New York City, strongly emphasize the lingo in order to differentiate their backgrounds. Yunqué’s fusion of these two cultures helps us understand the influence Hispanic culture has on American culture. Yunqué writes:
“Pssst,” she said. “What?” Omaha said, noting that her name tag said Awilda. “You know that girl?” “Maruquita? Yeah, I know her.” “Oh, my gaw,” said the girl. “What?” “She’s a bruja.” “I know she’s a bruha.” “And you be hanging out with her?” “Yeah, she’s my girlfriend.” “For real?” Awilda said, crossing herself. “Your girlfriend?” “Yeah, we hang out. We went dancing at The Bank.” “You dance?” “Yeah, I dance.” “Far out. Can I tell you something?” “What?” “You should go real far away, like New Jersey. Tonight. Right now.” “Why?” “You’re gonna be in a lot of trouble if you stay with that girl. I’m telling you. I’m doing you a favor. You look like a nice gringo whiteboy. Not for nothing. Get away before it’s too late…” (77)
Maruquita’s infatuation with Omaha is quite interesting because of her Puerto Rican descent and his “gringo” Caucasian background. Although they don’t seem like the best mix with his green hair and her witch-like background (or maybe they do), Maruquita picks up a unique quality about Omaha from the start. She sees him as “the one” for one reason or another, possibly because he can see people in animal form, which could also be a result of his extensive drug use. In any case, this aspect of Omaha’s character serves as the bridge between cultures for Maruquita. She observes this innate gift instantly, only fueling her attraction towards making him her “pet”. This ability to see people as animals could possibly be attractive to Maruquita because she, along with Omaha, sees everybody on a neutral level. If everyone is an animal, there are no more racial divisions because everybody is the same. It’s as if the melting pot that is New York City is a metaphor portraying a jungle where everybody must coexist in harmony, hence the title of the novel. Besides her ghetto slang talk and Omaha’s punk-rock style of living (outside in a park), the duo proves that cultures can come together despite the “Puerto Rican problem” described by top political figures.
An interview with Abel Posse explains the cultural evolutions in which all ethnic groups are beginning to transcend the era where associations with other countries are no longer an advantage, but now imperative to a country’s sustainability.
And now we are in a time of cultures; we are leaving the nineteenth-century mindset, which is to conceive and promote society through politics and economics, and we are realizing that the great associations between countries are produced through cultures, and that inside of that, besides, culture is a measure of the quality of life. We are in an era of returning and of revolutions. The countries that are really behind are, often, the countries called superpowers or “the first in the world”, that are crumbling inside. (299)
Posse is touching upon the richness of culture in countries that associate with each other. The era of different ethnic group only residing in their countries of origin is no more, replaced by the intermingling of cultures in a common state. Associations between countries are now cultural rather than just political and are proven through Yunqué’s use of Omaha and Maruquita.
Cora, Edgardo. “Ensayo / Essay” Sirena: poesia, arte y critica, 2006:1, pp. 295-327 Web. 26 November 2011 http://muse.jhu.edu.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/search/results?search_id=1648000415&action=reload
Vega Yunqué, Edgardo. The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle. Overlook, 2004.