Building stories on The Brick People
Mapping Alejandro Morales’s otherness in documentary and fiction
The focus of this study is an analysis of the novel The Brick People published by the Chicano author Alejandro Morales in 1988 and its homonymous documentary film from 2012. Both narratives are based on the same story, namely the lives of Mexican immigrants, who worked as employees in Simons Brickyard in Los Angeles, California, a city originally founded by Mexicans. In the official historiography, this part of Mexican migration in California has been ignored. This study will reveal how the novel and the documentary deal with this gap or interstice in North-American history and how they reflect the cultural divide in Southern California. We are particularly interested in how both the novelist and the documentary makers present the topics of integration, of preservation or construction of the Mexican cultural identity and of cross-cultural dialogue to an English speaking audience. Both the documentary and the novel narrate “value[s] that reflect […] the language, local conventions and culture of [the] geographic region” (ISO/TS 11669:2012(en), 2.1.10) of Los Angeles. The depiction of this target locale presents itself as a borderland that clusters a rich mix of cultural, historical, and (non) urban landscapes (Gersdorf 2009, 309). This ancient collective memory appears serendipitously as sudden sites or potential links of human action collected in one or more of the previous structures of consciousness and inspire individuals to perform and produce in unique and extraordinary ways (Morales 2012, 111).