Authors: Aristeo Brito

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist, poet, and educator

Identity: Mexican American

Author Works

Long Fiction:

El diablo en Texas: Literatura chicana, 1976 (The Devil in Texas, 1990)

Miscellaneous:

Cuentas i poemas de Aristo Brito, 1974 (stories and poems)

Biography

Aristeo Brito (BREE-toh), a notable Chicano writer, poet, and educator, was born October 20, 1942, in Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico. He grew up in Presidio, Texas, which is located across the Rio Grande from Ojinaga. The river, extending approximately two thousand miles from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast, forms a divisional line separating the United States from Mexico. More than just a border, the river is also an imaginary barrier between the ideas, hopes, and aspirations of the two cultures.{$I[A]Brito, Aristeo}{$I[geo]MEXICO;Brito, Aristeo}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Brito, Aristeo}{$I[geo]LATINO;Brito, Aristeo}{$I[tim]1942;Brito, Aristeo}

In the introduction to Brito’s poignant novel The Devil in Texas, Charles Tatum discusses Brito’s life and the conditions in Ojinaga-Presidio during his youth, which spurred the writing of The Devil in Texas. Brito was emotionally impacted by the plight of the Mexicans and Chicanos in Ojinaga-Presidio. These were poor people whose lack of education, lack of exposure outside their community, and domination by the white populace made only menial, low-paying, and backbreaking employment available to them: They worked in the irrigated fields that produced fruits, vegetables, and cotton.

After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848–the treaty of peace, friendship, limits, and settlement between the United States of America and the Mexican Republic–the Anglo population appropriated much of Texas from the Mexicans. The enforcers of the class system separating the poor Mexicans and Chicanos from the Anglos were the Texas Rangers. The Rangers were organized to restrict undocumented Mexican workers from crossing the border and to monitor the behavior of the Chicano population. Ongoing hostility existed between the Rangers and the Chicanos. The Rangers were regarded as protectors of Anglo interests, and they were terrorists against Mexicans and Chicanos.

As described in The Devil in Texas, the U.S. Border Patrol was considered a counterpart to the Rangers and was equally repressive. When a bridge was built over the Rio Grande between Ojinaga and Presidio, it was the Border Patrol that prevented “illegal” crossings. This bridge, and the continual surveillance over it, restricted passage between Mexico and Texas. In the book, it represents an impediment to the Spanish-speaking people.

His early experiences in Ojinaga-Presidio had a profound affect on Brito, which would haunt him throughout his adulthood. In 1961 he graduated from Presidio High School as class valedictorian. Despite his academic accomplishments, Brito was unable to qualify for induction into the U.S. military because of low intelligence aptitude test scores. Like many local Chicano youth, his comprehension of English was low. He vowed to become literate in both English and Spanish. In 1965 he graduated with distinction from Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas, with a major in English. He subsequently received a master’s degree in Spanish from the University of Arizona in Tucson.

A turning point in Brito’s life occurred with his indoctrination into the Chicano movement. Nationwide, the Chicano movement had awakened cultural pride in Chicano youth, and the movement was influential in assimilating these youth into American culture and waging war against social ills. Embittered by his experiences in Ojinaga-Presidio, Brito did not intend to return home. He felt compelled to go there, however, so that he could witness the changes he supposed had occurred in his absence. He took a leave from the completion of his doctoral studies in order to return home. Upon his arrival, he found that little had changed. People were still apathetic.

Brito’s response was to write about the history of his community and the relationship between the ruling class and its subordinates. The result of his research and lifelong experiences was The Devil in Texas, a fictionalized version of his community’s history. The novel is divided into three sections that represent Presidio’s history in the years 1883, 1942, and 1970. El diablo en Texas/The Devil in Texas was originally self-published in 1976. The book was translated into English in 1990.

Aristeo Brito received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1978 and has taught at the University of Arizona, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and Pima Community College in Tucson. He has been editor of the latter’s bilingual literary magazine, Llueve Tlaloc, and has taught creative writing.

BibliographyMartinez, Julio A., ed. and comp. Chicano Scholars and Writers. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1979.Martinez, Julio A., and Francisco A. Lomeli, eds. Chicano Literature: A Reference Guide. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985.Tatum, Charles. Review of El diablo en Texas, by Aristeo Brito. World Literature Today 51, no. 4 (Autumn, 1977).
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