Part I of The Rain God Handout

The Rain God By Arturo Islas- Part I

Main Character Relationships in The Rain God:

–   Miguel Grande is Miguel Chico’s father, married to Juanita

–   Lola is Juanita’s best friend, but has an affair with Miguel Grande

–    Miguel Chico’s untraditional ways are somewhat forgiven by his family because of his intellectual accomplishments- “Miguel Chico knew that Mama Chona’s family held contradictory feelings toward him Because he was still not married and seldom visited them in the desert, they suspected that he, too, belonged on the list of sinners. Still, they were proud of his academic achievements.” (Islas pg. 4)

–    From a study performed by Brent Taylor of San Diego State University and Andrew Behnke of North Carolina State University on Latino fathering styles in the US and Mexico, it was found that:

  • “Regarding the values that Latino fathers want to transmit to the next generation, the most prominent value was the importance of a good education. Whether in Mexico or the U.S., education was perceived as the most prized achievement that their children could attain. So many responses clustered around fathers’ desire to help their children get their education that it almost seemed like the fathers were reading a teleprompter. For example, Eduardo said simply, “You have to study because if you get a good education you will have a good career; you live well.”’ (Taylor&Behnke pg. 112)

Performing Masculinity:

–       Miguel Chico learns from a young age the significance of correct gender practicing from his father’s disappointment in his playing with dolls:

  •  “He and Maria spent long afternoons cutting out dolls and dressing them. When he got home from the police station, Miguel Grande would scold Maria for allowing hiss son to play with dolls. “I don’t want my son brought up like a girl.”’ (Islas pg 15)

–       “Young males also learn that gender identities are signified by using appropriate props. Initially, much of this identity work is done by parents, as newborns and toddlers are equipped with gendered names, clothes, and toys (Pomerleau et al. 1990). Preschool boys who fail to grasp the pattern and wear dresses or pink ribbons are scolded by their peers for misbehavior (Cahill 1989). Based on 42 interviews with diverse parents of preschoolers, Kane (2006) shows that parents—especially heterosexual fathers—often censure preschool sons who play with Barbies or wear fingernail polish or pink clothing. Such policing leads young males to, as Cahill (1989, p. 290) put it, “reject and devalue…symbols of female identity” in order to “confirm their identities as boys.”’ (Brent& Behnke pg 282)

–       Learning to be a man involves repressing “weak” emotions such as fear or sadness, and Miguel Chico learns this from a young age. At the funeral of his brother, Miguel Grande refuses affection from his son on page 93,

  •  “[…] Miguel Chico had attempted to comfort his father. It was the first time he had seen Miguel Grande cry and, still a child, he had reached out to him. “Don’t do that,” his father had said, pushing him away. “Men don’t do that with each other. Let me cry by myself. Go away.” The rebuff had hurt him and he had remembered the lesson.”
  • “Another lesson for young males is that emotional display must be regulated, lest it undermine a manhood act. In their ethnographic study of a summer camp, McGuffey & Rich (1999) found that high-status boys ostracized boys who cried. Males involved in sports similarly police the expression of emotion, affirming the principle that boys should not express fear or pain (Curry 1993, Messner 1992). Parents are often complicit in this gendered training because they feel accountable—for their sons’ behavior—to other adults (Kane 2006). Parents who believe that their son’s masculinity is threatened may be especially inclined to encourage stoicism. For example, during one of McGuffey’s (2008, p. 212) 389 interviews with 62 parents of sexually abused sons, one father said of his victimized son, “He’s already been made into a woman sexually. I can’t let him turn into one emotionally, too!”’ (Brent& Behnke pg 283)


–       Performed by men to signal heterosexuality, but backed by women who support the notion of male dominance as necessary characteristic in a partner. This is exemplified by one of the first sexual encounters of Miguel Grande and Lola,

  •  “’Hurt me Miguel, hurt me.” She moaned as if indeed he were and, in that way, gave him the illusion that he was in control once again.” (Islas, pg. 71)
  • “As Pascoe (2007, p. 114) documented in her ethnography of a high school, boys use language and sometimes violence to turn girls and women into props for signifying heterosexuality. The boys she studied sexually harassed girls with unwanted comments and touching, and talked and joked about rape (see also Renold 2007). Boys’ homophobic taunting of other boys who are deemed feminine is also a means of signifying heterosexuality (Pascoe 2007).” (Brent&Behnke pg. 283)


–       Culture may play a role in how information is protected among family members, for example why so many in the family knew of Miguel Grande and Lola’s affair but never confronted Juanita about it.

  • “Interestingly, in all three interviews with individuals who highlighted their race=ethnicity, they suggested that their culture played a large role in managing the protection of their parent’s infidelity. These findings suggest that culture may play a role in how the information of a parent is protected among family members.” (Thorison pg. 39)
  • “Infidelity among Latinos constitutes an adherence to Latino culture in the way of life of emanation. Mediterranean, especially Spanish, culture accepted infidelity as a part of life. Within the drama of patriarchy in the service of emanation, a male’s faithfulness to infidelity was part and parcel of Latino female/male relationships. Latina women accepted the other woman as a part of their fate in the way of life of emanation and resigned themselves to it just as they saw their mothers do the same. Buffers, or ritualized avoidance, were created to veil the presence of the other woman.” (Abalos, pg 100)

Latino Paternity:

–       Miguel Grande’s fathering style was undoubtedly influence by all systems of his life, personal, familial, and cultural. The cultural is where much of the difference comes in between Miguel Chico and his father, as he sees the world in a less traditional way. His relationship with his father is detached because of this difference.

  • “Though some fathers changed their fathering style when coming to the U.S., most of the immigrant Latino fathers can be described by the sociocultural continuity perspective. Living in the U.S. or Mexico did not, according to their account, shift their fathering style.” (Taylor&Behnke, pg 109)

Aturo Islas..What does he write about?

“I consider myself, still, a child of the border, a border some believe extends all the way to Seattle and includes the northern provinces of Mexico. In my experience, the 2,000-mile-long Mexican-United States border has a cultural identity that is unique. That condition, that landscape and its people, are what I write about.”

Important Quotes/Topics

  • Life on the Border/Stereotypes

-Miguel Grande example of “Macho” aspect —  pg 92. “Don’t do that,” his father said pushing him away. “Men don’t do that with each other. Let me cry by myself. Go away.”

This is when Miguel Chico tries to console his father after the death of M.Grande’s brother Armando.

-“I saw you dancing with that queer Pepe.” … “All good dancers are queer and you know it.” Miguel shared the macho’s distrust of any man who was handsome or danced too well”

This can show the personal struggles Miguel has with himself and is actually insecure.

Lola- “When he forced her to the couch, she knew she had won. Men were easy to deal with sexually.” pg 71

  • Religion (& lack of) in The Rain God

Symbolism of family Last Name (Angel)

Main Characters : Miguel Chico, Miguel Grande, Juanita, Nina, Lola, Mama Chona, Maria (some are considered sinners because they do not live up to Mama Chona’s expectation)

-Pg.20-“If God knew that Satan and Adam and Ever were going to commit sin, why did he create them?” “You must not as me these things, I’m not allowed to talk about them” – He knew that in some important way he defeated her.

-Pg 66- Lola and her lack of compassion for her dead husband mother shows religion truly doesn’t hold a standard to her.  “That old fool. What do I care about her? Who cares about those old ladies? They loved taking all that crap from their men so they could act like martyrs after the men died….El Compa’s death another excuse to suffer for a plaster god who doesn’t give a damn about them or their moaning. Why aren’t they dead?”

  • Judgement/Ethnic Identity

-Pg,59 -“They were Americans now, even if privately among themselves they still called each other chicanitos.”

-Pg. 85- Lena was a scandal because she ran around with the “low class” Mexicans in her high school

-Mama Chona is portrayed as a the strong woman of the household and family, “after surviving the loss of (at least) two sons, the death of her sister, the Mexican Revolution, an unfaithful husband. She believes herself to be the only thing preventing the downfall of the Angel family.”

-Pg.14- 15- Mama Chona’s unfavor for Maria- “They were all ill educated and she thought them to be bad influences” Mama Chona taught all her children that they were better than the illiterate riffraff from across the river.


– Pg. 87 “Felix’s behavior embarrassed Miguel Grande, he hoped that the stigma of being jotos would not reach past his brother”

Felix – death is an important part of the novel which shows how even in his death just as the family ostracized him for his homosexuality

Felix death “the family as usual more concerned with its pride than with justice”- had begun to lie to itself about the truth

-Lola-  Death of El Campo her husband she is unable to think about others but herself.

“Mourning him would not equal the time of hurt she had spent waiting for him to love her.” “Lola could not bear the weeping of the women around her. Why should she pay homage to the dead.”

She was sorry only for herself.

  • Important Dates/Facts:

1911-1929: The Mexican Revolution killed an estimated one million Mexicans and forced at least 1 million refugees temporarily into the U.S.

1930-1940: This recorded number of Mexican immigrants drops to only 23,000

1944-1954: After the war, there were jobs for nearly everyone who wanted one, including immigrants. This led to “The decade of the wetback”; the number of illegal immigrants coming from Mexico increased by 6,000 percent, more than one million Mexicans crossed the border illegally, searching for work.

1954: “Operation Wetback” The U.S. county, state, and federal authorities, as well as the military, began an operation of search and seizure of all illegal immigrants

1965: The Immigration and Nationality Act: Quotas on Immigration were removed, so increasing numbers of Mexicans could immigrate legally

1965 -1975: 453,000 illegal immigrants from Mexico arrived.

1986: The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passed, allowing, in theory at least, penalties for employers who hired illegal immigrants. In practice, amnesty for about 3,000,000 was granted to immigrants already in the United States, mostly from Mexico.

1990: The Immigration Act (IMMACT) modified and expanded the 1965 act. It significantly increased the total immigration limit to 700,000 and increased visas by 40 percent.

1996: The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) widened the categories of criminal activity for which immigrants, even the ones with a green card, can be deported out of the USA. As a result, well over one Million immigrants have been deported since.

2000-2007: Approximately 500.000 – 700.000 illegal Mexican immigrants arrived.

About 57% of the total illegal immigrants in the US are from Mexico, totaling about 6,840,000.

The United States Border Patrol:
The objective is to deter and apprehend illegal immigrants as well as forestall drug trafficking along the 3,360 km border between the United States and Mexico.
Operation Gatekeeper in California, Operation Hold-the-Line in Texas, and Operation Safeguard in Arizona.

Wall of Shame:
The term is used in relation to the barrier which is located in the urban sections of the border, the areas that have been the location of the greatest number of illegal crossings in the past, such as San Diego, California and El Paso, Texas. Due to that, between 1998 and 2004, 1,954 persons died along the U.S.-Mexico border, trying to make their way past the inhospitable desert or through the Rio Grande. In 2006 president George Bush signed the Secure Fence Act, a plan to build a 1,125 km fence between the United States and Mexico, to further prevent illegal immigration.


1.Islas, Arturo. “The Rain God”. New York: Avon Books, 1984.


3. Stanford News Service. Web. 4.18.91

4. Ramirez, Elena; “”Gender and Sexuality In The Rain God”

Web. March 3, 1997

Works Cited

• Abalos, David A. The Latino Family and the Politics of Transformation. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993. Google Books. Web. 2 Feb. 2012. <>. (Abalos)

•Schrock, Douglas, and Michael Schwalbe. “Men, Masculinity, and Manhood Acts.” Annual Review of Sociology 35 (2009): 277-295. Uconn Links. Web. 2 Feb. 2012. (Schrock&Schwalbe)

•Taylor, Brent A, and Andrew Behnke. “FAthering Across the Border: Latino Fathers in Mexico and the U.S.” Fathering 3.2 (2005): 99-120. JSTOR. Web. 2 Feb. 2012. (Taylor&Behnke)

•Thorson, Allison R. “Adult Chilren’s Experiences with their Parent’s Infidelity: Communicative Protection and Access Rules in the Absence of Divorce.” Communication Studies 60.1 (2009): 32-48. tandfonline. Web. 2 Feb. 2012. (Thorson)


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