Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton is among the best-remembered authors of nineteenth-century Mexican American literature. Fully bilingual, de Burton was the first female Mexican American to write novels in English: Who Would Have Thought It? and The Squatter and the Don.
Her first novel, Who Would Have Thought It? (1872) denounces what she viewed as the hypocritical sanctimoniousness of New England culture. It was published anonymously, probably because its biting satire of Congregationalist religion, of abolitionism, and even of President Lincoln made it controversial. She also wrote a play: Don Quixote de la Mancha: A Comedy in Five Acts: Taken From Cervantes’ Novel of That Name (1876).
In 1885, Ruiz de Burton published her second novel The Squatter and the Don, a fictional account of the land struggles experienced by many Californio families after U.S. annexation. The book is a historical novel which chronicles the demise of the feudal Spanish rancho system in California, and questions whether the imposition of American monopoly capitalism is an improvement over the old way of life.
Married to United States Army Captain Henry S. Burton, her social surroundings afforded her a unique perspective on American society and politics. However, loyalty to cultural roots and a deeply personal understanding of cultural displacement became the primary focus of Ruiz de Burton’s writing.
"I am persuaded that we were born to do something more than simply live, that is, we were born for something more, for the rest of our poor countrymen."
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