William Carlos Williams

Esmeralda Santiago

Gary Soto






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Although Williams Carlos Williams, Esmeralda Santiago, and Gary Soto all lived an urban lifestyle and reflected these experiences into their work, one can observe obvious dissimilarities between the writers’ race, gender, and class. These similarities and dissimilarities in urban experiences led to writings that correspondingly mirror and contrast each other.

First and foremost, although all three writers are Latina/o, they came from diverse backgrounds. William Carlos Williams was a second-generation Puerto Rican in the United States, while Esmeralda Santiago spent her childhood in Puerto Rico but moved to New York City as an adolescent. As a Mexican-American, however, Gary Soto shared no Puerto Rican ancestry. With this information, one can observe a stark similarity and difference: All though all three writers are of Latino heritage, two (Williams and Santiago) are of Puerto Rican decent and one (Soto) is of Mexican decent. Given the distinct pasts of the three, we can see that the writers faced not only different environments, but also different people. The large Puerto Rican population of New York City clearly provided different experiences than the Mexican population of California. Therefore, Williams and Santiago provide perspectives from New York Puerto Ricans, while Soto reflects on his experiences as a Mexican in California. Although all three writers are Latina/o, their different cultural upbringings lead to differences in their writing.

The three writers also share a large contrast of gender. Williams and Soto are both male, while Santiago stands as the lone woman. Through this sample of writers, the reader gets two distinct viewpoints in terms of gender. While the stories in Soto’s Baseball and Williams’ poems reflect a male viewpoint (Soto describing he and his friends playing baseball and Williams looking at school girls as a reference to innocence and purity in “The Lonely Street”), Santiago adds additional viewpoints in her work by describing her difficulties not only as a Puerto Rican, but also a woman helping to raise her ten siblings and her lack of trust for men.  With two different gender perspectives, the Latina/o writing community incorporates many different experiences and beliefs from both male and female points of view.

With the three writers, the reader can see a distinct divide between the lower class and the upper class.  Both Soto and Santiago come from working class families, Soto’s from the agricultural fields of California and Santiago from the industrial working class of New York.  Williams, on the other hand, was brought up in the upper class neighborhoods of New York and New Jersey, thanks to his father being a wealthy merchant.  Williams faced little of the financial struggle that Santiago and Soto faced, and even had his medical career to support himself as a writer.  Because of this contrast between Santiago and Soto in the working class and Williams in the upper class, the reader gets two different sides of the Latina/o story in their works.

With all of their differences, the one thing that brings these writers together is the fact that the city had a profound effect on the way they lived, and thus, wrote.  No one can deny the influence that a New York upbringing and working with patients and children from New York City had on Dr. Williams.  As a working class Puerto Rican in New York, Santiago uses much of her own struggle and adversity from the city and conveys it into recollections of her own life.  Soto, from Fresno, saw the daily trials and tribulations of the working class Mexican families and their abilities to make ends meet, and he manages to take those views and show them to the world through his great literary style.  Regardless of their differences, all three of these Latina/o writers, William Carlos Williams, Esmeralda Santiago, and Gary Soto were greatly influenced by the urban enviornments in which they lived and were raised, and their influence continues to be spread to new generations of readers.