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Arte Publico

Arte Público Press Author Interview: Dr. José B. González

A Salvadoran immigrant observes positive and negative aspects of his life, fantasies and aspirations in the movie theaters and on television

Photo of Dr. José B. González - Author of When Love Was Reels
Dr. José B. González – Author of When Love Was Reels


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In his new poetry collection When Love Was Reels, author Dr. José B. González takes us back to his very early years in El Salvador. In response to political and economic difficulties, his parents have left for the United States. José is cared for by his grandmother who frequently takes him to the movies. On the screen, José observes situations taken from his own daily life such as poverty, abandoned children forced into street crime and the challenges of (very) young love.

At the age of eight, José makes the journey to the United States in order to join his family. José initially moves into an apartment with his childless uncle who advises José to “bury” any memories he might have of his grandmother or any other aspects of his former life in El Salvador. José’s uncle is forced to work several jobs in order to survive and José has ample time to watch American television in order to learn English. His experiences watching The Cisco Kid, Chico and the Man, and Fantasy Island (among others) help to shape José’s image of his new home.

Even working several jobs, José’s uncle is unable to bring in enough money to pay off his debts and the monthly bills. José resorts to small time thievery just to have enough to eat. Inspired by such films as The Warriors, Boulevard Nights, Zoot Suite and Scarface, José and some of his friends consider gang life. However, they quickly discover the differences between the images on the screen and the reality of the street.


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Houston Public Media's Eric Ladau spoke with Dr. González.