Hunger of Memory

Rodriguez’s father grew up as an orphan in Mexico and immigrated to America with the hopes of becoming an engineer. A series of disappointments led to Rodriguez’s father living a life of “dark factory jobs,” though he eventually gets a “clean job” making false teeth. Though he is often seen teasing his son for his soft hands, Rodriguez’s father is also silently and deeply proud of his son’s academic success, which he believes will save him from a life of labor. Rodriguez credits both his parents with forging a sense of their own “middle-classness” and instilling it in their children. Both of Rodriguez’s parents also encourage their children to assert their identity as Mexicans.

Rodriguez’s Father Quotes in Hunger of Memory

The Hunger of Memory quotes below are all either spoken by Rodriguez’s Father or refer to Rodriguez’s Father . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Private vs. Public Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dial Press edition of Hunger of Memory published in 2004.
Prologue Quotes

Aztec ruins hold no special interest for me. I do not search Mexican graveyards for ties to unnamable ancestors. I assume I retain certain features of gesture and mood derived from buried lives. I also speak Spanish today. And read García Lorca and García Márquez at my leisure. But what consolation can that fact bring against the knowledge that my mother and father have never heard of García Lorca or García Márquez?

Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 3-4
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Chapter 1 Quotes

One Saturday morning I entered the kitchen where my parents were talking in Spanish. I did not realize that they were talking in Spanish however until, at the moment they saw me, I heard their voices change to speak English. Those gringo sounds they uttered startled me. Pushed me away. In that moment of trivial misunderstanding and profound insight, I felt my throat twisted by unsounded grief. I turned quickly and left the room. But I had no place to escape to with Spanish. (The spell was broken.) My brother and sisters were speaking English in another part of the house.

Related Symbols: Silence
Page Number: 20-21
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My mother met the wrath of her brother, her only brother, when he came up from Mexico one summer with his family. He saw his nieces and nephews for the very first time. After listening to me, he looked away and said what a disgrace it was that I couldn’t speak Spanish, “su propio idioma.” He made that remark to my mother; I noticed, however, that he stared at my father.

Page Number: 29
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Chapter 2 Quotes

Those times I remembered the loss of my past with regret, I quickly reminded myself of all the things my teachers could give me. (They could make me an educated man.) I tightened my grip on pencil and books. I evaded nostalgia. Tried hard to forget. But one does not forget by trying to forget. One only remembers. I remembered too well that education had changed my family’s life. I would not have become a scholarship boy had I not so often remembered.

Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 53
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Months later, two weeks of Christmas vacation: The first hours home were the hardest. (“What’s new?”) My parents and I sat in the kitchen for a conversation. (But, lacking the same words to develop our sentences and to shape our interests, what was there to say? What could I tell them of the term paper I had just finished on the “universality of Shakespeare’s appeal”?)

Related Symbols: Silence
Page Number: 61
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Negatively (for that is how this idea first occurred to me): My need to think so much and so abstractly about my parents and our relationship was in itself an indication of my long education. … And yet, positively: The ability to consider experience so abstractly allowed me to shape into desire what would otherwise have remained indefinite, meaningless longing in the British Museum.

Page Number: 77
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Chapter 3 Quotes

A child whose parents could not introduce him to books like Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I was introduced to the spheres of enchantment by the nighttime Catholicism of demons and angels. The superstitious Catholicism of home provided a kind of proletarian fairy world.

Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 92
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In ceremonies of public worship, [my parents] have been moved, assured that their lives—all aspects of their lives, from waking to eating, from birth until death, all moments—possess great significance. Only the liturgy has encouraged them to dwell on the meaning of their lives. To think.

Page Number: 96
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Chapter 4 Quotes

In my bedroom were books by poets and novelists—books that I loved—in which male writers published feelings the men in my family never revealed or acknowledged in words. And it seemed to me that there was something unmanly about my attachment to literature. Even today, when so much about the myth of the macho no longer concerns me, I cannot altogether evade such notions.

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Father
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 139
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I would not learn in three months what my father had meant by “real work.” I was not bound to this job; I could imagine its rapid conclusion. For me the sensation of exertion and fatigue could be savored. For my father or uncle, working at comparable jobs when they were my age, such sensations were to be feared.

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Father
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:
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I stood there. I wanted to say something more. But what could I say in Spanish, even if I could have pronounced the words right? Perhaps I just wanted to engage them in small talk, to be assured of their confidence, our familiarity. I thought for a moment to ask them where in Mexico they were from. Something like that. And maybe I wanted to tell them (a lie, if need be) that my parents were from the same part of Mexico.

Related Symbols: Silence
Page Number: 145
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Chapter 6 Quotes

My mother must use a high-pitched tone of voice when she addresses people who are not relatives. It is a tone of voice I have all my life heard her use away from the house. Coming home from grammar school with new friends, I would hear it, its reminder: My new intimates were strangers to her. Like my sisters and brother, over the years, I’ve grown used to hearing that voice. Expected to hear it. Though I suspect that voice has played deep in my soul, sounding a lyre, to recall my “betrayal,” my movement away from our family’s intimate past.

Page Number: 191-192
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Rodriguez’s Father Character Timeline in Hunger of Memory

The timeline below shows where the character Rodriguez’s Father appears in Hunger of Memory. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Aria
Language, Intimacy, and Authority Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...a Mexican American who has forgotten his Mexican roots. He writes that his mother and father felt pressure to explain why their children did not speak fluent, easy Spanish. All of... (full context)
Chapter 3: Credo
Memory Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
This essay opens with a handful of memories from the childhoods of Rodriguez’s mother and father. Rodriguez emphasizes that his parents recall growing up in Mexican towns “where everyone was a... (full context)
Chapter 4: Complexion
Race, Class, and Identity Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...Rodriguez, the siblings look like they could all be from different continents, Rodriguez’s mother and father insist that their children never deny their Mexican ancestry. As a child, Rodriguez mechanically obeyed... (full context)
Chapter 5: Profession
Race, Class, and Identity Theme Icon
Education, Ambition, and Belonging Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...declined all the offers he’d received. When he called his parents to inform them, his father, upset, said, “I don’t know why you feel this way. We never had any of... (full context)
Chapter 6: Mr. Secrets
Private vs. Public Identity Theme Icon
Language, Intimacy, and Authority Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...arguing that his mother’s use of the phrase los gringos indicates that his mother and father “have not followed their children all the way down the path to full Americanization.” His... (full context)
Language, Intimacy, and Authority Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...Rodriguez wrestles with the question of whether he could see himself in this child, whose father is a fourth-generation American of German descent who has spoken English all his life. He... (full context)