Open Your Heart
David P. Sandell
University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9780268041465, $29.00, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Open Your Heart: Religion and Cultural Poetics of Greater Mexico" is an ethnographic study of Catholic religious practice in Fresno, California, in which David P. Sandell (Associate Professor of Anthropology, Texas Christian University) unveils ritualized storytelling that Mexican and Mexican American people of faith use to cope with racism and poverty associated with colonial, capitalist, and modern social conditions. Based on in-depth interviews and extensive field research conducted in 2000 and 2001, Professor Sandell's work shows how people use story and religious ritual (including the Matachines dance, the Mass, the rosary, pilgrimage, and processions) to create a space in their lives free from oppression. These people give meaning to the expression "open your heart," the book argues, through ritual and stories, enabling them to engage the mind and body in a movement toward, as one participant said, "the sacred center" of their lives. Professor Sandell persuasively argues that the storytelling represents a tradition of poetics that provides an alternative, emancipatory epistemology. Americo Paredes, for example, defined this tradition in his scholarship of border balladry. According to Paredes, storytelling with ritual...