Under the Feet of Jesus

Stones, Bones, and Tar: The Legacy of Migrant Workers

The images of stones, bones, and tar form a motif in Helena Maria Viramontes's Under the Feet of Jesus. From Alejo's sickness to the encounter with the nurse, these images are continually linked to each other to depict a wide range of the experiences, dreams, and sufferings of migrant workers. Stones, symbolic of the migrant workers' history and tie to the earth, are ancient like the bones that ache, provide the labor, and eventually become the tar oil that supplies fuel and energy for America. This relationship between stones, bones, and tar is similar to the community of the migrant workers: all the members are connected and provide for one another. Through their prevalence in the novel, these images leave a trail the way migrant workers leave behind a trail of their lives as they move from place to place; the reoccurring images represent the continual sacrifices of migrant workers and portray their hope to leave a legacy that will remain long on this earth like the stones, bones, and tar.

Alejo's interest in stones exemplifies the desire of the migrant worker to earn a name for himself in the land where he must struggle to survive. His interest, evident in his plan to major in geology, is equated with his...

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