Coming into Language by Jimmy Santiago Baca


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Is it possible to make vital life changes to become a better person at heart? Who’s the one that can help you? The only person that will get you up on your feet is yourself, and you have to believe deeply to make those changes. In this essay there are many main points that are being brought across to explain the problems and wisdom that arose from Baca’s life as an inmate. It talks about how he was grown up into an adult and the tragedies that he had to face in order to become one. Later I fallow steps that lead to the purpose and rhetorical appeals of Baca’s essay. The purpose dealt with the cause and effect piece and problem/ solution structure.

For this specific essay that I read it is based on the effects of language and its values. I happened to read the essay called, “Coming into Language,” by a convict named Jimmy Santiago Baca. He was born in 1952 as an Apache Indian with a Chicano relation. Ever since Jim was a young individual he has been in and out of jail and roamed the streets before knowing the basics of right and wrong. From an early age he didn’t ever get a chance to read or understand writings. Because of his poor upbringing he wasn’t able to gain access to knowledge, and did not know that dropping out of the 9th grade could hurt the rest of his life. In the essay, Baca mainly focused on writing the essay to explain his values and beliefs. I believe that Baca wanted to bring his thoughts across to the Chicano decent and to other jail inmates who didn’t understand their upbringings as well. There is clear reasoning for this, stated in the essay it mentions when Baca started showing the Chicano’s and other prisoners, they too were building an interest. The main purpose of this essay is to show that people can change and make a difference. From a person who was given nothing, and dealt with misery for his first half of his life was able to learn to read and write (then later on learned to write poems.)

In Baca’s writing style for this piece was a cause/effect and problem/solution. Throughout his writing he mentions how he wasn’t the smartest person, and didn’t even learn the importance of schooling.

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From the start, by the age of 17, he was in jail and was forced into doing labor inside the jails. From his experiences in jail he learned to proceed with his life, gain a higher learning. He found him in a scenario meeting other inmates; they were reading out loud writings from famous poets. Baca was just simply there, he felt as if he couldn’t relate to what the poets words were containing. He felt as if he was powerless and couldn’t impact what the inmates were reading. He later on worked with other books and tried to learn his original Chicano language. Two months later he got released from prison.

It so happens two years go passed, and then again he found himself in a jail system again. Being forced to be there and maintain an inmate’s lifestyle once again, he started to read some more literature. Baca one night as the guard left his post (desk attendant) he reached through the jail bars and pocketed a text book. Later on that night he found himself reading it to himself till he got the name of the author said out loud correct. This was just the beginning of his reading process, and he continued it gain that higher learning. He always believed that reading was just waste of time, but later he found himself absorbed as he would say and how it made him think of past memories. He also started to write poetry and was writing feelings down to get rid of some the aggression. This clearly represents that he wanted to make the effort to change. From the jail experience Baca learned a lot about himself through his experiences and wanted to make the effort to fix his life for the better. Baca’s lifestyle was not being lived to his maximum capabilities, therefore he impacted his life my affecting his mind, stimulating to learn the process of reading. This all comes back to the structure of problem/solution. It took him roughly 3 years to understand from his mistakes and then by embracing them he then could become a better person at heart. It is shown that he had a problem, he couldn’t stay out of trouble and reading/writing is what took him out of that dark place. His mind is now open to new horizons which he never knew he had access to.

After reading Baca’s theory I interpreted it as pathos and ethos class essay. It went over the emotions that Baca was going through. He would go in such depth with writing; his emotions were expressed deeply filled with aggravated energy. Some examples are when he was talking about poetry. He even was getting so good at poetry he ended up bartering for his poems and letters for books and writing utensils.

Throughout his writing career in jail he displayed quite a bit of pathos. From his essay it is very possible to notice the personality that he perceives. I can tell that he has a lot of hatred to his past. Baca learned to change is mental ability for the better and in doing this leaded to is true adult character. When he first started out his life, things went wrong for him. He ended up to learned to control anger in words, and not so much with fighting. Also, he learned the meaning of being a civilized person. His judgment was based on an inmate, but an inmate that learned from his past.

In conclusion this essay was about Baca life living in a jail system. Throughout my essay it goes through the contextualization of Baca and it explains what kind of person he is. It shows his purpose of learning from the past and how you can change yourself at any given point. Then I go in depth about how the piece is laid out. I talk about how the cause/effect and problem/solution was vital in his essay. There is clear examples and representation of this and lastly it shows the rhetorical appeals, which were the ethos and pathos.



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