Although Rolando Hinojosa’s father, Manuel Guzmán Hinojosa, was born in the United States—as Manuel’s own parents had been—Manuel was distinctly Mexican American in his outlook. Mercedes, Texas, the border town where the author was born and where his father’s family had lived since the 1740’s, fell three miles north of the border when the United States-Mexico boundary was drawn in 1845. Manuel’s family claimed “accidental” United States citizenship, remaining loyal always to the Mexican government.
Rolando’s mother, Carrie Effie Smith, arrived in Mercedes in 1887, when she was six weeks old. Her father, a Union soldier in the Civil War, brought his family to Mercedes from Illinois. Carrie, raised in a bicultural and bilingual environment, was equally comfortable speaking Spanish and English. She had two daughters and three sons (one of whom died early). Rolando was her youngest child.
Carrie taught school; Manuel, who fought in the Mexican Revolution, worked variously as a farmer, a shepherd, a dancer, a dairyman, a policeman, and owner of two dry-cleaning establishments. Manuel suffered a stroke in his forties and died instantly; Carrie Smith lived to be eighty-eight.
Rolando’s early education was in private, Spanish-language schools, which his parents hoped would increase his knowledge of his Mexican heritage and reinforce his pride in it. This early training played a significant role in making Hinojosa the ethnic writer he became.
Surrounded by older Mexicans struggling to survive, Rolando became a perceptive listener to the yarns they loved to spin. He developed an early appreciation of how Mexican Americans in small border towns live, but he needed eventually to distance himself from it to understand what he had absorbed. Upon completing high school in 1946, he joined the Army and left Mercedes. His two-year military commitment completed, he entered the University of Texas at...
(The entire section is 799 words.)