Ernesto Galarza (ehr-NEHS-toh gah-LAHR-zah), a child of single mother, Doña Henriqueta, who moves him from place to place to avoid the Mexican Revolution but, nevertheless, manages to give him a sense of security. Ernesto’s earliest memories are of Jalcocotán (Jalco), a Mexican village where he, his mother, and his mother’s brothers, José and Gustavo, moved after her divorce. the four move in with their Lopez relatives. As a toddler, Ernesto learns the importance of work by running errands and looking after the family’s chickens. When armed soldiers visit the village, Ernesto’s mother flees with her son, José, and Gustavo, first to Tepic, then to Acaponeta, then to Mazatlán. From his mother, Ernesto learns to read and write. After an arduous journey by train to the United States, Ernesto and his mother rejoin José and Gustavo in Sacramento, California. In the multiethnic barrio, Ernesto finds odd jobs that introduce him to various Americans, including Hindus, Chinese, and people of other nationalities. Ernesto learns English in first grade and becomes a translator for barrio residents. Doña Henriqueta remarries, and the family buys a house in an American neighborhood. After Gustavo and Henriqueta die of influenza, Ernesto moves back to the barrio with his Uncle José. Ernesto is fired as a farmworker when he files a complaint about polluted water in the migrant camp. the novel’s ending suggests that Ernesto will continue both his schooling and his activities as a labor organizer.
Doña Henriqueta (DOHN-yah ehn-ree-KEH-tah), a single mother. She was divorced by her husband when her son, Ernesto, was an infant. With the baby and her brothers, José and Gustavo, she moves in with her sister’s family in Jalco. She helps to support the family as a...
(The entire section is 804 words.)