Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Ernesto Galarza divides the narrative of Barrio Boy into five parts, each corresponding roughly to a place in which his family lived. The first part tells of the family’s early history and Galarza’s first five years of life in Jalcocotán, a village high in the Sierra Madre range. There, Ernesto learned his native language as he listened to tales of ancient Native Americans and ghosts, sang songs, and played in the street. He enjoyed life in this free village, where none of its dwellers were indebted to the haciendas of the faraway valleys. He learned of work in the mountains, clearing the deep forest surrounding the pueblo for growing coffee, bananas, and peppers. He also began to learn to read using the only book in the house, his mother’s cookbook.

The second part, “Peregrinations,” details the family’s movements over the next two years, from 1910 to 1912. At the first stop in Tepic, Galarza’s uncles, Gustavo and José, found plenty of work. Soon the revolutionary fighting neared the town, everything closed, and the family moved north. After his first stagecoach and train rides, Galarza found himself living in a tent city beside a railroad roundhouse, as Gustavo and José had jobs with the Southern Pacific Railroad. Galarza began to learn English from Gustavo, whose boss was a gringo, or white man. When the revolution forced the layoff of the railroad workers, the family moved further north to Mazatlán. At seven years old,...

(The entire section is 484 words.)