Rafa Buenrostro, the autobiographical narrator of many of the sketches, is a splendid observer. Secure in his identity, he understands the people around him in Hinojosa’s Belken County. He also is ambitious and knows something of the world outside Belken’s circumscribed boundaries. He has served in the Korean War and is planning to attend the University of Texas at Austin; he also benefits from his position as the youngest son in a family of five. Rafa does more reporting than judging. He appreciates the circumstances of Belken County’s Mexican American citizens and understands the lapses and missteps they make.
Jehú Malacra is depicted from birth to young manhood. Losing his parents early, he is reared partly by Aunt Chedes Briones and grows up with his three cousins, Édu, Pepe, and Vicky. Vicky Briones distresses her mother by joining the circus, but her doing so enables Jehú to work with don Víctor in transporting circus props from town to town. Jehú becomes a solid citizen in Hinojosa’s later volumes and also develops into a person of some integrity who challenges his boss at the bank. In this volume, readers see Jehú as a circus roustabout and message carrier as he wrestles with the dilemmas people face reaching adulthood.
Emilio Tamez is presented in a brief sketch as someone to whom bad things happen. He lost his right ear in a barroom brawl, but before that, at age eleven, he slipped as he was jumping from wagon to wagon,...
(The entire section is 584 words.)