Contributing Editor: Juan Bruce-Novoa
Classroom Issues and Strategies
Most students know nothing about the author or the context of this selection.
Useful information can be found in Hinojosa's interview included in Chicano
Authors, Inquiry by Interview (Juan Bruce-Novoa).
I find it useful to ask students to write an accurate version of something
they have experienced as a group: a short reading, a brief video, or even
a planned interruption in class by an outsider. They then must consider
the differences in the accounts of the same event. Sometimes I ask them
to write an accurate description of an object I place in their midst; then
we compare versions.
They respond to the element of different versions and observe how justice,
represented in the newspaper reports, is not necessarily served. They ask
if the person is guilty, raising the question of what is guilt.
Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues
The major themes are the search for an accurate version of any event
in the midst of the proliferation of information; the conflict between
oral and written texts; the historical disregard for the Chicano community
in South Texas and elsewhere; and the placement of the author in the role
of cultural detective. The selection can be read as an allegory of Chicano
culture within U.S. history in which Mexicans have been criminalized without
a fair hearing.
Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions
The basic form is that of a criminal investigation, related to the detective
story. Yet it breaks with the genre in that it does not resolve the case
by discovery of the culprit; instead, the frame of the story maintains
its position, and--if anything--gets worse, the degradation of process
reflected in the errata contained in the final segment.
Fragmentation does not bother students much now. The small units emphasize
the postmodern experience of life as short sound bites.
The style is marked by shifts in voices, an attempt to capture the community
in its speech patterns.
In the period of Chicano renewal (1965-1975) there was a need expressed
then in literature to search for communal history. It was aimed at an audience
that would sympathize with the victim, considering itself an abused and
ignored group in a society controlled by the forces represented in the
newspaper clippings that frame the story. This has changed. Now audiences
are much less sympathetic to marginal peoples, and even Chicanos are not
as willing to accept the old version of oppression of minority groups.
Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections
of a fictional county in several works coincides well with Hinojosa's project.
The use of multiple voices to give different perspectives is quite similar.
Questions for Reading and Discussion/ Approaches to Writing
1. I ask students to consider what is history. What is news reporting?
What is a fact? I often ask them to look up the etymology of fact and consider
its relation to manufacture.
2. Assign the reporting of an imaginary event; give them the basic facts
and characters and even an official summary statement. Then have them reconstruct
the fragments as seen from one perspective. Compare the papers.
Refer to the headnote in the text for complete information.