Alex and the Hobo: A Chicano Life and Story

Alex and the Hobo: A Chicano Life and Story

Alex and the Hobo: A Chicano Life and Story

Alex and the Hobo: A Chicano Life and Story

Synopsis

When a ten-year-old boy befriends a mysterious hobo in his southern Colorado hometown in the early 1940s, he learns about evil in his community and takes his first steps toward manhood by attempting to protect his new friend from corrupt officials. Though a fictional story, Alex and the Hobo is written out of the life experiences of its author, José Inez (Joe) Taylor, and it realistically portrays a boy's coming-of-age as a Spanish-speaking man who must carve out an honorable place for himself in a class-stratified and Anglo-dominated society. In this innovative ethnography, anthropologist James Taggart collaborates with Joe Taylor to explore how Alex and the Hobo sprang from Taylor's life experiences and how it presents an insider's view of Mexicano culture and its constructions of manhood. They frame the story (included in its entirety) with chapters that discuss how it encapsulates notions that Taylor learned from the Chicano movement, the farmworkers' union, his community, his father, his mother, and his religion. Taggart gives the ethnography a solid theoretical underpinning by discussing how the story and Taylor's account of how he created it represent an act of resistance to the class system that Taylor perceives as destroying his native culture.

Excerpt

We have written this book for the people of Antonito and for anyone with an interest in a good story. We present one man’s view of history in his work of fiction and in his account of how he wrote about his experiences. Readers from Antonito who occupy a different position in the social structure may have another view of their town. We hope they will have the chance to add their own stories to this one. For readers from other places, we aim to convey what it meant to grow up as a Spanish-speaking boy in a railroad town in a corner of the Southwest.

Our joint writing project came about when we met in Joe Taylor’s secondhand shop on Antonito’s Main Street in 1998. Joe Taylor tells and writes stories about the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. Since our first meeting, we have had many conversations about stories as expressions of ethnic identity. We explored the meaning of ethnic similarities and differences by first discussing our own ethnic heritage. We have fathers with Anglo-Saxon surnames and mothers with Spanish surnames. One of our first discoveries was just how paternal surnames yield misleading impressions of ethnic identity. Anastacio Taylor and Richard Taggart were different in many ways, not the least of which was their language. Anastacio could not speak English, and Richard could not speak Spanish. When discussing our mothers, we recognized the enormous difference between the words “Mexicana/o” and “Mexican.” Joe Taylor’s mother, Beatriz Mondragón, was a “Mexicana,” a Spanish speaker born and raised in the Southwest, but not a Mexican. the term “Mexican” when uttered by an English-speaking Anglo-Saxon is an insult tantamount to a racial slur in the San Luis Valley. Jim Taggart’s mother, Carmen de . . .

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