Have you ever known a stunningly attractive girl who was seemingly uncommunicative, or in the everyday vernacular, stuck up? The reasons for this behavior may be found in a psychology text or In “Chicano”, a book with varied characters like Marianna.
A beautiful Aztec prlncess who says, “When your attractive, people pay attention to you. All people, teachers, relatives, family, learn faster.”
“Oh, I suppose I should be thankful. But, It was in grade school I started to be sort of the representative of the class, or the school. In high school I once refused and I got the reputation of being a snob. So now, I accept.” Beauty, discrimination, sincerity, drugs, and sex are only a few of the adjectives needed to describe this panorama of human characters and conditions. In “Chicano,” the action commences when the Sandoval family leaves because of “fifty little generals, each with his own army claiming to want to free Mexico, when really they just kill and steal and rob.”
When one general forcibly recruits Neftali Sandoval, and he escapes, the Sandovals head north to “Los Estados Unidos, where there will be no more of all this war, poverty, that makes us suffer.” Arriving In the United States, their optimistic naivety is soon replaced with a bitter yet resigned awareness that their condition has not improved. In fact the family’s moral fiber has dissipated with the father drinking, the sisters whoring, and Neftali becomes disgusted.
He leaves home In search of another life. Instead he finds more of the same with a few added dimensions: police brutality, and racial discrimination. He moves to Irwindale. marries, and raises a family. His favorite son is killed In World War II, and his daughter Angie decides to move out. She moves to Los Angeles, and establishes a prosperous cafe, and later an expanded restaurant business. Her brother Pete also comes to Los Angeles and soon prospers as a construction foreman. Pete marries a barmaid and the book reaches its full impact in recording the different experiences of their children, Marianna and Sammy Sandoval.
Marianna becomes engaged with a white college student, and despite his liberal attitude toward this arrangement, her life is traglcaly changed. Although life for him is business as usual after this affair, her altruism and moral sincerity is clearly superior to his cheap materialistic values. This quintessential affair seems to crystallze the author’s viewpoint on Chicano-Anglo relations. Although Chicanos are sometimes pictured as cheap, and vulgar individuals, the Anglo’s deceptively emphatic relationship are shown to be the true cheap things of life.
Perhaps the most significant thing in this book is Vasquez masterful style. Vasquez superbly combines the styles of George Eliot (Silas Marner) and O’Henry to relate the unrelated and unexpected. In addittion the relevant setting and colorful Spanish expressions bring this novel a certain zest.
Negatively, the book seems to be a slight variation of “Black Like Me,” In terms of the discriminatory practices revealed. In summary, although “Chicano” is not a great epic novel, it deserves merit for both its cultural aspects and commanding style.