Rolando Hinojosa-Smith
    (b. 1929)

    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.

    Original Audience

    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

    Faulkner's creation 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.