George Washington Gomez
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Américo Paredes’s historical fiction novel, George Washington Gómez: A Mexicotexan Novel, was first published in 1990, though it was written between 1936-1940. The novel is described in the introduction by Rolando Hinojosa as a “first draft, and it should be seen and appreciated as an historical work, not as an artifact.” (5) The book is also described as a precursor to the modern Chicano novel. This guide quotes and obscures the author’s use of the n-word.
George Washington Gómez takes place entirely in southeastern Texas in and around the fictional town of Jonesville-on-the-Grande, between the World Wars. The novel opens with the birth of the title character, whose parents, María García and Gumersindo Gómez, wish to name him after a great man. The family settles on George Washington, whose last name they Hispanicize to “Guálinto,” naming their son Guálinto Gómez. Also present for the birth is María’s older brother Feliciano García, who is a member of the sediciosos, a group of Texas Mexicans fighting to return Texas to Mexico through violent revolution. Soon after Guálinto’s birth, the peaceful Gumersindo is fatally shot by the rinches (Texas Rangers) during their oppressive retaliation. As Gumersindo lays dying, he makes Feliciano promise not to tell Guálinto how he was killed, wishing his son to go into the world with no hate in his heart. Feliciano leaves the sediciosos to care for María, Guálinto, and Guálinto’s two older sisters Carmen and Maruca, moving the family to the border town of Jonesville-on-the-Grande.
The family quickly encounters a change of fortune after they arrive in Jonesville. Feliciano finds a job and a house and ingratiates himself skillfully into the local political machine. Years later, Guálinto grows into a bright boy full of fear and passion, alternately fantasizing about becoming a rinche as well as a Mexicotexan revolutionary. He is enrolled in Jonesville’s grammar school under the tutelage of Miss Cornelia, who hates and humiliates the academically skilled Guálinto. Guálinto befriends many of his classmates, including El Colorado, Orestes Sierra, Antonio Prieta, and others. He is smitten with a girl in another class named María Elena Osuna, the daughter of a prominent citizen. One day Guálinto decides to write a love letter to María Elena, which Miss Cornelia discovers. She brutally punishes him, forcing him to read the letter in front of María Elena while she canes him. He is so angered by her cruelty that he flees the school. Feliciano successfully lobbies to move him to a more advanced class.
Guálinto later enters his senior year just as the Great Depression strikes Jonesville. The students in Guálinto’s class plan to hold their senior party at a cantina in Jonesville. But when they arrive, the cantina refuses to admit most of Guálinto’s Mexican friends, though Guálinto and his girlfriend María Elena are admitted, as their fair skin allows them to pass as white. Guálinto refuses, choosing solidarity with his friends, much to María Elena’s disappointment. As the Depression worsens, Feliciano loses the store he has owned and operated for years.
Maruca is found to be pregnant by Buddy Goodnam, a local white teenager. Feliciano and Guálinto negotiate with the boy’s father, Martin, whose life Feliciano once saved, to convince him to allow Buddy to marry Maruca. Though Martin initially agrees, he double-crosses them by hastily marrying Buddy to María Elena. The newlyweds escape to California, and Feliciano is tempted to murder Martin Goodnam, but resists.
Later, a man accosts Guálinto at gunpoint. Guálinto escapes by throwing a brick at the man’s head. Though he is initially applauded for having stopped a dangerous fugitive named “Arnulfo Miranda,” Feliciano reveals that Arnulfo is an alias for Lupe García, his and María’s brother, and that Lupe soon died after the encounter. Guálinto is ashamed of what he has done, so much so that Feliciano finally reveals to Guálinto the truth of Gumersindo’s death. Guálinto receives a medal at his graduation for capturing Lupe, an honor which infuriates him. He decides to leave Jonesville and go to college.
As the novel concludes, Guálinto returns to Jonesville for the first time in many years. He has changed is legal name to George García Gómez, married a white woman named Ellen Dell, and has a prominent job in Washington D.C. He meets with some of his oldest friends, who are attempting to wrestle control of Jonesville from its white mayor. Guálinto is known for his former championing of his people’s cause, and his friends ask for his help. Instead, Guálinto chides them for what he sees as a foolish endeavor, and they brand him a traitor. In a final conversation between Guálinto and Feliciano, Guálinto reveals that he is an American spy assigned to the Mexican border, and he views his own people with contempt. Feliciano is disappointed in him and wonders what Gumersindo would make of what his son has become.