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Alex and the Hobo

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    Alex and the Hobo
    Book Description:

    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 Hobois 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 howAlex and the Hobosprang 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79785-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    José Inez Taylor and James M. Taggart
    (pp. 1-12)

    Alex and the Hobois a work of fiction about a nine-year-old boy’s loss of innocence and transition to manhood. The author, José Inez “Joe” Taylor, created the story out of his own coming-of-age in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. The tale is set in 1942 in Antonito, a small railroad town in the valley’s southwestern corner. Alex Martínez loses his innocence as he befriends a mysterious hobo and learns about evil in his community. This book presentsAlex and the Hoboand describes how the author wrote his story out of his experience.¹

    Joe Taylor turned to...


      (pp. 15-70)

      A young boy stood inside his father’s barbershop looking out a large window. He could see the building directly across from him but could not make out anything more than a block away, up or down the street. Gusts of wind rattled the plate glass, and for five days, gales had howled day and night, turning the sky a chocolate brown. A street lamp whirled on its pole, and Alex thought it would tear loose from its socket at any moment. The world from end to end seemed covered by a massive cloud of dust blocking out the sun. Endless...


      (pp. 73-88)

      Joe Taylor setAlex and the Hoboin the San Luis Valley, a high alpine basin in southern Colorado extending north and south between ranges of the Rocky Mountains. Alex moved across the valley floor between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east and the San Juans to the west. In this he replicated Joe Taylor’s experience of moving from aranchonear San Luis in the valley’s southeastern corner to Antonito in the southwest. Joe Taylor modeled theranchoafter theplaza(small settlement) of El Rito, where he spent his early childhood. He was five years old...

      (pp. 89-103)

      Joe Taylor believes that the Mexicanos need to band together under a leader to protect themselves from the greedy, who have exploited them and taken much from their valley without giving anything in return. His ethnic awareness and class consciousness developed and reinforced each other in different ways, particularly after he got out of the army and returned to Antonito in 1961.¹ He acquired the most recent layer of his ethnic awareness when he joined the Chicano movement in the late 1970’s. That layer came after he had developed some degree of class consciousness while working for the perlite processing...

      (pp. 104-117)

      The roots of Joe Taylor’s moral vision extend deep into his past and include the years when he came of age, from about 1943 to 1955. This twelve-year period began when he and his family moved across the valley from El Rito and ended when he graduated from Antonito’s high school and went into the army. In Antonito, a relatively rigid hierarchical social structure was firmly in place by 1943; by 1955 there were signs that this structure was beginning to crumble. Joe Taylor recalls that structure as a pyramid with Anglos at the top, wealthy Mexicano ranchers below them,...

      (pp. 118-135)

      Joe Taylor’s father, Anastacio, and the protagonist ofAlex and the Hobo, Alex Martínez, have a lot in common: they both recognized and stood up to corruption. Joe’s father was a central force in defining his moral vision. When Joe Taylor was the same age as Alex, he learned a great deal about his father while spending time in Anastacio’szapatería(cobbler shop). The shop was a little community center where many paid a visit to “old man Taylor” and talked about what was taking place in Antonito. Joe heard stories of corruption and of his father standing up to...

      (pp. 136-148)

      In recalling his early childhood, Joe Taylor revealed how his mother as well as his father laid the foundation of the strong moral vision that appears inAlex and the Hobo. However, he remembered his mother as being very different from his father: she showed her children more affection; she taught her children strong religious beliefs; she saved Joe Taylor from beatings by his father; and she tried to protect all of her children from the chaos of the streets. Perhaps like many boys, Joe Taylor had to acquire his masculinity by moving from the world of his mother to...

      (pp. 149-161)

      Joe Taylor links the fate of his culture to the fate of women. He described how his culture, like his moral vision, depends on church going women like Beatriz Mondragón, who teach their children the concept of sin and stress the importance of having a big heart. He described, in the poetic language of his story, how the class system of Antonito, which is based on greed, threatens women and, by extension, his culture. China died at the hands of a greedy and corrupt Mexicano man who made his living by handling money.

      The class system is a threat to...

      (pp. 162-166)

      Alex Martínez is an authentic hero that Joe Taylor carved out of his culture and his experience at a particular point in San Luis Valley history. Alex is a boy with a deep conscience who lost his innocence as he learned about sin and corruption in his community. He faced a complicated moral dilemma as he worried about his family, struggled with guilt, and tried to figure out what was right and wrong. At a crucial moment, he realized that he had toactto save his friend. Alex, moved by the sight of his brutally beaten friend, whom he...

  8. APPENDIX: Juana’s Witchcraft Testimony
    (pp. 167-176)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 177-188)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-198)
  11. Index
    (pp. 199-206)