Friday, April 20, 2007

Guest columnist: Jesse Tijerina

Jesse Tijerina is a high school English and Chicano literature teacher who is presently attending grad school at the University of Denver. A variety of his book reviews have appeared online and in small periodicals throughout Colorado. Tijerina’s interest in literature goes far beyond simply teaching and reading. He has been researching and collecting books and ephemera relating to Chicano/Latino literature for nearly a decade.

First published in Mexico in 1955, Pedro Paramo begins as the story of Juan Preciado attempting to fulfill a promise he had given his mother shortly before her death. “I came to Comala because I had been told that my father, a man named Pedro Paramo, lived there. It was my mother who told me,” utters Juan Preciado. “And I had promised her that after she died I would go see him.”

With a language blended of reality and fantasy, Juan Rulfo crafts Comala into a dust ridden and desolate village haunted by phantoms and souls gone astray; it is a place in which Juan Preciado will ultimately realize the horrific secret that everyone there is dead. Although the novel may be a slim 124 pages, it does not fail to provide its share of memorable characters. Upon entering the village of his father, Juan’s lingering uncertainty of his path persuades him to ask a wanderer along the road for directions, adding that he is searching for his father, Pedro Paramo. Gesturing toward Comala, the traveler eerily reveals that Pedro Paraomo is also his father. Following this enigmatic encounter, Juan, on the suggestion of the traveler seeks shelter and advice from Eduviges, a woman he soon discovers had befriended his mother years before. Desperately needing rest, Juan struggles to parry the shrieks and budgeoned images which fill his dreams and eventually wake him from Eduviges’ floor. While captivated by an ensuing conversation with his mother’s friend, the secret begins to unravel. At the realization that she is dead, Juan gathers himself and moves onward into Comala, a place en nepantla where ghosts become his guide. Along his journey, Juan realizes his identity, his heritage, and the legend of his father through a weave of testimonies revealed by the wisdom of the deceased.

El Mismo Cariño
Exerpt from a short story by Jesse Tijerina

Round One

On the eve of his farewell fight, I walked with the champ beneath the glow of the Las Vegas strip. And though I had known the rhythms of his voice for nearly three decades, I struggled to make sense of our conversation as each syllable seemed to braid itself into the drone of the boulevard’s clatter. As was his nature, Jaime walked half a step behind me, on occasion bumping into my right shoulder and nearly toppling me over at each sudden stop. It was as if he lived each second of his life inside the ropes; by nature he gave angles in his gait, in turn controlling the distance among others, as had been his trademark when facing quicker and slicker fighters gifted with better footwork than his own. Jaime had gained his nickname because of this technique; he would cut off every inch of the canvas, leaving it Pelon, bald by the end of the fight.

He had exhibited this skillfulness early on in his career; it was in his first title shot versus Lenny “Left Hook” Cook. Pelon was moving up four pounds in an attempt to claim the vacant WBA super bantamweight title. Left Hook was a lanky brother from Texas who had gained much of his acclaim after his viscous dismantling of Mexico’s very own, Cepillo Sanchez, who, in the midst of the championship rounds, had failed to answer the bell; sitting there slouched on his stool as if God had snipped the strings and left him a retired marionette.

The sure money was on the kid from Dallas by early stoppage. In the days leading up to the fight, three of the sport’s most respected scribes had penned Cook inside their fabled pound-for-pound ratings, one with enough gumption of placing him #3. Those in the know knew if there was any chance to get by Left’s hook, Pelon would have to control the ring by cutting it off, by taking Cook’s legs deep into the night. Pelon’s plan was to attack at the sound each bell and keep him on the move, walk him down with lateral movement, apply pressure, give him as little room as possible to box, all while keeping him at bay with a stiff jab and methodical bodywork in hopes of finishing him off in the later rounds.

Much to the surprise of the fans, even the Chicano loyalist’s waving the flags of their raza, Left Hook’s style had been made to order for Pelon. Like Pryor had done against Arguello in the early eighties, Pelon willed himself deep into the gut of the brawl by adapting to Left’s unorthodox style of feints and pinpoint four and five punch combinations. By the seventh stanza, Pelon’s right cheek bone had fallen prey to Cook’s moniker; his left hook. No amount of end swell would have made a difference. His peripheral vision was lost, but in its absence he had found his timing. He knew that in the wake of his opponent’s hook, Cook left himself exposed to an overhand right. By round nine the bodywork had paid dividends and Left’s hands were drowning after every punch. With what was left of my voice, I yelled, “Body shot, body shot.” I wailed, “Jab, jab, duck.” “You’re on the mark,” In awe, I whispered beneath my breath a few last words and I knew, without knowing, what was to follow.

La Bloga thanks Jesse Tijerina for a solid combination of criticism and literature. Las Blogueras Los Blogueros look forward to Jesse's ongoing guest columns. Seconds out...

We appreciate your comments.

--el blogmeister


Anonymous said...

Always memorable revisiting Pedro Páramo.
A classic.

Patricia Dubrava said...

Good insights on the imcomprable Juan Rulfo's writing and masterfully written boxing description. Bien hecho!