The Hammon and the Beans by Americo Paredes
In "The Hammon and the Beans" author Américo Parédes writes about the problems of Mexican-American children growing up in poverty. The story takes place around 1926 in a fictional south of Texas setting of Jonesville-on-the-Grande, under the shadows of Fort Jones. This setting is reminiscent with Parédes home of Brownsville and historic Fort Brown, established in 1846 to house troops during the Mexican-American War and later used to defend the border.
The story features child characters who observe, but do not fully understand the uneasiness of the adult world of south Texas. Our young, unnamed narrator sets the tone by describing his home which is his grandfather's dirty, yellow, big-framed house. He also notes why his mother hated it. "They had fleas, she said." He goes on to render how the people of Jonesville-on-the-Grande became in sync with the routine on the post at Fort Jones. "At eight, the whistle from the post laundry sent us children off to school. The whole town stopped for lunch with the noon whistle, and after lunch everybody went back to work when the post laundry said it was one o' clock."
As the young boy recounts "border troubles" and why the soldiers came back to old Fort Jones, he casually introduces Chonita. Chonita is one of his playmates as well as a family friend. Her mother did his family's laundry for use of a one-room shack on a vacant plot of land belonging to his grandfather.
Chonita plays a rather large role in this young boy's memory. He describes how after the post's flag went down every night, Chonita would walk to the soldier's mess halls and watch through the screen as they stuffed themselves. She would stand there until they were finished so that the cooks would...