Our House on Hueco
Carlos Nicolas Flores Texas
Tech University Press (2006)
a 10-year-old Hispanic boy growing up poor in an El Paso barrio in
the 1950s, life can seem idyllic: you come home from school and mom
is always there, making tortillas for the evening meal; dad is the
strongest man you know; and everything you could ever want in a best
friend lives right next door. You seemingly have everything you need
under your family's rented roof until the day your parents tell you
you're moving out of the only place you've known as home for a
"better" life in another part of town.
Arriving in the new neighborhood,
everything isn't really what it seems. Yes, the newly purchased
beautiful house is there with its light brown brick walls, white
wooden columns on a porch, and a swing hanging from two chains in
the ceiling, but there's also an Anglo family living inside!
Unbeknownst to everyone, "Pop" has made a deal to rent out the
formal house to an Army family, and have his family live in the
subterráneo (basement) while he strives to build an apartment in
the backyard that will one day house the clan — all in the name of
Carlos Nicolas Flores has made this
unique premise the foundation of his debut novel, "Our House on
Hueco," a coming-of-age young adult fiction tale told through the
voice of 10-year-old Junior, who must come to grips with a world he
didn't know existed outside the closed confines of his barrio.
Junior quickly learns that the move has
not only brought about new living arrangements, but also a new way
of looking at family members and friends, and causes him to ponder a
belief system preached to him by his Puerto Rican father that the
United States is the land of opportunity if one is willing to work
hard and make sacrifices.
Throughout the novel, Flores explores themes of racism, poverty, and
the complexities of human nature in a family that is struggling to
claim a part of the American dream while seemingly not wanting to
let go of parental birthlands, customs and cultures, especially when
mom, who hails from Mexico, comes into contact with "los gringos."
Flores, a co-founding director of the
South Texas Writing Project and a winner of the Chicano/Latino
Literary Prize, boldly lays bare his perception regarding the
nuances of Hispanic patriarchy by making his father figure macho
beyond what most non-Hispanics would deem acceptable or even
realistic. Then he carefully peels back the layers of Latin male
stereotypical behavior to reveal a man who ultimately only wants to
do what's best for his family.
While "Our House on Hueco" is written for young adults, it tells a
quintessential story that transcends generations and racial divides.
It is gritty in substance, yet amusing and alluring when it needs to
be, and nostalgically familiar to anyone who grew up in the '50s
without losing readers who are living their teenage years in the
21st century. Flores has expertly woven a tale that deserves a wide
audience and a permanent place on your bookshelf.
Vincent Bosquez is president of the Society of
Latino and Hispanic Writers of San Antonio