The Valley / Estampas del Valle
by Rolando Hinojosa
Publication Date: April 30, 2014
In these vignettes set in the fictional county of Belken along the Texas-Mexico border in the early to mid-twentieth century, Rolando Hinojosa sketches a landscape of Mexican Texans and Anglo Texans living side by side, in good times and bad. “The world’s a drugstore: you’ll find a little bit of just about everything, and it’s usually on sale, too. Belken County, Texas is part of the world, and so, it’s no different; its people are packaged in cellophane and they, too, come in all sizes, shapes and in a choice of colors.” Some are brave; others are craven. Some are sharp, and some are dull.
Death calls on a regular basis in this first installment of Hinojosa’s acclaimed Klail City Death Trip Series. Jehú Malacara was seven when his mother died and nine when his father passed. He has family, but it’s Don Víctor Peláez who takes him in and makes him an integral part of the Peláez Tent Show. When la muerte comes for Don Víctor, Jehú is orphaned again. Others die in bar room brawls, in a clandestine amorous tryst at the local Holiday Inn and on the street.
Hinojosa paints his canvas with a montage of life’s events—births, weddings, friendships and love affairs—but his brushwork all too frequently highlights the discrimination experienced by Mexican Americans. They lose their land to Anglos, are paid with rotten fruit for their labor and are refused admission to certain cafes. But life goes on. Young men go to war and old men remember their wars, whether the Mexican Revolution, World War II or the Korean War.
This classic novel was originally published in the early 1970s as Estampas del Valle and in the early 1980s as The Valley. Frequently compared to William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha and Gabriel García Márquez’s Macondo, Rolando Hinojosa’s Klail City Death Trip Series is required reading for anyone interested in life along the Texas-Mexico border in the twentieth century.
“Dozens of shorter sketches and incidents fill in the narrative quilt, leaving the reader with a collage portrait of a community…but with that particular border flavor unique to the Rio Grande Valley. Hinojosa’s style in English is reminiscent of Mark Twain’s, bemused and satirical while remaining empathetic and respectful. The range of spoken and written registers he manipulates with ease is impressive, and his Spanish is a delight to read.”—The Monitor
“Hinojosa’s native river valley is one in which the shadow of death falls suddenly, capriciously, on young and old alike, changing lives in a blink of an eye, as it does for more than one character in this, his first and most highly acclaimed novel. Magically, through dialect-filled dialogue and an amazing capacity to convey setting and character in swift strophes, Hinojosa weaves these people into a not-so-far-away world that seems to still live just under the surface of our own, whose inhabitants beckon the reader to return, again and again.”—San Antonio Express-News
“…a bilingual text that changed history…Hinojosa draws deeply on American, Mexican and Spanish literary history, and his narratives are filled with colorful characters and a great deal of delicate humor.”
—El Paso Times
“Lean, energized, driven, and riveting—these are all words that come to mind when describing Rolando Hinojosa’s style…Hinojosa pays close attention to the way the characters speak, and what makes so many of the scenes memorable is the rich tapestry he weaves out of his exacting knowledge of both Spanish and English, the two worlds his characters live in whether they want to or not. This woven history of place and language sets the stage for an extensive cast of endearing characters who grow larger with each reading. The Valley is filled with luminous stories…
—Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas
“This is a noteworthy literary event for fans of both Hispanic literature and American literature in general.”—Books, Books, & More (New) Books
ROLANDO HINOJOSA, the Ellen Clayton Garwood Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Texas at Austin, is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award; the most prestigious prize in Latin American fiction, Casa de las Américas, for the best Spanish American novel in 1976; and the Premio Quinto Sol in 1974. His novels include The Valley / Estampas del Valle, Ask a Policeman, The Useless Servants, and Dear Rafe / Mi querido Rafa, all published by Arte Público Press.
Learn more by visiting his faculty page.