Success Stories and Characterizations of Immigrants

Throughout parts one and two of the novel, there is a major shift in the characterization of Feliciano, which takes place within the short time frame of his brother-in-law Gurmersindo’s death. At first, one could argue that Feliciano is depicted as Gumersindo’s “fringe” or “extremist” counterpart. In response to Gumerdinso’s decision to name his newborn son after a “great Gringo” Feliciano states, “They are all great…Great thieves, great liars, great sons-of-bitches. Show me a man of them who isn’t money-mad and one of their women who is not a harlot” (Pg. 16). This fanatical and intolerant characterization is situated in contrast to Gumersindo’s, which is one of absolute tolerance and acceptance. However these character portrayals are ephemeral, and a major shift in Feliciano’s character takes place after Gumersindo is murdered and obliges Feliciano to never tell his son why he was murdered, out of fear it would inspire hate in him. Shortly after, it seems that Feliciano inhabits many of his brother-in-law’s qualities.

What is constant throughout this shift is the employment of sympathetic character portrayals to the characters who inhabit first Gumersindo’s characteristics, and then eventually Feliciano’s. Paredes seems to be indicating that these are favorable qualities for an immigrant to occupy. That being said (according to a reading of the text that is incomplete), neither of these characters has truly achieved success. While more overtly Gurmersindo suffers a tragic death almost immediately after choosing to give the Rangers and/or Gringos the benefit of the doubt and remain put, Feliciano who becomes financially successful has not yet succeeded in what is presented as the ultimate immigrant accomplishment, for Gualinto “…to be a learned man and help his people” (Pg. 49) (which Feliciano admits to lacking a clear vision of what that would entail). Thus, there seems to be multiple and perhaps contradictory forces taking place within the text. While Paredes seems to elevate the immigrant characters in the novel that are sympathetic, he does not necessarily seem to be making the argument that these are the characters who will ultimately succeed. I am curious to see how the narrative ensues and to see whether Gualinto is eventually able to “help his people” and therefore attain greatness.

Growing up as Guálinto

While reading Part 1 and 2 of George Washington Gómez, I was captivated by the relationship between Feliciano and his nephew, Guálinto. Feliciano serves as a father-figure, mentor, and teacher for this young child, and it seems as though Guálinto takes many cues from his uncle about how a Texas Mexican man should conduct himself in an Anglo-American dominated environment. There is a clear and tangible debate over the owners of the Texas land, and which community of residents came first. Furthermore, there is a sentiment of inferiority amongst the Texas Mexicans, as if the optimism and golden opportunities promised in the new world do not extend to them. These feelings eventually take a toll on one’s psyche, and readers see instances of violence and emotional breakdown in Guálinto (for example: when he pretends the plants and vegetables outside are the bodies of rinches). Feliciano exclaims, “Just wait till I grow up! Just wait till I’m a man! I’ll get out land back. Shoot them down like dogs. I’ll kill all the Gringos and the rinches too, and drive them away from here” (103). However, Feliciano was charged with the duty of raising Guálinto into a peaceful man and not sharing the truth about his father’s gory death, so the struggle becomes, how does an elder teach the next generation to peacefully advocate for his identity without knowing the truth about his past? If violence is all around and minority inequality is not solved by unarmed protest, isn’t violence the only way to survive? How is that communicated to a child? I’m interested to see how this story develops over the course of the novel.