How is Gualinto a leader?

The conclusion of George Washington Gomez is rushed and leaves more questions than answers for me. The biggest question that comes about from the conclusion relates to Gualinto as the leader of his people. Gualinto even questions multiple times who his people are, which foreshadows his loyalty in a way, and in the conclusion it look as if he finally decides.

One example of Gualinto’s disloyalty to his people occurs in the conclusion when it is mentioned that many community members and his school age friends are doing well. One friend received his pharmacy degree and is now a registered pharmacist, two friends run a successful restaurant, many are involved in local politics, and one is a dentist (289). Yet, despite all of these successes, Gualinto still only acknowledges the downfalls in his hometown and among the people. He even goes so far to stereotype his friends. When Leyton mentions if things continue as they are, the only jobs for Mexicans will be clearing brush and digging more ditches (294). Gualinto’s only response is, “’If that’s all they can do’” (294). Even though his friends have proved Gualinto wrong because they have successful jobs and want to improve their city, he still believes he is the only successful one. Many times throughout the narrative, Gualinto’s actions and remarks gave off the impression that he believed himself to be so much better than his peers and even his family, just because he was thought to be special. No matter what he does, even if he turns his back on his people, he believes he is better than everyone else.

The exchanges between Gualinto and his family and hometown friends in the conclusion overwhelmingly point to the fact he hides his upbringing and has actively chosen to support the American part of him and abandon the Mexican part. This is surprising even though he did battle with his identity throughout the whole narrative. After the conclusion, I am still left wondering though how Gualinto could be a leader for his people, except to show them what not to become. Yes, Gualinto is successful, but he was not loyal to his people, and loyalty to his culture and upbringing seem to be more important than money or success.

Themes and Motifs Present in El Colorado’s Speech

When reflecting back on the themes of the George Washington Gomez, one moment in particular stood out to me because it addressed so many aspects of the novel at once—El Colorado’s speech to Gualinto (250-252) after the knife fight in which he insists that Gualinto goes to college. In this single speech, Paredes addresses the role of masculinity in Mexi-Texan culture, the realities of immigrant (or at least borderland) life, the American Dream and its potential fallacy, and draws in connections to the previsioning of Gualinto’s life.

I think one of the most immediately apparent aspects of this passage is its sort of frank and dismal portrayal of El Colorado’s life—which could then potentially be used as an example of what life is like for immigrants in his situation. In this speech, he discusses very real and visceral moments of his life. For example, he mentions times when he needed to support his mother and sister, his family’s frequent hunger and their lack of access to food, and when he needed to learn how to delouse himself in order to go to school. Once these harsh conditions are established, Colorado goes on to talk about how he kept working and going to school despite the challenges present in his personal life. I found this moment in his speech particularly interesting because it seems to follow the quintessential narrative of the “American Dream”. Here, Colorado must go to school and try as hard as he can to succeed, and although he hasn’t yet achieved great success, he’s on the path of achieving that dream.  The presence of the American Dream narrative becomes strikingly clear when he outlines his future plans to Gualinto—”I’m gonna get my high school by studying nights. And then I’ll go to the Jonesville business college and become a real accountant, not just an assistant bookkeeper.” Thus, as Colorado expresses this deep desire to fulfill the American Dream, Paredes establishes a quintessential narrative that follows our society’s notions of what is possible for people.

What I then thought was kind of odd about this speech is the fact that it begins with Colorado telling Gualinto to go to school because Gualinto is the one who will be successful and help the town. This point stood out to me at first because it’s a reiteration of the theme that Gualinto will grow up to be an important person who will help his people—but this time it is coming from someone outside of his family. However, the more I thought about this ending, the more I pondered Colorado’s understandings of  his own personal goals. To me, it seems that if he has these grand ideas of becoming an important and successful person, wouldn’t he want to be the person to lead the people and help the town? He even states that Gualinto needs to be their “point person.” Perhaps there is a connection between Gualinto’s access to resources vs. Colorado’s lack of access to resources. Perhaps there’s no connection and he just isn’t interested in leading the town. But I couldn’t help but make a connection between Colorado’s establishment of his dream and his vision of the future leadership of the town.