The Hammon And The Beans Essay, Research Paper
In “The Hammon and the Beans” author Am?rico Par?des 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 Par?des 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 grant her the leftovers.
He had just moved into the neighborhood when a boy invited him to hear Chonita make a speech. He saw she was a scrawny girl with dirty feet. All of the children were looking on as she stood atop an alley fence. Everyone was shouting, “Speech! Speech! Let Chonita make a speech! Talk in English Chonita!” She yelled out, “Give me the hammon and the beans! Give me the hammon and the beans!” Every evening Chonita would make her speech as the young boy waited until they could go play.
One day the young boy fell ill and when he was cured Chonita was not around. As he grew through the 1930s he thought of her and the hammon and the beans often. Eventually, he learned that Chonita had passed away from an illness.
The night of Chonita’s death, everyone was really sad, but the young boy just felt strange. The doctor told the boy’s father that Chonita’s father was in a rather joyous mood. The boy’s father told the doctor that the man was not Chonita’s biological father and that her real father had been shot and hanged. The two men proceeded with a conversation about radicalism, and came to no significant conclusion. The young boy headed off to bed at his mother’s request. As he lay there not fully asleep, he thought about Mexican hero Emiliano Zapata. He heard the bugle blare at the post and thought of Chonita in heaven shouting, “Give me the hammon and the beans!” He began to cry, and not knowing why he was crying he felt better.
Using “The Hammon and the Beans” Am?rico Par?des described the Brownsville of his youth. Par?des wrote with a darkly tragic irony of a young boy’s first encounter with death. I believe Chonita was a symbol. A symbol of how Mexican-Americans struggled against poverty, prejudice, and loss of cultural identity.