For those of you who know me and/or have looked at my resume, you'll know I have a background in Spanish and other romance languages. I remembered a piece that I read a few years ago and dug it up and out from the library's entrails. It is none other than César Vallejo's "Paco Yunque," a short story of fiction that implicitly denounces a classist, Peruvian society. See full text here.
It tells the tale of a young, poor, country boy's first day at school. He's overwhelmed by the sounds, the rambunctious recesses and all the new energy that surrounds him. Despite being academically sharp, Paco finds it difficult to assert himself. After all, his classmate, Humberto Grieve, is also his master and lord and has long established a tradition of subjugating and punishing Paco, whether or not Humberto is provoked to do so. Paco Yunque's ally, Paco Fariña, encourages Paco Yunque to stand up for himself despite the consequences, but Paco Yunque knows too well what awaits him in the form of beatings, reprimands and abuse when he leaves the school grounds. So, as clichéd as it is, his predicament is accurately described as being "caught between a rock and a hard place."
Best known as a poet who predicted his own demise, Vallejo's story was originally rejected for publication because it was too sad and likely because it was so demoralizing. "Paco Yunque" demonstrates that not all literature with children featured as protagonists is meant necessarily for children. The story is also a good tool for brushing up on one's Spanish. The text is accessible and not very grammatically demanding. Enjoy!
If you like this story about a child exploring the power dynamics of a classroom, explore Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros' "Once" as well. Another good read about children and learning outside of the classroom is The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara.