José Antonio Villarreal
Villarreal in 1974
|Born||30 July 1924|
Los Angeles, California
|Died||13 January 2010|
The Fifth Horseman
José Antonio Villarreal (30 July 1924 - 13 January 2010) was a Chicano novelist.
Villarreal was born in 1924 in Los Angeles, California, to migrant Mexican farmworkers. Like Juan Manuel Rubio in Pocho, Villarreal's father fought with Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution. He spent four years in the Navy before attending the University of California at Berkeley in 1950.
Villarreal's novel Pocho (1959) is one of the first Chicano novels, and the first to gain widespread recognition. Pocho has been called the "pivotal transitional link between 'Mexican American' and 'Chicano' literature", both because of its strengths as a novel and because of its use in the rediscovery and recuperation of Latino literature in the 1970s. The novel details the childhood of Richard Rubio, whose father Juan Manuel left Mexico in the post-Revolution exodus of 1910. As a first-generation American, Richard struggles with the conflicting values of his parents: his father's Mexican sense of honor, tradition, pride and masculinity and the more Americanized view of family and women's roles that his mother and especially his sisters adopt. Richard's father harbors a dream to return his family to Mexico, but his circumstances and choices keep him in the United States. Similarly, Richard does well in school and wants to go to college to become a writer, but he must become the man of the house after his father leaves the family; yet Richard himself leaves the family to join the Navy after Pearl Harbor. According to scholar Francisco A. Lomelí, the novel argues "that people of Mexican descent have a rightful place they can claim their own that is both Mexican and Anglo American, which Chicanos synthesize in varying degrees [and] accentuates, for the first time in a mainstream American literary scene, Hispanic characters as complex and multidimensional who, despite their individual flaws, possess depth and credibility".