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Xavier Icaza: Panchito Chapopote

The copy I read of this work contains a dedication from Icaza to Herbert Biberman, which makes me wonder if Biberman might have been planning to film it. It also has some very fine woodcuts by Ramón Alva de la Canal, which very much added to my enjoyment. The story is quite short and tells a simple tale against the background of the period of oil exploitation in Mexico and the Mexican Revolution. We first meet Panchito in Veracruz. He is with his friends but sees a pretty girl and goes after her. He tells her his story. He lived in Tepetate, in Huasteca, where he was in love with Amalia María Dolores but she was in love with Enrique. Panchito had a poor job and some poor quality land left to him by his father. One day the Americans come and seem to be trying to buy Panchito’s land. The local officials”help” him to make sure that he is not cheated – the Americans are clearly after oil – but the officials make sure that they get their 50% cut. Nevertheless Panchito is now rich but still Amalia María Dolores does not love him. Then the English come and also want to buy the land and a deal is made for them. When the Americans find out, they are naturally angry but a deal is made between the two parties, with each getting half. (There is a wonderful woodcut of Uncle Sam shaking John Bull’s hand.)

With Amalia María Dolores still turning him down, Panchito leaves Tepetate and goes to Veracruz, where he has a good time with his money. He plans on going to Europe but vows to try one more time with Amalia María Dolores. However, when he gets back to Tepetate, it has changed, thanks to the influence of the Americans. There are now paved roads, hotels and fancy shops. He has difficulty tracking down Amalia María Dolores. She still loves Enrique but her mother persuades her that she should marry Panchito because of his wealth. And then the Civil War comes to Huasteca…

This is a pleasant and amusing tale, criticising the Americans and English and their exploitation of Mexico for oil, but also criticising Porfirio Diaz. Panchito is the standard gullible, naïve Mexican character, who gets lucky but things do not really work out for him. And the woodcuts are wonderful.

Publishing history

First published by Editorial Cultura in 1928
No English translation

Availability: Out of print