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Juanito and the Library


Juanito, son of Rodrigo and Ester                                   Dionisio, Juanito’s older brother & drunk
Agnes, librarian                                                                 María, Juanito’s sister                                                   
Rodrigo, father                                                                     Ester, mother                                                                  
Cruz, Juanito’s brother and “curandero” (faith healer)

Scene I  Juanito comes home excited from school and tells parents about his trip to the school  library. 


                Hola papá, hola mamá, I have great news for you!                                        Hello dad, hello mom
                I brought a book, something my teacher says to use.
                It has pictures, it has a smell of something new!
                It tells stories of our people, of the Spaniards, although few,
                Who came to Mexico on ships the westwinds blew,
                To our shores in search of gold and souls to subdue.            

Rodrigo, agitated:

                                ¿Qué dices, Juanito?  What language do you speak?                     What are you saying, Juanito?
                                  Is it Spanish, is it English, or is it Greek?
                                  What are these stories about men from the East?
                                  Who came to pillage and havoc wreak?
                                  What do your teachers teach?
                                  And what of this libro that I see before me?                                             book
                                  Is this the work of el diablo, a gringo, or a freak?                                the devil,   Anglo
                                  What magic words enter your mind to make it bleak?
                                  Your body and soul are not what they should be;
                                  You have both cuerpo and alma but they are incomplete.                 body,    soul

Ester, compassionate:

                                     Rodrigo, although it has words that I cannot read,
                                     Either in Spanish or English, it’s all the same to me;
                                      But listen we should and judge not with too great a speed.
                                      Remember,from escuelas and calmécacs we were absentees.                        Schools, schools
                                       And even now in daylight our eyes are open but cannot see,                      for Aztec children
                                       For darkness surrounds us as if in Mictlán forever bound to be,                the underworld
                                       But our souls do yearn for light and comfort and to be free.
                                       Let Juanito’s words fill your ears with joy and peace,
                                       For, indeed he has wisdom beyond his years,
                                       And from el principio I saw in him somewhat of a prodigy.                              the beginning
                                       Let him talk, let him questions ask, let him dream!

Dionisio, searching for another beer.

                Who is what and where is there and here?
                Can someone buy another round of beer?
                Do I hear the sounds of sadness, cheer?
                Izquitécatl, Bacchus, Dionysus, are you near?                                                       Izquitécatl = Pulque god
                Can you quench my thirst and drive away my fear?
                For sounds both bright and dark I overhear,
                Of talking leaves whose subject someone sneers.

Juanito, perplexed and on the verge of tears.

                I am confused and know not what to do.
                The bibliotecaria put me in the mood                                                                              librarian
                To mention this great discovery to you,
                But who can understand what I am going through,
                Except for Agnes and Tonatiuh, to mention just a few?                                               Sun god
                And mamá who seeks a light that’s been askewed.
                Tell me, por favor, what can I do?                                                                                     please

María, compassionate.

                I understand Juanito, I feel the loss and pain.
                For enter libraries I could not refrain
                When to school in Mexico I went in sunshine or in rain;
                And could not wait to see through window panes
                The books they held and waiting to explain,
                My curiosities of places far away,
                Like England, France, Brazil, or Spain.
                But, as you see, return to them I must restrain,
                For in the fields I work all day
                So that your mind can fill the void I feel today.
                And I pray that my loss will be your gain.

Cruz, irritated

                What’s this England, France, Brazil, and Spain mierda?                                       Shit
You make us out to be gringos when we are raza.                                     “The race”, Chicano/mexicano identity
                Our souls are governed by the Aztecas and Toltecas,
                The Chichimecas, Zapotecas, Olmecas, and Mayas.
                Before Guadalupe there was Tonantzin, which was our Mecca.            Predecessor of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
                My hierbas come from Tlacoltéotl and they are our manna                               Herbs, Earth goddess
                They are not from our Mictlán or their gehenna.                                                  Underworld
                So taste my marijuana a la americana
                And dance with Huehuecóyotl hasta la una y media                                          God of dance,  until 1:30
Until Tonatiuh cloaks you with his magic aura.                                                       Sun god

Rodrigo, stern

                Listen to Cruz, Juanito, and you can’t go wrong.
                He is a curandero and knows his hierbas and incantations,                                         Faith healer, herbs
                His knowledge is from our antepasados who passed it along                                      Ancestors
                To Cruz and others who are chosen for this station.

Juanito, apologetic

                But I am not trying to mock or ridicule;
                Miss Agnes says these thoughts in books and computers are saved.
                And await our touch to draw them from the pool
                Where they lie in slumber and well-behaved.
                Please, perdónenme, but I am no fool,                                                                                   Forgive me
                If you go with me you will see the knowledge that I crave.


Scene II

Juanito and family visit the library.  Miss Agnes, who sees Juanito, approaches the family—in delight—and welcomes them to the library.

Miss Agnes, delighted

Welcome to the library, Juanito.
Is this your family whom you talk so much about?
I trust you are here to visit our fabulous centro;                                                                         Center
I will answer any questions as I take you around.
Juanito can interpret, for my Spanish is limited, lo siento.                                                         I’m sorry
To see so much knowledge you will be amazed and spellbound.

Ester, overwhelmed

Juanito has asked us to visit,
There is so much here which we don’t understand,
We read very little and don’t come to solicit,
Perhaps you could tell us why Juanito needs to expand
On what we have taught him and made explicit,
That  he need not learn more than what we learned in the fatherland.
I remember a dicho by a great man, so simple yet so intricate:                                                   saying
Todo el resto de la vida cuelga de la crianza de la mocedad.                                                 The rest of one’s life depends on his childhood
So what can you give him that has not already been given him by our  tlaliztli?                    land  - upbringing.—Juan Luis Vives
Can you cure susto and keep away el diablo and his fiery brand?                                            Fright, the devil
Can you hear the cry of La Llorona as she searches for her hijos missing,                              children
Taken by brujas with their malos aires which put them in a trance?                                          Witchesevil winds

Miss Agnes, concerned

I must admit that your feelings I do not fully understand,
I do not feel what you feel nor do I know what you know;
I am not of your culture, which is rich and truly grand,
But what the library can give is what I want to show.

Rodrigo, anxious

Show us what you have, do not the issue evade;
I want to know what you have to offer.
Can you prove why Juanito should stay;
For I think his destiny is to wander.
So tell me, can you change the night to day?
Can you the spirits of knowledge conjure?
Like Cruz does with hierbas when he kneels to pray;                                                                  herbs
So show me what milagros you have in your knowledge coffer.                                               Miracles
Agnes, somewhat daunted by the challenge

A tour of the library is my best answer;
Come with me and our rooms will be your enchanters;
You’ll see wonders from near and far;
Books written by wise men and barbs;
Books describing the Maya and Aztec calendars;
Books that tell of curanderas’ subject matter,                                                                             Faith healers
Like the divining of the egg yolk and the stars
And the way the airs affect us all—from old to escolar                                                             student
From the birds’ chatter,
To the leaves once scattered.
We have books about Venus and Mars,
About origins of the Mexicans in Aztlán,
And the Spanish friars and conquerers,
Or conquistadores as they are called in the vernacular.
We have books and tapes, and videos on Yucatán;
We also have them for Oaxaca, Chiapas and Mazatlán,
Our audio cassettes will teach you English like a wanderer;
They will help you prepare for U.S. citizenship for what it’s worth.
We have movies that will take you to the past,
Movies of the India María, Pedro Infante, and Cantinflas.
We have programs of all kinds: those common and obscure,
Our guests speak of health, citizenship, and literature.
It is hard to say how far our limits can go with the popular.
We have magazines in Spanish about sports, current events, and cars;
We have the libros espirituales that the soul can cure,                                                 Spiritual books
Like the longing for knowledge so hard to endure.
Lo siento, but I am moved by our collection and become emotional                                I am sorry
Knowing what this library can do to promote knowledge for one and all.

Scene III

The family is back at home after the tour they took at the library.

Rodrigo to the family:

At first, I thought la Señora Agnes’ motive was to take away;                             Mrs.
But her purpose is to add and expand and not expropriate.
So much of our culture has been stolen;
We can’t confide in people with a bad omen;
They are like los malos aires that everywhere circulate                                          Bad winds (air)
And whose purpose is to disorientate
People from the path of the chosen,
The path of those who are poor but never broken,
Because they guard their culture like a mother’s embrace,
And know from whence they came,
So they’ll  know where they are going
And never wonder where they’ve been.

Ester to Rodrigo

Your words are like arrows that strike my corazón.                                                                  Heart
They are like flores that blossom in winter forlorn                                                                    Flowers
And give hope to our culture that has so much lost,
And has payed dearly at such a heavy cost.
Perhaps these libraries are our only hope,
To safeguard our history as told from father to son
For so many cycles and up to the fifth sun.
Let us in the biblioteca and  bibliotecaria trust;                                                                         library, librarian
Let us not just learn from it but add to it information,
So that our histories and cultures in it will be stored,
And so that our children can also our history prolong
After we are long, long gone.

Cruz to everybody

The gods have talked to me and do agree,
That a library is our friend and not our enemy.
I will say my oraciones to the place of books aplenty,                                                                     Prayers
And invite our antepasados to go and breathe                                                                                 Ancestors
In this place where one’s thoughts to express are free,
And where they can take up residence for all eternity,
Between those walls so they can oversee,
Our heritage by them so benevolently bequeathed.

Juanito to everybody

Thank you all, papá, mamá, María, Dionisio, and Cruz,                                                                 Dad, mom
For giving me your blessing to visit this place of learning.
Some day you will be orgullosos of me in my quest for truth;                                                      Proud
Maybe I will be a bibliotecario, a job which I am now yearning,                                                 Librarian
Like that of Miss Agnes who is a real sleuth
At finding things for which my heart is burning;
For finding things pertaining to my inquisitive youth
So that I can prepare to face a life of so errant a sojourning,
Where one seeks the path to a life tranquil and soothed.

Dionisio, somewhat sober

So let us drink to Izquitécatl, Dionysus, and Bacchus;
Let us drink to knowledge, to history, to culture,
To respect for one another’s beliefs and contributions,
To a life free of oppression and subjugation!
So let us drink one and all of us,
To bibliotecas and bibliotecarias,                                                                                        Libraries, librarians
To the Aztlán of the Mexica and México,                                                                            Original name of the Aztecs
¡Viva México, ¡viva México, ¡viva México!                                  Long live Mexico!, long live Mexico!, long live Mexico!

Copyright: Amando Álvarez, 1998



GALERIAS (fotografías)


The Mexican Experience in Idaho

The Mirror

The Old Man

Juanito and the Library

The Coin (by Daniel Rodriguez)