Friday, January 10, 2014

Playing Catch-up


The last couple of months have been a bit of a blur so I am going to play a little catch-up and fill in some blanks. I arrived home on November 10th, after a wonderful week in Patzcuaro, just in time for the next big event in my life. The visit to San Miguel by author Francisco Jiménez.



Francisco Jiménez at the biblioteca in San Miguel


Many months of my Spanish conversation class last year were filled with the wonderful stories in Francisco Jiménez’s Circuit Trilogy. The Circuit, Breaking Through and Reaching out tell of the life of Jiménez from a four year old illegal Mexican immigrant to his graduation from university in California. He later translated the three books into Spanish which we read in our class. The titles are Cajas de cartón, Senderos fronterizos and Más allá de mí.

The stories are warm and funny, sometimes tragic, and offer a wonderful insight into Mexican culture and the struggle of immigrants to adapt to life in the USA. Needless to say by the time we were finished with the books we were all in love with “Panchito”. In our minds we had watched him grow up and felt as though we knew him.

Around this time a group of people from the biblioteca, our local library, began a project to bring reading to the children of the campos, the countryside, where many do not even attend school let alone read for pleasure. As one of the women on this project was from our classes, they decided that the Circuit Trilogy would be great place to start. They raised money for books and arranged to have Francisco Jiménez visit San Miguel de Allende. He was here only a few days and was on a pretty tight schedule but he did manage to address our class one day at the biblioteca as well as attending a great little party with us before his return to the States.

It was really wonderful to meet and talk with him and his wife. We found him to be kind, friendly and approachable in spite of the fact that he holds some pretty impressive credentials, including a PhD in Latin American literature from Columbia University under a Woodrow Wilson  Fellowship. In 2002, he was selected the U.S. Professor of the Year by CASE and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and in 2009 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa, University of San Francisco. He is currently the Fay Boyle Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Santa Clara University. 

The project was wildly successful, with the campo kids loving the books and so excited to have the author visit them in their little towns. He worked tirelessly visiting, and inspiring, so many children during his short visit. If I sound a little awe-struck, I guess I really was, and probably still am.



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