The Children of Sánchez: Autobiography of a Mexican Family
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A pioneering work from a visionary anthropologist, The Children of Sanchez is hailed around the world as a watershed achievement in the study of poverty--a uniquely intimate investigation, as poignant today as when it was first published.
It is the epic story of the Sánchez family, told entirely by its members--Jesus, the 50-year-old patriarch, and his four adult children--as their lives unfold in the Mexico City slum they call home. Weaving together their extraordinary personal narratives, Oscar Lewis creates a sympathetic but ultimately tragic portrait that is at once harrowing and humane, mystifying and moving.
An invaluable document, full of verve and pathos, The Children of Sanchez reads like the best of fiction, with the added impact that it is all, undeniably, true.
dance before the tree. We gave a peso to two old Indians to play for us on their violin and guitar. As we danced, I felt all my fatigue drop away … then we placed our flower crowns on the cross. My aunt told me to bathe the children in the spring because the water was miraculous and cured many illnesses. The girls were burning with fever … even their eyes had measle spots. I was afraid to put them in the cold water. I said, “Ay! these girls are going to die on me here.” They were hot and
didn’t come back. The clock struck four, five, eight, and he didn’t appear. “They must have put him in jail, with the hog. That’s where he is for sure.” This happened after my son, Jesusito, was born. I remember very well, because I had already made the chocolate for his baptism. That evening, the baby and Trini were asleep. Concepción was in Mexico City visiting her grandmother, so I said to Violeta, “Ay, daughter, Baltasar might be in jail and we don’t even know. Let’s go down and look.”
centavos, go on, sit down.” Well, they knew I never said no, so we all kneeled in a circle behind the tank, where we could see by the courtyard light. Naturally, I lost that time, but I learned the rules of the game. I made a real study of it, going around asking questions all week. I had the great advantage, or perhaps disadvantage, of learning it quickly, and in a week I was a good player. I always had unusual luck when it came to playing poker, a luck that seemed boundless, even excessive.
the kitchen in a little chair and delouse us, comb us, or fasten our shoes. When he took care of us like that, I felt an enormous pleasure, since I always noticed that his ordinary manner was to have a hard expression on his face, with his cigarette in his mouth, his hand on his forehead, and his feet tapping at a fast rhythm under the table. This kept me from seeking his caresses, his affection, particularly when I would try to talk to him and before finishing the word “papá,” I was shut up. “Go
alone. On the way I wondered why I should have such luck. Maybe I wasn’t even the daughter of my father. Maybe that was why he didn’t pay any attention to me. As I entered the tenement, I met Roberto who said, “Come on, we’re waiting for you to cut the cake.” I brightened up and regretted all the things I had been thinking. I hurried to the house. Sure enough, there was a cake on the table, and it had an ear of corn on it made of cream. But it looked so poor to me in comparison with Antonia’s