An important installment in the Pasó Por Aquí Series on Nuevomexicano Literary Heritage, The Writings of Eusebio Chacón recovers approximately forty works by Chacón, complements his original Spanish texts with English translations, and frames Chacón's life and legacy in expository vignettes written by the collection's editors.
Eusebio Chacón (1869-1948) was born in Peñasco, New Mexico Territory, to a prominent family distinguished by long-time public and military service on the New Mexico frontier during Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. rule. He earned a law degree from the University of Notre Dame (1889), served as official translator and interpreter for the U.S. Court of Private Land Claims in Santa Fe (1891-99), and was elected district attorney of Las Animas County, Colorado (c. 1900). Chacón also became involved in the region's burgeoning Spanish-language press at the end of the nineteenth century, a "period of neo-Mexicano cultural ascendancy" (5) as an occasional editor and frequent contributor of essays on New Mexico history and northern nuevomexicano culture. In The Writings of Eusebio Chacón, editors A. Gabriel Meléndez and Francisco A. Lomelí have managed to recover most of these essays, some of which are transcriptions of his famed political oratory, along with Chacón's two novelettes, student writings, poetry, and letters. Chacón's writings capture the eloquent and fervent voice of an eminent Hispanic spokesperson committed to seeking justice and respect for his oft-misunderstood native nuevo-mexicano community. [End Page 414]
Following the editors' brief introductions to Chacón's family, career, and contributions to a nuevomexicano literary heritage, Chacón's actual writings are then presented in five parts. Part one, "Chacón's Student Writings: The Notre Dame Scholastic," contains five essays, three of which trace and evaluate the evolution of Mexico's literature from Spanish conquest through the formation of a post-independence national literature. Part two reprints and translates in full Chacón's two novelettes, The Son of the Storm and The Calm After the Storm, both originally published in 1892, and the two texts responsible for establishing Chacón in early U.S. Hispanic literature as New Mexico's first novelist as well as an antecedent of contemporary Chicano/a literature. Part three, "Chacón's Essays," contains twenty essays that address such salient issues as corporate greed, congressional corruption, and statehood. Included in these essays are nine installments of Chacón's history of New Mexico titled "Discovery and Conquest of New Mexico by the Spanish in 1540: Treatises on the history of the Homeland," an ambitious project he believed could only be author(iz)ed by a native New Mexican. Also among the essays of part three is Chacón's "Discurso elocuente," a speech written in 1901 in defense of nuevomexicano culture that inspired a widespread cultural and historical sensibility among native nuevomexicanos (18). Part four, "Chacón's Poetry," consists of five poems, including a poem dedicated to Chaucer, one written from the vantage of a Mexican exile, and one on Saint Teresa of Lisieux discovered posthumously in Chacón's personal bible. Part five is a small appendix containing a sampling of Chacón's personal letters to friends and family, a 1934 interview with Chacón, as well as Chacón's obituary. The collection concludes with a sixth part, a photo appendix consisting primarily of personal images from throughout Chacón's adult life.
Chacón avidly participated in the rediscovery and reissuing of regionally expressive works; for example his serialized reproduction of Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá's Historia de la Nueva México (1610) in the El Progreso, a Spanish-language newspaper he edited in Trinidad, Colorado (18). The Writings of Eusebio Chacón successfully, and impressively, advances Chacón's vision of facilitating an understanding and appreciation of "una literature nacional (a national literature)" (5) rooted in his native New Mexico...