Chicano/Chicana Literature:


Rolando Hinojosa



"The inspiration comes from various places: A bi-cultural background, a sure knowledge of the history and myths of where I was born, the relating of official history and that which opposes it. I imagine my writing has changed, but I don't know to what degree. That, then is a matter for the critics."

-Rolando Hinojosa


The Valley and Estampas del Valle are the two books I chose to focus my research on. Estampas del Valle was written in 1972 in Spanish with an English translation by Gustavo Valdéz and José Reyna. Because of the editing errors and other problems associated with Estampas del Valle, Hinojosa rewrote the book to English in 1983 and named it The Valley. Although the story is the same, there are many subtle differences between the Spanish and English versions. Notice, for example that the cover of The Valley reads, "A Novel by Rolando Hinojosa," wheras, Estampas del Valle merely has the author's name. Comparing the two books has become the subject of much interest to scholars in comparative languages.

*Note: The Estampas del Valle pictured here is a newer edited version from 1994, not the original 1972 version.


Author's Works:


  • Estampas del Valle y otras obras-1972
  • Klail City y sus alrededores-1976
  • Korean Love Songs from Klail City Death Trip-1978
  • Claros varones de Belken-1981
  • Mi querido Rafa-1981
  • Rites and Witnesses-1982
  • The Valley-1983
  • Partners in Crime-1985
  • Los Amigos de Becky-1990
  • The Useless Servants-1993
  • El condado de Belken--Klail City-1994
  • Estampas del valle, Editorial Bilingue-1994
  • Ask a Policeman-1998

Other Works:

  • Generaciones, notas, y brechas/Generations, Notes, and Trails-1978
  • (Author of introduction) Carmen Tafolla, Curandera-1983
  • (Contributor under name Rolando Hinojosa-Smith) Alan Pogue, Agricultural Workers of the Rio Grande and Rio Bravo Valleys-1984
  • (Translator from Spanish) Tomas Rivera, This Migrant Earth-1985
  • (Contributor) Jose David Saldivar, editor, The Rolando Hinojosa Reader: Essays Historical and Critical-1985
  • Valley: A Re-Creation in Narrative Prose of a Portfolio of Etchings, Engravings, Sketches, and Silhouettes by Various Artists in Various Styles-1994

All of Hinojosa's novels take place in a fictional world: Belken County on the Texas/Mexico border. The following is a map of Belken County that Hinojosa included in his novel The Valley:


Biographical Information:

The following is some basic biographic information on Rolando Hinojosa. For a more detailed biography click the biography links below...

  • Name: Rolando Hinojosa-Smith
  • Birthdate: January 21, 1929
  • Birthplace: Mercedes, Texas
  • Nationality: American
  • Ethnicity: Chicano, Mexican-American, Hispanic American
  • Genre of Writing: Hinojosa has written essays, poetry, mystery fiction, epistolary novels, and novels. *Note: Hinojosa intends his individual works to form a life-long novel called "Klail City Death Trip." Each work, regardless of genre, builds on the previous one.

Links to detailed biographies:

*The preceeding biographical links take you to the Literature Resource Center in Earlham College Libraries. Type in 'Rolando Hinojosa'.


Paper Comparing Estampas del Valle with The Valley:

Rolando Hinojosa:
Rewriting and Reinventing Through Language

Chris Mitchell
Chicano Literature

After all’s been said and done with, the world’s a drugstore: you’ll find a little bit of just about everything, and it’s usually on sale, too.^1
— Rolando Hinojosa, The Valley (72)

Rolando Hinojosa is a Chicano writer born in Mercedes, Texas on January 21, 1929. After growing up in south Texas, Hinojosa, like many Chicanos, served for the U.S. Army in the Korean War. When his term of service was finished, he returned to the United States to get a college degree, taught high school, and eventually became a college professor and writer. He published his first book, Estampas del Valle, in 1972. Although the book was in Spanish, it featured English translations by Gustavo Valdez and Jose Reyna. Later, in 1983, Hinojosa rewrote Estampas del Valle in English, making many changes. Carefully investigating and comparing the two books provides insight into the growth of Hinojosa as a writer, and also into the controversial process of translation.

All of Hinojosa’s novels take place in the fictional Belken County and form his greater work: The Klail City Death Trip series. At the very beginning of the novel, The Valley, Hinojosa, drew an official map of Belken County.

BELKEN COUNTY from The Valley^1:

This map allowed the reader to actually visualize Hinojosa’s fictional world. The map was not featured in Estampas del Valle and therefore exemplifies how much progress Hinojosa made from his original creative vision in Estampas del Valle, to his polished novel, The Valley.
Hinojosa’s first book, Estampas del Valle received much critical acclaim. However, his book was overridden with publishing and editing problems. John C. Akers wrote of Hinojosa in a critique of the two books,

"Clearly Hinojosa has been motivated to rectify editorial and printing mishaps that have marred some of his early publications. Estampas del Valle y otras obras…includes several annoying errors" ^2.

The errors that Akers notes include many missing pages, which did not print out, and translations which had a confusing format. Akers pointed out that the accompanying English translations should have been right next to the Spanish, allowing the reader to easily compare and explore the different languages. The actual format, however, featured English translations in a separate part of the book. Most importantly, Akers claimed that a fundamental problem stemmed from the fact that there were two different translators, resulting in a less consistent translation.^2

In 1977, Hinojosa published a second edition of the book, but he was still not satisfied. His thirst for exploring and experimenting with his English writing skills inspired him to write The Valley, his own ‘translation’ of Estampas del Valle. But The Valley was not just a translation. Hinojosa rewrote the novel, making significant changes. The first and most apparent change can be observed on the cover. The original Estampas del Valle featured elaborate artwork from a Chicano artist, whereas, The Valley featured a very simple cover with a black and orange-brown background. The cover reads:

Rolando Hinojosa^1

The ‘V’ in “Valley” is much larger than the other letters forming a valley-like image. Most importantly, the major change Hinojosa made to the cover art is the fact that The Valley clearly establishes the form of the book—The Valley is a “novel.” Estampas del Valle, however, merely states the author’s name and does not identify the genre. Since both books are divided into four sections (or as Hinojosa defines them: “Estampas,”^3 or “…Photographs” (11)^1) Estampas del Valle is less unified, perhaps a group of loosely connected prose. The only real connection between the four parts of Estampas del Valle is the location: the valley of Belken County, on the Texas/Mexico border. Most likely, Hinojosa chose to title his English version “The Valley,” because it provides one word that simply unifies all the stories. Additionally, labeling the cover of The Valley with the medium (a novel) identifies that the four sections are part of a whole novel.

Another significant change from Estampas del Valle to The Valley is the order and names of the sections. Estampas del Valle features four sections in the following order:

[1] Estampas del Valle
[2] Por esas cosas que pasan
[3] Vidas y Milagros
[4] Una vida de Rafa Buenrostro.^3

The Valley on the other hand, not only alters the names in English, but also changes the order:
[1] AN OLIO · One Daguerreotype Plus Photographs
[4] RAFE BUENROSTRO · Delineations for a first portrait with sketches and photographs (individually and severally)
[3] LIVES AND MIRACLES · Final Entry in the Photographic Variorum^1

The sections in The Valley are named with a more elaborate description rather than the simple names from Estampas del Valle. The title of Estampas del Valle establishes that the sections are ‘estampas,’ translating to ‘pictures,’ or ‘scenes,’ in English. Perhaps since the name, ‘The Valley,’ does not establish that the sections are, ‘estampas,’ Hinojosa used the section titles as a device to show the nature of the narrative. The first section of The Valley is, “One Daguerreotype Plus Photographs,” hinting at the idea of the sections as ‘estampas’. The second section is, “Delineations for a first portrait with sketches and photographs (individually and severally).” Hinojosa truly let his creativity run wild. Instead of identifying the sections with a bland label like, ‘prose,’ or, ‘short story,’ Hinojosa purported that his sections (with the exception of SOMETIMES IT JUST HAPPENS THAT WAY) are metaphors for visual images, forcing the reader to visualize the prose as if it were a group of pictures. The final section of The Valley is named “Final Entry in the Photographic Variorum.” This is important because it not only builds on the theme of “estampas” or photographs, but it also connects all the sections together, acknowledging that each section is part of a whole, and not just an individual work. The Valley is a unified novel of four sections comprised of ‘pictures’ that make a whole “Photographic Variorum,” whereas, Estampas del Valle contains loosely connected individual sections labeled, “Estampas.”

Another example of Hinojosa’s growth as a writer is observed through the comparison of the chapter “Mis Primos,”^3 from Estampas del Valle with, “About Those Relatives of Mine,”^1 from The Valley. First of all, the titles are different. If Hinojosa was translating directly from Spanish to English, the chapter would be, ‘My Cousins.’ However, Hinojosa chose to title the chapter in a more ambiguous and facetious way. Hinojosa was having fun and experimenting with his writing rather than writing a precise, and perhaps boring, translation. Furthermore, the chapter in Estampas del Valle is significantly shorter, (less than two pages) when the same chapter in The Valley elaborates much more, sprawling nearly three pages (and in a finer script).

The chapter, “About Those Relatives of Mine” is written in first-person from the perspective of Jehú, the main character in the first section of the novel called, “An Olio”^1 (11). Jehú describes his cousin ‘Mión’ or ‘Wet Pants,’

As [Wet] Pants grew up, he went from hellion to hell raiser to stick-up man until he was caught, arrested, indicted, tried, convicted, and furnished with a three-year round trip ticket to Sugarland.^1 (19)

A page later in the same chapter, Jehu describes his Aunt Chedes,

Well! Aunt Chedes fainted, was revived, collapsed again, revived again, farted, yelled, screamed, and, wouldn’t you know it, she caught the hiccups.^1 (20)

Hinojosa’s writing is entertaining and playful. Both of the above quotes are written with a list of verbs concisely describing a chain of events. Hinojosa was experimenting with his English vocabulary, testing his ability to tell a story spontaneously in English, rather than through a careful and exact translation. The writing is conversational, as if Jehú were right in front of the reader, rattling off a story about his cousin. Hinojosa’s writing is very different from Estampas del Valle, in which he writes a more superficial narrative from Jehú about his cousins. Hinojosa experimented with his writing ability in English in The Valley.

Rolando Hinojosa reinvented himself as a writer through rewriting Estampas del Valle, marking his growth with a new and different English novel, The Valley. The Valley is not just a translation. It marks the emergence of Hinojosa’s creative inner self blossoming in a transition period from a decent writer in the seventies, to a well established, critically acclaimed, Chicano author of the eighties. It is no wonder his original creative vision from his first novel has resulted in twelve more novels that form his masterwork: The Klail City Death Trip series.

Works Cited

1. Hinojosa-Smith, Rolando. The Valley. Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Press, 1983.
2. Akers, John C. From translation to rewriting: Rolando Hinojosa's `The Valley'. Americas Review; Spring 93, Vol. 21 Issue 1, p92, 12p.
3. Hinojosa-Smith, Rolando. Estampas del Valle. Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Press, 1994.


Articles on Author's Work:

There are very few articles on The Valley and Estampas del Valle. The following are links to sources discovered through Academic Search Elite. The first article is a piece written by an author who was inspired by Hinojosa. The second is an excellent detailed study from America's Review. It is a comparison of Hinojosa's two books, Estampas del Valle and The Valley. The work is not available electronically, so you have to find it in the Earlham Library or email me.

Notes on Lit from the Americas
From translation to rewriting: Rolando Hinojosa's `The Valley'.


Book Reviews:

I could not locate any book reviews of Estampas del Valle or The Valley, but found many book reviews on his later works including The Useless Servants, Ask a Policeman, and Becky and her Friends. The following are two of the best reviews on two of Hinojosa's novels. The sources were discovered through Academic Search Elite:

The Useless Servants
Becky and her Friends


Interview with Rolando Hinojosa:

The following is a link to an interview between scholar Philip K. Jason and Rolando Hinojosa. The focus is specifically on Hinojosa's experience in the Korean War. It also touches on Hinojosa's artistic process and craft. The interview was discovered through Academic Search Elite. Type in 'Rolando Hinojosa' and select 'Interview' for document type.