Ramón Beteta was an important figure in Mexican life: politician, Cabinet member, diplomat, economist, professor, journalist. The manuscript of Jarano was found among his papers after his death in 1965 and was published in Mexico in 1966. "Jarano," the kind of broad sombrero worn by charros, was the secret nickname—partly disrespectful, partly amused, partly affectionate—which Ramón and his brother gave to their father. Except for part of the last chapter, the book is about Ramón's childhood and youth: sketches of family life, school experiences, a trip to Veracruz, and incidents of the Revolution.
Beteta brought to these reminiscences the skills of the short story writer, making superb use of dialogue, descriptive details, characterization, and mood. For a small book, the range of emotions is unusually wide, from the comedy of an evening meal to which Jarano has come home drunk to the tragedy of the indio and his wife in the chapter entitled "San Vicente Chicoloapan"—a chapter that gives more of the "feel" of the Revolution than do many longer works.
John Upton, a resident of Carmel, California, lived for a number of years in various Spanish-speaking countries. He previously translated Cumboto, a Venezuelan novel (University of Texas Press, 1969).