I’m really enjoying this text so far! What really caught my attention was the emphasis on ‘man’, what it means to be an ordinary man and how this affects the audience reading this text. Américo Paredes seems to make a point that this is not a story or ballad about a unique man; it is a story about an everyday man.
We see this during the first description of Gregorio Cortez; “He was a man, a Border man. What did he look like? Well that is hard to tell. Some say he was short, and some say he was tall; some say he was Indian brown and some say he was blond like a newborn cockroach… He was a peaceful man, a hardworking man like you and me”. The uncertainty and multitude of possibilities of Cortez’s looks allow the audience to use their imagination to decide the shape and appearance of the character. One thing that is clear is that he is a man “like you and me”.
This idea is reinforced by the fact that there are many different versions and facts that pertain to the actual story of Gregorio Cortez. There is not one definition of the man, nor is there one definition of the story of this man. Paredes therefore implies that there are many different definitions for an “everyday man”, making this novel suitable and agreeable to a wide and variable audience. However, there is a common theme amongst these different versions of the story Cortez and an “everyday man”; he is always the underdog who is up against an oppressive system. This is a concept and situation that is arguably in every community or social group. I believe that this is one of the major reasons that make With His Pistol in His Hand relatable to many historical events and groups of people.
Another interesting thought to ponder is the fact Cortez was seen as a hero while he, himself, was not looking to be a hero in any sense. In fact, it seems he was trying to be “normal”, to be an “everyday man” – he wanted to make an honest living to support his family and live a peaceful life. Paredes vocalizes this as Cortez “was peacefully minding his own business when the sheriff or other American showed up and committed some outrage”, and thus he became a man, alone at the border, and by reason of the people, became a hero. But, personally, I don’t think the point was whether he was a hero or not, but rather how he was, indeed, an everyday man.