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The Chulla Romero y Flores: An English Translation of Jorge Icaza’s 1958 Novel

by Jorge Icaza (1906-1978)

Translated from Spanish by Richard Gabela.

“El chulla Romero y Flores” is a novel by Ecuadorian author Jorge Icaza, published in 1958. The story revolves around the main character, Luis Alfonso Romero y Flores, a mestizo (mixed-race man) in early 20th century Ecuador. The novel explores themes of cultural identity, social class, racism, and the struggles of working people. It provides a critical portrayal of Ecuadorian society and culture at that time. The title “El chulla Romero y Flores” symbolizes the protagonist’s cultural identity crisis by juxtaposing the term “chulla,” a negative term for a mestizo who longs for wealth and social status, with “Romero y Flores,” a prestigious Spanish name, illustrating the main character’s confusion about his place in society. Set in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, this engaging and thought-provoking novel delves into the tensions between Indigenous and Spanish cultures, and is often considered a masterpiece of Ecuadorian literature.

Jorge Icaza’s “El chulla Romero y Flores,” first published in 1958 by Editorial Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, has been translated into a number of languages, including French (1960), Czech (1963), German (1965), Russian (1966), and Ukrainian (1967). What follows is my effort at the first-ever English translation of a chapter from Jorge Icaza’s novel. I did this translation as a personal project and not as a commercial one. Any comments are welcomed and greatly appreciated.

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