José R. Reyna. La Picardía Chicana: Latino Folk Humor. Folklore Latino Jocoso. Edited by Andrea Alessandra Cabello, M. D., with the Assistance of Gloria Canales. ISBN: 0-915745-42-9. $23.95.

Mexican American, Chicano folk literature has been of interest to folklorists and been collected incidentally, mostly as part of compilations of the longer and more prestigious standard folktale. José Reyna began his collection of jokes 1969, and some of the jokes compiled then, appeared in Stanley L. Robe’s Antología del Saber Popular [1971]. Picardía Chicana, the result of thirty years of work, contains five hundred twenty-six jokes which are reproduced here verbatim from tape recordings collected in the field. Some jokes were collected by the author as field research projects at Texas A & M University-Kingsville [1972-77] and at the University of New Mexico [1977-1984]. Others are synopses of jokes that Dr. Reyna learned over the years and took the liberty of translating to English for presentation here. Other terms used for this subject are Latino folklore. Latino jokes. Latino folk humor. Folklore Latino. Folclor latino. Mexican American Folk humor.

This book represents the best of Mexican American joke tradition. The title Picardía Chicana was selected in keeping with a well-known sixteenth-century Hispanic tradition of El Lazarillo de Tormes published originally in 1554, which spawned a new literary genre—la novela picaresca. Both the pícaro and the novela picaresca would surface in the New World—in Mexico—in the early nineteenth century (José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi, El Periquillo Sarniento).

The term picardía would describe the biting wit and humor of twentieth century Mexicans, such as Armando Jiménez, Picardía Mexicana, or that of Mexico’s greatest philosopher, Octavio Paz, who would philosophize about picardía (Jiménez, Nueva Picardía). Here picardía is used to describe the humor of Anglicized Spanish-English bilingual Mexican Americans in the United States of America, neither of whom even existed when the word pícaro was coined. But, given their status as abused orphans, and their propensity for linguistic wit and humor, it may well be that picardía—living by their linguistic wit—is what best defines the Mexican American culture. Jose Reyna He teaches Hispanic southwestern folklore at California State University, Bakersfield.