"BANDIDO: Oscar ""Zeta"" Acosta and the Chicano Experience" by Ilan Stavans

"BANDIDO: Oscar ""Zeta"" Acosta and the Chicano Experience"

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A deeply considered essay on the Chicano movement's worldly Aquinas. Best known through his thinly disguised appearance as Hunter S. Thompson's drug-gobbling Samoan attorney in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1972), the Mexican-American lawyer and political activist Oscar Acosta receives a faithful, and appropriately irreverent, biographical rendering in the hands of Mexican intellectual Stavans (The Hispanic Condition, 1995, etc.). Although the outlines of Acosta's story are well known, Stavans has secured access to a number of hitherto unknown sources, notably a trove of letters, journals, and literary manuscripts held by Acosta's son. These give further testimony to Acosta's abilities as an author--which fans of his books The Revolt of the Cockroach People and Autobiography or a Brown Buffalo already recognized--and shed new light on his profound difficulty in coming to grips with being a dark-skinned Indian in a world he suspected dealt good hands only to white players. While tracing the contours of his life, Stavans reiterates Acosta's assertion that it was he, and not Thompson, who invented the term ""Gonzo journalism,"" and he provides good evidence to suggest that Acosta should have been credited with coauthorship of Fear and Loathing, the book that cinched Thompson's fame. Acosta disappeared, Ambrose Bierce--like, in Mexico in 1974. He would be 61 today, and it would be a fine thing to see the wily Acosta--whom Stavans headily deems an outlaw amalgam of Robin Hood, Joaquin Murrieta, Gregorio Cortez, Agustin Sandino, Subcomandante Marcos, and Che Guevara--reemerge at an autograph party in celebration of this worthy appreciation. A fine, learned homage to ""the king of rascuachismo, el rey of low taste,"" a man who contained worlds, but never comfortably.

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1995
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: HarperCollins