The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Blackness
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Mushroom Man [El hombre de los hongos] (1976)



This story concerns a very wealthy family living in Mexico in the middle of the 19th century. While out hunting in the woods one day, the father discovers a young black orphan by the river. He brings the boy back to his large estate and names him Gaspar. Friendly and intelligent, the boy quickly becomes a new family member. He runs around and plays with their two young daughters as if they were his own sisters.

In a separate storyline, this family throws lavish dinner parties. One of their favorite dishes is mushrooms cooked with an old family recipe from Spain. How does the family know if the current batch of picked mushrooms is edible? Simple! They get a volunteer to eat a few first. If the volunteer keels over and dies, then the family does not serve mushrooms later at the party.

The family has one other flirtation with danger: They keep a vicious black panther chained up in the central courtyard. On occasion, he is freed and chases after people. For all their seeming sophistication and nobility, this family seems a little wacky to me!

Some years pass and Gaspar grows up to be a handsome young man, and the daughters become beautiful women. They continue to go on outings to the woods and swim in the river. But what had formerly been a child's play has become flirtatious. Along the way, Gaspar reveals knowledge of different species of mushrooms growing in the woods.

The family unit unravels as the daughters grow jealous of Gaspar's attention, and the parents become unhappy seeing their white daughters spending time with a black man. Family members scheme against each other...