Running through the streets of Lima went Paco, the nine-year-old Indian boy from the hill country of Peru. He was an orphan and, when his boss-man was hurt and had to go to the hospital, the “Public Welfare’ said that Paco must come and live with them.
But not Paco! Paco gets himself some city clothes, makes a bed of theater posters in a niche of an old building, and sets himself up as a shoeshine boy in front of the most handsome building he has ever seen, the palace of the president of Peru.
“At the Palace Gates” is the first story for children by the author Helen Rand Parish written in 1949. Three sources inspired her: her historical interest in Lima’s street vendors of colonial times; visits to modern Lima; and her correspondence with a young Lima resident of nine named Raimi.
Extract of the book:
Paco had never been chased before. Many times, he had run away, from boss-man after boss-man - one after another, in his native town on the road to Juliaca. He had been running away all his life as far as he could remember; that was because he was an orphan with no father, and no mother, and no family, and no real home at all. But now he was being chased for dear life, sure enough. And of all places, in Lima, the great capital of Peru, which Paco thought was probably the largest city in the world, and certainly the most wonderful.
The pavement felt hot under his bare toes. But it was good running: smooth, worn cobbles, flat asphalt, slick trolley-car tracks - much easier going than the crags and boulders back in Juliaca. His brown legs flew faster and faster. He only wished he were not so conspicuous in the big city in his dress of a little hillbilly Indian. In and out of the crowds he ran. People looked up to call “hillbilly” after him as he crashed into their sidewalk-tables and overturned their tea and jellies.
He darted in front of taxicab wheels and leaped over sidewalk-carts like a mountain goat: a frightened little boy, not more than nine years old, his thin arms flailing out from his blanketlike poncho, his bronze face staring at the world in terror from under an incredible cap. It was a brilliant red-and- green knitted sort of bonnet with a peak on top, long earflaps, and a design of letters worked all around by somebody who could not read - a flamboyant, ill-fitting thing that made him a perfect target for his pursuers...