Sandra Cisneros collection of short stories Woman Hollering Creek explores the experience of being a Mexican-American woman. These stories points of view range from young children to adults. Cisneros tells stories that are about women defining themselves on one side of the border or the other, and about what it means to be Mexican, Merican, and Mexican-American in the place where the border is both a symbolic line and a physical location.
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In Mericans, two brothers and a sister are waiting outside the church, where a couple of obvious tourists approach them, eager to practice their Spanish and bestow gifts of candy on the children they have discovered outside. When the woman who gives them gum and takes pictures realizes that they speak English, she is baffled with the question of borders it poses. These appear to be Mexican children, but Keeks explains that they are actually Mericans.
Their imaginations are filled with American thingsAmerica vs. Germany, Flash Gordon, and the Lone Rangerwhile they are surrounded by Mexican things like La Virgin De Guadalupe and Familia Burros comic books. Their family and their history exist on both sides of the border. They are Americans visiting Mexico, but still understand the cultural differences of the two sides, including the notions that women dont wear pants to church and men dont wear shorts.
Woman Hollering Creek is the story of Cleófilas, a woman who finds herself on the other side and in an abusive marriage. She lives near Woman Hollering Creek, a name that fascinates her, and between Soledad and Dolores, whose names are a play on the Spanish words for loneliness and pain. With Soledad and Dolores, she catches occasional glimpses of the telenovelas with beautiful women and wealthy men in all sorts of situations.
Cleófilas imagines herself as one of those women, and when a man raises his hand to a woman in these soap operas, Cleófilas remembers a time when she had thought that she would never stay in such a situation, and now cant figure out exactly why it is that she does in fact stay with Juan Pedro. In the journey over the border, she has found herself in the land of oppression, where she cannot drive, watch television regularly, or even speak the language.
When she finds a way to escapein a pick-up truck arranged for her by a woman at the doctors officeshe is still afraid that she, her child, and her pregnancy are in danger of being caught. When she meets Felice she is fascinated by her fierceness. She drives her own pick-up truck, makes her own money, has no husband and a foul mouth. The holler she lets out in honor of the creeks name startles Cleófilas, but she wants to holler herself, from pain or rage, rather than continue to live with a submissive whimper. Felice becomes an inspiration for Cleófilas as the woman who saved her and an inspiration for her own resistance to her husbands abuse. When she is back in Mexico with her family, she has trouble explaining this woman to her father and brothers.
The most conflicted character in the collection is from Never Marry A Mexican. The narrator Clemencias mother, who had married across the border, told her never to marry a Mexican. Her mother was a Mexican-American, which her fathers family saw as marrying down. She did not speak Spanish, and did not understand the culture on the other side. Clemencia remembers her father as kind and generous, but her mother, after he died, saw her husband and their marriage as failures. Later in life she has an affair with a white man whose wife is pregnant, and she feels no pity for the wife, even while she is birthing her baby as the narrator sleeps with her husband where the baby was conceived.
Clemencia is "amphibious". She left her middle-class home when her mother marries a white man. She herself becomes a white man's lover, but the man returns home to a "redheaded Barbie doll". She is accepted among the rich because she is artistic, and accepted among the poor because she lives among them. She is used as an "exotic orchid" at parties by people who do not buy art.
In her barrio like "Sesame Street", she feels closer to her Mexican culture. When she is "vindictive and cruel," she is fighting her guilt for being the other woman and for having seperated herself from the Mexican part of herself by being with a White American.
All of Cisneros' stories are simply written but have layers of meaning. As a bilingual person, she understands that translation is never exact, so she is liberal with her use of Spanish in these English-language stories. Along the U.S.-Mexico border, the language blends as does the Mexican and American. Cisneros' explores this theme thoroughly in Woman Hollering Creek.
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