LITR 5731 Seminar in American
Tuesday, 20 April: conclude Cisneros, begin gay literature
Reading Assignments: Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek (complete)
Reading discussion leader:
Sarah McCall DeLaRosa
Woman Hollering Creek – Part 2
Section III: There Was a Man, There Was a Woman
Also Chapter called “There Was a Man, There Was a Woman”
Maybe let’s start there…
“There Was a Man, There Was a Woman” (pg 133)
· Very short—3 paragraphs long. Opening sentence is Chapter title and Section title.
Why is this story given such emphasis?
· Man and woman do not know each other, keep missing each other—never meet. Like an almost-love story.
But would they be any good together anyway? Nothing tells us so. Nothing gives any indication of what types of people they are or would be for each other.
Others worth consideration, in order of appearance (not that they aren’t all worth it, but we may not have time):
“Eyes of Zapata”—extra long, interesting moments
“Little Miracles, Kept Promises”—interesting format
“Tin Tan Tan” and “Bien Pretty”—go together
Ones I’m leaving out, for the record:
“Anguiano Religious Articles Rosaries Statues Medals Incense Candles Talismans Perfumes Oils Herbs”
“Eyes of Zapata” (pg 85)
· The eyes of the Zapata family, Emiliáno and Nicolás have them (pg 96), mysterious and powerful eyes (pg 101), watchful eyes (pg 107), her eyes and his eyes (pg 113)
Why this focus on the eyes (the title)? What does this do for us?
· Repeating scenes:
The sex scene, “the color of your sex” description – pgs 85, 95, 109, 113
Description of his charro outfit (link to Wikipedia article with pictures) – pgs 85, 107, 110
Meeting at the fair in San Lázaro – pgs 85, 89, 94, 107, 108, 113
Under the avocado tree – pgs 89, 107, 108, 108, 109, 113
The land titles hidden in the church – pgs 87, 112
Leaving her father – pgs 89, 90, 92, 95, 107
Her earrings, selling them – pgs 93, 102
Why repeat these scenes? What effect does it produce?
· Mexican Revolution (link to Wikipedia article)
Major armed struggle that started in 1910 with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz.
Several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements.
Revolution evolved from a revolt against the established order to a multi-sided civil war.
Produced the Mexican Constitution of 1917.
The Revolution is generally considered to have lasted until 1920, although the country continued to have sporadic, but comparatively minor, outbreaks of warfare well into the 1920s.
· Emiliano Zapata (link to Wikipedia article)
Mestizos, mixed Nahua and Spanish ancestry.
Why make up this love story about Zapata?
· Inés (narrator)
Flying, bird imagery – pgs 88, 97, 110
What is this? Magic realism? A dream?
She has visions. People called her a bruja, and her mother as well? – pg 104
· Power of words – pg 105, 111
What do you think of these passages?
“Little Miracles, Kept Promises” (pg 118)
· Prayers—asking for help and thank-you notes, some seem superficial (acne, boyfriend, good grades, etc)
· So many different writing styles. Good job Cisneros!
A few miracles mentioned, and a few prayers answered, but many of the notes are so far not yet ‘kept promises,’ is the chapter title being optimistic? Not many kept promises to be named after.
· Five letters to “Black Christ” (Wiki Español article), three of the five are in Spanish, one in code.
Coded letter translated:
“Miraculous Black Christ of Esquipulas,
I ask you, Lord, with all my heart please watch over Manny Benavidos who is overseas. I love him and I don’t know what to do about all this love sadness and shame that fills me.
Is Benjamin gay? Is that why he’s writing in code?
· List of prayers transitions into Chayo’s story.
I didn’t appreciate Chayo’s story as much as I did the prayers. Her story seemed like an interruption to me. How did you like it?
· Chayo is an independent, modern, untraditional woman. Had problems accepting idea of Virgin Mary and the type of women her relatives were, until she realized how powerful they are.
What do you think of Chayo’s change of heart?
“Tin Tan Tan” (pg 135)
· Searching for the meaning of “Tin Tan Tan” / “Tan Tán” phrases
Tin Tan, the Mexican actor, real name Germán Valdés (1915-1973)
Tan Tan, a type of drum
Tan-Tan, a city in
Tan Tán, “so-so” in Spanish
So… what then? I’m not too sure.
· An unrequited love poem.
· Clues to connection with “Bien Pretty:”
Acrostic (first letter of each paragraph, marked in bold type) spells “Lupita”—the narrator of following chapter, “Bien Pretty” (Lupe Arredondo)
Written by Rogelio Velasco, the penname of Flavio Munguía (pg 138).
The day he arrived at her door, with his “tools of the trade,” and the extermination (like bugs) metaphore—Flavio came to the house Lupe was taking care of to exterminate the roaches in “Bien Pretty.”
How do you feel about the connection between “Tin Tan Tan” and “Bien Pretty?” Do you think there is one or is it just me?
“Bien Pretty” (pg 137)
· A poet (Flavio) and a painter (Lupe)… in love?
· Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl (Wikipedia article)
Many versions of the story, here’s one quoted from Wiki (seems to be the one referenced in “Bien Pretty”):
Iztaccíhuatl's father sent
· Lupe becomes an empowered woman after Flavio leaves her, a woman who makes things happen, not whom things happen to.
She reimagines the Popo myth (pg 163)
What do you think of Lupe’s transformation?
· Clues to connection to “Tin Tan Tan:”
Lupe never told Flavio that she loved him (pg 160)
She mentions that she saved the last poem he gave her before he left (pg 161)—but she won’t tell us about it because it’s prettier in Spanish?
Do you still think this is the same poem? I do. I think Cisneros ‘ignored’ Lupe’s wishes. Do you think “Tin Tan Tan” and “Bien Pretty” are connected?
· Urracas. Grackles.
What do you make of the grackle ending?
Themes throughout the stories:
· Mentions of Mexican “old gods”/paganism and Catholicism, side by side, both trusted and respected (Syncretism Wiki article)
“Eyes of Zapata” pg 99
“Little Miracles, Kept Promises” pgs 119, 128
“Bien Pretty” pg 158
· The appreciation (or not) of native, Indo-Mexican language and culture.
“Bien Pretty” pg 149, 151
“Eyes of Zapata” pg 106
Miliano himself is Mexican-Indian
· Spanish vs English (Spanish wins)
“Bien Pretty” pgs 153, 164
“Little Miracles, Kept Promises” pg 117
many prayers written in (or supplemented with) Spanish
· Powerful women
“Bien Pretty” pg 161
Lupe, in the end
“Little Miracles, Kept Promises” pgs 118, 128