Sandra Cisneros is a Chicana award winning novelist who writes the book Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. For the duration of the book, each short story, though so unique and different, shows consistently strong influences of Cisneros’ Latina culture. These short stories give insight to her perspective of growing up as a Latina- American. One thing that is very strong in the Chicano tradition is mythology. Growing up in America, many parents told their children that if they did not behave, the boogeyman would come to get them. Similarly, Chicano parents would tell their children, like Cisneros, that if they were misbehaving La Llorona would come for them. La Llorona is a story of a beautiful woman named Maria who drowns her two kids in the river after her husband left her for another woman. Her husband would always come back and visit the children but would never look at or speak to Maria and this made her resent her kids. Full of anger, she drowned the children in the river and soon after feeling the remorse of what she had done, she also killed herself in the river. Legend has it that “La Llorona” weeps at night by the river bed looking for her children and finding other children to take as her own (Hayes). Parents often tell their children this story to keep them from wandering around at night. Sandra Cisneros’ “Woman Hollering Creek” reclaims the classical Chicano myth, La Llorona, by amending the feminist stereotypes in the original La Llorona and showing that women are strong and empowering.
In “Woman Hollering Creek”, there are many similarities to the La Llorona myth. One of the most obvious connections between the two stories is the creek from “Woman Hollering Creek”. In the story, when Cleófilas was driving to San Antonio with her husband she says, “La Gritona. Such a funny name for such a lovely arroyo” (Cisneros 46). She says this because La Gritona translates to hollering woman, which is similar to La Llorona which translates to weeping woman. In the classical La Llorona myth, Maria weeps of sadness and misery from her husband leaving her and the death of her children (Hayes). Cisneros changes the meaning of this in her version of the story. When Felice was helping Cleófilas escape from her abusive husband, “when they drove across the arroyo, the driver opened her mouth and let out a yell as loud as any mariachi” (Cisneros 55). Instead of the sad, pain filled cry of La Llorona, when Felice encounters La Gritona, she cries of happiness and euphoria. Cisneros modifies the original La Llorona myth of this sorrowful, beaten down woman whose life was full of tragedy and emptiness into a joyful, optimistic woman who turned her sad life into a hopeful and positive one. This changed the original stereotype of the abused woman stuck in a dead end life into a woman who was brave and confident enough to make a necessary change in her life.
Cisneros uses La Llorona in her story many different times. When Cleófilas was struggling with the abuse of her husband and the loneliness of her life, she sits out by La Gritona with her baby. Cleófilas reflects on her childhood by saying, “Is it La Llorona, the weeping woman? La Llorona, who drowned her children. Perhaps La Llorona is the one they named the creek after, she thinks, remembering all the stories she learned as a child. La Llorona is calling to her” (Cisneros 51). In this moment of the story, it almost seems as if while she is sitting there with her child that she is going to follow in the same foot steps of La Llorona and drown him because of all of her pain and anguish. This is a pivotal moment in “Woman Hollering Creek” because it shows Cisneros’ purpose to once again revise the original La Llorona myth. By not drowning her baby, it proves that Cleófilas different than Maria and shows her being powerful in the sense of overcoming her problems, something that women could not do stereotypically.
Another way Cisneros breaks away from feminist stereotypes of classic Chicano mythology is once again through the character of Felice. First of all, it is no coincidence that Felice translates to happy. Now, in Cleófilas’ new neighborhood, she only has two friends named Soledad and Dolores which translate to loneliness and pain. These two characters represent her life with Juan Pedro and the connection to La Llorona. Felice represents happiness and a new beginning for Cleófilas. Felice breaks feminist stereotypes in so many ways. More importantly, she helps Cleófilas escape from her abusive relationship and helping her get back home. Although Felice makes this seem so casual, it is not something women traditionally do. Cleófilas has already thought about leaving before and in her mind she thinks, “But how could she go back there? What a disgrace. What would the neighbors say? Coming home like that with one baby on her hip and another in the oven. Where’s your husband? Town of gossips” (Cisneros 50). In Chicano culture, going back home like Cleófilas did was not something people thought was a good thing. This is just another way Cisneros rectifies the feminist stereotypes like this one by showing that going back home, even with two children and without a husband like Cleófilas did, is okay. Felice also corrects the classic Chicana feminist stereotype that a woman could be independent. Again, this is not something that is normal for woman stereotypically so when Cleófilas met Felice she was surprised. For example, Cisneros writes, “everything about this woman, this Felice, amazed Cleófilas. The fact she drove a pickup. A pickup, mind you, but when Cleófilas asked if it was her husband’s, she said she didn’t have a husband. The pick up was hers. She herself had chosen it. She herself was paying for it” (Cisneros 55). Traditionally, women did not own much of their own, let alone cars, especially such a manly car like Felice’s truck. Women, like Cleófilas, did not work and they relied on their husbands for everything financially. Cisneros uses Felice to break that stereotype and shy away from tradition showing women as empowering and independent.
Sandra Cisneros’ culture plays a big part in “Woman Hollering Creek” and she uses it effectively. She completely revamps the original mythological story of La Llorona from being a negative, sad, scary story into an uplifting and optimistic one. Cisneros changes the meaning of the river, La Gritona, into a happy meaning rather than a tragic one like La Llorona. She also acknowledges La Llorona in her story and shows how Cleófilas was strong enough to not fall into the same steps as Maria. Felice was the true change on feminist views within the story, representing happiness, freedom, and independence. Sandra Cisneros really transformed the feminist stereotypes in “Woman Hollering Creek” and showed how women are strong and empowering.
Cisneros, Sandra. Women Hollering Creek: and Other Stories. New York, Vintage Books, 1992.
Hayes, Joe. “La Llorona – A Hispanic Legend.” Teaching From a Hispanic Perspective,http://www.literacynet.org/lp/hperspectives/llorona.html. Accessed 10 Apr. 2017.