Have you ever heard of the phrase, children are like sponges? Relationships begin at home as we all grow up with parents who either love each other or don’t. Clemencia in “Never Marry a Mexican” by Sandra Cisneros was never given the chance at a real relationship because of the way she was raised. Since she was a little girl, her mother always told her to never marry a Mexican. “Never marry a Mexican, my ma said once and always. She said this because of my father” (Cisneros 68). Clemencia, at a young age already is being told by her mother to not marry a Mexican. Giving her the idea that her mother never loved her father. This has affected Clemencia’s ability to love any man because she is afraid of the no love relationship that her parents had and the infedelity behind it. As an older woman, Clemencia becomes an adulteress who sleeps with a married man named Drew. Drew is not the only married man that Clemencia has been with but he is the man that readers believe also has the blame as to why Clemencia is the way she is. This is the lifestyle Clemencia has chosen to follow because of growing up with a cheating mother. Clemencia’s mom cheated on her father while he was sick in the hospital, this caused Clemencia to resent her mother but also follow in her footsteps. “That man she met at work, Owen Lambert, the foreman at the photo-finishing plant, who she was seeing even while my father was sick. Even then. That’s what I can’t forgive” (Cisneros 73). Clemencia hates her mother for being with another man while her father was sick and losing his life. This showed her how little her mother cared about who she hurt. The real question is, can we really blame Clemencia for becoming who she is?
Cisneros uses the Mexican folklore of La Malinche in this story to describe Clemencia. In Angela Noelle Williams article, “Malinche” she describes who La Malinche is; “La Malinche has been mythologized as everything from the beautiful Indian princess who fell in love with the conqueror and produced a noble offspring to the Eve figure whose seduction stained the race she engendered.” La Malinche was a native american woman who was seduced by the Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes, who killed off all her people with her help. She betrayed her people for love which in “Never Marry a Mexican” we see similarities between Clemencia and Drew. Drew actually refers to Clemencia as La Malinche. “My Malinalli, Malinche, my courtesan, you said, and yanked my head back by the braid” (Cisneros 74). Drew conquers Clemencia at a very young age and has manipulated her to become his sexual slave just like Cortez did with Malinche. Clemencia has a mistaken sense for what love actually is. According to Clara Sue Kidwell in her article, “Indian Women as Cultural Mediators” she writes about La Malinche’s act of betrayal but justifies and gives the readers information and reasoning behind her actions. “If we accept that she was virtually a slave in a state under military subjection to the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan, her actions become clearer. Whatever personal passions drove her, we can never know” (Kidwell 3). Kidwell explains that Malinche had reasons to betray her people because she was a slave that was give to Cortes. La Malinche had hatred towards the leaders of her people and hatred can lead to very dangerous acts. Clemencia had reasons to act the way she acted because she saw it first hand with her mother. The story also gives us a side of Clemencia that makes her seem devious and enjoy ruining a marriage. “Why do that? It’s always given me a bit of crazy joy to be able to kill those women like that, without their knowing it” (Cisneros 76). She finds joy in hurting the women with the men she sleeps with. I believe this gives her a sense of power because she knows she can have the man whenever she pleases.
Throughout the story, Clemencia reveals to Drew’s son how their relationship began but she tells him indirectly. “I was your father’s student, yes, just like you’re mine now….. And he took me under his wing and in his bed, this man, your father. I was honored that he’d done me the favor. I was that young” (Cisneros 76). Here Clemencia is speaking to Drew’s son telling him how they had met and how this unfaithful relationship began. In a sense, the way Clemencia speaks about her relationship with Drew, she sounds proud and evil. She is deeply in love with this married man but this love is so twisted. Clemencia is psychologically damaged from witnessing all this as a child. She uses Drew’s son as a way to stay close to Drew because as his son gets older Clemencia sleeps with him as well. “I sleep with this boy, their son. To make the boy love me like I love his father” (Cisneros 82). Clemencia has grown emotionless and shows she does not care who she hurts along this destructive journey. We can never really say why Clemencia chose to live a loveless lifestyle, but we know enough about how her childhood has destroyed her vision of real love. Is Clemencia really just hurt that she is in love with a man who she can’t have? The moment Clemencia knew she was never going to be with Drew again, this made her turn vindictive. “I went over to where I’d left my backpack, and took out a bag of gummy bears I’d bought. And while he was banging pots, I went around the house and left a trail of them in places I was sure she would find them” (Cisneros 81). Clemencia with a feeling of revenge did this to Drew without his knowing and she explains how it made her feel really good with no regret to what she did. As said before, she did find pleasure knowing that she can hurt the people involved in these relationships. She feels no remorse for her actions and how they affect people. Is she psychologically insane or did her terrible childhood cause her to become a monster in our eyes?
Cisneros, Sandra. Woman Hollering Creek: and Other Stories. New York: Vintage; 1st Vintage contemporaries ed edition, 1992. Print.
Godayol, Pilar. Journal of Iberian & Latin American Studies. Apr2012, Vol. 18 Issue 1, p61-76. 16p. DOI: 10.1080/14701847.2012.716645.
Kidwell, Clara Sue. “Indian Women as Cultural Mediators.” Ethnohistory, vol. 39, no. 2, Spring 1992, p. 97.
Williams, Angela Noelle. “MALINCHE [Doña Marina, Malintzin, Malinali] (c. 1499/1505-1529).” Native American Women, July 2001, p. 193.