The story Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros is about a girl named Cleofilas who is just about to marry a man named Juan. Newly married and planning to move, Her father said something to her as they said their goodbyes, “I am your father I will never abandon you.” (Cisneros 43). This stayed with her forever and she often thought, “How when a man and a woman love each other, sometimes that love sours. But a parent’s love for a child, a child’s for its parents, is another thing entirely.” (Cisneros 43). This is what I imagined saved her when she went into a dark place and thought about all of those stories from the telenovelas and folktales like La Llorona she knew of while growing up. Those could have played a big role into how her future turned out, she could have drowned her two kids like La Llorona or stayed in her abusive relationship with Juan like she would see in those shows she watched. Cleofilas picked a different ending to her story, she turned something so tragic into potentially something beautiful.
Cleofilas loved watching telenovelas and watched them very frequently. This affected and gave her unrealistic expectations on how a relationship works. She mentioned how one of the fictional characters who puts up with “all kinds of hardships of the heart and betrayal and loving no matter what because that is the most important thing.” (Cisneros 44). This line and the belief of putting up with the hardships of a relationship made Cleofilas believe that when Juan started hitting her it was something that was just a hardship. She didn’t think he would ever hit her and was actually surprised when it happened. It wasn’t just once either, he would hit her, not stopping till her lips were split and blood was spilled. She was so surprised, she didn’t do anything, didn’t fight back like she would see in those dramatic scenes in those telenovelas she watched.
At times she thought about leaving him and returning home to her father’s house. She feared she would be seen as a disgrace, how the neighbours would talk and how she would come back with a young child, pregnant and no husband. Times were different back then and if you were a female you most likely weren’t working and as this was Cleofilas case, she felt as of she couldn’t leave because “because the towns here are built so that you have to depend on husbands. Or you stay home.” (Cisneros 51). This makes woman feel isolated and stuck, which is what happend with Cleofilas. This keeps many women from leaving an abusive relationship, the most common reasons women stay in an abusive relationship are “fear, shame, lack of money/resources, love” (NDVH)
I believe that Cleofilas felt like La Llorona in a way, living by that creek which was called Woman Hollering Creek. She learned about the story growing up, the woman who drowned her children. She felt as if La Llorona was calling to her. The story of La Llorona was told to many children growing up, mostly to scare them. The story is about a girl named Maria who married a rich man, had two kids with them but after they were born he began to not care about her and started seeing another woman and drinking which angered her because she knew he might leave her. He would leave Maria for months at a time and when he came back it was only to see their two kids, this made her feel very angry and she started to resent her own children. She grew angry and threw them in the river, but soon after regretted it and would search for them, weeping, walking aside the river. Eventually because of her not eating, while constantly searching she died on the side of the river. The tale begins after when people would see a woman by the river weeping calling out for her children, and also taking other children and killing them as well. This feared everyone and they began calling her the La Llorona which stands for “the weeping woman”. I think Cleofilas felt a resemblance to La Llorona, living by the creek, two children and a bad relationship. I believe this scared her and she started to think of a way to get out.
Cleofilas begs Juan to let her go to the doctor to check on the baby and eventually he says yes. She promised that if asked she would say she got her bruises from falling. When she’s there with her doctor she starts crying and the doctor sees all of her bruises, the doctor called her friend Felice. Graciela the doctor, explained to Felice Cleofilas situation and how all of her family is in Mexico and she hasn’t been able to talk to them. This isn’t uncommon and actually happens a lot, one of the most common signs of abuse is “keeping or discouraging you from seeing your friends or family.” (NDVH) They arrange that Felice will meet Cleofilas at the Cash N Carry on Thursday, from there she will drop her off at the greyhound.
When Thursday came around Cleofilas was scared, “All morning that flutter of half-fear, Half-doubt.” (Cisneros 55) she feared Juan would come any second, just like what would happen in her dreams, she kept thinking until she saw a woman in a pickup truck. She put her bags in the back and the headed on their way. When crossing the river Felice opened her mouth and yelled, startling Cleofilas and Juan, Felice then explained how it’s something she does every time she crosses the bridge since it was called Woman Hollering Creek. Cleofilas felt amazed by Felice because she was a woman who drove a pickup truck, her own pickup truck, that she herself was paying for. I feel like this gave Cleofilas hope, that one day she herself can be so independent and own her own car, pay her own bills. Felice was unlike any woman she has ever met. Cleofilas went home and told the story of the yelling woman who yelled when crossing the bridge and how she herself yelled. I believe that this was the beginning of a new life for Cleofilas, with hope for her new future, she now could do whatever she wanted. There was away where she She was free and had changed her fate and was no longer scared that she saw a connection between her and La Llorona.
Cisneros, Sandra. Woman hollering creek. 1991.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline. (NDVH). https://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/