The story of “Bien Pretty” written by Sandra Cisneros in “Woman Hollering Creek” follows two characters, Lupe and Flavio, and how their indifferent paths intertwined and developed. Lupe is an artist while Flavio is a working exterminator and their journey began when Lupe needed some cockroaches to be killed. I will mainly focus on the development of Lupe and Flovaio’s relationship throughout the story and how it became so complex and ultimately failed. Lupe was always fixated on her past, particularly, her Mexican past. This essay will cover how Lupe’s failed relationship with Flavio, from the cultural differences and prejudice between the two, in order to embody her “Mexican” cultural background, ultimately helped her find the identity she yearned.
The first scene that I wanted to cover was the moment Lupe thought Flavio could be just the guy to represent Prince Popo, following it up by describing the key features as to why she thinks he is the one to portray the Prince (Cisneros 144). A key moment to highlight in this scene or encounter in the story is that Lupe was interested in Flavio, not by his physical attraction, but by how greatly he portrays Prince Popo. Lupe seems to imply Flavio as a mere tool she could possibly use for her sake. As Lupe said follows up by asking blatantly “I need models” and that Flavio would be good for the task as he has a “wonderful. Face.” (144). This further proves that she was, at first, attracted by Flavio because of how she can benefit from him helping her. They soon meet later on in a local laundromat called the Kwik Wash, and Lupe continues to emphasize that she is a painter towards Flavio, but he counters and says “in reality I am a poet” and follows up by stating that the poems were there not fill the stomach but were there to fulfill Flavio’s desire to pursue with poems.
The second scene that I wanted to talk about is the interaction between Flavio and Lupe when he told his story of his grandma and Fito. Flavio told his grandma’s of broken love between Fito only to compare it to the concept of yin and yang. Flavio explains how the yin that would represent earth and that of the females while yang that would represent heaven and that of the males and how you cannot one without the otherwise you are out of the balance (149). This highlights and probably helps the audience know where Flavio’s ideas stand in terms of looking at the interactions of a couple look like. But this story quickly came to a close when Lupe intervened and blurted out how in this day and age is the time to let go of the present in order to go back to the past and search for it (149). In the same page, it also highlights where Lupe stands in terms of finding a life purpose. Lupe seemed to always focus on her past and tries to share that once we find out of our past we will have found our destinies in life (149).
One major scene that accentuates Lupe’s desire to find the past of herself is when Flavio came over for dinner and talked about performing pure tango. Flavio got up and gave Lupe dancing lessons, explaining all the types of dances he knows of, only to be interrupted by Lupe’s comment asking “Don’t you know any indigenous dances?” to Flavio (151). This annoys Flavio because it implies that he does not have what Lupe is looking for. Flavio was also having a moment only for it to be ruined by Lupe and her questioning and implying if Flavio was even Mexican by asking him that. The argument between the two only worsens from here. Lupe addresses Flavio as a product of American imperialism (151). This is a direct blow into Flavio’s face as she indirectly claims that he is not an actual Mexican, which in turn, discredits Lupe entirely. But she explains that dancing with Flavio would make her feel Mexican at that moment and all she wanted was to feel that way from the start. It is revealed that Lupe feels a disconnect between herself and her Mexican background.
But the final couple scenes that will be covered on really take the relationship to their demise. Eventually, Lupe and Flavio make love to each other, but Lupe added on that she made love “in Spanish” and she would go as far as to say Flavio is a true “[sign] of a native speaker” (153). Lupes desire to feel and embody becoming a Mexican is looking worse and defends her point because of one phrase Flavio says whenever he would hurt himself, instead of expressing pain by saying “ouch!”, but saying “Ay!” gave Lupe enough information to classify Flavio as an authentic Mexican. This was also a major turning point between the two of them. Lupe expresses her feelings to the audience that, at first, Lupe stated “Flavio was just Flavio”, but now it is much more than that to Lupe (154). Lupe, who at first saw Flavio as her stepping stone into trying to find her past, now sees him in a new light. Lupe actually starts falling in love for Flavio and admits that this is different from the relationship she had with Eddie. During a breakfast, Flavio announces to Lupe that he needs to leave and it is revealed that Flavio has two more women along with 7 children. Flavio tried to give Lupe cold comfort by explaining his ideology of loving other women, stating “Loving one person doesn’t take away from loving another person” (156). This scene, in particular, helps the reader understand how Flavio thinks about a woman. In his eyes, he defends himself by saying that his love for Lupe is not in correlation with his love with the other two girls. In many, this could imply Flavio’s potential attitude towards women and how desensitized he is about it. Taking this outside the book, statistics show in their survey of participants ranging from various ages, over 60% have admitted to keeping at least one secret from their partner at some point in time (Whitbourne). On average it seems almost normal for someone to keep a secret. In the story’s case, several were kept from Lupe.
The story of Bien Pretty showcased many developmental stages between Lupe and Flavio’s relationship. The story ends off with Lupe re-doing her painting of the Prince and the Princess, supposedly switching the positions of the two figures, having the prince lay back while the princess standing over him (163). This final message could most likely symbolize her triumph of looking into her past and also moving on from the boy whom she attempted to use in order for her personal gains. In the end, she finds her true self and what it takes to be Mexican is really to be yourself. This story heavily used the elements of symbolism to represent major turning points throughout the couple’s relationship. From how they first met and what Lupe’s intention was with Flavio was to how she felt after despite their ideals constantly clashing against each other. In short, in the end, Lupe was able to find what she yearned for the entire story which was finding the Mexican background of herself.
Cisneros, Sandra. Woman Hollering Creek. Bloomsbury, 2004.
Whitbourne, Susan Krauss. “Why We Keep Secrets From Our Partners.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 10 June 2014, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201406/why-we-keep-secrets-our-partners.