Women in general are stereotyped in not only literature, but in film and music, making it even more frustrating when that woman is of color. Especially lately with the way American mentality has changed towards Mexican immigrants. Sandra Cisneros uses two short stories to represent main role models in Hispanic culture and how that has changed who these women became. Cisneros not only uses the two figures, La Llorona and La Malinche, to represent two women, Clemencia in “Never Marry a Mexican” and Cleόfilas in “Woman Hollering Creek,” but she also transforms these roles to change the outcome of the original figures and their traditional happy endings. Cisneros metamorphosizes these women’s personalities to modernize them to a balanced, relatable scenario, so that these stories can enlighten a realistic representation of true women’s nature.
In “Woman Hollering Creek,” Cisneros uses the protagonist Cleόfilas to foretell a story of isolation by moving across the border to America. Cleόfilas tells of her fantasies she has watched on telenovelas. Cisneros is quick to illustrate her naivety, how love can blind a person to red flags in toxic relationships. “She has to remind herself why she loves him,” showing how she tries to fit her life into the classic happily ever after scenario, even all the while her husbands abuse grew stronger and repetitive (Cisneros 49). Cleόfilas tries to find excuses even though inside, she emotionally already acknowledges that something has to change. She was confused in her inner dialogue because in Hispanic culture, its taboo to be without a husband, she was scared to be judged for having children without the father. Again, Cisneros writes in “Never Marry a Mexican” to show Clemencia’s young naivety as well as she explains her affair, “I was honored that he’d done me the favor. I was that young” (76). Both these women experienced expectations of implemented Hispanic role models, but also Cisneros shows a change to these stories’ outcomes of betrayal and murder. Cisneros then remolds this naivety by expressing their awareness of these blurred fantasies with reality.
Cisneros also uses certain stream of consciousness to express the complicated inner dialogue of this metamorphosis taking place. In “Never Marry a Mexican,” Cisneros writes about Clemencia’s affair with her teacher, “he took me under his wing and in his bed, this man, this teacher, your father” (76). Not only does this dialogue show her blurred perspective of boundaries, but it also offers the ultimate co-dependency these women experienced due to their naive perceptions. She shows this in “Woman Hollering Creek” as well, “this man, this father, this rival, this keeper, this lord, this master, this husband till kingdom come” (Cisneros 49). This style of writing that Cisneros uses shows the progression out of naive perspectives into strong women. Cleόfilas has the happy ending instead by choosing to go home to her father and brothers. Clemencia healing after letting go of the satisfaction of telling Drew, her ex-lover of her misdeeds, causing her to regain her power as an individual. These role models, or these originally represented women, being La Llorona and La Malinche.
La Llorona is a ‘weeping woman’ that lingers near bodies of water, looking for her dead children. The story begins with a woman, who is married to a rich man with two children. When their marriage falls apart, she sees him with another woman. Enraged she drowns her children but immediately regrets it. Now, for all eternity she visits bodies of water in search for her children (The Curse of La Llorona). Cleόfilas represents La Llorona in the same way their marriages fell apart because of men’s infidelities; cheating, lying, and abusing. If, in the end, the doctor at her pregnancy checkup didn’t help her escape from that toxic situation, she may have had the same break in sanity. When Cleόfilas in the beginning once wondered if the woman that the creek was named after was hollering from “pain or rage” (Cisneros 47). Her thinking how funny the name was at first, because she was naïve still. As her story progresses, she slowly caves into this solitude as she thinks, “La Llorona calling to her. She is sure of it…Listens. The day sky turning to night. The baby pulling up fistfuls of grass and laughing. La Llorona. Wonders if something as quiet as this drives a woman to darkness under the trees” (Cisneros 51). This thoughtful trance is induced after years of abuse has been endured, and her power already lost. Her mental state is almost possessed by this creek that she thinks is calling her. With this, Cisneros simultaneously creates a modern La Llorona, one with a happier ending, but also joins the protagonist Cleόfilas side by side with La Llorona to show the better choices, escaping instead of staying to become murderous, that could be made. Instead of leading Cleόfilas to murder herself and child, she led her to escape, and possibly create a new better life.
La Malinche’s story, on the other hand, is a woman associated with betrayal and being the mother of Mexico. It’s said in folklore that La Malinche was a master of the two languages Spanish and Mayan, after her Aztec people sold her as a slave, and later as one of twenty wives, to the Spaniards. Because of her skills she often attended political meetings with the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes. Hernan Cortes rebuilt the Aztec Mayans into what is known as Mexico because La Malinche warns Cortes of an Aztec plot to destroy the Spanish Army, resulting in its failure and slaughter of her people. Which is why she’s associated with being a traitor and the mother of Mexico because of the Aztec empires rebirth as Mexico (La Malinche).
As before, Cisneros uses Clemencia in “Never Marry a Mexican” to represent La Malinche. Clemencia abuses her power to use her ex-lovers’ son to impose revenge on her dead mother and post lover. She states that “my mothers’ memory is like… if something already dead dried up and fell off, and I stopped missing where she used to be.” This goes to show that Clemencia disliked her mothers actions, of cheating on her father, causing resentment towards her. In that same way, La Malinche may have resented being sold as a slave by her own people. Yet, by Clemencia not resolving her issues with her mother, she inevitably became the mother she so disliked. One of the main things that bothered Clemencia was that her mother began to see another man, while her father was sick and dying. Still, Clemencia, as an adult, did something similar by sleeping with Drew, her ex-lover, on the night that his wife was giving birth. Clemencia felt betrayed by her mother, then by her lover who manipulated his place of power, and finally by herself by doing exactly what was done to her.
In the story of La Malinche, she was first betrayed by her own people, being sold as a slave, and when her people betrayed political alliances with the conquistadors, then later she betrayed her people by fooling their plan, causing their slaughter. Yet, instead of ending Clemencia with a murder charge, she leads her to gain some power back by sleeping with her ex-lovers son and extinguishing her revenge. This may not be a traditional sparkles and glitter outcome, but its transformative nature did allow her to gain power without the complete annihilation of a mass of people.
Both these women faced strong implications from traditional cultures, causing them to become the stronger version of themselves for the better. Cisneros uses tales of previous female Hispanic figures to not only grasp the need for more positive outcomes, but to also communicate the struggle of power dynamics in toxic relationships, and how certain choices can lead to happy endings that these women desire. Just not in the traditional sense of happy endings, for Clemencia to escape her abusive husband and Cleόfilas to establish dominance over Drews abuse in power.
Bradley, Laura. “The Curse of La Llorona: The Real Legend Behind the Horror Film.” The Curse of La Llorona: The Real Legend Behind the Horror Film, Vanity Fair, 19 Apr. 2019, http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2019/04/la-llorona-real-mexican-legend-curse-of-la-llorona-movie.
Cisneros, Sandra. Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. Random House, 1991, New york
“La Malinche.” Spanish Conquest of Mexico – Don Quijote,