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Failing To Love

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Failing to Love

One important theme in Cisneros's work is the heterogeneity of the Mexican-American community. Often in her stories, there is a character that seems to represent Cisneros herself: a Chicana artist who has done something to scandalize her community, who exists on the border between Mexican-American and who has an uneasy relation to both. Cisneros plays on her dual Mexican American heritage throughout her work; The House on Mango Street reflects the experience of Mexicans in the United States. The role of women within the history of the Hispanic community is significant. Although in The House on Mango Street and other works by Cisneros, some Mexican American women are portrayed as trapped within a cycle of socialization, Cisneros noted in a 1992 interview in Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World, "I have to say that the traditional role is kind of a myth. The traditional Mexican woman is a fierce woman. There's a lot of victimization but we are also fierce. We are very fierce."

In her story "Never Marry a Mexican" Sandra Cisneros introduces the reader to the complex issues surrounding the racial and sexual identity of a Mexican-American woman living in the United States. The story is about a Chicana woman and how she seeks revenge on a white lover who has rejected her by becoming the sexual tutor of his teenage son. Cisneros give life to the protagonist Clemencia and paints her as a character in a modern day to demonstrate the pervasive negative impact on Mexican-American women, especially on Chicanas residing within the United States. Clemencia, the protagonist of the story, thinks "Drew, remember when you used to call me your Malinalli? It was a joke, a private game between us, because you looked like a Cortes with that beard of yours. My dark skin against yours...My Malinalli, Malinche, my courtesan, you said, and yanked my head back by the braid" (192). Clemencia is a painter, but she must support herself in other ways too. She sometimes acts as a translator; however for Clemencia Spanish is now the "native" language. In this discussion of her occupation, Clemencia pronounces "any way you look at it, what I do to make a living is a form of prostitution" (181). She feels as though when she is not painting she merely sells herself to make a living, much like La Malinche had to do in her relationship with Cortes. Clemencia constantly allows herself to fall in love with unavailable men who are always married and always white. This pattern results from her mother's constant advice, "Never Marry a Mexican". Clemencia's mother, a lower-class Chicana woman from the United States who married an upper-class Mexican man, felt inescapable discrimination by both her husband's upper-class family and mainstream U.S. society for her dark skin color. Her answer to this was to marry out, and supposedly up, by divorcing Clemencia's father and marrying a white man. It is because of this example that Clemencia never sees Mexican men as potential lovers. She explains:

"Mexican men, forget it. For a long time the men clearing off the tables or chopping meat behind the butcher counter or driving the buss I rode to school every day, those weren't men. Not men I considered as potential lovers. Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Chilean, Columbian, Panamanian, Salvadorean, Bolivian, Honduran, Argentine, Dominican, Venezuelan, Guatemalan, Ecuadorean, Nicaraguan, Peruvian, Costa Rican, Paraguayan, Uruguayan, I don't care. I never saw them. My mother did this to me"(179). Here Clemencia is adopting the racist Anglo discourse by lumping all Latinos into one, unified group. Her discussion of "Mexican" does not distinguish between class and race; to her "Mexican" means busboys, butchers, and bus drivers.

Mexican is no longer the nationality of the people of Mexico, but rather a class of servers who happen to be brown. Here Cisneros demonstrates how the racism of dominant society in America is often internalized and serves to separate the people of disempowered groups. Cisneros makes a strong statement against internalized racism by showing how Clemencia's rejection of men of her own race and obsession with white men ultimately leaves her lonely. Clemencia comes to the frustrating, yet enlightening realization that the white men in her life have, like her, adopted the mantra "never marry a Mexican" when she remembers the conversation Drew and she had the last night they spent together. Clemencia recalls in an inner dialogue, how "we had agreed. All for the best. Surely I could see that, couldn't I? My own good. A good sport. A young girl like me. Hadn't I understood...responsibilities. You didn't think? Never marry a Mexican. Never marry a Mexican. No of course. I see. I see" (186). Now Clemencia is now lost without a proper choice of lovers. Mexicans are out of bounds because she could never marry a Mexican, but she now realizes that white men are also out of bounds because they too could never marry a Mexican; they could never marry her. Cisneros is therefore demonstrating how internalized racism does not serve to differentiate certain ethnic Mexicans from others in the eyes of white society, and instead only serves to isolate such Mexican-Americans from the culture to which they are supposed to feel connected.

By having Clemencia reject the roles of wife and mother and instead embrace the socially deviant mistress role, Cisneros demonstrates how women who refuse socially acceptable roles often must do so at the expense of other women. In an attempt to claim agency that she would otherwise be denied as a married Chicana in dominant, patriarchal



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