LITR 5731 Seminar in American Multicultural Literature
Minority Literature

student presentations

Tuesday, 20 April: conclude Cisneros, begin gay literature

Reading Assignments: Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek (complete)

Reading discussion leader: Sarah McCall DeLaRosa 

Woman Hollering Creek – Part 2


Section III: There Was a Man, There Was a Woman

Also Chapter called “There Was a Man, There Was a Woman”

Maybe let’s start there…


“There Was a Man, There Was a Woman” (pg 133)

·   Very short—3 paragraphs long. Opening sentence is Chapter title and Section title.

            Why is this story given such emphasis?

·   Man and woman do not know each other, keep missing each other—never meet. Like an almost-love story.

            But would they be any good together anyway? Nothing tells us so. Nothing gives any indication of what types of people they are or would be for each other.



Others worth consideration, in order of appearance (not that they aren’t all worth it, but we may not have time):

“Eyes of Zapata”—extra long, interesting moments

“Little Miracles, Kept Promises”—interesting format

“Tin Tan Tan” and “Bien Pretty”—go together


Ones I’m leaving out, for the record:


“Anguiano Religious Articles Rosaries Statues Medals Incense Candles Talismans Perfumes Oils Herbs”

“Los Boxers”



“Eyes of Zapata” (pg 85)

·   The eyes of the Zapata family, Emiliáno and Nicolás have them (pg 96), mysterious and powerful eyes (pg 101), watchful eyes (pg 107), her eyes and his eyes (pg 113)

            Why this focus on the eyes (the title)? What does this do for us?

·   Repeating scenes:

            The sex scene, “the color of your sex” description – pgs 85, 95, 109, 113

            Description of his charro outfit (link to Wikipedia article with pictures) – pgs 85, 107, 110

            Meeting at the fair in San Lázaro – pgs 85, 89, 94, 107, 108, 113

            Under the avocado tree – pgs 89, 107, 108, 108, 109, 113

            The land titles hidden in the church – pgs 87, 112

            Leaving her father – pgs 89, 90, 92, 95, 107

            Her earrings, selling them – pgs 93, 102

            Why repeat these scenes? What effect does it produce?

·   Mexican Revolution (link to Wikipedia article)

Major armed struggle that started in 1910 with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz.

Several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements.

Revolution evolved from a revolt against the established order to a multi-sided civil war.

Produced the Mexican Constitution of 1917.

The Revolution is generally considered to have lasted until 1920, although the country continued to have sporadic, but comparatively minor, outbreaks of warfare well into the 1920s.

·   Emiliano Zapata (link to Wikipedia article)

Born in Mexico, August 8, 1879; killed April 10, 1919. A leading figure in the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920ish). He formed and commanded a revolutionary force called the Liberation Army of the South.

Mestizos, mixed Nahua and Spanish ancestry.

            Why make up this love story about Zapata?

·   Inés (narrator)

Flying, bird imagery – pgs 88, 97, 110

            What is this? Magic realism? A dream?

She has visions. People called her a bruja, and her mother as well? – pg 104 

·   Power of words – pg 105, 111

            What do you think of these passages?


“Little Miracles, Kept Promises” (pg 118)

·   Prayers—asking for help and thank-you notes, some seem superficial (acne, boyfriend, good grades, etc)

·   So many different writing styles. Good job Cisneros!

            A few miracles mentioned, and a few prayers answered, but many of the notes are so far not yet ‘kept promises,’ is the chapter title being optimistic? Not many kept promises to be named after.

·   Five letters to “Black Christ” (Wiki Español article), three of the five are in Spanish, one in code.

Coded letter translated:

            “Miraculous Black Christ of Esquipulas,

            I ask you, Lord, with all my heart please watch over Manny Benavidos who is overseas. I love him and I don’t know what to do about all this love sadness and shame that fills me.

                        Benjamin T.

                        Del Rio TX

            Is Benjamin gay? Is that why he’s writing in code?

·   List of prayers transitions into Chayo’s story.

            I didn’t appreciate Chayo’s story as much as I did the prayers. Her story seemed like an interruption to me. How did you like it?

·   Chayo is an independent, modern, untraditional woman. Had problems accepting idea of Virgin Mary and the type of women her relatives were, until she realized how powerful they are.

            What do you think of Chayo’s change of heart?


“Tin Tan Tan” (pg 135)

·   Searching for the meaning of “Tin Tan Tan” / “Tan Tán” phrases

            Tin Tan, the Mexican actor, real name Germán Valdés (1915-1973)

            Tan Tan, a type of drum

            Tan-Tan, a city in Morocco

            Tan Tán, “so-so” in Spanish

            So… what then? I’m not too sure.

·   An unrequited love poem.

·   Clues to connection with “Bien Pretty:”

Acrostic (first letter of each paragraph, marked in bold type) spells “Lupita”—the narrator of following chapter, “Bien Pretty” (Lupe Arredondo)

Written by Rogelio Velasco, the penname of Flavio Munguía (pg 138).

The day he arrived at her door, with his “tools of the trade,” and the extermination (like bugs) metaphore—Flavio came to the house Lupe was taking care of to exterminate the roaches in “Bien Pretty.”

            How do you feel about the connection between “Tin Tan Tan” and “Bien Pretty?” Do you think there is one or is it just me?


“Bien Pretty” (pg 137)

·   A poet (Flavio) and a painter (Lupe)… in love?

·   Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl (Wikipedia article)

Many versions of the story, here’s one quoted from Wiki (seems to be the one referenced in “Bien Pretty”):

Iztaccíhuatl's father sent Popocatepetl to war in Oaxaca, promising him his daughter as his wife if he returned (which Iztaccíhuatl's father presumed he would not). Iztaccíhuatl's father told her that her lover had fallen in battle and she died of grief. When Popocatépetl returned, and discovered the death of his lover, he committed suicide by plunging a dagger through his heart. God covered them with snow and changed them into mountains. Iztaccíhuatl's mountain was called "La Mujer Dormida, (the "Sleeping Woman"), because it bears a resemblance to a woman sleeping on her back. Popocatépetl became the volcano Popocatépetl, raining fire on Earth in blind rage at the loss of his beloved.

·   Lupe becomes an empowered woman after Flavio leaves her, a woman who makes things happen, not whom things happen to.

She reimagines the Popo myth (pg 163)

            What do you think of Lupe’s transformation?

·   Clues to connection to “Tin Tan Tan:”

Lupe never told Flavio that she loved him (pg 160)

She mentions that she saved the last poem he gave her before he left (pg 161)—but she won’t tell us about it because it’s prettier in Spanish?

            Do you still think this is the same poem? I do. I think Cisneros ‘ignored’ Lupe’s wishes. Do you think “Tin Tan Tan” and “Bien Pretty” are connected?

·   Urracas. Grackles.

            What do you make of the grackle ending?


Themes throughout the stories:

·   Mentions of Mexican “old gods”/paganism and Catholicism, side by side, both trusted and respected (Syncretism Wiki article)

            “Eyes of Zapata” pg 99

            “Little Miracles, Kept Promises” pgs 119, 128

            “Bien Pretty” pg 158

·   The appreciation (or not) of native, Indo-Mexican language and culture.

            “Bien Pretty” pg 149, 151

            “Eyes of Zapata” pg 106

                        Miliano himself is Mexican-Indian

·   Spanish vs English (Spanish wins)

            “Bien Pretty” pgs 153, 164

            “Little Miracles, Kept Promises” pg 117

                        many prayers written in (or supplemented with) Spanish

·   Powerful women

            “Bien Pretty” pg 161

                        Lupe, in the end

            “Little Miracles, Kept Promises” pgs 118, 128

                        Chayo herself


Any thoughts?




Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Special Lecture

Frida Kahlo: A Deeper Look


Thursday, April 22, 2010
6:30 p.m.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Brown Auditorium Theater

Presented by art historian and lecturer Gregorio Luke,
former director of the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach

In 1953, when Frida Kahlo had her first solo exhibition in Mexico (the only one held in her native country during her lifetime), a local critic wrote: "It is impossible to separate the life and work of this extraordinary person." Born in 1907, a childhood disease caused her right leg to wither. A gruesome bus accident when she was a teenager led to numerous operations and a life of virtually constant pain.

Gregorio Luke presents a kaleidoscopic portrait of Kahlo´s life, her work, and her marriage to the legendary Mexican muralist Diego Rivera through more than 300 images of her paintings, documentary photographs, recently published personal letters and diary entries, and rare film footage. This panoramic presentation reveals a multi-faceted Kahlo whose persona was deeply rooted in Mexican culture and popular art traditions.

More Info



This program is generously sponsored by Bank of America, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Consulate General of Mexico in Houston, the Mexico Tourism Board, and Southwest Airlines, as part of Houston Celebrates Mexico 2010, a year of events marking the 200th anniversary of the Mexican Independence, and the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution.

Frida Kahlo_2


Image: Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Frida Kahlo, 1930s, gelatin silver print, the MFAH, gift of the Coneway Family Foundation. © The Manuel Alvarez Bravo Photography Archive, 89.305