Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cisneros Embraces Her Heritage

In the House on Mango Street, Esperanza is indeed a sign of hope for the community of Mango Street. She is an ambitious character who strives to achieve more than her ancestors or neighbors. Through her, Cisneros delivers a powerful message to her community, which is a message of love and respect for one’s heritage, in my opinion. When Esperanza speaks of Sally, she declares, “She says she is in love, but I think she did it to escape” (102). Esperanza notices that the people in her life, particularly women, allow their own individuality and dreams to be taken away without much resistance on their part, or they may try to accomplish their dreams in the wrong way. These women submit to their husbands or give up their desires without acknowledging what they want out of life. In reference to Sally’s submission to her husband, Esperanza says, “she sits at home because she is afraid to go outside without permission” (102). Esperanza’s witnesses this hopeless attitude in her own mother. Her mother says, “‘I could’ve been somebody, you know?’...She has lived in this city her whole life.” (90). Esperanza’s mother reminds her to keep going to school so that she can achieve more than she was able. It is almost as if the women on Mango Street realize that they could have achieved more, but that they just do not care enough to take that extra leap that would allow them to break free of the restrictions that Mango Street seems to have. Or maybe is it just that they did not have the opportunities that Esperanza’s generation does.

Eventually, Esperanza realizes that she has to take action in order to avoid a life of unfulfilled dreams like the people around her. She says, “I am tired of looking at what we can’t have…One day I’ll have my own house, but I won’t forget who I am or where I came from” (87). Even if Esperanza does break free of the cycle present in The House on Mango Street, she will never forget her roots, which is a very powerful statement on her behalf. The aunts tell Esperanza, “When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, you understand? You will always be Esperanza, you will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget what you are.” (105). Clearly, remembering one’s heritage is valued and lessons can only be learned from the past. In order to start anew, we must acknowledge where we originate from.

In regards to our class discussion yesterday concerning criticism of Sandra Cisneros, I firmly believe that any criticism directed towards the author is wrong and that Cisnero’s work embraces her own culture to the highest degree. She values tradition and memory, yet she insists on pursuing an improved culture with better living conditions, fulfilled dreams, and healthy family life for all, among other things. Cisneros wants her culture, in my opinion, to be the happy and comfortable, not longing for more. She wants her generation to take advantage of the opportunities that are before them-opportunities that older generations may not have had. Therefore, she is not turning her back on her heritage. She is embracing it and calling it to improve itself, so that everyone can be healthier and happier with the general condition of their lives. She, like Naylor in The Women of Brewster Place, wants to urge her community to strive for better. She wants that dream deferred that Langston Hughes speaks so of so profoundly to come to fruition. The truth is that these people deserve it; they owe it to themselves for being such a powerful community, rich in diversity, with so much to offer. This, to me, is a message of sincere, unconditional love for a community and does not constitute rejection at all. Cisneros returned to aid her heritage with her talents, when she could have abandoned it as a successful author. She, like Esperanza, acknowledges where she came from. Cisneros used these talents in order to reach her highest potential, and in turn wrote many works that should inspire others like young Esperanza to reach higher and accomplish all that they are capable of achieving (which is certainly not a bad thing). After all, Cisneros was once in the shoes of these young Hispanic women. In my opinion, she is an example to these of women of what they can become if they are determined. I would like to ask Cisneros’ critics why they feel this is such a negative thing to aspire to.