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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 92 | volume XVI | September-October, 2013



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 92September-October, 2013

Sandra Cisneros’s “The House on Mango Street”

(Collective) Memory resonating from “the Barrio”

p. 1
Jelena Nikodinoska

“The people I wrote about were real, for the most part, from here and there, now and then, but sometimes three real people would be braided together into one made-up person… I cut apart and stitched together events to tailor the story, gave it shape so it had a beginning, middle, and end, because real life stories rarely come to us complete. Emotions, though, can’t be invented, can’t be borrowed. All the emotions my characters feel, good or bad are mine.” (Cisneros 1984: xxiii) Although Sandra Cisneros draws on autobiographical elements in The House on Mango Street (1984), her novella does not stand for the genre of autobiography, but rather represents a collage, of events, characters, and places that independently of each another constitute vignettes. In turn, the vignettes are not necessarily chronologically related, yet make up a whole of voices, stories, colors, and movements that once reverberated along Mango Street.[1] Through her (Cisneros’s) stories, Esperanza Cordero’s stories[2], and Esperanza’s neighbors’ stories, Cisneros conveys the Southwestern Latino experience of the big city and the streets, of the barrios that is.[3]
    Taking my cue from Cisneros’s “The House on Mango Street,” I will try to examine how personal experiences become memories and those memories transpire into stories. Is what comes from experience and memory that makes writing strong, powerful, persuasive, and to a certain extent, relatable? Have Cisneros’s memories, reflected in Esperanza’s living experience and language, contributed to the Latino’s collective memory of the life in the barrios? On that note, in the first part of this essay I’ll examine Maurice Halbwachs’s (1925) concept of collective memory as it applies to Cisneros’ story and the Latino experience, where Latino memory is dependent on life in the barrio, within which the majority of Latino experience were/are situated. In the second part of this essay, I’ll look at the way in which the fate of the women in the barrio reads from/through Esperanza’s neighbors’ stories.


1. Collective Memory: Intertwining of Experiences, Stories and Knowledge

    I have always been keen on coming-of-age stories. What appeals to me about these stories is the innocent voice we encounter at the beginning of the story, which gradually shapes us as it sets out to discover their surroundings, and with that their place in the world. Maturation, acculturation, awareness of sexuality, wisdom, to mention but a few of the stages that make up the chain of growing up – a


1. Mango Street is an invented street. Yet the house from The House on Mango Street is based on a real house located on Campbell Street in Chicago. However, Cisneros manipulates time and space, and brings to the house on Mango Street experiences from other neighborhoods as well that are not necessarily her own.
2. Esperanza is the main character and the principal narrator in The House on Mango Street.
3. In Spanish, the word barrio means a neighborhood or a district. In English, the word is used to denote a Spanish-speaking quarter of a town in the USA.

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