What role does witchcraft play in The House on Mango Street?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In The House on Mango Street, Cisneros describes a series of vignettes about the (particularly female) Hispanic-American experience. The reader gets a sense of the Hispanic cultural traditions that bind the Hispanic community together and how these coalesce or conflict with integration into the American experience. 

Esperanza's mother is superstitious, saying she believed Esperanza was born on a bad day. Esperanza initially ascribes to such notions when considering the many reasons why Aunt Lupe died. However, Esperanza lets go of this superstition, saying "I think diseases have no eyes" (59). 

However, Esperanza is a frequent visitor of Elenita the "witch woman" or fortune teller. This is another Hispanic cultural tradition (also a tradition in other cultures). By now, it has also become a part of American society even if it is still viewed as something exotic or on the fringe. Despite Elenita's cryptic fortune telling, she does offer Esperanza sound advice. She says that the home Esperanza wishes for is in the heart, something Esperanza doesn't initially understand. 

Witchcraft, or more generally fortune telling and superstition, is a link to Hispanic heritage. The House on Mango Streetis a coming of age novel wherein Esperanza negotiates her identity between that Hispanic heritage and her new American heritage. 

Magical realism is a genre of literature which includes realism and fiction or fantasy. Writers of many cultures have written in this genre, but it is a notable trend in Hispanic and Hispanic-American literature. So, the notion of witchcraft, superstition and magic are part of the Hispanic literary tradition as much as they are cultural memes. Fittingly, the blend of realism and fantasy parallels the blend of cultures, Hispanic/American. 


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