Geraldo No Last Name

by Sandra Cisneros
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In the story "Geraldo No Last Name" by Sandra Cisneros, who are “they”? At the end of the story, Cisneros says “they” never saw certain aspects of Geraldo’s life.

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Geraldo is a man who dies after a hit and run accident. The last person to see him alive is a woman called Marin, who happens to dance with him at a dance on the night of his death. Marin loves to dance in her spare time and has been to many dances—in Uptown, Logan, Embassy, Palmer, Aragon, Fontana, and The Manor. When Marin meets him, he introduces himself as Geraldo and tells her that he works at a certain restaurant in town. He is Mexican, certainly a new immigrant for he does not speak any English and is rather shy:

Just another brazer who didn’t speak English. Just another wetback. You know the kind. The ones who always look ashamed.

After the accident, Marin accompanies Geraldo to the hospital and explains to the “hospital people” who the injured man is, although all she knows is his first name, nothing more. She cannot even remember the name of the restaurant he’d said he worked at. It turns out that Geraldo dies at the hands of an intern, as the hospital surgeon is not in attendance. Afterward, nobody knows whom to contact about his death, as he does not have with him anything that can be used to identify him. Marin is therefore forced to stay around to give the little information she has about the dead man:

He was just someone she danced with. Somebody she met that night. That’s right. That’s the story, that’s what she said again and again. Once to the hospital people and twice to the police.

The word “they” is used by Cisneros towards the end of the story to refer to the hospital staff, the police and the uncaring others—all those people who are not moved by the difficulties experienced by illegal immigrants in America:

They never saw the kitchenettes. They never knew about the two-room flats and sleeping rooms he rented, the weekly money orders sent home, the currency exchange.

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In this fragment from Sandra Cisneros, it is clear that "they" refers to the unfeeling world, consisting of the police and the hospital and American society at large, who remain completely unaware of the grim realities of life for illegal economic migrants like Geraldo. One of the themes of this moving and poignant vignette is the bleak existence of economic migrants who, out of fear, are unable to form real connections with others. Note what Cisneros says in this paragraph:

They never saw the kitchenettes. They never knew about the two-room flats and sleeping rooms he rented, the weekly money orders sent home, the currency exchange. How could they?

Living "undergound" as an economic migrant means that your life is, of necessity, hidden and what you suffer is never revealed. This spares the authorities and Marin from feeling grief or responsibility. As the text says, "Ain't it a shame." To "them," Geraldo's life does not matter, as he was just another "brazer who didn't speak English." Thus the human tragedy of economic migration is explained away.

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