The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

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In The House on Mango Street, why does Geraldo have no last name? From the information Cisneros provides, do you believe that his death was inevitable?

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Madeleine Wells eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Geraldo has no last name because there are no identification documents on his person. The text tells us that Geraldo had nothing in his pockets at the time of his death. Because he had no identification papers, the hospital has no way of determining Geraldo's actual identity. The only reason the hospital knows his first name is because Marin provides it.

Marin also identifies Geraldo as a "wetback." This is a derogatory term referring to Geraldo's status as a Mexican illegal immigrant. The text also tells us that Geraldo was one of those men who always looked ashamed. It is likely that Geraldo kept a low profile because of his undocumented status. He may have feared being discovered by the authorities. Additionally, he spoke only Spanish and likely found it difficult to interact with the majority of people in his new surroundings. So, these are probably some of the reasons Geraldo never revealed his last name or specific details about his life to anyone.

From the text, we can conclude that Geraldo sometimes allowed himself to indulge in superficial conversations with others. For example, the only thing Marin knows about Geraldo after dancing with him is his first name and the fact that he worked in a restaurant. Geraldo's known reticence and lack of documentation means that he will never be identified. His family will also never know why he is not heard from again.

Geraldo's death was not inevitable. However, with no English-speaking or reading skills, Geraldo would have been at a loss when it came to deciphering street signs. He would have had to rely on guesswork to navigate the streets of the city. So, although his death was not inevitable, his life had been on difficult terms.

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Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In The House on Mango Street, Esperanza describes a guy whom Marin meets one night at a party.  Marin does not have a chance to get to know him; all she knows is that his name is Geraldo.  Later that night, he is in a car accident and rushed to the hospital.  Marin goes with him, but she cannot tell the doctors any details about him.  On the literal level of the story, Geraldo does not have a last name because he only has a brief relationship with Marin at a local dance.  However, on a figurative level, Geraldo is symbolic of many young men who leave their home countries to find better lives in America.  Near the end of the vignette, there are references to men working any job they can get, living frugally, and sending money home to family.  This is the reality for many people, and Geraldo is representative of this population.  He, like many others, tries to find some dreams in the Mango Street area, but loses his dreams to harsh reality.

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tmcz82 | Student

Geraldo is a young Mexican immigrant that Marin meets at a dance one night. Geraldo and Marin enjoy a dance together and exchange names, though she only learns his first name. Marin doesn't get the opportunity to see him again or learn more about him due to a car accident that takes his life that same night. Cisneros uses Geraldo as a representative for all the young Mexican and South/Central American immigrant men who have come to the U.S. to work and send money home to their families. These young men were anonymous and unknown in their new country. To most Americans, these group of men were all the same and were of little importance. Although Geraldo's death is not inevitable, it is sudden and tragic. It also calls awareness to life as a nameless immigrant and shows the reader a glimpse of their plight. Ironically, if not for his chance meeting with Marin, Geraldo would have gone completely unidentified in death. Of course, he has a last name, but Marin seems to be the only person he knows in his new country, so his last name remains unknown. The little information she is able to provide leaves the reader unsure about whether his family will even be found and notified of his death. Although Geraldo was just another immigrant in the eyes of American society, his measly wages most likely fed his impoverished family. The reader can conclude the possible consequences that his death will have for them . The title of the vignette reinforces Geraldo's anonymous existence, yet, in doing so, also brings humanity to a group of people that are largely overlooked and ignored in American society.