Geraldo No Last Name

by Sandra Cisneros

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Last Updated January 16, 2024.

“Geraldo No Last Name” is a short story by Sandra Cisneros published as part of the series of interconnected vignettes that make up Cisneros’s 1989 novel, The House on Mango Street. The collection is written from the perspective of Esperanza, a young Mexican-American girl living in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. Each vignette offers a glimpse into Esperanza’s emerging awareness of her own identity, as well as the culture of her community and the struggles faced by enduring issues such as poverty, racialized discrimination, and domestic abuse. 

In “Geraldo No Last Name,” Esperanza recounts an encounter between her friend Marin and a young man named Geraldo, who is killed in a hit-and-run accident. The short story reflects on the nature of identity and social marginalization.

The story opens with a simple declaration: “She met him at a party.” Marin, Esperanza explains, loves to go dancing and is accomplished in a number of popular Latin dance styles. While out at a dance party, she meets a young man named Geraldo, who is described as “pretty” and “young” but who does not speak English. He is wearing green pants and a shiny shirt—implied to be his nicest “Saturday” clothes. Marin recalls that he worked at a restaurant, but she is not certain of which one.

Although Marin only met Geraldo that night, she soon became the last person to ever see him alive. After the party, Geraldo is struck by a car in a hit-and-run accident. Marin goes to the hospital within him, but he ultimately dies from blood loss. It seems that his death is, at least in part, a product of medical ineptitude; the emergency room was staffed by a single intern, and the surgeon did not arrive in time to save Geraldo. Perhaps Geraldo could have been saved if the surgeon had come more quickly, or if the hospital was better staffed. However, because he was an anonymous Hispanic man in a poor part of Chicago, he died before anyone could help him.

Marin spends hours in the hospital, even though she doesn’t actually know Geraldo. He does not carry any form of identification, and she does not even know his last name. However, she stays the entire time, explaining the events that led to his death to the hospital staff and the police.

Marin is clearly shaken by the events, but she cannot articulate “why it mattered.” Geraldo was not her boyfriend—he was not even her friend. “He was just someone she danced with.” She is eventually sent home but wonders how to explain why she was out until three o’clock in the morning to her family.

Esperanza’s narration laments that Geraldo died anonymously. No one knew his last name, or who to contact about his death. It is implied that he was a recent immigrant—possibly undocumented—as he did not speak any English and did not carry any identification. No one will know about the tiny flats he rented or the reasons he came to the United States. Instead, his family back home “in another country” will be left to wonder what became of him, never learning the fate of the loved one they so abruptly lost. 

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