Geraldo No Last Name

by Sandra Cisneros

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Last Updated January 16, 2024.

Identity

“Geraldo No Last Name” questions how identity and worth are defined on both an individual and societal level. One of the central tragedies of Geraldo’s story is that he is rendered both literally and figuratively voiceless: His inability to speak English would have made him incapable of communicating effectively in many circumstances, and his subsequent death leaves him unable to tell his own story. Instead, his identity must be constructed using the sparse details Marin learned about him at the party and the extrapolations of a sympathetic narrator who understands the harsh realities facing Hispanic immigrants to the United States.

On a systemic level, prejudice and socioeconomic devaluation contribute to a loss of identity for immigrants like Geraldo. From the perspective of the hospital and the police, Geraldo is not a hardworking young man endeavoring to send money home to his family. To them, he is simply a man with “No address. No name. Nothing in his pockets.” Without legal documentation proving his identity, Geraldo is deemed expendable, and the surgeon does not come to care for him, instead leaving him to die from blood loss. 

Geraldo’s story is a tragic reflection on how undocumented immigrants are dehumanized within the sociopolitical landscape of the United States. Rather than being viewed as individuals with their own motivations and life stories, migrant workers are often stripped of their names and independent identities in a dehumanizing process that effectively reduces them to little more than negative stereotypes.

Socioeconomic Marginalization

Geraldo’s status as an immigrant with a limited ability to communicate in English contributes to a significant degree of his socioeconomic marginalization. Marin and Esperanza describe him with a common slur, repeating a derogatory term often used to refer to undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Living as an undocumented immigrant puts Geraldo in a vulnerable position, isolating him from his family back home and limiting his socioeconomic opportunities. The language barrier further exacerbates Geraldo’s marginalization, preventing him from being able to advocate for himself effectively.

The prejudice against immigrants and the resulting socioeconomic insecurities also contribute to a sense of shame for many. In describing Geraldo, the narration refers to him as, “Just another brazer who didn’t speak English. Just another wetback. You know the kind. The ones who always look ashamed.” 

While it is clear that the narrator does not actually feel this way about Geraldo, she makes the statement to illustrate the common social perceptions surrounding undocumented immigrants. People like Geraldo are not able to live their lives confidently and openly. Instead, they must work grueling jobs for low wages and avoid drawing too much attention to themselves for fear of being discovered and deported.

Empathy and Connection

Marin’s decision to remain by Geraldo’s side until his death represents a small triumph of empathy and connection over the forces of dehumanization and isolation. Geraldo is functionally a stranger to Marin—“just someone she danced with. Somebody she met that night.” She does not owe him her compassion or loyalty, and she has concerns about how she is going to explain being out so late to her own family. 

However, Marin also seems to recognize that she is the only person available to advocate for Geraldo in the face of systemic prejudice and dehumanization. In addition to Marin’s behavior, the narrative style also infuses Geraldo’s story with rich detail that humanizes the man and sparks empathy in readers:

What does it matter?

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?

His name was...

(This entire section contains 712 words.)

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Geraldo. And his home is in another country. The ones he left behind are far away, will wonder, shrug, remember. Geraldo—he went north . . . we never heard from him again.

The idea of worth is raised multiple times, with Geraldo’s death being dismissed as a “shame” and Marin questioning “why it mattered.” However, the narration provides a definitive answer to the question of why Geraldo’s story matters: because he was a person. Although he died far from home in relative anonymity, there are people in the world who know him and care about what happened to him.

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