Here's to You, Jesusa!

by Elena Poniatowska

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

This novel/biography was published in Mexico in 1969 and straddles the line between fact and fiction. It was compiled and written by Elena Poniatowska based on a series of interviews with a woman known as Jesusa. The author tells us that Jesusa was born in Oaxaca and and lost her mother when she was young; she suffered a miserable childhood in desperate poverty and was sometimes tortured by her sadistic stepmother. Jesusa's father promised her to be married to a calvary captain, and although Jesusa was desperately unhappy with the arrangement, she went along with it, because she had no say in the matter. Her husband beat her almost daily, so it is almost a relief when he is killed after three years of marriage. Jesusa learns early on not to trust anyone. The author follows Jesusa to the slums of Mexico City, where she is stuck in a series of cheap, government-funded apartments. Jesusa knows that because she has never had the opportunity to get an education and because she is poor, she will likely never get out of the prison of the tenements. We read about Jesusa's run-ins with the police and the exhaustion she endures after long days of working menial jobs. Yet Jesusa is always determined to survive.

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