Little Miracles, Kept Promises by Sandra Cisneros

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Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“Little Miracles, Kept Promises” is a catalog of Cisneros’s strengths and appeals as a fiction writer. The collection of notes left at saints’ shrines may recall the letters of Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts (1933), but the tone of these is more consistently comic, showing well the witty and humorous side of Cisneros that appears in many of her stories and poems. For example, Barbara Ybañez threatens to turn the statue of San Antonio de Padua upside down until he sends her “a man man. I mean someone who’s not ashamed to be seen cooking or cleaning or looking after himself.”

Rubén Ledesma somewhat reluctantly, yet desperately, appeals to San Lázaro, who was “raised from the dead and did a lot of miracles,” to help him deal with his “face breaking out with so many pimples.” These letters are especially rich in the variety of voices and tones they present, from the devout who speak to their saint as a friend, to the pious who lapse into almost meaningless formulas, to the inexperienced who are uncomfortable addressing a person they do not know personally, to the irreverent and skeptical.

These many voices lead finally to that of a young woman, Rosario, who has cut off a braid of hair that has never before been cut and pinned it by the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Rosario is an image of Cisneros, the young Latina artist rebelling against the restrictive roles of women in her culture, especially as they have been reinforced by the massive cultural authority of the Catholic Church. She says that she has resisted religious belief until her discovery that the Virgin is not simply a passive sufferer but also one manifestation of woman as goddess, the powers of fertility, healing, creative energy. This discovery made it possible for Rosario to love the Virgin, to stop being ashamed of her mother and grandmother, and, finally, to love herself.

Of Rosario, Cisneros said, “That’s me. . . . I’m very, very much devoted to the Virgin of Guadalupe, but not exactly the same figure celebrated in Church.”

Summary

(Short Stories for Students)

Letters 1–4
The first note in ‘‘Little Miracles, Kept Promises’’ is from the Arteaga family, who thank the Virgin for protecting them when the bus they were riding in crashed. Next, a couple writes from San Angelo with thanks for the divine help their son-inlaw received after his truck was stolen. This is followed by an appeal from a poor family, who lost their possessions in a fire, for clothes, furniture, shoes and dishes. As a contrast, the next request is from a young San Antonio woman who asks for help in finding an acceptable man to marry. She swears there are none in Texas.

Letters 5–8
A brief note appeals for help in getting a wellpaid job; a grandmother begs for intervention on behalf of her young granddaughter who has kidney cancer. Gertrudis Parra from Uvalde asks for peace and prosperity, and also that the demons who are blocking her path might be removed. A one-line note from a woman asks that she may be taught how to love her husband again.

Letters 9–12
Moises Ildefonso Mata of San Antonio addresses the Seven African Powers that surround the savior. He asks them to be good to him and allow his Illinois lottery ticket to win and to protect him from the evil eye of the envious. A man appeals for help in getting his employer to pay him the wages he is owed for two weeks’ work. His family in Mexico depends on the money he sends them. Victor A. Lozano of Houston thanks Saint Sebastian for answering his prayers. Rubén Ledesma, a girl from Hebbronville, Texas, leaves a note addressed to ‘‘San Lázaro,’’ the man who was raised from the dead by Jesus (a reference to the story in the New Testament). She wants help in preventing pimples from breaking out on her face.

Letters 13–18
Teresa Galindo of Beeville, Texas, reports of a previous visit she made to the shrine with her mother, sister, and two aunts. They prayed for assistance with a variety of problems, but Teresa was the only one...

(The entire section is 1,182 words.)