The Mixquiahuala Letters

by Ana Castillo

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Castillo uses the epistolary style to present a first-person narrative of one woman’s meaningful friendship with another. Letters are a uniquely personal, informal medium in which Teresa conveys her most private thoughts to Alicia. Without this format, the reader would lose the depth of Teresa’s feelings for her dearest friend, since she is able to directly address them to her intended audience. This stylistic choice is also marked by the non-chronological organization of the letters, which requires the reader to piece together the timeline of the women’s lives.

In addition, Castillo uses frequent Spanish throughout the text. This includes familiar expressions, cultural terms, poems, songs, or commentary. The weaving of Spanish throughout the letters reflects the importance of Teresa’s Mexican-Indian heritage, as well as the women’s shared language other than English. While some of the words are translated for the reader by Teresa herself, a large majority are not. This creates another layer of authenticity, since Alicia would not need a translation, either. The origin of the women’s friendship also traces to Mexico, so the use of Mexican Spanish in the letters is also sentimental, to an extent.

The major motifs in the text are smoking/drinking and dancing. Teresa’s primary vices are tobacco use and alcohol consumption, while Alicia totally abstains from both. Throughout the text, Teresa makes frequent references to smoking and drinking, which she does for social enjoyment and recreation. Alicia, on the other hand, is associated with dancing. Movement is her preferred form of social relaxation, and Teresa mentions how dancing must make Alicia feel free and happy. The difference between these motifs highlights the fundamental difference between the women’s personalities: Teresa hides behind an assertive facade while Alicia hides behind a meek one. With her associated motif, each woman is able to break free from these constraints and feel free to be herself.

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