Woman Hollering Creek

by Sandra Cisneros

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Woman Hollering Creek Summary

Woman Hollering Creek” by Sandra Cisneros is the story of Cleófilas, a young Mexican woman who moves to Seguin, Texas, to be with her husband, Juan Pedro.

  • Cleófilas is quickly disillusioned by the reality of her life in Seguin, which is nothing like the fairy tale she had imagined.
  • She finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage, with a husband who is abusive and unfaithful.
  • Cleófilas eventually decides to leave Juan Pedro and return to Mexico, where she finds happiness and laughter once again.

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Last Updated September 19, 2023.

"Woman Hollering Creek" is a powerful story about domestic violence and female empowerment. It tells the story of a woman coming to terms with her shattered dreams and ultimately deciding to abandon her dreadful circumstances in hopes of a better life. "Woman Hollering Creek" was published in 1991 by Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros as part of the larger collection Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories.

The story is set in Seguin, Texas, a small town near the United States-Mexico border. As is evident in the story, the area has a unique cultural significance due to its blending of Mexican and American influences.

The story centers on Cleófilas, a young Mexican woman who marries Juan Pedro and moves to the United States, leaving behind her family and the familiarity of her Mexican hometown. However, Cleófilas soon discovers that her marriage is far from the perfect match she had hoped for. Juan Pedro reveals himself as an abusive, bitter, coarse, and neglectful husband.

Cleófilas yearns for passion in her life. She sees it all around her in songs, books, magazines, and TV. She thought her life would be like the women in the Spanish-language soap operas or telenovelas she watches. The fantasies of the life she wants have withered now that she lives in a boring town of gossips with a boorish and abusive husband.

Cleófilas thought her life would be like that, like a telenovela, only now the episodes got sadder and sadder.

The creek behind her house is called La Gritona, meaning the hollering woman. Cleófilas is fascinated by this meaning, but no one else seems to give it any thought. She sometimes identifies with the creek and wonders why such a beautiful place should be named for a crying woman. It reminds her of the Mexican legend of La Lorrona, a story in which an imbittered woman drowns her children.

La Llarona calling to her. She is sure of it. Cleofilas sets the baby's Donald Duck blanket on the grass. Listens. The day turning to night. The baby pulling up fistfuls of grass and laughing, La Llorona. Wonders if something as quiet as this drives a woman to the darkness under the trees.

Cleófilas finds little comfort from her neighbors Dolores and Soledad. These two women have lost all the men in their lives, but instead of recognizing their freedom and following their paths, they do little but remember "the men who had left either through choice or circumstance and would never come back." Even their names hold some special meaning relating to their sad state; Dolores comes from the Spanish word for pain and sorrow, and Soledad signifies solitude. In this way, their names accurately reflect their lonely and sad existence.

Contrast Dolores and Soledad to Graciela and Felice—two women with independence and careers. Respectively, their names signify blessings and happiness.

When Cleófilas is pregnant with her second child, she insists on going to the health clinic for a prenatal exam. Juan Perdo does not want to spend the money. He is also concerned that the doctors will see Cleófilas' bruises from the times he has beaten her. Cleófilas promises to make up a story that the bruises result from an accident.

However, Graciela, who works at the health clinic, sees the truth. In hushed tones, because Juan Pedro is in the next room, she calls Felice and enlists her help rescuing Cleófilas. The following day, Cleófilas and her child meet Felice, who drives them to the bus station so she can return to her family in Mexico.

Once in Felice's pickup truck, Cleófilas is amazed to learn about Felice's independence.

Everything about this woman, this Felice, amazed Cleófilas. The fact that she drove a pickup. A pickup, mind you, but when Cleófilas asked if it was her husband's, she said she didn't have a husband. The pickup was hers. She herself had chosen it. She herself was paying for it.

As they drive over La Gritona Creek, Felice shouts triumphantly. She explains that she likes that this creek is named for a woman and celebrates that by shouting. Soon, the two women are laughing as Cleófilas feels real hope and freedom for the first time in years.

Cleófilas might be considered a victim of circumstances in this story. She has little agency or control in her home and marriage. Not only does she spend her time serving her ungrateful husband, but she regularly endures his physical and emotional abuse. However, Cisneros ultimately portrays Cleófilas as a hero; she can finally escape her circumstances, which is shown to be an act of extreme bravery.

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