Woman Hollering Creek

by Sandra Cisneros

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What does the arroyo symbolize, and why is crossing the bridge significant in Woman Hollering Creek?

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The arroyo is a manifestation, in Cleofilas's life, of the la llorona story of a woman who has killed her children and whose weeping, in Mexican folklore, is said to be heard coming from the creek in which she has drowned them. But Cisneros takes the meaning of this legend and inverts it, transforming its negativity and the theme of a woman's victimization into a positive symbol of a woman's freedom. The arroyo represents this freedom in the escape Cleofilas makes from her abusive husband with the help of Felice, who celebrates by hollering, evidently out of happiness (as her name, "Felice," suggests), as the women cross the stream in Felice's pickup truck.

Not only is the creek being crossed, but Cleofilas is returning to her native Mexico from Texas. This may not be the most important element in the symbolism of the arroyo, but the abuse her husband has inflicted upon her is perhaps an analogue to the discrimination and prejudice directed against Mexican Americans. We see a kind of intersection of different types of negativity in Cleofilas's marriage: the physical abuse, plus the separation from her own family she experiences as well as the separation from her native country. Even the absence of the telenovelas mexicanas that formed such an important part of her cultural experience in Mexico is a sign of her alienation in the United States, and the crossing of the arroyo is a triumph for her, given the restoration of freedom to Cleofilas that is accomplished with Felice's help.

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