Kick start your day with a good breakfast

Hispanic Heritage Breakfast

on October 3, 2013

Buenos Dias! It’s high time I recognized Hispanic Heritage Month.

Here are those sour cream corn muffins again--corn is so universal.

Here are those sour cream corn muffins again–corn is so universal.

I’m re-reading Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street because she and I were born in Chicago just two years apart and we share a heritage, though our stories were lived out on either ends of Paulina Avenue.

Aunt Ber never wanted to leave her parents' apartment, something like this.

Aunt Ber never wanted to leave her parents’ apartment, something like this.

My father’s grandparents, the Hartkes, lived on the north side; this is not theirs in the 4800 block on Paulina, but maybe something like their apartment house. Their apartment was huge and very grand to five-year-old me. There was a vitrine filled with delicate china figurines and their dining room table seemed like it was a mile long.

When Sandra Cisneros wrote The House on Mango Street, she lived at 1814 N. Paulina Street.

She was there in "1980, in the down-at-the-heels Bucktown neighborhood before it's discovered by folks with money."

She lived there, she says, in “1980, in the down-at-the-heels Bucktown neighborhood before it’s discovered by folks with money.”

This is the real house on Mango Street, the address of which is actually the very workaday, not musical nor Hispanic, Campbell Street.

the real house on mango street

But what went on there between the generations, as Cisneros writes so beautifully, is what went on in my grandparents’ and great aunt’s house and in my house as I grew up: the elders wanted better for their children and rued the chances they missed.

“A Smart Cookie

I could’ve been somebody, you know? my mother says and sighs. She has lived in this city her whole life. She can speak two languages. She can sing an opera. She know how to fix a T.V. But she doesn’t know which subway train to take to get downtown. I hold her hand very tight while we wait for the right train to arrive.

She used to draw when she had time. Now she draws with a needle and thread, little knotted rosebuds, tulips made of silk thread. Someday she would like to go to the ballet. Someday she would like to see a play. She borrows opera records from the public library and sings with velvety lungs powerful as morning glories.

Today while cooking oatmeal she is Madame Butterfly until she sighs and points the wooden spoon at me. I could’ve been somebody, you know? Esperanza, you go to school. Study hard. That Madame Butterfly was a fool. She stirs the oatmeal. Look at my comadres. She means Izaura whose husband left and Yolanda whose husband is dead. Got to take care all your own, she says shaking her head.

Then out of nowhere:

Shame is a bad thing, you know. It keeps you down. You want to know why I quit school? Because I didn’t have nice clothes. No clothes, but I had brains.

Yup, she says disgusted, stirring again. I was a smart cookie then.”

Copyright 1984 by Sandra Cisneros


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