Variations on Mexican motherhood

By Jane Onstott

Sandra y Patty

America’s most famous Chicana writer, Sandra Cisneros, was born and raised in Chicago’s South Side of working-class parents. Immersed in “Americana” but surrounded by her spirited Latino family, Ms. Cisneros is uniquely qualified to discuss the Mexican-American experience, which one typically associates with the American Southwest. Both growing up in el barrio and visiting relatives in Mexico served as primary-source background material for her award-winning novel, The House on Mango Street (1984). This book — which deals with such important issues as ethnicity, family ties, personal power, misogyny and a young person finding her identity — is today required reading in schools and universities throughout the United States. This and her other successful books have sold millions of copies and been translated into many languages.

PEN Lecture Series season opener with Sandra Cisneros and Patricia Merrill
Tue, Jan 14, 6pm
Teatro Ángela Peralta
415-152-0614 or
100 pesos

The only daughter in a family of seven children, Ms. Cisneros had a strong bond with her mother. She reports that her latest book, Have You Seen Marie? helped her to “feel transformed by [her] mother’s death, to feel her presence rather than her absence.” Her relationship with her mother — and relationships among Mexican-American mothers and daughters in general — is the subject of her upcoming talk for the benefit of PEN San Miguel.

Sharing the podium and providing another perspective about Mexican mothers is San Miguel’s own Patricia Merrill Márquez. The architect, author, realtor, and B&B owner, known to many long-time San Miguel residents, is another type of “Mexican-American.” The daughter of a “Yankee” father and a Mexican mom from San Miguel, she experienced a truly bicultural upbringing that combined studies and life in both the eastern United States and Mexico. Merrill’s popular The Buen Provecho Book, ostensibly about Mexican food but in reality about everything Mexican, is a testimony to her mother, her mother’s family and its culture.

The speakers will touch on such topics as linguistics, cultural identity, ethnicity and feminism as they talk about their upbringings and experiences.

The conversation promises to be entertaining and engaging. Although PEN’s mission to promote literacy and freedom of expression around the world is a serious one, International Vice-President Lucina Kathmann says of the organization, “We don’t take things too seriously unless someone goes to jail.” The entrance fee of 100 pesos goes to support PEN’s work in Mexico and around the globe. Both authors will be available to sign their books, on sale at the end of the talk. Like last year, your ticket to the PEN talk will entitle you to a free glass of wine when you eat at Vívoli Restaurant next door after the show.


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