Abuelita Grandma; affectionate diminutive of abuela, grandmother. (Unless otherwise noted, non-English words here are Spanish.)
abuelito (Spanish) a familiar diminutive of abuelo (grandfather).
Adiós y suerte Goodbye and good luck.
Alegre Cheerful, happy, lighthearted.
Amar es Vivir To Love is to Live.
"¡Ay, caray!" (Spanish) an expression of exasperation, something like "Damn it!" or "Oh, for heaven's sake!"
ayúdame Help me.
babushka a headscarf folded into a triangle and tied under the chin.
barrancas deep gorges, precipices.
caciques landowners; the political bosses or leaders.
campesino a small farmer; a peasant.
carne guisada meat stew.
carnitas barbequed pork.
chachalaca a pheasant (any bird flying into a house is an omen of death).
chanclas (Spanish) plural of chancla, a type of open shoe.
chaparritos short people.
churros long donuts.
cielito de mi corazón an affectionate phrase; literally, "little sky of my heart."
comadres (Spanish) women friends, girlfriends (to another woman).
"¿Cuándo?" (Spanish) "When?"
Cuidate Take care.
"cumbias, salsas, . . . rancheras . . . ." Latin dances fashionable in the middle 1960s.
curandero medicine man; folk healer.
dar a luz have a baby; give birth (literally, "give light," in the sense of bringing an infant into the light, giving birth).
De poeta y loco todos tenemos un poco We all have a little of a poet and a crazy person in us.
Dolorosa and Soledad street names; they translate as sorrow and solitude.
double-dutch or "double Dutch"; a children's game of jump rope in which two turners swing two ropes simultaneously in a crisscross pattern for the person jumping.
el baile de los viejitos the dance of the elders.
el porvenir the future.
"Engine, engine number nine . . . ." a very old jump-rope rhyme.
"¿entiendes? Pues" "Do you understand, then?"
está muerto (Spanish) he is dead.
fanfarrón a braggart; a showoff.
for no fulanita for some nobody.
45 records seven-inch recorded vinyl disks to be played on a phonograph at 45 rpm (rotations per minute); each usually has a three-to-four minute song recorded on each side.
frijoles cooked beans; refried beans.
fuchsia a purplish-red color.
Híjole equivalent to "Wow" or "Geez!" in English.
huipil a traditional hand-embroidered blouse.
"I wanted you bare-breasted, snakes in your hands . . . ." The speaker, Chayo, is here referring to a famous image of the Mother Goddess from the ancient bronze-age Minoan culture of Crete (c. 3000-c. 1100 b.c.).
jacales small farm houses.
jaripeos shows similar to rodeos, with demonstrations of horsemanship.
Joan Crawford an American movie actress, most popular in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
kitchenettes i.e., "efficiency" apartments; small apartments consisting basically, apart from a bathroom, of a single room with a kitchenette.
La Basílica de Nuestra Señora The Basilica of Our Lady.
la consentida the favorite (in the sense of favorite child, somewhat spoiled).
"La Cucuracha Apachurrada" "The Squashed Cockroach."
La madre tierra que nos mantiene y cuida Mother earth who watches over us and supports us.
la ofrenda box offering box.
La Virgen de Guadalupe The Virgin of Guadalupe, i.e. St. Mary, mother of Jesus, as she appeared miraculously to Juan Diego in 1531 on the hill of Tepeyac near this church.
lárgate get out.
Lisandra A feminine variation of Alessandro (Alexander); Esperanza's choice here is arguably "stronger" than the name her parents gave her, derived from a Greek name meaning literally "defender of men"; it is also suggestive of Alexander the Great (356-323 b.c.), a famous Macedonian king and military conquerer. Also, like Magdalena (which can be shortened to "Nenny"), but unlike Esperanza, Lisandra can be shortened to a nickname — Sandy or Sandra.
los amores de la calle literally, "loves of the street"; streetwalkers, hookers.
los espíritus (Spanish) the spirits.
Madame Butterfly a character in the opera Madama Butterfly, by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924).
Malinche (also Malinalli, Malintzin, "Doña Marina") historically, an Aztec woman, sold by her people as a slave to the Maya and later given as a gift to the conquistador Hernando Cortés; as Cortés' mistress, she played a huge role in the defeat of the Aztec empire by the Spanish, acting as interpreter and convincing the ruler Moteczoma (Montezuma II) to surrender. Malinche has been regarded as a traitor to her own people, although it is suggested that she acted out of revenge for their having sold her into slavery and also that by persuading the emperor to surrender she saved many lives; here (in "Never Marry a Mexican") Clemencia and her lover use her name playfully apparently in reference to their different skin colors, but the name has a cutting edge when one recalls that Malinalli's other name, Malinche, is used to mean a betrayer of her people.
"Mamasota" "Big mama," emphasizing the woman's obesity.
marimbas plural of marimba, a musical instrument resembling the xylophone.
Marlon Brando an American movie actor, first popular in the 1950s.
"Me abandonaste, . . . el amor de Dios" "You abandoned me, woman, because I'm very poor, / And for having the disgrace of being married. / What am I to do if I am the Abandoned One, / Abandoned I shall be, for the love of God." (From "El Abandonado" [by Jesus Martínez].)
"Me estoy muriendo/ y tú, como si nada . . . " (epigram to the section) "I'm dying / and you don't even care el"; from "Puñalada Trapera" by Tomás Méndez Sosa, sung by Lola Beltrán.
"Me importas tú, y tú, y tú/ y nadie más que tú" (epigram to the section) Only you matter to me, you, you / and no one else but you.
"Meme" Meme Ortiz's nickname seems to be derived from a Spanish word — "memo" — meaning a stupid person or a fool, or perhaps from "memez," stupidity.
merengue a fast dance that originated in the Dominican Republic.
metate grinding stone.
mi doradita my little brown girl.
Mi pedacito de alma desnuda My little piece of naked soul.
mi trigueño, . . . chulito . . . my dark one, . . . cute one . . . .
mi'jita affectionate term, shortening of mi hijita — my daughter.
mundo sin fin, amen world without end, amen.
nixtamal a mixture of ground corn and lime for making tortillas.
"Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente" Literally, "Eyes that don't see, heart that doesn't feel"; i.e., better not to know.
"One night a dog cried . . . ." a traditional harbinger of death; a bird flying into a house, too, is supposed to foretell a death in the house.
petate sleeping mat.
"Pretty, too, . . . " i.e., good to look at; in Latino dialects, "pretty" is an acceptable adjective to be applied to a young man.
"Pues, allá de los indios, quién sabe" "Well, must be from the Indians, who knows."
pulqueria a pulque bar (pulque is a fermented drink made from cactus juice).
¡Qué saquen a ese niño! Get that kid out of here!
"Qué vida" "What a life."
quedar bien make a good impression.
¿Quieres chicle? Want some gum?
Rapunzel a princess in a fairy tale of European origin, imprisoned by a witch; her hair is very long, and the prince who comes to call on her climbs up to her tower by means of her hair.
Regresa a Mi Return to Me; this is the name (and advertised effect) of a "magic" powder which Lupe has bought, she says, for the colorful design of its label.
Rip Van Winkle a character in a tale ("The Legend of Sleepy Hollow") by American writer Washington Irving (1783-1859).
salamander a limbed, tailed amphibian with a soft, moist skin.
sastreria seamstress; tailor.
"she wears dark nylons . . . ." style of dress and makeup that would have been considered sexually provocative.
"the sickness . . . ." Aunt Lupe's illness; apparently Esperanza is somewhat confused about whether her aunt was ill or injured in some sort of accident; what she says about her having been swimming, and the fact that she was paralyzed, suggests that Lupe contracted polio, relatively common in the 1950s and often spread through the use of swimming pools.
solteronas unmarried women.
sopa de fideo noodle soup.
"Soy infeliz" I'm unhappy.
Tahiti one of the Society Islands, in the South Pacific; perhaps Lucy (or whoever says this) is thinking about the Polynesian dances performed by Tahitians.
"También yo te quiero/ y te quiero feliz" (epigram to the section) I also love you / and want you happy.
tan chistoso. Muy bonachón, muy bromista so funny. Very good-natured, a real jokester.
tan tán the famous end to Mexican movies.
Te ofrezco este . . . . Adela O. "I offer you this photo of my children. Watch them, dear God, and if you take away the drinking of my son I promise I'll light candles. Help us with our bills, Lord, and that our income tax check may arrive soon so we can pay our bills. Give us a good life and please help our sons to change their ways. You who are so generous, listen to these requests that I ask of you with all my heart and all the faith of my soul. Have pity, my Lord. My name is Adela O.
"Te quiero" "I love you"; "I desire you."
tembleque (Spanish) a trembling fit; "the shakes" — i.e., delirium tremens.
Thank you por el milagro . . . . Thank you for the miracle of having me graduate from high school. Here I give you a picture of my graduation.
"that boy who is my cousin by first communion or something el" nonsense; "first communion" is what Catholics call the occasion on which a person first receives the sacrament of the Eucharist, usually as a child of about seven, so Esperanza is probably searching for a phrase here ("first cousin once removed," perhaps) and coming up with the wrong one, maybe suggested by the fact that she is at a party held in a church basement and celebrating a sacrament.
300 Spartans an American movie made in the 1950s about the Battle of Thermopylae (in the Persian War) where, in 480 b.c., a Persian army commanded by Xerxes destroyed a Spartan army led by Leonidas. The Spartans, who held the pass against tremendous odds, became an exemplum of bravery and physical courage.
Tikal, Tulum, Chichén Ancient cities of the Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula.
tlapaleria a hardware store.
tlapaléria a little lunch stand.
tocaya a namesake, or another person who shares one's name.
"Tres vicios . . . y enamorado . . . ." "Three vices I have, and they are deep-rooted in me: being a drunk, a gambler, and a lover." (Lyrics from El Abandonado ["The Abandoned One"], a popular song; see the Glossary for Part Four, later.)
ven a saludar come and say hello.
Venimos desde . . . . We come from very far away. Infinite thanks, Lord. Thanks for having listened to us.
"¿Verdad que me quieres, mi cariñito, verdad que sí?" "You love me, right, my love, isn't that so?"
Virgencita, Cuídala Blessed Virgin, Watch Over Her
Wáchale, muchacha Watch out, girl.
"The Walrus and the Carpenter" a "nonsense" poem from Through the Looking-Glass (a sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) by Lewis Carroll (1832-98).
The Waterbabies (really, The Water-Babies) a popular novel written for children, first published in 1863, by English novelist Charles Kingsley (1819-75).
Y te quiero mucho and I love you very much.
"Ya me voy ,/ ay te dejo en San Antonio" "Now I'm leaving, / O I leave you in San Antonio."
"Ya no. Es verdad que te adoro, pero más me adoro yo" "Not anymore. It's true I adore you, but I adore myself more."
Year of the Horse Chinese designation of a specific year within a 12-year cycle, used (like sun signs in Western astrological lore) to predict things about people born in those years. This pinpoints Esperanza's birth year as 1954.
¡zas! like voila! (an exclamation meaning "Behold! There it is!)