One Holy Night; My Tocaya
The speaker in "One Holy Night" is an eighth-grade girl living in Chicago with her grandmother and uncle, immigrants from Mexico. She tells the events of the story in past tense: She was selling fruits and vegetables from a pushcart on Saturdays, and she fell in love with one of her customers, known on the street as Boy Baby, who told her his name was Chaq Uxmal Paloquín and that he was descended from Mayan kings. He lived in a room above the garage where he worked, and in a few weeks, she went there with him. He showed her many weapons, and they made love. When she went home that night, she forgot to bring the pushcart and made up a story about its being stolen. She was not allowed to leave the house then, and by the time her grandmother learned the truth, Boy Baby had left. Then the narrator found that she was pregnant. They learned Boy Baby had a sister who was a nun in Mexico; the sister did not know his whereabouts but revealed that his real name was Chato (meaning "fat-face") and that he was from a poor peasant family with no Mayan blood. The narrator's grandmother sent her to cousins in Mexico to have her baby; while still waiting for its birth, she has learned that her beloved was recently arrested for the serial killing of women.
Another teen-aged girl, Patricia Chávez, is the narrator of "My Tocaya," set in San Antonio. This girl tells the story of another Patricia, slightly younger, who went missing at the age of 13. The family of the missing girl advertised for her to no avail; then a body found in a ditch was identified as hers. Soon after the funeral, however, Patricia Benavídez appeared and announced that she wasn't dead; her family had identified the wrong girl.
Here the simplicity of the child's vision and emotion gives way to the complexity of adolescence in the relative complexity of these stories, in which the themes are love and sex, birth and death, truth and lies.
The two narrators, "Ixchel" (the Mayan name her lover gives her; she is never otherwise identified) and Patricia Chávez, present themselves in very different voices, the one serious and traditional, the other flip and hard-edged; they are responding in different ways to the knowledge of sexual love and betrayal, of women's vulnerability, and of death.
For "Ixchel," there are two realities, one sacred and one profane, and she has chosen the sacred one with its mythic truths. Her sexual initiation is her initiation into this sacred world and has nothing to do with pleasure or the social choices that concern, for example, Patricia Chávez. "Ixchel" seems to sense intuitively a connection between love and death, grief and joy. The reader may wonder, but she does not, why "Chaq" shows her knives and guns but does not kill her as he apparently has killed other young women. In the conventional, ordinary world, there is no resolution to her story — or rather, there is the same resolution as her mother found: "Ixchel" will raise her baby and go on with her life, with no one but her friends Rachel and Lourdes knowing her secret and probably understanding it as imperfectly as the reader does. In the world of the sacred, "Ixchel" will go on believing the truth of what "Chaq" told her and of what happened to her on that "holy night." In the ordinary, profane world, her story is ridiculous, she was amazingly lucky, and her lover is probably insane; in the sacred world, the world that she and "Chaq" believe in, which is outside time, everything is happening as fate dictates.
Patricia Chávez lives in a world in which nothing out of the ordinary has happened to her; the "death and resurrection" of her tocaya (the other Patricia), which she reports, is merely a stupid mistake, a nine-day wonder for the papers and television. The fact that the mistake was made at all suggests that Patricia Benavídez's parents are careless and that the girl will probably run away again, tired of working in her father's taco shop and tired of being beaten. Patricia Chávez is not really concerned.
But by the magic of naming, which Patricia C. acknowledges in calling Patricia B. her tocaya, or namesake, the two are doubles (like Poe's William Wilson and his nameless double). The dead girl, too, is another double (a triple?), for she has no name until Patricia B.'s parents "name" her by mistake. That means that, on a symbolic level, what happens to one happens to all three. In one sense, Patricia B. has died and returned to life, as has her tocaya, Patricia C.; in another sense, both of them are as bereft of life as the third girl, the one found in a ditch. The sacred and profane exist side by side in this story, too, but here the sacred world — the world of religion, of death and resurrection — is reduced to empty "theology" talks like "Heavy Metal and the Devil" that Patricia Chávez rightly derides, without knowing of anything more meaningful.
While "Ixchel," in the previous story, has an intuitive faith in the mythos of her parents' culture (the "truth" told her by "Chaq") to sustain her, Patricia B. (and by extension her tocaya, the narrator here) must resort to a phony British accent and the pseudo-sophistication of U.S. teen culture to escape the unhappiness of her family life — an escape that (by extension) the third girl failed of achieving. And while "Chaq's" lies to "Ixchel" represent (at least to him and her) something mythically truer than the facts, Patricia B.'s parents' lies to the media (ironically saying essentially the same thing "Chaq" says: "She was my little princess") are so shamelessly untrue that Patricia C. doesn't even bother to identify them as lies.
"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.
Tikal, Tulum, Chichén Ancient cities of the Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula.
dar a luz have a baby; give birth (literally, "give light," in the sense of bringing an infant into the light, giving birth).
Alegre Cheerful, happy, lighthearted.
tocaya a namesake, or another person who shares one's name.
Dolorosa and Soledad street names; they translate as sorrow and solitude.
Y te quiero mucho and I love you very much.
Virgencita, Cuídala Blessed Virgin, Watch Over Her