Character Analysis Ixchel" ("One Holy Night")


Most of the narrators of the "Woman Hollering Creek" stories are named in the stories; the exceptions are one who seems to be a middle-aged woman, in "Anguiano Religious Articles," an elderly man in "Los Boxers," the child-narrators of "My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn," "Mexican Movies," and "Barbie-Q" — and "Ixchel," the narrator of "One Holy Night," who is in some ways herself a child, in others an ageless woman, representative of some mystical and mythical female principle. The only name by which she identifies herself in the story is that given her by her beloved, Boy Baby, who says his own true name is "Chaq Uxmal Paloquín" and that he is chosen to be the father of a boy who will restore the ancient glory of the Maya people.

Of course, as "Ixchel" and her grandmother learn from Boy Baby's sister, a Carmelite nun, her lover is a man almost 40 years old with no Mayan blood, an accused murderer of women. Seen from her grandmother's point of view, "Ixchel" is a very young girl who has been taken advantage of by a bad man; the grandmother blames not her but her lover — and her uncle Lalo, who ought to have been working on Saturdays himself so that his niece would not have been exposed to the evils that can overcome a girl on the city streets. "Ixchel's" own mother was similarly taken advantage of and was sent to the United States to have her baby, who seems to have been raised from birth by this grandmother. She has been brought up in a very traditional, old-fashioned (but seemingly not terribly strict) — and loving — Mexican style, against which she seems not to have rebelled at all, despite the fact that she is a young teenager living in Chicago. At 13 or 14, her voice is that of a rather sweet, simple-hearted (but not simple-minded) child. When her grandmother takes her out of school, she is happy to be staying home, learning to do fancy crocheting.

In another way, however, "Ixchel" is a woman grown. She knows the secret of sex, which to her is both "no big deal" and the great difference of her life. She identifies with all women and speaks to her curious little cousins in Mexico as if they were inhabitants of another world, light-years away from hers. She has been different from other girls all along, which is why she did not want to lose her virginity in an alley or some car; now she is, ironically, both different from other women and the same as all women, for she has accepted the mythical truth given her by her lover — and she knows that "life will always be hard."

"Ixchel's" very traditional upbringing may have contributed to her childlike simplicity, but her simplicity in turn is probably what has allowed her to be content with that upbringing. She has no difficulty accepting what Boy Baby says as the truth — even after she has learned that in an ordinary sense it is not true at all. This acceptance of two "truths" at once seems to be related to her acceptance of her lover's unconventional approach to time, according to which past and future and present are all in some way the same thing. She accepts these things without understanding them, nor does she feel any need to understand them on an intellectual level. This may be what protected her from Boy Baby, for if he is rightly accused of multiple killings, he certainly had every opportunity to kill "Ixchel" when she went with him to his apartment, when he wept and showed her an entire arsenal of guns and knives. Perhaps he recognized her as an inhabitant of a mythical world. And, indeed, the world she inhabits is one that rejects logic. Her world is one of love, which she sees not as romance nor as sexual pleasure but instead as a kind of atmosphere within which she exists, breathing it in and out like the man (significantly, a "crazy") who went around always with a harmonica in his mouth, making a kind of monotonous music with his breath.

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