'Mexican Movies': An Exploration of Childhood Cinema Experiences
'Mexican Movies' is a prose-poetic short story from Sandra Cisneros' collection of stories, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories, published in 1991. The story revolves around a young Chicana girl's recollections of going to the local movie theater with her parents and baby brother, Kiki.
Like many of Cisneros' works, 'Mexican Movies' blurs the line between prose and poetry, offering readers a glimpse into the narrator's experiences. Before delving into an analysis of the story's meaning, let's first provide a summary of its details.
Plot Summary: A Cinematic Journey
The story is narrated by a young girl who vividly recalls her Saturday trips to the local cinema with her parents and younger brother. She begins by mentioning a film featuring Pedro Armendáriz, a renowned Mexican actor. In the film, Armendáriz portrays a rather foolish character who falls in love with his boss's wife, leading to complications.
When the film reaches a racy scene where the character begins undressing his love interest, the narrator's father gives his children some money and sends them to the cinema lobby until the scene passes. The narrator vividly describes the cinema lobby, adorned with velvet curtains and a rope that demarcates a restricted area.
The young girl and her brother utilize their quarters to purchase candy from the vending machine in the ladies' restroom. Additionally, there is a counter in the foyer where they can buy more sweet treats. The narrator suggests that keeping the empty jujube candy box allows one to mimic the sound of a braying donkey during the film. This practice is so common that others often respond with their own jujube boxes, playfully braying in response.
The narrator expresses a preference for the films featuring Pedro Infante, an actor known for surviving numerous escapades in his movies by singing a cheerful song that concludes each film. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Kiki, enjoys running up and down the aisles. As the older sibling, the narrator is entrusted with the responsibility of looking after Kiki.
Occasionally, a child may climb onto the stage, casting a silhouette against the cinema screen, eliciting laughter from the audience. If a baby starts crying, someone calls for the child to be removed from the cinema, as expressed by the phrase '¡Qué saquen a ese niño!' If Kiki cries, the narrator has to take him outside.
The narrator describes the enticing aroma of popcorn wafting through the cinema and reveals that they are allowed to buy some and enjoy it. The siblings imitate the actions of the clown depicted on the popcorn box. The story concludes with the narrator stating her fondness for Mexican movies, noting that even if a film is dull, it provides a peaceful experience where she and her brother curl up in their seats and fall asleep. Their parents then pick them up and carry them home to bed, so they wake up on a happy Sunday.
Childhood Nostalgia and the Joy of Cinema
'Mexican Movies' captures the nostalgia and innocence of childhood cinema experiences. Cisneros masterfully portrays the joy and excitement of going to the movies, particularly those featuring Mexican actors and themes. The story showcases the narrator's affection for specific actors like Pedro Armendáriz and Pedro Infante, who represent familiar faces in the cinematic world.
The story also touches upon the playful interactions and camaraderie among the moviegoers, such as the shared braying sounds created with jujube boxes. The narrator's role as the responsible sibling tasked with looking after Kiki highlights the dynamics of family and the importance of care within the context of a communal cinema experience.
Through sensory descriptions, Cisneros invites readers to imagine the sights, sounds, and aromas of the movie theater, such as the velvet curtains, the popcorn smell, and the anticipation of purchasing treats. The story emphasizes the escapism that cinema offers, providing respite and tranquility, even in the face of a less engaging film.
'Mexican Movies' captures the magic of childhood memories tied to the shared experience of cinema, showcasing the power of storytelling to transport and comfort individuals, ultimately culminating in a contented and happy Sunday morning.
'Mexican Movies': Exploring Family Togetherness and Cultural Stereotypes
In 'Mexican Movies,' two prominent themes emerge that contribute to the overall analysis of the story. Firstly, the narrative emphasizes the importance of family unity and contentment. The tradition of attending these movies together on Saturdays becomes a cherished family affair, filled with simple yet significant pleasures. The ritual concludes with the children being lovingly carried home by their parents, experiencing a peaceful and blissful Sunday morning. Despite the quirks and idiosyncrasies of individual family members, the overall atmosphere portrays a sense of harmony and joy.
The second theme, introduced through the story's title and opening paragraph, revolves around the portrayal of stereotypical roles within Mexican cinema. The films featuring Pedro Armendáriz often depict his character engaging in ill-advised romantic relationships, leading to scenes where he undresses women. Conversely, Pedro Infante embodies a more wholesome persona, avoiding the undressing of female characters while frequently singing and riding horses. Women typically serve as supporting characters and romantic interests, occasionally providing titillation for adult viewers.
Through the innocent perspective of the young narrator, these 'Mexican movies' appear charming and innocent. However, within the broader context of Woman Hollering Creek, Sandra Cisneros subtly satirizes the limitations of Mexican cinema in challenging cultural stereotypes. References to Infante's character frequently wearing a 'big sombrero' serve as clear indications of the confined roles depicted. While the young narrator remains unaware of the extent to which these roles are restrictive, Cisneros reveals their limitations through her summaries of plotlines and character archetypes.
A clever visual symbol employed by Cisneros underscores the intersection between the fictional movie world and the real world inhabited by the narrator and her family. The narrator describes the laughter that ensues when a child climbs on stage, casting a double silhouette against the screen. This image implies that the movie characters are shadows or reflections of real-life figures, or perhaps that the moviegoers themselves are shadows or imitations of what they see on screen.
This intrusion of the real world into the realm of Mexican movies further accentuates how these films reinforce existing societal roles, particularly gender roles. Notably, when Kiki cries, the father refuses to act, considering it beyond his 'role' as a father to care for the baby while engrossed in a movie. With the mother immobilized by her fear of rats, it falls upon the daughter to assume the mother's role and pacify the baby.
Through these themes and symbolic elements, 'Mexican Movies' explores the dynamics of family, societal expectations, and the perpetuation of cultural stereotypes within the realm of cinema.