There are green-eyed Mexicans. The rich blond Mexicans. The Mexicans with the faces of Arab sheiks. The Jewish Mexicans. The big-footed-as-a-German Mexicans. The leftover-French Mexicans. The chaparrito compact Mexicans. The Tarahumara tall-as-desert saguaro Mexicans. The Mediterranean Mexicans. The Mexicans with Tunisian eyebrows. The negrito Mexicans of the double coasts. The Chinese Mexican. The curly-haired, freckle-faced, red-headed Mexicans. The Lebanese Mexicans. Look, I don't know what you're talking about when say I don't look Mexican. I am Mexican. Even though I was born on the U.S. side of the border.
Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cultural References in "You Bring Out the Mexican in Me"

As I was analyzing this poem, I found I didn't understand many of the references Cisneros made. Here's a quck glossary!

lagrímas: tears

Dolores del Río: a Mexican actress from the Golden Age of movies, known for her exotic beauty and refined demeanor

navajas: pocket knives

mariachi: a group of Mexican musicians, usually composed of a trumpet and various string instruments

obsidian: a black, hard volcanic glass formed by rapid cooling of lava, often found in Mexico

berrinchuda, bien-cabrona: essentially, a bitch with a temper

Mexico City '85 earthquake: a reference to two massive earthquakes (8.1 and 7.5) that hit Mexico City in the span of two days; the death toll was estimated from 5,000 to 10,000 lives

Popocatepetl: "Smoking Mountain," an Aztec name given to the active volcano located SW of Mexico City

Ixtaccíhuatl: "Sleeping Woman," an Aztec name for a volcano close to Popocateptl

Agustín Lara: a twentieth century Mexican singer and songwriter; Gutierrez y Muhs calls him a "perfect example of impossible, nostalgic love, a 'sufrido'" (26)

barbacoa taquitos: barbecued tacos

Me sacas lo mexicana en mi: “You bring out the Mexican in me”

Uled-Nayl: a dance performed by Arab harem women, notably in Algeria

Flecha Roja mountain disaster: I couldn’t find an explanation of this one, but the people of Flecha Roja are very proud of their autobuses!

¡Alarma! : Caution!

Tlazoltéotl: an Aztec goddess who represented sexual impurity and sinful behavior; she was an important and complex earth-mother goddess.

Piñón: a pine seed

Copal: a resin of recent or fossil origin, obtained from various tropical trees and used in certain varnishes

Virgen de Guadalupe: patron saint of Mexico

Coatlicue: Aztec Earth Goddess of life and death

Quiero ser tuya: “I want to be yours”

Quiero amarte: “I want to love you”

Atarte: “to bind you”

Amarrarte: “I want to tie you to me”


  1. With regards to the The Flecha Roja, here's your explanation:

    1. Alexandra, thank you for the work of listing the other references in the poem! I'm sure they'll be insightful once I've read it in full with your references!