“When one is confronted by the mirror, the spirit trembles.”—The Mixquiahuala Letters


“Multiple Spaces, Intertextualities and Mexico

Her first poems published in chapbooks and then in a fuller selection as Women are Roses, Ana Castillo, taking a route that Sandra Cisneros would replicate just a few years later, proceeded to write and publish her first novel, The Mixquiahuala Letters.[1]

However this text, unlike the first books of fiction produced by Cisneros and so many other young writers (Joyce, Lawrence and Thomas Wolfe, as well Louisa May Walcott and Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin [My Brilliant Career] just to recall a few famous examples by Anglo women) did not tell the story of her childhood and coming of age; it was no bildungsroman or portrait of the artist. That identity story would come later, though not in a narrative volume but in her second full-scale collection of poems, My Father was a Toltec. Rather than providing poetic vignettes by an adolescent girl whose way of seeing and saying could win the hearts of thousands throughout the U.S., The Mixquiahuala Letters presents a series of letters written by one young Chicago Chicana woman, Teresa, to a New York-based woman friend, Alicia, describing their meeting and travels together as they seek to sort out their identity and come to terms with their lives…” –



“As would be true throughout her subsequent opus culminating thus far with Give it to Me, Castillo portrays a variety of spaces, above all in New Mexico as well as other southwestern and West Coast locales, but also in Paris, Madrid and Central America (or as she designates it, Sapagonia), all implicitly or more often explicitly contrasting, on the one hand with an idealized space, initially defined as “my country” and with the far from ideal nitty-gritty Chicago which we may readily see as the central world of her opus — a fallen world indeed, full of all kinds of negative and potentially destructive dimensions but ultimately the key battleground for her most of her protagonists’ struggles for gender, ethnic, and artistic identity.”–Marc Zimmerman,

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