Palo Alto College welcomes Sandra Cisneros

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Sandra Cisneros speaking at Palo Alto College. Photo by Ryan Ibarra.

By Jasmine Treviño
Pulse Staff Reporter

On March 26, 2016, Sandra Cisneros gave a free public reading at Palo Alto College. Every one of the 450 seats in the auditorium was taken; the writer’s San Antonio homecoming had been anticipated for months.

Dr. Alma Perez, a novelist from Zapata, Texas, traveled to San Antonio to witness Cisneros’ reading.

“What she did was pave the way for us Chicano writers,” Perez said.

In her reading, Cisneros shared a story from “A House of My Own,” her memoir. The story she shared was of moments she had while living in San Antonio for more than 25 years. She explained her reasons for leaving, and many applauded as she shared her ambivalent views on San Antonio’s latest development projects.

The writer, a well-known activist for working-class residents, compared San Antonio’s expansion to the expansion of Chicago when she was growing up.

She said, “Developers push the poor out of their homes in order to upgrade the city, yet they forget to inform the poor and middle class that the upgrades aren’t for them.”

Cisneros’ classic “The House On Mango Street” [published in 1984] is now required reading in many schools. In a private interview after her reading, I asked Cisneros if she thought Latinas are headed in the right direction as far as believing they are more than housewives.

Cisneros answered, “In a world where Chicanitas are looking up to big titted and big assed Kim Kardashian as a role model, they must find out that most women don’t look like, dress, or have that kind of money. Our youth is getting a warped sense of what reality is.”

She considers this era a dark time, and she urges everyone to do more.

“You can do more by researching and finding out who you are as a person, so you can begin to wake up other people,” she said.

She believes our generation is worse off now than when she was in her twenties.

Cisneros, who is known for her feminist views, admits that when she was coming of age as a young woman, she wasn’t attracted to the Anglo-American Feminism movement. She explained that she couldn’t see herself in it.

“It wasn’t until I was older that I found out about women in Latin America; it was their feminism that shared the common interests that I was concerned about,” she said.

Being a working-class person of color, she didn’t see a reality in the white women’s movement, mostly because they were from a separate class. It wasn’t until she found other Latinas who shared her values that she really began to find her place in feminism. Through her research, she found her voice.

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Cisneros signing books for fan. Photo by Ryan Ibarra.

After Cisneros’ reading, the hallways of Palo Alto’s Performing Arts Center immediately began to fill up for her book signing, where an additional 100 people showed up. It was so packed that many thought they weren’t going to get their book signed by the author. Cisneros signed every book and posed for a photograph with every person who asked, including a homeless veteran.

“Sandra Cisneros was really nice. She provided a book that I could identify with growing up. Cisneros presents a more accurate representation of the American public school and fosters a positive attitude of non-normative American backgrounds,” said Andrew Prado, a student from Texas A&M-San Antonio.