My thesis discusses the ways in which Sandra Cisneros makes historical claims from a Chicana perspective by telling fictional family stories in Caramelo. Not only have Chicanas traditionally been marginalized ethnically by the Anglo mainstream, they have also suffered disenfranchisement as women in their own male-dominated cultural community. Both elements have contributed to the cultural silencing of Chicanas outside of domestic spaces, and particularly in historical discourse. Cisneros introduces storytelling as a means of empowering Chicanas through language that allows them to speak historically and still signify culturally. By telling stories from the site of the family, she ingeniously utilizes a culturally allotted authority over the domestic sphere to branch out and discuss historical issues as they inform the lives of her Chicana narrator's family members. Thus, she succeeds in breaking the traditions of her culture that would silence Chicanas while allowing them to maintain their cultural identities. Presenting her historical assertions through fiction allows Cisneros to avoid the pitfalls of post-Enlightenment epistemological modes in historical discourse, introduce new perspectives on historical events, and invite historical discussion rather than shutting it off. Because all historical accounts are narratives that have been constructed by biased individuals, history and story are essentially the same. Cisneros calls attention to this concept as she conflates history and story in her novel. Empirically minded historians of the past insisted on one true version of history and thus ignored "other" viewpoints. Fiction creates a new space for discussion that does not disregard alternative viewpoints because it does not pretend to be fact. In addition, Cisneros employs an abundance of Chicano pop cultural references in Caramelo to create a cultural mythology for the Chicano community. Chicanos are alienated by the mainstream cultures on both sides of the border, and thus they generally feel culturally invalidated. By invoking pop cultural forms, primarily the telenovela, Cisneros fosters collectivity among Chicanos who can all relate to the signs of pop culture, which makes itself available to everyone regardless of class, race, gender, or geographic position. She asserts new views of history through the lens of pop culture, and strengthens the ability of Chicanos to enter historical discourse by strengthening cultural cohesiveness. Cisneros is helping to redefine American literature by calling attention to at least one of the marginal voices that are rapidly becoming the center in the United States.



College and Department

Humanities; English



Date Submitted


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Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo, machismo, marianismo, feminism, history, fiction, popular culture, Chicana, storyteller, Latina, telenovela