One holy night

The speaker in “One Holy Night” is an eighth-grade girl living in Chicago with her grandmother and uncle, immigrants from Mexico. She tells the events of the story in past tense: She was selling fruits and vegetables from a pushcart on Saturdays, and she fell in love with one of her customers, known on the street as Boy Baby, who told her his name was Chaq Uxmal Paloquín and that he was descended from Mayan kings. He lived in a room above the garage where he worked, and in a few weeks, she went there with him. He showed her many weapons, and they made love. When she went home that night, she forgot to bring the pushcart and made up a story about its being stolen. She was not allowed to leave the house then, and by the time her grandmother learned the truth, Boy Baby had left. Then the narrator found that she was pregnant. They learned Boy Baby had a sister who was a nun in Mexico; the sister did not know his whereabouts but revealed that his real name was Chato (meaning “fat-face”) and that he was from a poor peasant family with no Mayan blood. The narrator’s grandmother sent her to cousins in Mexico to have her baby; while still waiting for its birth, she has learned that her beloved was recently arrested for the serial killing of women.

Another teen-aged girl, Patricia Chávez, is the narrator of “My Tocaya,” set in San Antonio. This girl tells the story of another Patricia, slightly younger, who went missing at the age of 13. The family of the missing girl advertised for her to no avail; then a body found in a ditch was identified as hers. Soon after the funeral, however, Patricia Benavídez appeared and announced that she wasn’t dead; her family had identified the wrong girl.


Here the simplicity of the child’s vision and emotion gives way to the complexity of adolescence in the relative complexity of these stories, in which the themes are love and sex, birth and death, truth and lies.

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