Here's To You, Jesusa! chronicles the life of Jesusa, a tough, argumentative, spirited, and
pragmatic Mexican women who was a young adult during the Revolution. The book is in her
voice, and she goes from one ordeal to the other, always managing to come out on top, no
matter how challenging. She is very poor and doesn't settle down anywhere for long, so the
book skips around quite a bit. This made it hard to read-- it didn't hold together very well for
me, and I skimmed through some of it, and eventually stopped reading with 70 pages left.
I understand that Poniatowska was trying to capture an authentic poor Mexican woman's
voice, but I would have like a bit more self examination into how all these events shaped the
woman Jesusa was. (For example, the death of her mother when she was young, her father
inability to stay in one place for long, an abusive step-mother.) It's all descriptive, but not
The book starts out with a forward by the middle class woman who supposedly finds Jesusa
somehow and then spends years interviewing her and learning her story, and who then writes
a book about her life. I loved this part and would have liked to see more interplay between
the "author" voice and Jesusa.
It's about a poor woman who lived in hard times, accompanying her soldier husband to the
Mexican Revolution of 1910-1917. The war in the north of Mexico is terrible. They have
accumulated some money and he sends her to Mexico City with a suitcase full of cash. When
she arrives in the city, the money has disappeared and she walks the streets until she can find
a job as a servant.
Elena Poniatoska gives voice to the voiceless; in
Here's to You, Jesusa!
she captures the
experiences of Jesusa Palencares -- an impoverished Mexican woman, formerly a
married to an important Mexican revolutionary, and throughout her life
tough as nails
Jesusa's own words. Do not confuse what she has done, here, with what ghost writers have
done for Sarah Palin, Laura Bush and a number of other well-knowns whose memoirs are
refined by a literary hand. Like Cuba's Miguel Barnet, Poniatowska is a collector of historical
testimony. She dares us to read Jesusa's reflections and declare them any less authoritative or
valuable than the historical records collected in textbooks. (Whether "Jesusa Palencares" or
"Elena Poniatowska" should be credited as "author" is a debate I'll let more qualified people
undertake.) In the past couple years I've read more than I would ever have wanted about the