Courtship, Latin American style

Reading a book called “The Hacienda: My Venezuelan Years,” and though I don’t think it’s intended to be a comedic book at all, this part made me laugh, perhaps because it’s vaguely familiar.

“He said he would die if I didn’t marry him. He said it was my destiny. I was sixteen and I didn’t know then that it was an old cliché, as though, somewhere, there is a little latino lexicon of courtship which is learnt by heart in adolescence and then regurgitated to girl after girl.”

– Lisa St. Aubin de Teran


What have you been reading? Which literary quote made you stop to think or laugh lately?


  1. The very first Latin American novel I read was “One Hundred Years of Solitude” in college in 1987, and in the English translation. I knew about a dozen Spanish words at that time, so the original was out of the question. The novel made me stop and think about a quote from Ursula, the matriarch: “time runs in a circle.” There was the other one where, after the deluge in Macondo which lasted a number of years, the Arabs who had settled there were asked how they survived. They replied, “By swimming.” Finally, a character called Petra (feminine of Peter, the rock) was said to have an “Arab soul,” meaning that she was a survivor.

    Nothing funny yet, but I will remember something I read that made me laugh!

  2. There is something funny, which is not a literary quote, but resembles a piropo: while a student in Paris at the Sorbonne, I was five feet tall, weighed all of 100 lbs. and had every man 5’8″ and under (Chinese, North African, South American) after me. They would say, “I can’t live without you!” and “I’ll die if you reject me!”- to which I would reply, “I have to get back to school!”

    I know Alice Walker had a character called Nettie who hit the man who wanted to rape her (her sister Celie’s husband who had wanted to marry her in the first place) with a pile of school books and said that she had to go to school.

    Although it is not an example from Latin American literature, it shows how education can empower women.

  3. It is funny and corny — that quote.

    I am reading alot of books all at once (as usual), non-fiction about commercial food history, gardening and budgeting, child education conspiracies and a history book about Tutor England. Also I’m reading a novel aloud to the boys (very easy stuff). Oh, and an audio book in the car about trust-based selling techniques.

    It’s like I can’t stop switching channels even while reading!

  4. I got my degree in Latin/American and Chicano Literature and even though I had to read tons of books, reading them as homework takes something away from them. You simply don’t enjoy them as much since you have to read fast and over analyze them. I’ve been wanting to read a good Latin American book for pleasure for too long now! I need something fast and “fresh” that I can’t let go until I finish! Recommend me something amiga!!!!!!!

    • MJ – That’s super hard not knowing what you’ve read and what you like. You gotta give me more clues!

      Fast and fresh…hmmm… Honestly, some of the best fiction I’ve read the past couple years has been in YA (Young Adult) section. That’s where I always find the books that get me excited and I can’t put down. One of the most recent I read that fits that category is “Return To Sender” by Julia Alvarez.

      In adult fiction – if you never read “Caramelo” by Sandra Cisneros or “Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – I *love* both of those – they were difficult to put down!

      “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea was really unique – I loved the characters. “Mexican High” by Liza Monroy was a fun read. “The Madonnas of Echo Park” by Brando Skyhorse – another good one.

      I have a whole bunch of books I haven’t read yet that I really want to. I bet you will find something you like there!

      • The only ones I haven’t read are “Return to Sender”, “Into the Beautiful North”, and “Mexican High”.. I will definitely check them out!!!! Thanks!! I’m on Amazon as I type lol
        I like everything really, I’m no a picky reader. :) I’ve been digging into my big pile of unread books, sometimes I had to read a few chapters for school but wasn’t able to finish them. I started reading “Scandalosa!” by Michele Serros. I recommend that book and “Honey Blonde Chica” by the same author, they’re Young Adult reading but really good!!
        I used to do a “book of the month” thing at my blog, maybe I should start again!!!

  5. Tracy,

    Victor Villasenor has so many wonderful quotes in his autobiography BURRO GENIUS. Here’s one I love, “The beginning of all wisdom is to understand that you don’t know. To know is the enemy of all learning. To be sure is the enemy of wisdom.” A wonderful testament to how important it is to keep wonder alive and remain a “student.”

    Another, not from a Latino author, but from Alice Walker’s THE COLOR PURPLE, that I just finished, where Celie’s semi-estranged husband says when discussing the meaning of life, “I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, he say, the more, I love.”

    Loved this question! : )

  6. I haven’t read anything that I can think of recently, but one of my favorites when I was dating was, “If you don’t date and/or marry me and/or have my baby, I’m going to go back to Mexico/El Salvador/Guatemala/wherever I came from” I heard that one a lot.

  7. Our family is reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins. It’s made us laugh. Imagine our surprise to find out Jim Carey has made a movie about it that will come out this summer. I can’t wait to see if the kids will like the book or the movie better.

    I’m reading How Children Learn by John Holt. Love this book. It’s old, too, and he mentions bringing a typewriter into a class and observing the children’s reaction to it. So when we came across a typewriter at the thrift store, I bought it. ( I also remembered the cool typewriter Suegra brought you.) The kids were fascinated by it and it’s been played with nonstop.

  8. I need some “new” books to read. I always pull out my old ones and read them over and over. One of my favorite books is “Feel the Fear and Do it anyway” by Susan Jeffries.

    It talks about overcoming fear and basically “just doing it” after all is said and done, you wonder why you feared it to begin with (that is my short synopsis, but it’s really about lots more)

    I love this quote: “In all my life I have never heard a mother call out to her child as he/she goes off to school, “Take a lot of risks today, darling.” She is more likely to convey to her child, “Be careful, darling.” This “Be careful” carries with it a double message: ”The world is really dangerous out there” … and … “you won’t be able to handle it.”

    I see myself and others say that exact quote. My son knows he is never to say “I can’t”….. I’m trying not to say “Be careful” just in any situation, when I say it I want it to be an appropriate situation…

    I would love to read something in Spanish. I’m more of a non-fiction girl. I like biographies and inspirational… any suggestions?

    • Check my Books/Libros page (tab at the top) for more – and my GoodReads account (linked on that same page) – but one of my very favorite Latin non-fiction autobiographies is “Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child” by Elva Trevino Hart — Definitely check it out.

  9. I like it when a phrase sticks from a book I’m reading. I have about three books out to read and never continued. The latest one was “la reina del sur”, I’ve had it for years in my library waiting to get read and since they hasn’t the novela now I took it out to see if I finally read it bit no :( ojala pronto!

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