In 1984, Sandra Cisneros published The House on Mango Street, a short story cycle that provides 44 vignettes taking place within the community on Mango Street, a Chicano-Puertorriqueño barrio in Chicago. The book is often called a “coming-of-age” text, but each vignette tells a different person’s experiences, with several recurrent characters, including Esperanza (the narrator), her family, and her neighbors on Mango Street. In the 1994 Spanish translation of the novel, translator Elena Poniatowska uses poetic license in one vignette of the novel in particular, completely and negatively changing the passage’s message about sexuality and adolescence. By revising the passage in her translation, Poniatowska erases critical components of Chicana culture when Chicanas already both lack a prominent place in mainstream literary canon and struggle with liminality within their personal identities, thus halting the Chicana in subalternity. While Cisneros claims her own subjectivity as a Chicana writer in writing vignettes through which her characters can also achieve subjectivity, Poniatowska erases Cisneros’ effort to create space and exercise agency by co-opting the text through her own poetic license in the translation process. Translations that liberally apply poetic license through voices not from the corresponding margins, the true narrative of the subaltern is lost and commodified; Poniatowska’s poetic license in the text’s passage “Hips” is unnecessary as it alters Cisneros’ authentic narrative and therefore both alters Chicana representation and reinforces oppressive cultural mores.
Semester/Year of Award
Lisa B. Day & Socorro Zaragoza
Women & Gender Studies; Languages, Cultures, & Humanities
Restricted Access Thesis
English and Theatre
Vaught, Jessica, "Chica Traducida: Subalternity and Cultural Erasure in the Translation of The House on Mango Street" (2017). Honors Theses. 488.