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Jesusa is a tough, fiery character based on a real working-class Mexican woman whose life spanned some of the seminal events of early twentieth-century Mexican history. Having joined a cavalry unit during the Mexican Revolution, she finds herself at the Revolution's end in Mexico City, far from her native Oaxaca, abandoned by her husband and working menial jobs. So begins Jesusa is a tough, fiery character based on a real working-class Mexican woman whose life spanned some of the seminal events of early twentieth-century Mexican history. Having joined a cavalry unit during the Mexican Revolution, she finds herself at the Revolution's end in Mexico City, far from her native Oaxaca, abandoned by her husband and working menial jobs. So begins Jesusa's long history of encounters with the police and struggles against authority. Mystical yet practical, undaunted by hardship, Jesusa faces the obstacles in her path with gritty determination. Here in its first English translation, Elena Poniatowska's rich, sensitive, and compelling blend of documentary and fiction provides a unique perspective on history and the place of women in twentieth-century Mexico.


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Jesusa is a tough, fiery character based on a real working-class Mexican woman whose life spanned some of the seminal events of early twentieth-century Mexican history. Having joined a cavalry unit during the Mexican Revolution, she finds herself at the Revolution's end in Mexico City, far from her native Oaxaca, abandoned by her husband and working menial jobs. So begins Jesusa is a tough, fiery character based on a real working-class Mexican woman whose life spanned some of the seminal events of early twentieth-century Mexican history. Having joined a cavalry unit during the Mexican Revolution, she finds herself at the Revolution's end in Mexico City, far from her native Oaxaca, abandoned by her husband and working menial jobs. So begins Jesusa's long history of encounters with the police and struggles against authority. Mystical yet practical, undaunted by hardship, Jesusa faces the obstacles in her path with gritty determination. Here in its first English translation, Elena Poniatowska's rich, sensitive, and compelling blend of documentary and fiction provides a unique perspective on history and the place of women in twentieth-century Mexico.

30 review for Here's to You, Jesusa!

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fran

    This is Elena Poniatoswska at her best. This fictional memoir opens a window into the turbulent times that precede the Mexican Revolution, following Jesusa (an orphan woman) through the entire country as the riots become a full blown war. A world of cruelty but also a world of hope all seen through Jesusa's eyes, which makes it all the more real. A true master piece of Mexican literature. This is Elena Poniatoswska at her best. This fictional memoir opens a window into the turbulent times that precede the Mexican Revolution, following Jesusa (an orphan woman) through the entire country as the riots become a full blown war. A world of cruelty but also a world of hope all seen through Jesusa's eyes, which makes it all the more real. A true master piece of Mexican literature.

  2. 5 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    The angst of a poor and illiterate but tough Mexican fighter and rebel during the 1930's. The mother of Jesusa Palancares died when she was a little girl and her father remarried. The women in his father life maltreated her so he left the house, joined the rebel forces and had her series of failed relationships. Although she was poor all throughout the story, she never self-pitied herself as her life experiences taught her to be independent and self-supporting. She never depended on anyone excep The angst of a poor and illiterate but tough Mexican fighter and rebel during the 1930's. The mother of Jesusa Palancares died when she was a little girl and her father remarried. The women in his father life maltreated her so he left the house, joined the rebel forces and had her series of failed relationships. Although she was poor all throughout the story, she never self-pitied herself as her life experiences taught her to be independent and self-supporting. She never depended on anyone except herself. The story opens with Jesusa at her old age. She is so poor she sometimes has to sleep with hungry stomach. She reasons that if God (she is a practicing Catholic yet she is far from being saint for so many reasons) does not give her money to buy food, God wants her to starve. So, Jesusa becomes thin and thin until she dies. However, in the end, you will not feel sorry for her because the author Elena Poniatoska made it clear at the very start of the novel that Jesusa is a strong woman of high principles even if she is poor and illiterate. I am not a writer but I totally understand Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street in the book's back cover: "When I read Elena Poniatowska, I'm reminded why she's my hero, why I write, what kind of writer I aspire to be." For Poniatowska writes with guts and punk that Isabel Allende cannot hold candles for her. They maybe both good Latin American authors but Poniatowska is like Salinger to Allende's Lois Lowry. I hope you get the obvious comparison. My list of exceptional Latin American author is becoming longer and longer.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Sibbald

    A "testimonial novel": blending documentary with fiction/storytelling. Supposedly it was groundbreaking at the time (1969). I don't doubt it. In the introduction, we learn that the author, Elena Poniatowksa spent years visiting and interviewing Josefina Borequez, a working-class woman: stubborn, self-defeating, and desperately poor most of her life, which spanned nearly the whole of the 20th century. The "chapters" read like short stories, loosely arranged around her age: young, middle, and more A "testimonial novel": blending documentary with fiction/storytelling. Supposedly it was groundbreaking at the time (1969). I don't doubt it. In the introduction, we learn that the author, Elena Poniatowksa spent years visiting and interviewing Josefina Borequez, a working-class woman: stubborn, self-defeating, and desperately poor most of her life, which spanned nearly the whole of the 20th century. The "chapters" read like short stories, loosely arranged around her age: young, middle, and more sparingly, old. But there is no real chronology: Jesusa will discover spiritualism and a life dedicated to it, then in the next "chapter" she's back out dancing. She swears she has no friends, never has, then there are many many close friends -- too many even to keep track of. She says she doesn't go with men, yet ends up with 4th stage syphilis. I suppose, one could say this narrative style mimics the contradictions of life. My linear mind just couldn't accept it. Still, Jesusa's story is compelling and heartbreaking; and despite being so mule-headed you'd like to shake her, Jesusa is a sympathetic heroine. I was surprised to find that I quite liked her by the end. This is also a telling narrative of the life of Mexico's poor at this time: how they lived, worked, fought, drank, partied and buried their dead. It also provides an interesting into Mexico's "other" religion: spiritualism. A bit frustrating, but worth the read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    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 e 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 much more. 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Poniatowska was upset by this translation, and I've not read the original, but this good is still delightful. The blending of nonfiction and fiction is fascinating. Poniatowska was upset by this translation, and I've not read the original, but this good is still delightful. The blending of nonfiction and fiction is fascinating.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alex Romero

    Absolutely lovely, documentary narrative. Poniatowska's voice is vivid, splendid, and true. Absolutely lovely, documentary narrative. Poniatowska's voice is vivid, splendid, and true.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeaninne Escallier Kato

    I rate this non-fiction tale of a soldada, woman soldier, during the Mexican Revolution up there with anything Toni Morrison has written- which is to say, stark, stunning and spectacular. Jesusa, the protagonist in Elena Poniatowska's novel, is based upon a relationship Elena cultivated with a poor woman who lived in the most dangerous section of Mexico City from the early 1960's to the late 1980's. She took all of her recordings and notes dictated by the real Jesusa and turned them into a novel I rate this non-fiction tale of a soldada, woman soldier, during the Mexican Revolution up there with anything Toni Morrison has written- which is to say, stark, stunning and spectacular. Jesusa, the protagonist in Elena Poniatowska's novel, is based upon a relationship Elena cultivated with a poor woman who lived in the most dangerous section of Mexico City from the early 1960's to the late 1980's. She took all of her recordings and notes dictated by the real Jesusa and turned them into a novel of her unbelievably difficult life. Suffice it to say, Elena made her story so captivatingly real, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Elena infuses her work with a magic I try to emulate in my own work as a writer. She turns the most vile, repulsive act, commonly found in early 20th century Mexico, into a piece of art, something one might want to savor in a museum. Elena makes Jesusa so real, we want to cheer for her, even when her life fails her over and over. Underneath this woman's struggle to be herself without family or support, she teaches us so many life lessons along the way. I'd even dare to say that Jesusa is among the first women pioneers, like Frida Kahlo, to bring Mexico into the modern world. Jesusa's drive, determination and strength make me proud to be a woman.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Robin Binder

    Incredible insight into a vastly different (and important) perspective in Mexico. New favourite book, and new favourite author!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    I could not finish this book. I did not like the main character or the nature of the story.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dusty

    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 soldera married to an important Mexican revolutionary, and throughout her life tough as nails -- in 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, Pon 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 soldera married to an important Mexican revolutionary, and throughout her life tough as nails -- in 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 Mexican Revolution. The country has, as you probably know, a rather rich tradition of cacique literature mostly about the men who declared the Revolution then selfishly abandoned it later. Many of these other books indicate that the poor and underprivileged were the ones who paid the debts incurred by the patriots whose revolution made them rich and powerful. However, I've not read a book that so completely depicts "the other side" of the Mexican Revolution. Although the English-language translation fails to capture Jesusa's distinctly antiquated and "common" verbal tics, the book remains essential. Highly recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Todd Stansbury

    Excellent work that falls into the trap so many other fictionalized true stories fall into. Jesusa ends up at the center of many historical events, including meeting Zapata as well as seeing Madero make his way into town. These invented scenes do not take away from the rest of the work, because it offers a great example of the life and position that women found themselves in. Jesusa’s blunt voice is what really elevates the work. The reader gets a sense of a person who has been through so much a Excellent work that falls into the trap so many other fictionalized true stories fall into. Jesusa ends up at the center of many historical events, including meeting Zapata as well as seeing Madero make his way into town. These invented scenes do not take away from the rest of the work, because it offers a great example of the life and position that women found themselves in. Jesusa’s blunt voice is what really elevates the work. The reader gets a sense of a person who has been through so much and is far too tired of all the bull. The ongoing hatred, even tempered by her sheer kindness towards others and desire to act as a caretaker (demonstrated in the care she took of so many different things: pigs, coyotes, kids, and people), becomes more than a little exhausting. The reader understands that many bad things happened to her, and yet, it is still difficult to deal with just how negatively she views most everything, especially anything that smacks of modernity. The reader mostly is left wondering what the revolution was about to Jesusa. A Caranista by opportunity rather than choice, it does not seem that she viewed the revolution as offering her anything in particular, and the reader is left with the feeling that it left her with nothing, and in some ways less than she began with.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Here's To You, Jesusa! chronicles (and honors) the life of Jesusa, a strong and steely woman living in Mexico. The book begins at the end of Jesusa's life, in the author's perspective, describing the way Jesusa was interviewed. The author never explains how she came into Jesusa's life, or why, which would have been nice. Frankly, I enjoyed reading the introduction more than the actual book, and those few pages gave me more insight into Jesusa's character than anything. Throughout the book, I had Here's To You, Jesusa! chronicles (and honors) the life of Jesusa, a strong and steely woman living in Mexico. The book begins at the end of Jesusa's life, in the author's perspective, describing the way Jesusa was interviewed. The author never explains how she came into Jesusa's life, or why, which would have been nice. Frankly, I enjoyed reading the introduction more than the actual book, and those few pages gave me more insight into Jesusa's character than anything. Throughout the book, I had to constantly keep in mind that, although Jesusa was real, the author could never write out all the events in Jesusa's life exactly as they were lived. The book itself is a bit confusing at times. It was written in a narrative, as if Jesusa is speaking to us about her life. There are a few tangents on religion and spirits and possessions, which I didn't understand at all. I found Jesusa's confident and unwavering persona to be very admirable. However, I found that there were so many names thrown into the book I couldn't keep track of all of them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I read this in Spanish [Spanish title is Hasta no verte Jésus mio:] and was delighted when it got translated to English so I could share it with those who don't read Spanish. 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 w I read this in Spanish [Spanish title is Hasta no verte Jésus mio:] and was delighted when it got translated to English so I could share it with those who don't read Spanish. 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. Poniatowska based the book on her interviews with a woman who lived these experiences.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lina

    And here we have Jesusa - uneducated, a bit stupid (maybe more stupid than 'a bit stupid'), stubborn Mexican woman and her life story which is not really fascinating in itself but it's as a breeze of fresh air in my readings because it is a story that is told in such a simple terms due to the narrator being such a simple human being. She is reckless, loud and barely compassionate. She had a hard life but she had so many opportunities to improve it that she wasted away. I think, I got used to rea And here we have Jesusa - uneducated, a bit stupid (maybe more stupid than 'a bit stupid'), stubborn Mexican woman and her life story which is not really fascinating in itself but it's as a breeze of fresh air in my readings because it is a story that is told in such a simple terms due to the narrator being such a simple human being. She is reckless, loud and barely compassionate. She had a hard life but she had so many opportunities to improve it that she wasted away. I think, I got used to reading all about those complicated, intellectual characters and then bam! - I encounter Jesusa and her simple mind. So, here's to you, Jesusa, really! My god, you made so many stupid decisions...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Betzy

    After all those stories about damsels in distress and "and they lived happily everafter", it was refreshing to read about this... Well, antiheroine. Jesusa is stubborn, independent and very strong. The story is quite sad if you think about it, but it is also very interesting and very entertaining! I read it in Spanish I can not really imagine if the translated versions have the same language richness. To some extent, it is important to be familiarized with the history of the Mexican revolution, After all those stories about damsels in distress and "and they lived happily everafter", it was refreshing to read about this... Well, antiheroine. Jesusa is stubborn, independent and very strong. The story is quite sad if you think about it, but it is also very interesting and very entertaining! I read it in Spanish I can not really imagine if the translated versions have the same language richness. To some extent, it is important to be familiarized with the history of the Mexican revolution, given the references about it throughout the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Maryann

    Elena befriended Jesusa, who related her story. Jesusa was a solderada in the Mexican Revolution. She followed her father and then her husband into the war. She lived a life of poverty and was often homeless. This story is harsh and beautiful and painfully real. It's a story of survival, from the point of view of a woman I would love to have met. Food: sour Skittles. Hard and bitter on the outside, soft and sweet inside. Elena befriended Jesusa, who related her story. Jesusa was a solderada in the Mexican Revolution. She followed her father and then her husband into the war. She lived a life of poverty and was often homeless. This story is harsh and beautiful and painfully real. It's a story of survival, from the point of view of a woman I would love to have met. Food: sour Skittles. Hard and bitter on the outside, soft and sweet inside.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melanie H

    More disappointed in this book by the end despite high expectations. The writer goes on weird tirades on certain subjects that don't necessarily tie into the narrative and thus seem more like the author is taking the time to air opinions. Jesusa remains an interesting character but cannot save the book from the poor writing style. More disappointed in this book by the end despite high expectations. The writer goes on weird tirades on certain subjects that don't necessarily tie into the narrative and thus seem more like the author is taking the time to air opinions. Jesusa remains an interesting character but cannot save the book from the poor writing style.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laura Avellaneda-Cruz

    Funny, engaging, and muy Mexicano. Story from girlhood to old age, an adventurous woman from Oaxaca who eats from the sea and the trees, fights in the Revolution, dances on tables, and never learns to read but sure can count money. A survivalist who speaks en puros Mexicanismos.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Angelina Gomez

    I love this book...it is one of my favorites. Elena Poniatowska is a great writer, giving the story a very detailed picture of revolutionary Mexico in general and the period after as well as the experiences and roles of women.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    I picked this up at the library sale...I had a hard time reading (and writing a paper on) the Spanish version of this book in college, and someday I'd like to read the English version to see what I missed! I picked this up at the library sale...I had a hard time reading (and writing a paper on) the Spanish version of this book in college, and someday I'd like to read the English version to see what I missed!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Art

    Another book about a crabby Latin American woman who made poor decisions in every stage of her life - what's inspiring about that kind of story? The period details are the only redeeming factor about the book. Another book about a crabby Latin American woman who made poor decisions in every stage of her life - what's inspiring about that kind of story? The period details are the only redeeming factor about the book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David

    After not enjoying her classic book, Massacre in Mexico, I wanted to give her a try. his book was a gem. The gritty story of this woman was hard to read at times and very sad. Yet Poniatowska never made it sappy and the story kept moving.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nicola

    What a slog this one was! Jesusa was a paean for a cantankerous, cynical, 'mean' witch of a woman who the biographer, for reasons unknown, seemed to believe was a woman without peer. My only joy in reading this book was finishing it. What a slog this one was! Jesusa was a paean for a cantankerous, cynical, 'mean' witch of a woman who the biographer, for reasons unknown, seemed to believe was a woman without peer. My only joy in reading this book was finishing it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Fer Martínez

    PRECIOSO!!!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    great writing and insight into Mexican culture

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pilar

    Very moving. A stubborn woman but all through her life...all she did is fight never wanted help. She had no pity on anyone and certainly didn't want anyone's pity. Very moving. A stubborn woman but all through her life...all she did is fight never wanted help. She had no pity on anyone and certainly didn't want anyone's pity.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Miami University Libraries

    Elena Albarran read a selection from this book during the 2011 Women's Read-In. King Library (2nd floor) | PQ7297.P63 H313 2001 Elena Albarran read a selection from this book during the 2011 Women's Read-In. King Library (2nd floor) | PQ7297.P63 H313 2001

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jimena

    Soo funny and witty.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Luis

    Poniatowska is at her best when her writing goes back to her journalist days. This testimonial novel perfectly presents the turbulence of Mexican Revolution and the building of a new Mexico.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Johanna

    Currently reading and finding it to be an interesting view into a woman's life in Mexico Currently reading and finding it to be an interesting view into a woman's life in Mexico

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