Original Sin

Cisneros, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Feb-19-2002
  • Last revised: Dec-01-2006


The speaker is en route by plane from San Antonio to Mexico City to visit Mexican relatives on her father's side of the family. At the airport she had remembered that "in Mexico they don't like hair / under your arms . . . " and is struggling, before landing, to deal with this in the tiny bathroom, with a disposable razor hastily purchased at the airport.

Also before landing she has to negotiate a mix up over declaration forms--"the stewardess . . . has given me the wrong / one assuming I'm Mexican but I am! / and I have to run up the aisle and ask / for a U.S. citizen form instead because / I'm well how do I explain?" When she arrives in Mexico City she is ready for her relatives, "armpits clean as a newborn's soul" and presents herself "like the good girl my father would have them believe I am."


This poem captures the Chicana dilemma, caught in the space between cultures, the airplane as metaphor. How can cultural ambiguities be represented in government papers and bureaucratic documentations? In addition to cultural ambiguities, the speaker has to cope with family expectations that derive from cultural difference.

When she arrives in the ancestral home clean- shaven, she is "without original sin" as if she is now "pure" Mexican, uncontaminated, someone her father won't be ashamed of. The irony is that she is judged as contaminated by both cultures. Original sin also implies sexual transgression. That sexual impurity is a subtext is born out by the poem's focus on a secondary sex characteristic (armpit hair), and by a humorous reference to "coitus fantasizus."

Primary Source

Loose Woman



Place Published

New York