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Rock Street, San Francisco

“I would look out at this tremendous space and think how totally I felt at home there. Many of my Midwestern friends would confide to me that they found the desert sometimes even terrifying. I remember one of the brightest women I know who is an academic in Cincinnati said to me that the first time she came to the Southwest she was afraid she would fall off because she was so used to the protection of trees . . .. Our early geography shapes us in complex ways” (Mora 1014).
In Mora’s poems, some of the many things you will find to explore have to do with landscape, immigrant experience, and geography. The author states, much of Mora’s work explores living on the figurative border between languages and cultures or in what she calls ‘the land in the middle.” Mora also suggests, people from all backgrounds experience borders of many kinds throughout life. She insists, “there are situations where it is plenty difficult” or where she becomes uncertain about where she may belong, or even who she is. What she means by this, is that, by exploring these divides; between men and woman or generations, her work stresses universality of the border experience and the issues it entails.
In the poem Elena, Mora describes a woman who is dealing with the hardships of being a Spanish speaker in an English dominant country. The structure of the poem tells three stories: the way life was in Mexico, how Elena feels the language barrier between her children is effecting her relationship with them, and the challenges she faces in trying to educate herself in the English language. Mora takes you into a mind of a woman who is not only facing challenges in the outside world but in her home as well.
In the first stanza mora writes about the internal struggle of Elena, a woman who only knows how to speak in her home language, Spanish. When reading the line “my Spanish isn’t enough,” it shows that Elena feels this heavy weight on her shoulders; her knowledge of only one language isn’t enough. She looks to the past and remembers being able to enjoy listening and understanding her children. The symbolic meaning of being able to listen and understand is being able to have a strong bond with her children.
Then Elena gets pulled back into reality and remembers that the memories of being able to understand her children are left behind in Mexico, they live in America now. She sees how coming to America has affected her relationship with her children because of the language barrier they now face. Mora’s description of Elena gives you an insite to what most non English speakers must feel coming to an English dominant country.
In the second stanza Mora describes Elena’s home life, when her children are home, and the struggle she faces trying to learn the English language.

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