Las hijas de Juan

Daughters Betrayed

Las hijas de Juan

Latin America Otherwise

More about this series

Book Pages: 224 Illustrations: Published: September 2006

Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs

Las hijas de Juan shatters the silence surrounding experiences of incest within a working-class Mexican American family. Both a feminist memoir and a hopeful meditation on healing, it is Josie Méndez-Negrete’s story of how she and her siblings and mother survived years of violence and sexual abuse at the hands of her father.

Méndez-Negrete was born in Mexico, in the state of Zacatecas. She recalls a joyous childhood growing up in the midst of Tabasco, a vibrant town filled with extended family. Her father, though, had dreams of acquiring wealth in el norte. He worked sun-up to sun-down in the fields of south Texas. Returning home to Mexico, his pockets full of dollars, he spent evenings drinking and womanizing.

When Méndez-Negrete was eleven, her father moved the family to the United States, where they eventually settled in California’s Santa Clara Valley. There her father began molesting his daughters, viciously beating them and their mother. Within the impoverished immigrant family, the abuse continued for years, until a family friend brought it to the attention of child welfare authorities. Méndez-Negrete’s father was tried, convicted, and imprisoned.

Las hijas de Juan is told chronologically, from the time Méndez-Negrete was a child until she was a young adult trying, along with the rest of her family, to come to terms with her father’s brutal legacy. It is a harrowing story of abuse and shame compounded by cultural and linguistic isolation and a system of patriarchy that devalues the experiences of women and girls. At the same time, Las hijas de Juan is an inspiring tale, filled with strong women and hard-won solace found in traditional Mexican cooking, songs, and storytelling.


Las Hijas de Juan is a tale of female triumph, justice and hope. . . . To its great merit this true story, written in the tone of a novel, exposes unflinchingly some of the tragic realities faced by many children worldwide who end up living as illegal immigrants and unaccounted for. It breaks the silence about incest within a poor Mexican-American family with such brutal candor that it has been hailed as a feminist survival story. By depicting the deep prejudices that persist in so many Mexican males, it candidly lays bare the cruelty and discrimination faced by their women, especially those who remain in limbo on both sides of the border picking up the pieces for their errant men.” — Georgina Jiménez, Latin American Review of Books

Las Hijas de Juan, most likely the first testimonio of incest in Chicana letters (as scholars Patrisia González and Roberto Rodríguez have noted), makes a crucial contribution to the growing and broader feminist literature on incest and trauma.” — Marci R. McMahon, Women's Studies

“[Las hijas de Juan] is the childhood story of courage and resistance to patriarchy too frightening to be imagined and too hurtful to be forgotten.” — Norma L. Cárdenas, Journal of Latinos and Education

“The fact that Mendez-Negrete was able to share her story is a service to all of us. . . . Mendez-Negrete's writing skills are excellent. The story flows! It really does. This book is one that alerts us to what goes on in all cultures, I would suppose. It is a story that deals with one Hispanic family. Yet the story has a universal dimension to it.” — John Saunders, La Bloga

"I found myself confounded into silence by the magnitude of the author’s pain and by the confessional frankness in her tone as she writes about the traumas inflicted upon her and her sisters . . . the author possesses great courage and resilience. . . . Telling this story must have taken awesome strength. . . . I can imagine that survivors of abuse might find her calmness encouraging: it suggests healing is possible even in the worst cases. I believe that Méndez-Negrete has made a positive contribution to the feminist literature on trauma and incest." — Mariya Strauss, Bookslut

"Mendez-Negrete's accounts almost make one feel like a voyeur into her past, seeing and feeling what she has suffered." — Susan M. DeLuca, Families in Society

"Through her courageous telling of survival and resiliency, Méndez-Negrete exposes those often overlooked exchanges that occur in the intimate sphere, where bodies are gendered, classed, and racialized." — Lydia R. Otero, New Mexico Historical Review

Las hijas de Juan breaks new ground in the literature of Chicano/a autobiography by taking on the shameful issue of paternal incest at the same time that it demonstrates the process of healing through speaking, writing, and remembering. This book is the genuine song of the survivor, and the narrator’s personal story is also a political reality of the Chicano/a and Latino/a community, an ugly beast fed on silence that must be both contained and confronted. More than anything, Las hijas de Juan shows us the imperative need to speak the secrets that, unfortunately, bind and damage so many mujeres in our communities.” — Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Latino Studies

Las hijas de Juan is a searching and searingly honest portrayal of struggle, survival, and corage! This is a woman’s story that has lessons for the entire community.” — Louis Gerard Mendoza, author of Historia: The Literary Making of Chicana and Chicano History

“To tell this story took an inordinate amount of courage; to have survived it makes me marvel at the power of the human spirit. As a reader, one feels deeply grateful for the privilege of being granted into its confidence. Josie Méndez-Negrete writes that the healing is not in the telling, but perhaps it resides in us, the listeners. May this story, then, travel far.” — Sandra Cisneros


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Josie Méndez-Negrete is Professor of Mexican American Studies in the Division of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the series xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Author's Note xv

Prologue: Sin padre 1

México lindo y querido: Dearest and beloved Mexico 3

A donde iran los muertos? Quién sabe a donde iran: Where will the dead go? Who knows where they will go 41

Buscando abrigo y no lo encontraran: Searching for shelter they will never find 81

Que lejos estoy del suelo donde he nacido: So far from the land that gave me birth 139

She kept her head in a jar by the door: Mantuvo su cabeza el el jarrón junto a la puerta 159

Epilogue: Purging the Skeletons, Bone by Bone 185

Songs Quoted in Text 191

Glossary 201
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3896-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3880-2
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