When the doctor checks Corazón, he does find problems with her pregnancy. She must have a hysterectomy right away, and she is left childless. On the next page, facing this, Corazón also loses old Doña Serena, the mother Corazón never had, to death, and she remembers her as a “sufrida—one who accepts pain and sacrifice as her lot and her privilege” (105). I believe this word is defined because of its importance to the story’s theme. When one thinks of this concept in other languages, chi ku in Chinese and gaman in Japanese, for example, the ethnicity of sufrida gains special significance here, as would the Chinese or the Japanese form in a story about a Chinese or a Japanese woman; each conjures up an entirely different cultural context for “to eat bitterness.”
These two nouns ending in –ida, “sufrida” on page 105 and her “querida” on page 104, are true mother and daughter in spirit, and this connection is primary to the story’s meaning. Both characters, Corazón and Serena, suffer much, and because they are both good to the core, their characters become allegoric. They are heart and serenity. The story will conclude with the knowledge that Corazón has become a sufrida, which is the nature of any true love story, eventually, since death cannot be outrun.
The last four-plus pages of this masterful short story assume the reader’s Spanish language facility has been honed over the first nineteen pages and can appreciate and comprehend a more difficult vocabulary. In one of Corazón’s memories, she is sitting on a stool behind the counter when Manuel was alive, listening to her female customers complain about the way their children grow up and leave the barrio as quickly as they can, to return only during holidays. Cofer writes, “Corazón listened to their mothers’ laments about their hijas and el olvido” (112), and, this time, the context does not entirely make the foreign language meaning clear for the non-Spanish-speaking reader. “El olvido” means “forgetfulness, oblivion, neglect.”