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Alexis Sanchez

Professor Batty

English 101

31 March 2017

Azucar Magic Transformation of Growth: A Literary Analysis of Alex Espinoza's novel Still

Water Saints

According to the American Psychological Association transgender individuals living in

America today have a one in 12 chance of being murdered. In contrast, the average person has

about a one in 18,000 chance of being murdered (Transgender People, Gender Identity and

Gender Expression). As times are changing people are beginning to become more vocal about

LGBTQ issues regarding gender expression and identity. Despite this growing awareness, the

hatred towards these individuals continues. That is why now, more than ever, transgender people

need role models. They not only benefit from the support, but also the inspiration to continue to

move forward. One role model that transgender people should turn to in particular is a Latina

transgender woman named Azucar, a character from Alex Espinoza's novel Still Water Saints.

This novel explores how everyday people exemplify characteristics similar to saints. Azcar is

no exception to this because she faces issues regarding her gender identity as well as struggles

with poverty, loss, and discrimination. The way Azucar chooses to deal with these struggles are

in no way ordinary and to some, controversial. Because of the unique way she deals with

obstacles, many argue that Azucar embodies selfishness, but I argue that instead, she inspires

resilience, confidence, and benevolence in others.

In Espinoza's novel Still Water Saints the character Azucar embodies resilience through
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her ability to continually rise above obstacles such as discrimination, poverty, and the loss of a

friend. Throughout the course of the Azucar chapter in the novel we learn that growing up

Azucar was forced to move out of her hometown due to discrimination for being transgender.

This leads her to find odd jobs as she works tirelessly to fund her gender reassignment surgery

in the town Agua Mansa where she knows no one. Later on, when she finally develops a

meaningful friendship with a lady named Beatrice, Beatrice suddenly dies, leaving Azucar alone

once again. Unfortunately, to many transgender people this story is all too familiar. Nearly every

transgender person faces more discrimination and obstacles than that of a cis gender individual.

Out of a sample of nearly 6,500 transgender people, the report found that transgender people

experience high levels of discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare, education, legal

systems, and even in their families.(Transgender People, Gender Identity and Gender

Expression). This to many, would break their spirits down, but Azucar views this string of

struggles as an opportunity for personal awakening. As she kneels speaking to Beatrices

tombstone she expresses how she understands obtaining money for her dream of gender

reassignment and her overall situation is tough, but accepts the challenge with grace. In Azucar

words she claims To become women. Its long, I know. And expensive. But Ill get there.

(Espinoza 93) Through this quote we can notice two things. The first is Azucars honest

perception of the challenge. She acknowledges that the journey is difficult when she says I

know, but also accepts that simply because something is difficult doesnt mean its impossible.

This becomes clear when she says, But, Ill get there Espinoza carefully chooses this diction

in order to illustrate that part of embodying true resilience is accepting the reality of the

challenge in order to be honest with yourself and prepare yourself for the challenges ahead.
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Unfortunately, when many are honest with themselves about the difficulties they are facing, they

use that as an excuse to give up. Azucar, on the other hand, only uses the difficulty as a

motivation to take her into the next level of her personal growth throughout her life. This attitude

serves as an inspiration for those transgender individuals who face insurmountable struggles in

nearly every facet of their lives. Espinoza demonstrates how theses peoples unique identity

doesnt hold them back from being strong and happy. Rather the opposite is true. The extra

struggle gives one an opportunity to grow stronger and find beauty in devastation.

Azucars nuanced and unexpected approach to solidifying her identity as a woman

inspires confidence in others to live beyond the constraints of society. Another large issue

Azucar explores is gender expression and identity. To better understand this phenomenon we

must understand what gender identity and expression is. According to the American

psychological association, Gender identity refers to a persons internal sense of being male,

female or something else; gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender

identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.

(Transgender People, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression) As noted, gender expression

takes many forms. At first, Azucar uses her outward appearance to express it through fashion and

beauty, and hopefully one-day female genitalia in order to complete her identity as a women. To

her surprise life takes an unexpected turn when she finds an abandoned infant near a clinic. She

decides to adopt her in order to fulfill her late friend Beatrices wish of adopting an abandoned

baby, which leaves her unable to finance her surgery and instead put in towards the child.

Miraculously, instead of viewing this situation as an end to her dream of becoming a woman she

lets motherhood solidify her identity as a woman. She decides to simply let the baby belive that
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she is his actual mother. When she comes to this conclusion as she carries the baby on the bus

she soon gets carried away into the fantasy of the future her and the child hold and the legacy the

child will leave behind for her. She claims the child will one day say,She was a class act; youll

tell everyone...a real lady (Espinoza 102) This newfound identity through motherhood proves

that Azucar holds a greater understanding that the outward self does not reflect the inward self.

Many transgender people feel pressured to pass as the gender they feel on the inside.

Espinozas uses this character in order to evoke a greater message on how ones view of

themselves is much more powerful than societys. He proves that womanhood and gender as a

whole is much more complex than the external and thus, exemplifies that gender expression is

unique to the individual and transcends traditional views of gender labeling itself. This in turn,

motivates others to find what makes them who they are inside, rather than from society. Even

though Azucar cannot physically have a baby this does not make her any less of a woman,

although some may view this as an egoist approach.

Many argue that Azucar plan to let her future child believe that she is his birth mother

shows selfishness on her behalf; however I argue, it showcases benevolence nonetheless. Some

pose questions such as Wont the baby eventually find out Azucar is not their birth mother?

Wont they resent her for it? and also claim, This is simply lying out of pure selfishness.

Understandably, lying to ones child may not seem like the greatest parenting approach. Also,

yes, part of Azucars plan to derive her identity as a women does stem from selfishness.

However, these claims neglect the initial motive Azucar has for adopting the baby. When Azucar

decides to take care of the abandoned child the only reason she has for doing it is to fulfill her

deceased friend Beatrices wish of adopting an abandoned child. Before she dies, Beatrice
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expresses to Azucar how much she wishes she could take in one of the many abandoned children

she sees cross her work in a clinic everyday. I wish I could save just one of those babies, break

that cycle (Espinoza 97) At the heart of Azucars intentions lies the desire to help fulfill a

friends wish while also helping out a person less fortunate than her. Despite her intentions to lie,

she still sacrifices a long held dream of hers to undergo gender reassignment surgery. When she

fantasizes about lying to the child she is simply trying to comfort herself. Many argue that

Azucars chapter is called Asi Like Magic because Azucar is full of fantasy, but in fact, the

title represents how she is able to turn a bad situation into a good one, like magic. At this stage

towards the end of the book she goes beyond helping herself and starts thinking of others making

her a true hero. According to Noah Blumenthal in his article Be the Hero : Three Powerful Ways

to Overcome Challenges in Work and Life he explains what culminates someone as a true hero,

Everyday heroes dont always succeed, but they consistently act on the belief that they can do

something to improve their situations and those of the people around them (Blumenthal 109).

Azucar decisions may not be perfect, but they are ultimately benefiting the lives of those who are

no longer alive and helpless. She shows that even though she is less fortunate herself, that

doesnt mean that she cant help others in need, proving that no matter what the circumstances

someone is in, they can always have the opportunity to be benevolent.

To conclude, Azucar exemplifies how despite the extenuating circumstances, transgender

people hold the power to break against societys constraints. No matter how difficult the

situation anyone can grow to be resilient, confident, and benevolent. When Transgender people

are under attack characters like Azucar help humanize and help people better understand this

phenomena. At a larger scale, she helps others who arent transgender become more
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compassionate towards people different than them, and at the same time inspiring them to face

their own personal obstacles. If Azucar can tumph, so can anyone.

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Works Cited

Blumenthal, Noah. "Be the Hero : Three Powerful Ways to Overcome Challenges in Work and

Life." Find in a Library with WorldCat. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 02 Apr. 2017. Web.

31 May 2017.

Espinoza, Alex. "Still Water Saints." Barnes & Noble. Random House, Inc., 2008. Web. 31 May


Genny, Beemyn, and Suzette Rankin. "The Lives of Transgender People." Find in a Library with

WorldCat. Columbia University Press, 01 Apr. 2017. Web. 31 May 2017.

"Transgender People, Gender Identity and Gender Expression." American Psychological

Association. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 31 May 2017.

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