The Inconvenience of Gold Street

Book Cover
Book Cover-Published in 2007

The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue by Manuel Muñoz is filled with ten short stories in which they each capture life and coping with certain situations. The world is a big place and in this book everything is happening in one specific location out of all locations that exist in the world. Manuel Muñoz introduces the reader to the many things that make up this one location known as Gold Street. This includes the people there, homes, cars, apartment buildings, struggles, trouble, fighting, and violence. Gold Street is very significant in these short stories because of what lies within it gives it so much meaning, makes it very important, and adds symbolism.

Manuel Muñoz conveys meaning to Gold Street through setting, imagery, and characterization. The setting depicts poverty, commotion, and untidiness. There are the images of people physically fighting and the neighborhood gathering to watch. Furthermore, the characters of Gold Street do not want to be there and wish to make it out. In “Señor X,” Cristian is someone who really tries to find his way out of Gold Street, but he does not do it the right way, which leads him into facing some problems.

Understanding the Setting

Gold Street is a place of poverty and it is not a nice place to live in. The homes in this neighborhood are “either crumbling down at the foundation or boasting a fresh coat of paint” (Muñoz 226). Some of these homes need new foundations and paint jobs. The homes are really run down and old. There is no tidiness in this neighborhood because the lawns are not being taken care of and the grass is just being let to grow. There are weeds in front of yards that need to be pulled out or at least cut to be more presentable because they are just growing without attention.

Sidewalks are even missing in front of some of these homes in the area. People are then forced to walk on the street, which can be unsafe and sidewalks are used to keep you safe from being hit by a car. There are no new cars in this area. Every car is old and each family there that has a car has owned the same car for a long time. In “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue,” Catri’s family has always owned the same car and it is an old Mercury. There is no beauty or luxury in Gold Street.

The neighborhood is pretty big and if you walk or wheel yourself from one end to the other, it can be a distance of “thirty minutes” (Muñoz 233). There are a lot of homes and Emilio from “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue” actually counts them all giving the readers an exact count. While him and his father drive down Gold Street to go see the healer for his condition, he counts “fifty-nine houses before they reached the stop sign and headed for downtown. One hundred and twenty houses, or thereabouts, each of them with some combination of parents and children or newlyweds, so many people, and after a year probably some Emilio did not know” (Muñoz 226).

It is a big neighborhood and each side of it has fifty-nine homes. There are also vacant lots and apartment complexes like Las Palmas. This community is not calm and there is always noise and a form of commotion. A lot of that is heard or seen “through the fistfights, the car bashings from angry ex-wives, the drunkenness of early evening Saturdays, the beating of someone’s mother and the shattering windows, the guns flaunted and then desperately coaxed away” (Muñoz 187). Gold Street is a rowdy community and because it is a place of poverty with much violence and trouble; there is no vibrant mood in this neighborhood. The mood comes off as lifeless and dull.

Can you see Gold Street?

There are many images that the reader gets in Gold Street. Some of those images are illustrations of physical fighting that are taking place in the neighborhood. This is depicted well in “The Good Brother.” There is the imagery of Ana Martínez fighting with Adelina Valdes. Ana goes next door to Adelina’s home to pretty much beat her up. Adelina is not home, but as soon as she gets home, Ana does not hesitate to attack Adelina and the fight between the two becomes a clear image for the readers. Adelina is not able to even find out what is happening “before the woman from next door rushed at her and grabbed for her hair” (Muñoz 194). Adelina loses grip of her purse and her purse lands on the floor. She was also holding a cup of soda that she loses grip on and it ends on the floor, which she normally gets when she goes out to fill up her gas tank in her car.

Her son Sebastián is there watching everything go down and Ana also had her three sons with her watching them fight. Sebastián does see his mother get hurt as she bleeds and watches Ana throw in a “punch landing across his mother’s jaw” (Muñoz 195). This fight angers Adelina because she was caught off guard and is confused with why this is happening. She does not allow herself to be attacked so she attacks back, and “tussled with the woman from next door, pulled her to the ground, and by then men from the neighborhood rushed over to stop them” (Muñoz 195). It was a brutal altercation that took place in Gold Street and this isn’t the only one that has ever happened. There have been more. The police did arrive to the scene and handled what was going on with these women.

Everyone in Gold Street is nosy and no one knows how to mind his or her own business. When this fight happens, there is the image of everyone gathering outside to watch this altercation occur. As soon as people saw Ana going over to Adelina’s home yelling, they knew something was wrong and that something was about to happen. People started to step out of their homes to prepare themselves to witness what was about to happen from beginning to the end of it.

Before Adelina gets home, “the neighbors from across the street had come out, pretending to mind their own business, but this was Gold Street, where everything sounded familiar, even cars” (Muñoz 194). People know the sound of Adelina’s car so as soon as they heard it, they knew it was time to step out and watch everything go down. Perhaps they should have stopped what they knew was going to happen, but that is just how everyone is in Gold Street. Everyone in this community watches things like this happen all the time so it is seen as normal to them in some sense. They are used to going out and watching, acting like they are minding their own business.

Another fight that takes place is in “The Comeuppance of Lupe Rivera.” This fight is deadly, horrible, and worse than the fight between Ana and Adelina. The fight in this story is between Guillermo and his brother-in-law. Guillermo is a married man that is cheating on his wife with Lupe Rivera. Guillermo’s brother-in-law wants to know why he has left his sister, but before Guillermo can even give a response his brother-in-law stabs him in the neck. Sergio, who watches the whole thing gives the readers a clear image of what he saw by stating, “I saw the blood spray and I heard Guillermo choke and collapse, the men shouting orders, everyone in the neighborhood gasping, but I still don’t know how the men in my neighborhood sensed it all coming, how they had ever gained that power of knowledge, that readiness to step up to the inevitable” (Muñoz 188).

Lupe was inside when this all happened, but she did find out what was going on and came outside screaming helplessly to the scene. The neighbors watch this situation play out just like they did for Ana and Adelina. The neighbors knew that something was going to happen because they know when something is going to take place. They can recognize the things that seem out of place and from that they can sense that something is not right. When Guillermo’s brother-in-law drove into Lupe’s house, his car was unfamiliar to everyone in Gold Street. If something is unfamiliar, that calls for you to brace yourself for something to occur; it may be good or bad, but whatever it is you must prepare yourself to either help or watch.

The People of Gold Street

Gold Street is not a place that you want to live in. The people who live there do not like being there and want to exit out of there, but it is hard to do. Everyone who lives there lives there for a reason because that is the lifestyle that they can afford. If you leave Gold Street, you have to have money and the means to be able to make it somewhere else because it is going to cost you more than what the cost is at Gold Street.

In “Señor X,” Cristian is a character living in this neighborhood that dreams to leave one day. He does leave, but not for long. Cristian finds ways to make money in order to leave Gold Street behind, but his way of making money was taking the easy way to making it. He began to forge paychecks and hang out with the wrong people. Cristian began to hang out with Kyle who was also from Gold Street and dreamed of getting out of there, too. They both made money in ways that were illegal and not right at all. At one point, Kyle robs a gas station and he kills the clerk. He was so excited because he got his beer that he wanted, but also the money that he needed in order to keep him out of Gold Street. Without money, he would have to go back to Gold Street and so would Cristian.

At that point, Cristian is able to realize that what they are doing is wrong and won’t send them off very far. Cristian says, “I knew even before Kyle counted the money that there wasn’t enough in the bag” (Muñoz 169). Here is Cristian now realizing that they will never have enough money as long as they keep getting it by stealing or forging paychecks. They will always have to steal and forge in order to have money and that is a continuous pattern that will not end, but eventually put them behind bars, which happens to Cristian. Kyle was able to escape, but he will have to spend his whole life hiding and who wants to do that?

Cristian does end up moving back to Gold Street. It is a disappointment for him because he says, “after all my talk and my dreaming about leaving Gold Street, about leaving my town, this is where I came back in the end” (Muñoz 157). It depicts that the only way to make it out of this community is by working for it and doing it the right way. There is no other choice, but just that. Still Cristian does not learn his lesson because he still manages to steal money even after what he has been through.

Some people will never have the opportunity to even make the attempt of leaving by working hard for it because of their situation. For example, in “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue,” Emilio has no choice but to stay there because of his condition. He is in a wheelchair and has trouble with mobility. He thinks it’s over for him. He needs for his father to look after him and so he has no choice but to stay there because he really does need the help. Somebody that does make it out of Gold Street is Martín. He moved from the Valley to San Francisco, but eventually he had to move back to the Valley. When he moves back, he completely crosses out Gold Street and refuses to end up back there and he never did go back. He was one of those that made it out.

Lifeless Environment

Gold Street is home to many people that do not have much, are surrounded by trouble, and wish to leave that home eventually. This is a neighborhood that does not have a pleasant image and can come off as a bit dangerous to be in for people that do not live there. There is always going to be disturbance because no one there is used to a calm setting due to the fact that they have never had one. There is always something happening whether it is a physical altercation or argument.

Everyone who lives there will always witness every situation that will occur there because that is what they do. They will only help defuse the problem if it is pretty bad, but if they feel they do not need to help then they will watch. There will be more people that desire to leave Gold Street for a better life and will take the easy way out. In that sense, they will end up back in Gold Street just like Cristian and probably continue doing what they should not be doing. Gold Street is tiring because it is almost like a routine. The people there get up and deal with this lifeless environment, witness trouble, and find out who is back that tried to escape or who actually made it out. The next day comes and they do that all over again.

Works Cited

Muñoz, Manuel. The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007. Print.

Muñoz, Manuel. “Señor X.” The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007. 150-180. Print.

Muñoz, Manuel. “The Comeuppance of Lupe Rivera.” The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007. 181-192. Print.

Muñoz, Manuel. “The Good Brother.” The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007. 193-214. Print.

Muñoz, Manuel. “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue.” The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007. 215-239. Print.

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  1. Beckman

    Great Chicano short story writer.

  2. I love how the stories explore gender roles, love, sexuality, and faith.

  3. Emily Deibler

    Interesting post. It’s intriguing that the location is called Gold Street while life there is the opposite of golden. Good analysis. I’ll have to check out Muñoz’s work.

  4. I don’t see a central thesis to the writing; it seems to be a synopsis.

  5. I read these last week. I can’t stop thinking about some of these stories, especially “Ida y Vuelta.”

  6. Aleta Ali

    Muñoz’s style is absolutely beautiful.

  7. I see an excellent future for Latino literature.

  8. Ava Moon

    Makes you wonder how much we know about life.

  9. Mackenzie

    I would put this in company of Atwood or O’Nan’s short stories.

  10. Kind of adds a touch of wonder as to how real the stories can be.

  11. I picked this book up randomly from the library, not having read any reviews or knowing anyone who had read it, but it turned out to be one of those wonderful and pleasant surprises.

  12. Manuel Muñoz is pulling masterpieces.

  13. Munoz’ language is really fluid and powerful.

  14. This book is really something. Great analysis.

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