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Alexis Sanchez

Professor Batty

English 101

10 May 2016

Azucar: The unlikely saint, the one who inspires all

Everyday heroes dont let life challenges bring them down. Instead, they stay positive

and find a way to overcome their obstacle claims Noah Blumenthal who was named one of the

top 100 minds in personal development. As mentioned, personal challenges hold the ability to

either shape who we are or completely destroy us depending on how we respond to them. In

Alex Espinozas novel Still Water Saints, he explores this theme by introducing a fictional town

called Agua Mansa in which many characters who each have their own fair share of obstacles. In

Agua Mansa, each character brings light to greater problems people face in society. One

character, in particular, Azucar, is a transgender woman whose presence highlights topics such as

gender identity, discrimination, and death. These topics are no doubt prevalent in modern society

and are surrounded by great controversy. The way this character chooses to deal with her

constant struggles that are in no way ordinary. Because of this, many argue that Azucar character

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

her ability to continually rise above obstacles such as discrimination, poverty, and the loss of a

friend. After Azucar loses her friend Beatrice she grapples with the regret of never revealing her
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true identity as a transgender woman to her. Leaving Azucar with only the chance to tell her

gravestone. Its been hard. But, listen: Im tough. Once a boy in my middle school called me a

sissy because I started plucking my eyebrows and filling them in with pencil, I punched him in

the stomach so hard he fell over and cried (Espinoza, 93). This experience, unfortunately, is not

an uncommon experience for transgender folks like Azucar. According to the American

Psychological Association, 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. (American Psychological

Association.). Not only in this instance does Azucar face discrimination but practically in every

facet of her life as this quote highlights. Fortunately, Azucar didnt back down to the harsh words

and ridicule of others, instead, she fought back. This shows that she isnt afraid to face obstacles

head on rather than run away from them. Even more admirable she continues to hold this

attitude in everyday life as she works two odd jobs tirelessly in order to fund her gender

reassignment surgery. As she explains, To become women. Its long, I know. And expensive.

But Ill get there. (Espinoza, 93) This shows Azucar practicality and determination. She

understands how tough life can be, but actively chooses growth over comfort. This inspires hope

that even when she as a transgender woman and person of color that she can still hold strength

and be empowered. As well as breaking gender barriers and choosing to live as her true


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
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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 discussed, Gender

expression takes many facets. Azucar uses her outward appearance to express it through fashion

and beauty, and hopefully one-day female genitalia. Later in the novel, she decides not to go

through with the surgery and instead spends her savings in fulfilling her friend Beatrices dream

of adopting an abandoned baby. At the same time, she cultivates her own identity through the

baby She was a class act; youll tell everyone...a real lady (Espinoza, 102) Even Though she

ultimately chooses her friends to dream over her own she doesnt completely abandon her dream

of becoming full women. She simply opts for a more nuanced approach. She uses motherhood to

solidify herself as women rather than something external. This nuanced gender expression

Azucar demonstrates showcases how ones own feelings within them are more powerful than

outward appearances. She understands the complexities of gender and not only makes herself

happy through it but helps other along the way. Moreover, some strongly disagree with this

approach altogether.

Many argue that Azura's plan to lie to her future child is not only selfish but immature, however,

it only showcases benevolence nonetheless. Azucar plan to lie to her child are questionable to

some. Some pose questions such as Wont the baby eventually find out? Wont they be angry

at her for lying to them? Understandably, lying to ones child may not seem like the greatest

parenting approach. However, as previously discussed, we can see that Azucar values ones
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internal identity rather than-than ones outward appearance. Despite Azucar original sex she is a

woman and genitalia doesnt define that. As a result, this will teach a child a much greater lesson

that ones character is more powerful than ones outward appearance. Secondly, this action was

never motivated by a selfish desire, in the novel when Azucar finds the baby on the street she

hears Beatrice's words I wish I could save just one of those babies, break that cycle (Espinoza,

97) This was always motivated by a desire to help her friends. Thus, solidifying her as a hero or

saint-like 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,Be the Hero: Three Powerful Ways to Overcome Challenges in Work and Life.)

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

no longer alive and helpless. She values sacrifice over her selfish desires any day.

All in All, Azucar not only embodies selflessness, resilience, and confidence in her everyday

life but inspires that in others. She never backs down from a challenge and continues to take the

hard road to benefit other. She embodies all saintly qualities all the while being a unique

character that many people can look up to. She proves she is a saint just by dressing up in the

morning and being who she is.

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Works Cited

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


Beemyn, Genny, and Susan Rankin. "The Lives of Transgender People." Library.lavc.edu.

Columbia University Press, 2011. Web. 01 May 2017.

Glausiusz, Josie. "Living in an Imaginary World." Scientific American. ScientificAmerican.com,

08 May 2014. Web. 01 May 2017.

Blumenthal, Noah. Be the Hero : Three Powerful Ways to Overcome Challenges in Work and
Life. vol. 1st ed, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009. A BK Life Book. EBSCOhost.

Shultz, Jackson Wright. Trans/Portraits : Voices from Transgender Communities. Dartmouth,

2015. EBSCOhost.

Espinoza, Alex. Still Water Saints: A Novel. London: Picador, 2013. Print.