The "Fabulosa" narrator describes Carmen Berriozábal, a woman who likes to call herself “Spanish” even though she’s from Laredo, Texas. Because Carmen has very large breasts, men pay a lot of attention to her, but most of the time they just stare at her chest. “Anytime they talked to her they never looked her in the eye,” the narrator writes. “It was kind of sad.” As one of her lovers, Carmen “keeps” a corporal named José Arrambide, who lives in Fort Sam Houston, away from his home (where he has a long-term girlfriend waiting for him). And even though José is clearly not the love of Carmen’s life, he becomes possessive and obsessed with her, allowing her to turn him into her “genuine guaranteed love slave.”
The narrator implies that, like most men, José is primarily interested in Carmen because of her large breasts. This lustful attention quickly turns to a sense of ownership, but Carmen doesn’t let this curtail her sense of autonomy. Instead, she recognizes the power she holds over José, making him into a “slave.” In this way, she subverts his misogyny in order to subordinate him, thereby drawing power from an otherwise oppressive relationship.
“I don’t know why, but when you treat men bad, they love it,” says the "Fabulosa" narrator. When Carmen meets a well-known Texas senator named Camilo Escamilla, she quickly abandons José. As the senator pays for her to stay in a “fancy condo,” José fumes at having lost his lover. First he tries to kill her, but Camilo makes sure the story doesn’t reach the newspapers. Then José tries to kill himself. The narrator notes that the story changes depending on who’s telling it; José’s friends say he eventually carves his initials into Carmen’s breasts, but others say he runs off and becomes a bullfighter. Regardless, the narrator explains that Carmen soon leaves the senator for a professional wrestler named King Kong Cárdenas. The narrator herself later sees Carmen in a bar in Helotes, Texas, and Carmen buys her a beer and then “twirl[s] away” to dance.
Carmen appears to somehow remain uninfluenced by José’s attempts to claim ownership over her. Her tendency to drift from one lover to the next entails a kind of autonomy that enables her to retain a sense of freedom and independence even when people like José come after her to take revenge for wounding their fragile male egos. Though her experience with José is seemingly turbulent—regardless of whether or not he succeeded in carving his initials into her breasts—she seems unscathed at the end of the story, when the narrator sees that she’s still able to dance with a carefree attitude despite the stress and pain of her love life. This, Cisneros implies, is what it looks like to prosper despite an abundance of negative male attention.