A narrator—whose gender remains unspecified—describes going to the movies with her younger brother Kiki and their parents. The narrator confesses that she likes it best when “the man starts undressing the lady” onscreen because this means her father will give her and Kiki quarters to be spent in the lobby, where the two siblings run over the thick red carpets, touch the velvet curtains, and play with machines in the ladies’ room that dispense tic-tac-toe games or lipstick. Alternatively, she says, they spend their money at the candy counter. Back inside, the narrator enjoys curling up and falling asleep until the lights turn on and her parents carry her to the car. Upon reaching home, she pretends to be asleep so they’ll carry her to bed.
“Mexican Movies” fluctuates between childhood innocence and mature curiosity. The fact that the narrator enjoys when characters undress onscreen simply because it means she can go buy candy in the lobby shows that she’s not yet interested in sexuality. At the same time, she enjoys other forms of maturity, such as having the freedom and autonomy to spend money however she wants. When she tries to decide whether to buy tic-tac-toe games or lipstick, innocence and maturity converge in one experience, suggesting that coming of age is a process in which the juvenile and the sophisticated exist side by side—as such, Cisneros implies that growing up isn’t a linear progression, but rather a complicated swirl of curiosity and discovery.