The narrator of "Tepeyac" describes Tepeyac, a religious site where his Abuelito (grandfather) has a small shop. Around the hill (which is said to be where Saint Juan Diego saw an apparition of La Virgin de Guadalupe), vendors sell balloons and souvenirs, shine shoes, take photographs, and fry food. At the end of the day, Abuelito tells his shop helper to pull the “corrugated metal curtains” over the windows, and the narrator arrives to walk his grandfather home. Abuelito counts money under a bare lightbulb, tallying the dollars given to him by women who sell food in the plaza, by the “souvenir photographers,” by the shoe-shiners, by the “blessed vendors of the holy cards, rosaries, scapulars, little plastic altars,” and by “the good sisters who live in the convent across the street.”
“Tepeyac” is a perfect example of a story in which Cisneros puts on display the joys inherent in tightknit and vibrant communities. There is a deep sense of culture in this town’s collective devotion to this religious site, and the bustling commerce surrounding the hill seemingly feeds upon itself as shoe-shiners and food vendors and nuns all frequent Abuelito’s store, sustaining the shop with money that circulates throughout the plaza. This, Cisneros seems to be suggesting, is what it looks like to be part of a healthy community.
Together, the narrator of "Tepeyac" and his Abuelito walk through the streets, passing the spot where Juan Diego “brought down from the cerro the miracle.” They pass neighbors and vendors they know well, arriving at their house, which has always been theirs. Mounting the stairs, they count the steps. The narrator includes these numbers, interspersing them throughout the story, which shifts away from this moment, projecting him into the future when he returns years later and finds that the shop has been “repainted and redone as a pharmacy.” None of the vendors are familiar, and his grandparents’ house is occupied by strangers. The house itself looks smaller and darker, and the streets are packed with cars. “Who would’ve guessed,” he writes, “after all this time, it is me who will remember when everything else is forgotten, you who took with you to your stone bed something irretrievable, without a name.”
The narrator’s melancholy return to Tepeyac highlights the way sadness and grief can come on the heels of happiness and accord. Indeed, the memory of his grandfather and the vibrant community he was part of has stayed with the narrator so vividly that now—when everything is different and people have moved on—he feels only loss and a longing for the past. In turn, Cisneros accentuates the complexities of human emotion and memory, illustrating that great happiness can lead to extreme solemnity and nostalgia.