As this book is a collection of short stories and contains many different protagonists, the following is a selection of the book's main characters who most exemplify the qualities of the three sections of the book (youth, adolescence, and adulthood), or who have the most impact on Cisneros's use of female archetypes:
Lucy Anguiano, the childhood friend of the narrator in "My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn", is a dark skinned, Texas girl with eyes like knife slits. She is from a family with nine children, an exhausted mother and an absent father. She influences the narrator’s desire to share in the unadulterated and simple pleasures that childhood can bring.
Ixchel, the self-named protagonist of "One Holy Night", is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives in Chicago with her uncle and grandmother who immigrated from Mexico. Employed by her uncle, every Saturday, this young teen sells produce from his pushcart. Ixchel being a foolish girl, ignorantly gives herself to one of her customers, a captivating, yet dangerous 37-year-old man. Over time, she realises that she has been seduced by a mass murderer but remains unable to reconcile herself with the fact that she is still in love with him.
Chaq Uxmal Paloquín is another self-named character in the story "One Holy Night", nicknamed Boy Baby, but whose real name is Chato, which means fat-face. He was born on the streets, along with numerous brothers and sisters, in a Mexican town called Miseria. In this story he has grown up and is now a 37-year-old serial killer who seduces and then abandons the young, naïve protagonist by romanticizing her with a lie about being from an ancient line of Mayan kings.
Inés, the protagonist in "Eyes of Zapata", whose mother was raped and murdered for living an illegitimate lifestyle, is the mistress of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. Inés struggles with being defined by the different roles she must play in her relationship with her lover. She is frustrated with the power of the male patriarchy that pushes her to be not only Zapata's lover, but also the mother to two of his children and his "political sister" in their shared fight for freedom.
Cleófilas is the protagonist of the title story "Woman Hollering Creek", who recreates the image of la llorona. She is a traditional Mexican woman who naïvely allows her father to give her in marriage to a man who would become her abusive, unfaithful husband. However, through the hardships of her marriage, she is empowered, to fight for her rights. This is solidified when she meets Felice and Graciela, two independent, wage-earning women who act as new role models for Cleófilas. In the end, they help her escape this abusive lifestyle.
Clemencia is the Chicana protagonist of "Never Marry a Mexican", whose life choices can be related to those of the historical figure La Malinche, an indigenous woman who befriended the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century. Both La Malinche and Clemencia were mistresses to men of a different ethnicity than their own, "doomed to exist within a racial and class-cultural wasteland, unanchored by a sense of ever belonging either to [their] ethnic or [their] natal homeland". Clemencia's final revenge in this vignette is not only a triumph in the memory of La Malinche, but also for the women who feel that their value depreciates if they do not have a husband.
Rosario (Chayo) De Leon is a character who writes the last prayer note in "Little Miracles, Kept Promises"; a collection of letters in Cisneros's book, from Mexican-Americans to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico who symbolizes female virginity. Chayo's letter provides a contrast between the Virgin of Guadalupe and La Malinche. She illustrates the difficulties of living as a modern Chicana with her beliefs on religion, race, and gender being constantly challenged. In attempts to free herself from being caught in between her modern day Chicana lifestyle and her Mexican heritage she begins to redefine who she is as a woman. In order to do this Chayo must accept that she is not quite malinche or virgin and she does this by acknowledging "the Virgin's pacifism and Malinche's sexuality through knowledge of her own Indian heritage".