Cisneros's collection of stories is divided into three sections. The first section, which focuses on the innocence of the characters during childhood, is called "My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn". The following section, called "One Holy Night", includes two short stories highlighting the troublesome adolescent years of its characters. The final section, called "There Was a Man, There Was a Woman", concentrates on characters during their tumultuous adulthood. Most of the stories in the collection are between one and fifteen pages in length; "Eyes of Zapata", the longest story, is 29 pages long, while "Salvador Late or Early" and "There Was a Man, There Was a Woman" each occupies a single page.
The first and second plot of the story in this book shares the title, "My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn", with its corresponding section and is a short narrative about an unnamed narrator and her best friend Lucy Anguiano, the "Texas girl who smells like corn". This vignette offers a snapshot into life just north of the United States-Mexico border for two girls who are presumably of Mexican descent. Lucy's home is portrayed as a low-income, Mexican-American family. Her mother is overworked and busy with many children while her father is rarely around. However, the story focuses on the freedom that the girls have when no one of authority is watching; for example, waving at strangers, jumping on mattresses, scratching mosquito bites, picking scabs, and somersaulting in dresses.
The book's second segment, "One Holy Night", contains two short narratives focusing on adolescent females and the way their self-worth is affected by the tension of remaining loyal to Mexico while integrating into the American lifestyle. The title story "One Holy Night" introduces the reader to a young teenage girl, Ixchel, who, in her quest for true love, meets a 37-year-old man named Chato. He lies to her about belonging to ancient Mayan royalty, seduces her, and then abandons her, only to return in an attempt to kill her. In her youth and naivety, Ixchel desires to be romanced by someone with alleged Mexican roots, only to be disappointed by the reality of having fallen in love with a Mexican-American serial killer.
The final section, entitled "There Was A Man, There Was A Woman", includes the title story "Women Hollering Creek", "Eyes of Zapata", and "Never Marry A Mexican", these being three out of the thirteen stories contained in this portion of the book. The title story, "Woman Hollering Creek", is about a Mexican woman, named Cleófilas, who marries Juan Pedro Martínez Sánchez. After moving across the border to Seguín, Texas, her hopes of having a happy marriage, like the characters she watches in the telenovelas, are dashed. Throughout their marriage, Juan Pedro is unfaithful, abusive and often leaves her in isolation. As her depression increases, so does her interest in the legendary figure, la llorona, and the creek named after her that runs behind her house. However, unlike this "weeping woman", who chooses death as a means to escape her unloving husband, Cleófilas, in a sense, chooses life. With the aid of two independent women, Felice and Graciela, she is able to leave her life of abuse and escape back to Mexico.
Clemencia is the Chicana protagonist of the story "Never Marry a Mexican", who experiences rejection by her white lover. She takes revenge on this man by luring his naïve son into a lover’s role, and makes it known that in due time, this young man will inevitably pay for his father’s transgressions.
"Eyes of Zapata" is a story that looks into the life of female protagonist, Inés, who offers a reflection on her life in the context of her illegitimate relationship with Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. She struggles with being constantly abandoned by her lover, who is off "revolutionizing the country", and she describes her efforts to raise a family on her own despite hardships such as famine, disease, and poverty. In the end, she speaks about Zapata's assassination, revealing his failure to the revolution and Inés makes it evident that essentially, Zapata, her unfaithful lover, has failed her and this protagonist is left clinging to dreams that can no longer exist.