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How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

Julia Alvarez

The Kiss

Antojos

The Four Girls

Summary

The four Garcia daughters traditionally gathered every year for their father's birthday. They came alone, leaving behind husbands, boyfriends, and work. Their father Carlos would greet them, they would eat cake, and then he would give them envelopes filled with hundreds of dollars in small bills. The daughters always wondered why he does not simply write checks instead. For her father's seventieth birthday, however, Sofia wanted to break the tradition and have the party at her house, including the husbands and children. Sofia and her father were finally speaking to each other again, after she had run away to get married. Her second child had just been born, and was named Carlos, after her father. He treated his namesake better than his granddaughter because he was a boy. His macho attitude bothered Sofia.

When she was younger, she was the sister with "non-stop boyfriends." Because her father had forbidden her to spend the night with her boyfriend, she had to go on vacation to enjoy any intimacy. She went on vacation to Colombia with a boyfriend, but after having sex, broke up with him. While in Colombia, she fell in love with Otto, a German tourist. After she returned home, her father snooped in her drawers and found sexually graphic letters from the German man. They had a terrible argument in which her father accused Sofia of trying to ruin his good name and reputation by sleeping around. Sofia became so angry and hurt during this fight that she ran away from home. She went to Germany to get the man to marry her, which he did. She sent her family postcards from their honeymoon, and invited them to visit her and her husband in their new home in Michigan. When their first child was born, Sofia's mother Laura did visit, but her father swore he would never set foot in her house. Because she wanted to make up with her father, Sofia brought the baby to see him for a birthday visit. Sofia and her father gradually forgave each other, but she hoped the birthday party would be their big reconciliation.

At the party, Carlos was pleased with his gifts and the band, but as the evening progressed he became more withdrawn and depressed that he was so old. The other guests continued drinking, eating, and playing raucous party games. They decided to play a party game that would amuse him. He was blindfolded and one of the women gave him a kiss on the cheek. He was supposed to guess which one it was. He began by guessing his wife and then his three oldest daughters. He never guessed Sofia's name and she felt hurt. She also felt that he did not appreciate the work she put into organizing his party. After most of the other female guests had given their pecks on the cheek, Sofia wanted him to know without a doubt that she was the one kissing him. She gave him a big wet kiss in his ear, using her tongue and biting his ear lobe. This angered and humiliated him. He tore off the blindfold and declared that the game was over.

Analysis

Sofia's ongoing conflict with her father represents a struggle for control of her sexuality. Their arguments also illustrate the cultural differences between the United States and the Dominican Republic. In traditional Dominican culture, a man's honor is determined in part by his ability to protect and guard the chastity of his female relatives. In contemporary American culture, however, a woman expects to be able to control her own sexuality once she has reached adulthood. The conflict between Sofia and her father grows out of the gap between these two cultural perspectives. Sofia feels that it is her right to explore her sexuality however she pleases while also enjoying the privacy and independence of adulthood. Her father, on the other hand, feels that the presence of loose women in his house disrespects his parental and male authority. His definition of loose turns on Sofia's status as a single woman, since Catholic ideology does not condone a woman having sex before marriage.

Sofia's flight from her father's house represents her desire to assert her own independent authority as a woman and as an adult. It is key to note, however, that she does not pursue an independent lifestyle, but goes straight to Germany to search for Otto. She trades her father's protection and authority for that of a husband. This act is meant to highlight her father's impotence to exert future influence over her sexuality.

The kiss is significant because Sofia reveals to her father in a very physical way the extent and nature of her sensuality. She also publicly humiliates him as she flaunts her sexuality in front of their guests. Because sexual contact between a father and daughter is considered incest, she also flirts with breaking this taboo when she arouses his desires with the kiss. Even though she is a married woman with two children, she still feels compelled to draw attention to his inability to control her sexual behavior. Despite their mutual efforts to leave behind their turbulent past, Sofia cannot forgive her father for his insulting and overbearing attitudes, and her father cannot tolerate her overt expression of her sexuality as a mature woman.

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