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Dona Charito was a German artist who married a Dominican
man and taught the Garcia sisters art when they were children. They called
her house, where she lived with her husband, Don Jose, the Hansel
and Gretel house. The couple had met in Spain while sketching at
the Prado. As a girl, Sandra was recognized to be talented at art,
and drew pictures of the servant's baby or the cat. The baby's mother
thought that the art was a curse when the baby became sick, and
she begged Sandra to release the baby from her spell. Sandra burned
the sketch and the baby got well. Sandra then drew the cats on the
stucco wall of the house, and was punished for defacing the walls.
The family then decided she needed art lessons to keep her out of
trouble and also cultivate her talent. Because the family wanted
to be fair, all of the female cousins would take the lessons together.
Don Jose was busy, trying to complete a sculpture commission, and
he was rumored to be insane. Fourteen of the cousins were sent for
art lessons with Dona Charito, who was available.
When they arrived at the house, the children removed their
shoes and were given a tour. They were shown paintings of fruit,
guitars and horses before being instructed in the proper way to
hold a paintbrush. Sandra became bored and painted a gold cat while
Dona Charito was not looking. She painted several more cats before
the teacher discovered them, and threw her out of the class for
disobedience. Sandra wandered around the house and heard a man outside cursing
Dona Charito. Sandra investigated and found a shed in the backyard.
She climbed up on a stump to peer in a window, hoping to discover
something embarrassing about her teacher. She saw strange shapes
inside the shed, and noticed a woman's figure with a blank face.
She also noticed a naked man chained by the neck who was chiseling
feet for the female statue. He climbed on top of the statue and
put his chisel against its forehead. Sandra screamed to warn the
statue and the man jumped toward the window to grab her. The chain
pulled him back, but she fell to the ground and broke her arm. She
saw his face in the window, studying her and smiling. Sandra continued
screaming until the class ran outside. She told Dona Charito she
had broken her arm, and her cousins played happily in the mud.
It took many months for the bone to heal, especially since
it had to be re- broken after it had healed incorrectly. Sandra
got to have ice cream and special toys in the hospital. She could
not go to art lessons anymore, though her cousins still had to study
still life painting for a year while Sandra had her arm in a sling.
At Christmas time, Sandra and her family went to the National Cathedral
for the nativity pageant. Sandra recognized the sculptures from
the shed, especially the Virgin, who had a face that looked exactly
like her own.
Sandra fears the creative potential of her artistic talent
because the servant attributes malevolent powers to her sketches.
Her family also feels the need to contain her creativity, which
intrudes on their space and sense of order within the home. They
also send the message that her talent should not make her stick
out from her cousins or illustrate any uniqueness of character.
Dona Charito's anger reflects her general frustration with children
and the fact that she has to teach them. Sandra is not encouraged
by this first art lesson, but rather frustrated and stifled. Dona
Charito's mediocrity as an artist and as a teacher contrasts her
husband's talent as a sculptor. Sandra's exploration of the backyard
reveals the crazy potential of the artistic temperament, which leaves
a man chained naked in his studio working on a sculpture that drives
The face of the sculpture upsets him, and prevents him
from finishing the sculpture. The identity of the sculpture, the
Virgin Mary, is significant because his artistic difficulty could
represent his inability to see the face of God. His artistic quest
is also a spiritual one, and Sandra provides an unexpected solution
to his problem. His physical isolation within the shed and his spiritual
isolation within his insanity prevent him from completing the face.
Once he gets a glimpse of the outside world, Sandra becomes his
muse in a spiritual as well as literal sense. The unfortunate consequence
of her contact with his artistic process is the loss of her own
talent and inspiration.
Before her accident, Sandra perceives and describes the
world in terms of light and color. Following the accident she seems
to have lost this ability or gift to see her surroundings in a particular
and unique way. In addition, her arm has been broken so badly that
she cannot continue to practice her sketching. Perhaps she could
have re-trained her arm with further practice once it had healed,
but since she has also lost her artistic sight, she gives up on
her dream of being an artist. The ecstatic conclusion to this chapter,
as Sandra recognizes her own face on the Virgin Mary, represents
her acceptance of her own uniqueness, which found expression through
another's artistic vision.
Ace your assignments with our guide to How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents!