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Mami and Papi had worked in the United States for almost
four years before a small revolution in the Dominican Republic convinced
them to become citizens in New York. The sisters complained about
the less prosperous conditions in the United States and wanted to
go home to the Island. Then Carla met a pervert, the sisters were
subjected to ethnic slurs at school, and Sandra tried a tampon.
Because of these shocking and disgraceful events, the girls were
then sent away to boarding schools to avoid these kinds of American
Their peers at school assumed the girls were rich and
related to dictators because they were foreign students in expensive
boarding schools. Their privilege seemed more mysterious and not
as familiar as Hoover vacuum cleaners or Hanes panty hose. The sisters enjoyed
the freedom of living away from home by kissing boys and smoking
cigarettes. They tried to keep their parents from suspecting that
they were learning American vices, but they could not hide for long.
The parents then decided that the girls would be sent back to the
Island for the summers to reconnect them to their extended families
and Dominican culture.
The sisters got in trouble with their mother for a small
bag of marijuana that had fallen behind the bed. Sofia admitted
to possession of the drugs and was punished with a year in the Dominican Republic
rather than American boarding school. After six months, she had
changed her appearance and wore her hair and makeup with way Dominican
women did. She had also started dating her uncle's illegitimate
son, Manuel, who turned out to be bossy and possessive. When they
went to the Island for Christmas, the three other sisters felt outraged
by his sexist and provincial Dominican attitudes toward women and
tried to humiliate him by drawing on their American feminism. They
ridiculed his ignorance of Mary Wollstonecraft while making fun
of his macho insecurities.
Manuel pressured Sofia to have sex, but she resisted because
she could not access contraception while in the Dominican Republic without
causing a family scandal. One night while out on the town, their
cousin Mundin brought the three sisters to a sleazy motel to show
them the dark side of Dominican morality. While there, innocently
enjoying the scenery, they noticed Manuel's car. The three sisters
were outraged that Sofia was sleeping with a man who refused to
wear a condom, and they decided to get the two lovers into trouble.
The three sisters insisted that Mundin take them home before Sofia
and Manuel left the motel. This meant that the couple would be left
without a chaperone, and the relatives would be outraged. Their
mother decided that Sofia had to be sent back to the United States
before her reputation was ruined. Sofia called her sisters traitors,
but they insisted that she would get over her anger and fears.
Just as Yolanda has difficulties dating American men in
the United States, Sofia has trouble maintaining a romantic relationship
with a Dominican man in her home country. The four sisters have
been exposed to casual attitudes toward sex and drugs in the United States,
as well as concepts of feminist equality that don't translate easily
into Dominican culture. The girls bounce between the taboos of each
culture as their parents try to strike a balance and find a place
for the sisters where their cultural and family roots can be supported
and celebrated. The sisters have a problem with their parents sending
them to the Dominican Republic because they have become so Americanized
that they cannot understand or tolerate the sexual double standards
that remain in more pronounced ways on the Island.
Sofia had spent six months trying to adapt to her new
environment and reconnect to a culture and language that she had
left behind as a very young child. Her romantic involvement with
a first cousin who is illegitimate satisfies her American desire
to shock and scandalize her provincial and closed-minded relatives.
Yet at the same time, she wants to fit into Dominican culture and
be appreciated by Manuel, so she tolerates his badgering comments
about her clothes and behavior. She submits to his obsessively possessive nature
in order to reintegrate herself into traditional Dominican gender
Her sisters' reactions betray their difficulty relating
to their home country's culture. Though they fully understand the
consequences of manipulating the system of chaperones to expose
Sofia's indiscretion and sexual activity, they refuse to accept
Sofia's submission to Dominican sexual double standards. The sisters
are also troubled by the possibility of Sofia's subordination to
a male sexual partner through an unintended pregnancy. They betray
Sofia's trust only in order to force upon her a more American cynicism
toward romance and a more pragmatic attitude toward sex.
Their mother's reaction to Sofia's scandal reflects the
difficulty all the sisters face in negotiating the space between
the two cultures. While attending American boarding schools they
experiment with American vices like marijuana, yet in the Dominican
Republic they learn about illicit and unprotected sexual scandals.
They disappoint their mother in both places because they do not
behave as good Dominican girls ought to. This confirms her fear
that they have lost their connection to the culture, and that she
has failed in her effort to instill in them the values she grew
Ace your assignments with our guide to How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents!