Añoranzasde tus sueños
Reminiscenceof Your Dreams
Thecontext in which the Garcia lost their accents shows the struggle inthe quest for solidarity amidst the hardships (such as disputes,cultural changes, and divorces) they were going through. JuliaAlvarez was a Dominican native just like Garcia sisters and hadmigrated to the United States in 1960. In the current novel,geographic proximity as well as continuing political and historicalinfluences distinguishes Dominicans from the rest of the immigrantgroups. The protagonists in the novel are likened to the Dominicanimmigrants and their experiences (such as the painful dislocation ofthe family ties and the difficult cultural readjustments) by theDominican’s food. In addition, Alvarez shows that immigration meansmore than leaving the native land and moving to a new land. She makesher point clear that it is a process that involves assimilation,adaptation, and change self-identity in a new culture. This paperwill address the process of immigration with a focus on the relationbetween food and gender of the Dominicans in the New York City.
Thereis an interpersonal conflict in the Garcia family, which occurs whenthe family leaves the Dominican Republic. Since the extended familyexperiences fragmentation, the nuclear family faces dissolution. Thisexplains why girls separate from other family members as they mature.This separation can be evidenced by the distance created by womenbetween their parents and other relatives. With their incorporationinto the American culture, girls forget their traditions, roots, aswell as cultural perspectives. The situation becomes worse when girlsbegin their families in the United States, which separates themfurther from their family. Their language is altered completely, andthey adopt an American accent, which they use in communication. Thesegirls tend to forget their Dominican origin.
Forthe Hispanic communities living in the United States, the question asto whether Garcia girls have indeed lost their accents is critical.This is because the Dominican communities have not fully integratedinto the mainstream system as other immigrant communities. In thenovel, Alvarez shows the need to retain access to the culture and thelanguage of their native country while incorporating economic,political and cultural system of the new country into their lives(Castellanos 34).
TheCaribbean has endured many political upheavals and economicdifficulties. This has been a reason for the massive emigration ofthe Caribbean to the northern hemisphere. However, as time went by,the political situation in Dominican Republic stabilized, butimmigration continued after political stability due to poor economicconditions and limited employment opportunities (Castellanos 35).
Traditionalfoods shape the identity of Dominicans. People in Dominican Republicmainly serve the main meal at midday. This meal is taken in a socialsetup among family members and can last for up to two hours (Alvarez45). This is highly different in New York, where the society isintensely busy and cannot afford to take meals in a social set up.Additionally, the American society prefers taking a heavy breakfast,a light lunch, and a moderate dinner. Dominicans in America continuedwith their culture of preparing the traditional Dominican dishes. Theauthor of the novel informs that one of the popular dishes among thesociety in the Dominican Republic is La Bandera (the flag). This dishcomprises of rice, beans, and stewed meat. This meal is symbolic tothe Dominicans as the white rice and red beans reminds them of thecolours of their national flag. This meal is commonly served withfried plantain and salad. Sancocho is another common dish among thepeople of Dominica. This dish comprises of a slice of meat, plantain,and vegetable stew. The people of Santo Domingo love dining out,especially during the weekends and holidays. The restaurants in thisregion like this culture since they are superior and reasonablypriced. In contrast, many restaurants in New York are preferred fordining, and are usually premium priced (Marte 94).
Onedish that presents our origin and heritages as a mixed countrystarted on Christmas Eve 1492, when Christopher Columbus arrived atthe Quisquella Island, whose original name is the Dominican Republic.The green plantain was used by the Taínos (Dominican Natives) asfood and remedies, but Christopher Columbus mashed plantain, and usedas major meals given to African slaves. This is because the plantainswere easy to prepare in large quantities. The mangú remained thestaple food among the Dominicans, both in the Diasporas and theirmother country. Mangú comprises of boiled and mashed plantain.Although it is not claimed openly, Mangú is among the major areasfor self-representation for most Dominicans in the Diasporas,particularly in New York City. In the Dominican Republic, procurementof foodstuffs has been challenging, with plantains being on the vergeof becoming luxury items (Alvarez 46). The meaning and place ofplantain among the Dominicans are so strong such that they holdnational strikes and protests to demand for stabilization of prices.Preparation of mangú among the Dominicans in the Diaspora ischanging (Luis 839). Mangú represents the experiences of theDominican immigrants, more than the national flag does. Meals likerice, meat, beans, and other luxury foods are considered to begeneric in the Dominican State.
Theprominence of these staple foods among the Dominicans both inDiaspora and Dominican Republic serves to explore the contestednarratives that show the regional experience and reveal the economicstruggles experienced by the Dominicans. The Dominican immigrants arewell aware of ironic representation of the la Bandera. Normally,those that were able to afford rice and meat could at times sacrificeand buy food to their abandoned members in preparation for the laBandera. This symbolized health and unity of the nation. As a result,Bandera is still contested even today, both in the Dominican Republicand New York. Its presence among the Dominicans in United States isan indirect reflection of the failure of the national flag in endingpoverty, trauma, and repression suffered in the era of Trujillodictatorial leadership (Alvarez 47).
JuliaAlvarez highlights, in the novel, that the Dominican family inAmerica, especially the Garcías girls, can be perceived in adifferent perspective from the one in the Dominican Republic. Therelationship between the relatives is very vital for a Dominicanfamily in America (Alvarez 48). However, the families tend towardsbecoming more nuclear while Dominicans in Caribbean has a highlikelihood of being non-nuclear. Also, gender roles have beenchanging after migration. Normally, Dominican family is patriarchal,where males act as the heads of the family, exercise control over thebudgets within the households, and decision makers in their families.On the other hand, females are in charge of all domestic chores andmaintain their families. However, among the Dominican immigrants,this pattern is slowly changing. The Dominican women immigrants inthe United States have always demanded more control on duties thatpreviously belonged to men. They have become co-breadwinners, whichhas empowered them to challenge the authority of males within theirhouseholds (Alvarez 49)
Suchchanges are a major reflection of the changes that have taken placein organizational as well as the structure of a Dominican family.While there are no specific or authoritative treatments, it isreasonable enough to conclude that gender relations have changed,both in marriages and the dating couples. Research has indicated aconsiderable growth of single-parents among the Dominicans inAmerica. By 1997, over 50 percent of households in America wereheaded by women. The experts attributed this to the immigrationprocess that resulted in long-term separation of families. Otherreasons include the lack of formal marriages among the Dominicans andeconomic pressures in America. Moreover, many men fail to play theirroles as providers, which make many families become destitute (Luis839).
Manywomen who were left in the Dominican Republican did not have jobs andnever knew English. These women were forced to solicit for the publicassistance. Education was highly esteemed among the Dominican.However, education was highly esteemed, and they took their childrento school. Certainly, the immigrants seemed to be more educated thanthose that remained behind. The immigrants struggled enough toenhance their educational attainment. For instance, in Washington,the Dominicans managed voice their concerns regarding thediscrimination in the education sector by the local school board.Despite the majority of students being of Dominican origin, the boardwas dominated by non-Dominicans (Luis 839).
Mangúand plantains have clear connotations engendered in the social,historical and cultural contexts. In the Dominican Republic, men areinvolved in the cultivation of plantains in a grade scale whilefemales cultivate small subsistence plots. Plantain is strong mealmeant to restore the energy, and they are considered to be amasculine index. Yet, conversion of raw produce into physically andculturally digestible food takes place exclusively from itspreparation as a meal through domestic labour from women (Luis 840).
Somethinginteresting about the degree of softness of the mashed plantains isthat it was considered to enhance hardness of the workers. Accordingto Levi-Strauss’s dichotomy, women are at the nature end while menare at the cultural end of the nature-culture continuum. In thiscontext, a masculine hard nation, erect like a plantain, isculturally produced through the alchemical and soft labourtransformations by women who feed their bodies so as to sustain theirhomes and community (Luis 841).
Thetrans-local connotation of mangú is that it acts as both Dominicanand foundational meal. They consider it as an index of being aDominican in New York. This is an illustration of reversal of mangúamong the Dominican women in the Diaspora. The ritual practicesassociated with cooking, eating, and serving reveal the classengendered and racial socialization of cooks within the DominicanRepublic. This also illustrates the family-community histories invarious regions when the Dominicans migrated, as well as the decadethey went to the United States. Most participants arrived in New Yorkat the time of Reagan’s administration and the reign of neoliberalpolicies (Alvarez 50).
Theparticipants esteem mangú, though not all of them could prepare itregularly. Instead, this was prepared for special occasions and uponrequest after a craving Antonio, the major difference is that whilein the Dominican Republic, the immigrants never cooked it themselvesas their mothers could do the cooking. These, among other foodpractices and experiences, exhibit remarkable consistency associatedwith preparation, addition of cold water until mashing stage, as wellas keeping it soft, were among the major things that promoted theiridentity (Alvarez 51).
Theseprivate routes associated with the Dominican’s foods reflect thecollective and public routes within a Dominican state as well as thenational project that has failed in giving people their basic needs.This prompted many Dominicans to migrate. Food among the Dominican isnot only a mark of identity, but a sign of cultural work and socialaction. Food also reveals the strategic political choices, culturalmemory and self-worth (Llorente 75).
Peelingthe plantains and the entire process of preparing Mangú reflect theskills and art form, as well as a gender cultural performance. Thepreparation of the plantain requires energy, strength, dedication,and time. Research has shown that people in Diaspora love Mangúbecause it reminds them of their identity. Whether they are mashed ornot, plantains are popularly used among the Dominicans in theDiaspora to deliver a sure message about the engendered tensions andconflicts that occur in household relationships. They express theirconcerns about the need to be given power outside the household, boththe United States and Dominican Republic (Llorente 76).
TheDominicans in New York worked hard to secure their survival in theDiaspora after the long Cimarron struggles. Studies reveal thatrelocating from the Dominican Republic to the United States presentssignificant impacts on the culture and values of those concerned.This is consistent with the exile of the Garcia family to the UnitedStates from the Dominican Republic as described in the text, How theGarcia Girls Lost Their Accents. The Garcia sisters were raised inthe United States where they received their education. Luis (2000)argues that although the Garcia sisters had lived among theprivileged class in the Dominican Republic, this was not the same inthe United States, as they now perceived themselves as commonHispanic immigrants. These two texts and others are especiallyimportant in this study as they provide real life examples of howliving in a foreign land affects one`s culture and identity.
Foodis significant in the history of Dominicans as it points to theformation of the Dominican’s realities and power. This is becausefood represents the creativity and cultural flexibility of most ofthe Dominicans. It is through the action of peeling and stainingoneself during preparation of plantain that the Dominicans experiencetheir resistance for discrimination. Therefore, the Dominican mealsthat were for slaves and animals were re-seasoned and reinvented tobecome a good cuisine and an emblem of desire for freedom. Thiscontinues to fulfil such purposes, since the Dominican immigrants arestill struggling to earn a dignified survival in geographies that arediversified.