Feminist Ideals In Latin American Literature And History

1716 words - 7 pages

The image of the woman in Latin America culture is one that has traditionally been quite askew from reality and ultimately alienating. Unlike the American feminine mystique, which was a media creation, the conceptualization of women in Latin American culture is one that is deeply engrained in the consciousness of Latin people. It is commonly referred to as marianismo, or "Mary-ism" referring to the idea that women must reflect the Catholic ideal of the Virgin Mary. This combined with machismo; an ideology that supposes men rigidly defines males' roles in the culture, served to be a great obstacle to the women's movement in Latin America. These ideas are commonly explored in twentieth century Latin American literature. Tradition enslaves Tita, the passionate main character of Laura Esquivel's (1951-) Like Water for Chocolate (1989). The idea is further explored in Rosario Ferre's (1942-) novel The House on the Lagoon (1994) which reveals its traces across two generations of families in Puerto Rico. Probably the most dramatic display of Latin American ideologies of women can be witnessed in My Mission in Life (1952), the writings of Eva Peron (1919-1952), in which she idolizes her husband Juan Peron and calls for women to essentially be "women." The works of these three Latin American women serve to provide a holistic view and profound understanding of the roles of women in the Latin American tradition, which impeded liberal ideologies of feminism and equality.In Like Water for Chocolate, Tita, the protagonist, is a woman whose life is planned out for her before she is even born. According to the traditions of her family, as the youngest daughter she is bound to never love or wed, so that she may take care of Mama Elena in her old age. This reflects both the chauvinist idea that women cannot live alone and the Catholic comparison to the Virgin Mary. Mama Elena, the family's matriarch, is an embittered woman who has lost the man she once loved. She is a strict emotional tyrant ruling over Tita. When Tita's one true love Pedro comes to ask for her hand in marriage, Mama Elena offers her other daughter Rosaura's hand to him instead. Distraught by this, Tita's volatile repressed emotions boil inside of her. Mama Elena scolds her for attempting to avoid the engagement saying "I won't...allow you to ruin your sister's wedding, with your acting like a victim (27)." When Tita begins the break down while preparing the wedding cake, Mama Elena stats firmly, "I won't let you start acting crazy (29)." Unlike Rosaura, Gertrudis could not bare to follow the pre-existing model of behavior to be considered socially acceptable in the world of machismo. Gertrudis decided to deny the traditional Hispanic way of life with every security and oppression it gave to her. Gertrudis through the novel, found herself at the other extreme of the scale, never again being able to perform and prescribed roles of women, such as cooking. The inconsiderate traditional outlook that...

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