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The Construct Of Self Through The Influence Of Others

2371 words - 9 pages

This article, Life as a Maid’s Daughter by Mary Romero, takes the reader through the life a girl named Teresa. She lived a unique life, because she was able to see the differences ways in which different races and social classes of people live in America. Teresa and her mother Carmen are lower class Mexican-Americans, and the people that Carmen is a maid for are upper-middle class white Americans. Throughout her life Teresa learns about different aspects of herself (i.e. race, social class, gender, and family) through interactions with her biological family and the families of the employers.
Teresa learned about her race around the age of three through interactions with her family and the family of her mother’s employer. She found out early on that her language, Spanish, was seen to be inferior to that of the employer’s, English. Living with her mother’s white middle-upper class employer meant that Teresa had to follow their rules, which meant conforming to their culture and leaving hers behind. This can be seen when she played with the white children; they tried to teach Teresa to speak English because they lived in a monolinguistic culture and refused to assimilate with her, but she resented that and refused assimilate as well by refusing to call the pescado a fish. She loved her Hispanic culture so she refused to conform by creating two cultures that she lived in; one where she acted as the employers wished, and the other where she participated in her own culture and valued her own race. This can be seen by the way she follows the rules in the employer’s homes, and then quickly retreats into her Mexican heritage while with her family.
There was never a clear moment when I began to learn about my race. I grew up in New Hampshire so for a while I thought that the only race was Caucasian. When I entered kindergarten I was first exposed to different races although not by much. Since my mom lived in the south for twenty years she was very accepting of all and passed that onto me by telling me unbiased stories of her different raced friends down there. Instead of having to create two separate lives like Teresa to accommodate different races I can cohabitate so that neither has to give up our racial identity.
Social class became obvious to Teresa very early on in her life. It is said in the article that, “As a preschooler, Teresa began to learn that her social status reflected her mother’s social position” (Romero 105). She was aware that there were rules for her that did not apply to the employer’s kids, and that different houses gave her different rules that she had to follow. She began to realize the difference in their social class when she thought about the way the white kids addressed her mother and the way that she addressed the employers, “While Teresa referred to the employers formally, by their last names, the employers’ children called Teresa’s mother by her first name” (Romero 107). This showed that the children had different...

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