Sofia was sent to the Dominican Republic as a punishment for using marijuana, though she ended up getting into more trouble by spending time without a chaperone with her illegitimate cousin, Manuel. Sofia planned to reconcile with her father during a birthday party. She broke tradition, in that the daughters would usually come home for their father’s birthday, but she hosts the party at her house to show off her German husband and two blond children. She and her father had fought when he accused her of sleeping around during a trip to Colombia, where she met her husband, Otto.
She ran away from home to assert her independence, and later married Otto. Though the party was going well, Sofia was hurt that her father did not express more affection toward her. She humiliated him with a seductive kiss in the ear as part of a party game. Yolanda returned to the Dominican Republic, possibly for good, to embrace her extended family and cultural roots. Her family thought she was crazy for driving into the countryside by herself, but she ignored them. She got lost looking for fresh guavas, and then got a flat tire.
When approached by two men, she panicked and pretended not to speak any Spanish. Sofia Sofia is the youngest daughter and as a result does not have many clear memories of life in the Dominican Republic. She does remember the Haitian maid, Chucha, who performed voodoo spells. When she got older, she had “non-stop boyfriends,” ran off with Otto from Germany, and developed a tense and at times openly hostile relationship with her father. After a failed relationship with a Dominican boyfriend, she embraces American attitudes toward sexual relationships.
She challenges sexual double standards that she finds to be more pronounced in traditional Dominican culture and claims her sexual independence. She and her father begin to reconcile when she had her children, but at his birthday party she continues to flaunt her sexuality and his powerlessness to control it by kissing his ear in a particularly seductive way. During Sofia’s rebellious phase, she leaves home and prompts a serious rift in the family Sofia uses sexuality as a tool to rebel against her father and assert her independence.
The four Garcia daughters traditionally gathered every year for their father’s birthday. They came alone, leaving behind husbands, boyfriends, and work. Their father Carlos would greet them, they would eat cake, and then he would give them envelopes filled with hundreds of dollars in small bills. The daughters always wondered why he does not simply write checks instead. For her father’s seventieth birthday, however, Sofia wanted to break the tradition and have the party at her house, including the husbands and children.
Sofia and her father were finally speaking to each other again, after she had run away to get married. Her second child had just been born, and was named Carlos, after her father. He treated his namesake better than his granddaughter because he was a boy. His macho attitude bothered Sofia. When she was younger, she was the sister with “non-stop boyfriends. ” Because her father had forbidden her to spend the night with her boyfriend, she had to go on vacation to enjoy any intimacy. She went on vacation to Colombia with a boyfriend, but after having sex, broke up with him.
While in Colombia, she fell in love with Otto, a German tourist. After she returned home, her father snooped in her drawers and found sexually graphic letters from the German man. They had a terrible argument in which her father accused Sofia of trying to ruin his good name and reputation by sleeping around. Sofia became so angry and hurt during this fight that she ran away from home. She went to Germany to get the man to marry her, which he did. She sent her family postcards from their honeymoon, and invited them to visit her and her husband in their new home in Michigan.
When their first child was born, Sofia’s mother Laura did visit, but her father swore he would never set foot in her house. Because she wanted to make up with her father, Sofia brought the baby to see him for a birthday visit. Sofia and her father gradually forgave each other, but she hoped the birthday party would be their big reconciliation. At the party, Carlos was pleased with his gifts and the band, but as the evening progressed he became more withdrawn and depressed that he was so old. The other guests continued drinking, eating, and playing raucous party games.
They decided to play a party game that would amuse him. He was blindfolded and one of the women gave him a kiss on the cheek. He was supposed to guess which one it was. He began by guessing his wife and then his three oldest daughters. He never guessed Sofia’s name and she felt hurt. She also felt that he did not appreciate the work she put into organizing his party. After most of the other female guests had given their pecks on the cheek, Sofia wanted him to know without a doubt that she was the one kissing him. She gave him a big wet kiss in his ear, using her tongue and biting his ear lobe.
This angered and humiliated him. He tore off the blindfold and declared that the game was over. Analysis Sofia’s ongoing conflict with her father represents a struggle for control of her sexuality. Their arguments also illustrate the cultural differences between the United States and the Dominican Republic. In traditional Dominican culture, a man’s honor is determined in part by his ability to protect and guard the chastity of his female relatives. In contemporary American culture, however, a woman expects to be able to control her own sexuality once she has reached adulthood.
The conflict between Sofia and her father grows out of the gap between these two cultural perspectives. Sofia feels that it is her right to explore her sexuality however she pleases while also enjoying the privacy and independence of adulthood. Her father, on the other hand, feels that the presence of loose women in his house disrespects his parental and male authority. His definition of loose turns on Sofia’s status as a single woman, since Catholic ideology does not condone a woman having sex before marriage.
Sofia’s flight from her father’s house represents her desire to assert her own independent authority as a woman and as an adult. It is key to note, however, that she does not pursue an independent lifestyle, but goes straight to Germany to search for Otto. She trades her father’s protection and authority for that of a husband. This act is meant to highlight her father’s impotence to exert future influence over her sexuality. The kiss is significant because Sofia reveals to her father in a very physical way the extent and nature of her sensuality.
She also publicly humiliates him as she flaunts her sexuality in front of their guests. Because sexual contact between a father and daughter is considered incest, she also flirts with breaking this taboo when she arouses his desires with the kiss. Even though she is a married woman with two children, she still feels compelled to draw attention to his inability to control her sexual behavior. Despite their mutual efforts to leave behind their turbulent past, Sofia cannot forgive her father for his insulting and overbearing attitudes, and her father cannot tolerate her overt expression of her sexuality as a mature woman.
She smoothes over Sofia’s betrayal of the family, her running away and fighting with her father, by calling it lucky that she ended up with such a loving husband and a beautiful blonde baby. Her story about the thieves who got caught the night Sofia was born similarly reflects her desire to look on the brighter side of things. She needs this positive attitude to craft positive family stories out of unfortunate events. 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 ccess 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. 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 roles. 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 arijuana, 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 up with. Sofia did not remember the last day they were on the Island because she was the youngest. Sofia’s relationship with Carlos changes as she matures and seeks to assert her personal independence.
They also have difficulty relating to each other across cultural divides created by the fact that he grew up in the Dominican Republic, and she grew up in the United States. The conflict between Sofia and her father grows out of the gap between these two cultural perspectives. Sofia feels that it is her right to explore her sexuality however she pleases while also enjoying the privacy and independence of adulthood. Her father, on the other hand, feels that the presence of loose women in his house disrespects his parental and male authority.
Sofia’s flight from her father’s house represents her desire to assert her own independent authority as a woman and as an adult. Her kiss at the birthday party reveals to her father in a very physical way the extent and nature of her sensuality. She also publicly humiliates him as she flaunts her sexuality in front of their guests. Despite their mutual efforts to leave behind their turbulent past, Sofia cannot forgive her father for his insulting and overbearing attitudes, and her father cannot tolerate her overt expression of her sexuality as a mature woman.
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