Cultural conflict as a Hispanic American female is fueled by multiple complex variables. For a typical Hispanic girl living in America the choice of food, clothing, customs, and beliefs are fueled by family traditions and often twisted by American media. Traditional Hispanic girls, speak Spanish, eat Puerto Rican food, confess their sins to a priest every Saturday and going to their church every Sunday. The environment of the tropics inspire colors of clothing while the climate impacts that amount of skin that is often shown.
In many ways, traditional Hispanic culture is very strict in terms of how a young girl should behave. Traditional Hispanic females are expected to be unpretentious, to dress modestly, and in every circumstance show respect and honor the family. The misconceptions that society often holds with respect to Hispanic culture and women in particular stem in part from wide range of socio, cultural, and environmental differences. Never the less, the misconceptions and stereotypes that surround Hispanic females have long ranging impacts that are emotional, social, financial, and political in nature.
The purpose of Judith Ortiz story is to explain how hard, and at times uncomfortable it is to be a Latin woman, because of prejudice and stereotypes regarding their dress. Latin woman, are usually taught to dress in a “mature way”, which many times is confusing to both a Latina and the larger American culture. To a Latina, it is ok to dress sexy, and wear lots of jewelry, and accessories such as tight clothes, bangles, and big hoop earrings on different occasions. This style of dress however, becomes problematic particularly as it is what is taught in the culture as being formal and too often confused with being professional.
For Ortiz’s generation, it was ok for woman to wear their best party clothes as she mention, to go and flirt with the boy they like in the park because they were protected by the extended family and traditional Catholic religious structure. Ortiz states, “Based on the opinions of girls that wear tailor skirts and silk blouses, we (Latinas) must have seem hopeless and vulgar”. The way must of Latin American girls dress (with tight skirts and jingling bracelets), has caused Latinas according to Mrs. Ortiz to be labeled and stereotyped as “Hot Tamale” or “sexual firebrand. In her introduction Ortiz speaks about an experience she had on a bus trip to London, where a young European boy called her Maria, comparing her to “Maria from the West Side Story”, which made her realize that no matter where you go, or how educated you are, your roots, and culture will follow you, just for being a Latina. At the same time, this situation illustrates how media influences and impact individual’s conceptions of what a Latina actually is. As society has typically been rather segregated cultural interactions have been limited and education regarding the other’s culture has been left to the media.
Another interesting experience Ortiz had was when she was going to a friend’s wedding, where a middle aged man in a tuxedo, called her “Evita” and started reciting “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” which was very uncomfortable to her due to the fact that this person was stereotyping her because of her Hispanic look. In fact the individual publicly humiliated her as he most likely viewed her as a sexual object of less moral value. When there is little or no education, the situation for a Latin woman gets even worse.
Ortiz through her life experiences, privilege of an education, and inclusion in a well-educated society has actively combated stereotypes of Latina females. Thousands of Latin woman have had to suffer the stereotyping and prejudice on different situations, specially because of the fact that there is a myth of the Latina being a “whore, domestic or criminal”, ultimately making them vulnerable in front of their bosses at work, whom in many cases harass them sexually. I can relate to this story, because I am Latina. I have lived some of these experiences.
On jobs and with people from other cultures people have looked at me as if I am a sexual Latin girl, based on the way I look and the clothes that I was wearing. I know exactly how it feels to be sexually harassed by my boss, because it happened to me on many occasions, even though I always knew how to dress properly for work, and am educated. This story touched my life, because, I feel connected to each one of the situations mentioned in the story. Some of which happened to me personally, and many others to Latin woman I know.