There is evidence that suggests that women of Puerto Rico may be more sexually assertive than women in other Latin American countries*. That is, they are more likely to insist that their partners use contraception, and less likely to tolerate infidelity on the part of the husband. Researchers suspect that this feminine assertion among Puerto Rican women is due, at least in part, to the influence of American culture on the island. If the gender expectation of women in Latin America is to be sexually submissive and silent, Puerto Rican women are defying the gender expectation, if only slightly more so than their sisters in the rest of Central and South America. Concurrently, Puerto Ricans (both male and female) defy other such expectations that accompany being born male or female in Latin America. The rejection of gender expectations among Puerto Ricans can be witnessed in Esmeralda Santiago's memoir Almost a Woman.
Almost a Woman is a touching memoir that recounts the coming of age of Puerto Rican-born writer Esmeralda Santiago as she and her family adjust to life in the barrios of New York City. Young Negi, as her family calls her, desires freedom and independence. Moreover, she desires to find her true identity as a woman who is both Hispanic and American. Negi bears witness to many subtle instances of defiance to gender norms, which she relates in her memoir, but which I am sure she did not pick up on at the time.
[...] It can be argued that when an immigrant from Latin America defies a gender norm, he or she is simply becoming more “Americanized”. Perhaps Puerto Ricans are more likely to defy society's expectations of them due to their proximity to American culture and way of life. BIBLIOGRAPHY Almost a Woman. Emeralda Santiago. * Rohr, Monica. “ilence.” Latina Magazine. 2001. [...]
[...] The most obvious displays of rejection of gender expectations are seen in Tata,* Esmeralda's grandmother, and her boyfriend Tío Chico. Latin American culture dictates that the male is the master of the household, that his word is law. Following this thought process, people in the household, especially females, are expected to make his comfort a top priority. Thus, I was surprised by Tío Chico's reaction when Esmeralda offers to give up her chair so that he may sit down comfortably: “Tata handed me a cup of sweetened café con leche and, with a head gesture, indicated that I should vacate the chair for Tío Chico. [...]
[...] Therefore, she does not impose religious morals or codes of conduct on her children. This is rare in most of Latin America where Catholicism has such a strong influence. Puerto Rico, although technically part of America, is still overwhelmingly Catholic. Almost a Woman is a testament to both acceptance and rejection of the gender expectations imposed on Latin America by societal and religious ideals, traditional morals, and cultural norms. All characters can be seen as both fulfilling and defying these expectations as different points throughout the book. [...]
[...] Perhaps the most interesting character analysis concerning the fulfillment of gender expectations (or the absence of fulfillment) is that of the protagonist's mother. In many ways plays the role of what one could call the “typical” Latin American matriarch. She is strict with her children, especially with her daughters, and especially with Esmeralda. She does not allow Negi to date, or to wear provocative clothing. She is entirely selfless and wholly devoted to her children's wellbeing (61). We witness how she works tirelessly to provide for her family (as she is the primary caregiver, receiving no child support from the father of her children). [...]
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