Veronica AlvaradoAlvarado 1 Scot Butwell Period 4 English 12 Mexican-American Women: Bound by Tradition The plot of the 2002 movie Real Women Have Curves revolves around a young Mexican-American woman named Ana, who has graduated high school and in hopes of pursuing a college education. Ana is the youngest daughter of her traditional, first-generation, Mexican-American parents.
Although Ana is a bright young female, she is enslaved by Mexican tradition; she has the potential to attend Columbia University, a prestigious university in New York City, but that would mean that she would have to partially abandon cultural tradition and her family’s expectations of taking care of her parents by working, catching a husband, and having children. Moreover, as a young woman of a heavier structure, she also struggles with American society and her mother’s disapproval and criticism of her female curves.
Reflecting the many battles of many Latino women in society, Ana overcomes her struggles and realizes that there is more to being a woman than what cultural tradition and her family expects from her, her sexuality, and most importantly, her body. Ana struggles with the battle for her educational dreams and Mexican tradition as she decides to put her schooling before her mother’s wishes. In the first scene of the film, Ana disobeys her mother, Carmen, who tries to persuade her daughter to stay home on her last day of high school by using her illness to make her daughter feel guilty and stay home to cook breakfast for the men.
According to Mexican tradition, “Wives are expected to care for the children, keep the house clean, cook all the meals, and do all the other domestic chores necessary in the family. ” (Mexican Women’s Issues). Ana does not allow her mother’s guilt trip to keep her home because she feels her education is more important to her than what her mother and the men of her home expect from her. Moreover, Ana, who wants to receive a college education, is not determined to stick to the traditional role of the Mexican daughter supporting her parents financially by just working; her English teacher, Mr.
Guzman, who visits Ana at home during her graduation party, motivates her to send an application to Columbia University, but her parents disapprove of his “meddling” and state that, at the moment, they need their daughter to work at her sister’s dress factory. Although Ana’s father supports the idea of his daughter pursuing a college education, her mother Carmen does not feel that academic schooling will do her daughter any good. She tells her husband, “I can teach her. I can teach her to sew. I can teach her to raise her kids… nd take care of her husband. Those are things they won’t teach her in school. ” This stubbornness from her mother is a result of what Mexican tradition has done to her, which is enslave and conform her to what old-fashioned Mexican society expects from her, and, also, to raise her daughters to live according to that tradition. In order to follow Mexican tradition, Dona Carmen’s goal, other than keeping her daughter home from college, is to marry off daughters young and fully prepared to take care of their men and satisfy them.
After being questioned by a friend as to why she has removed her older daughter’s eleven-year San Antonio figurine, which will supposedly help her daughter find suitors and have children, Dona Carmen tells her friend that “It’s too late for Estela to get married. Now I have to concentrate on Ana. ” According to Carla Trujillo from Film in American Popular Culture, “For many Chicanas identification as women, that is, as complete women, comes from the belief that [they] need to connected to a man…held by some in the Chicano community, women are not complete until they are mothers.
Many Chicanas are socialized to believe that [their] chief purpose in life is raising children. ” After listening to her mother gossip about an ex-seamstress who had been dumped by her husband after having premarital sex, Ana calls Dona Carmen old-fashioned for believing a woman ends up pregnant is for “knowing too much,” when her husband wants her to be a virgin. Ana defends her unconformity by questioning and saying, “Why is a woman’s virginity the only thing that matters? A woman has thoughts, ideas, a mind of her own. In response, her mother looks at her with a confused face because of the fact that her country does not accept views like this; she feels she has to submit to her husband’s wishes, even if that means sacrificing her thoughts, ideas, and a mind of her own because that is what she has been taught by Mexican tradition. One great struggle that Ana faces is going against the traditional Mexican norm of remaining unified with her family. According to MexInsider, “Mexican culture is known for the unified nature of the family… Children regularly live with their parents until they marry, even if they remain single until their thirties or later. Therefore, Dona Carmen, being one to follow Mexican cultural norms, she expects her daughter to do the same; however, Ana develops a disrespect for her mother’s values because she expects her daughter to do the same. The reason for why Dona Carmen and Ana’s relationship is so restrained is because of the envy that Dona Carmen has for her daughter. “… her mother who envies her youth and resents her looking outside the circle, away from the tradition. ” Her own mother tries to hold Ana back when her English teacher, Mr.
Guzman, comes to her home to let her know that she has received a full ride scholarship to Columbia University in New York. “Senor Guzman… we are a family, and we intend to stay that way…” Ana’s mother even uses the relationship between Ana and her abuelo to make her daughter feel guilty and stay home from going to college. However, with time, Ana realizes that there is more to her as a Mexican-American woman than to just following the traditional roles of her people and her family; she had to abandon her own parent’s wishes to be happy, but it was a decision that she had to make in order to fulfill her goals.
Sexual purity is something greatly expected to be valued in women of Latino cultures; it is used as a way to classify a woman as someone respectable or promiscuous. Ana’s very own virginity starts to become a topic of interest when Jimmy, a Caucasian boy from her English class, starts to find interest in her. During the summer, after a long time of sneaking out, Ana and Jimmy’s relationship gradually starts to become a physical one; one day she decides to buy condoms in order to lose her virginity to him. While undressing and before having sex, Ana decides to let Jimmy look at her completely nude saying, “See, this is what I look like. And he says, “What a beauty,” which are uplifting words that she had not heard from her own mother, who would continually put her down for being of a heavy girl. The next morning, after taking a shower, Ana kisses her reflection in the mirror and looks at her nude body beneath her bath robe; Dona Carmen walks in on this act and angrily says, “You tramp… You lost your virginity, didn’t you? …You’re not only fat, now you’re a puta (whore)… Why didn’t you value yourself? ” Ana exclaims, “Because there is more to me than what’s in between my legs. Ana, who is now more confident, discovers that being a woman has nothing to do with being a virgin or what your family expects, but being who one wants to be. In traditional Latino cultures, a curvy body is highly esteemed, until one becomes too heavy to be seen attractive. Throughout the course of the film, Ana deals with her mother’s insults about her heavier body structure; she nicknames her daughter “gordita” (fatty), advises her coworkers to “not get as fat as Ana,” and constantly discourages her daughter into losing weight. ” Dona Carmen’s primary concern is that Ana’s heavier weight will prevent her from finding a man to satisfy.
One night while on a date with Jimmy, a boy from school, he looks at her attentively and tells her, “You have a beautiful face,” and with a negative attitude Ana questions, “Just my face? ” This scene emphasizes the horrible impact that her mother’s, Mexican tradition, and American society have had in making her feel as though she does not fit the image of an “ideal” woman. Eventually the brave protagonist realizes the importance of loving one’s body after putting up with so much criticism; she decides to revolt against what everybody expects from her.
Although, Mexican tradition tries to put down Ana for her body structure, she realizes that there is more to a woman that just her weight. In one of the most empowering scenes of the film, Ana encourages all the women in the factory to strip off their clothes because of the oppressive heat, regardless of the way they look. Ana is the first one to disrobe but her mother tries to stop her to free her daughter from the self-embarrassment. Dona Carmen tells her daughters, “The two of you should lose weight. You would look beautiful without all that fat! This shows Dona Carmen’s view of beauty coming from the outside, rather than from within. Ana then tries to express to her mother that she should not be criticizing her and her sister by saying, “Mama, you look just like us,” and her mother responds, “Yes, but I’m married. ” Ana finally fed up by her mother’s negativity expresses, “So that’s it. Make myself attractive so that I can catch a man. Mama, I do want to lose weight. And part of me doesn’t because my weight says to everybody, fuck you! How dare anybody tell me what I should look like… or what I should be… when there’s so much more to me than just my weight! Ana liberates herself from the oppression that surrounds her; with this being said, Ana expresses that there is more to her than her body image and that she does not need to find a man who will focus on her outer appearance, but the woman she is. One thing that results in being a repetitive problem in the Latin-American community is one’s struggle in assimilating to American society while holding on to their Latino cultural identity. In Real Women Have Curves, the main character, Ana, reflects this struggle in her life in addition to the constant criticism from her mother of trying to become educated and of being of a heavier built.
Ana’s mother calls her daughter fat and tries to force her to lose weight in order be beautiful enough to fulfill Mexican tradition of finding a man, marrying him, and having children; her mother finds it more important to educate her daughter domestically, than academically. Ana rebels against traditional Mexican norms because she does not want to settle for less than what she knows that she is capable of doing, which is to have her own set of thoughts and ideas, get educated, and learn to love who she is as a person.
With time, Ana realizes that there is more to her than her weight, than what cultural tradition expects from one, and that sometimes one has to go against a parent’s wishes in order to follow one’s own dreams regardless of what her family and both, her Latino culture and American culture, would think of her. Works Cited “Body Image And the American Popular Culture Landscape The Shifting Identity of Young Latinas in Real Women Have Curves. ” Film in American Popular Culture. June 2005. 11 May 2010. lt; http://www. americanpopularculture. com/archive/film/young_latinas. htm> “Cultural Issues for Women. ” Mexican Women’s Issues. 11 May 2010. <http://www. stolaf. edu/courses/ws399/ws399_03/Projects/sarafin%20resea rch/mexican. html> “Mexico Family and Traditions. ” MEXinsider. 11 May 2010. < http://www. mexinsider. com/mexico-family-and-traditions. html> Rosenblum, Shari L. “Real Women Have Curves. ” CineScene. 2002. 11 May 2010. < http://www. cinescene. com/shari/curves. htm>