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...and 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, Doña 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, Doña 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...
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