When I Was Puerto Rican, Esmeralda Santiago (ISBN: 9780306814525)
Theme: Women and Identity in Puerto Rico
The reading from this week addresses women in Puerto Rico. Choose one of the chapters of When I Was Puerto Rican and describe what stands out to you the most about the identity of the woman/women in that particular section. What does it say about the individual? What does it say about the social expectations for women? What message does this send to the reader? 300 words
Q1 Childhood through Memoir
What effect does narrating through the eyes of a child have on the memoir? What are we as readers forced to infer? Why does Santiago as the author not provide the details that her adult self is now aware of? Provide one specific example from the any chapter in which we as readers have a greater understanding of the situation than Negi does in that moment. What do we know that she doesn’t? Why is our knowledge important to understanding the overall narrative? (100-150 words)
Q2 Gender Stereotypes
First, remember that this story takes place in the 1950s and 1960s. Then think about how much of the book’s text and subtext concern the different roles men and women are expected to play in Puerto Rican society. Though the men work hard, they are allowed time for recreation; the women work far harder with no time off at all. Women serve men, but they also scorn them.
How do the demands made on men and women differ in this culture? Who perpetuates gender stereotypes? Why? What are some examples from the book? What are the cultural roles that the mother is supposed to play? How is the father expected to behave? What is accepted from these different roles on a cultural level? How do Negi’s parents fit/break these stereotypes? How similar or different are attitudes towards the imposition of gender roles in the United States? (100-150 words)
Q3 The Imperialists
Re-read pages 72-74 where Papi describes to Negi what an imperialist is. How does he describe them to her? What is the main definition he gives? Given the rest of the conversation that they have about what the two countries have in common and their differences, what does this say about US imperialism in Puerto Rico? How does the last sentence on page 83 play into the idea of imperialism? How does “transculturation” play into this discussion? (100-150 words)
*Transculturation: a process of cultural transformation marked by the influx of new culture elements and the loss or alteration of existing ones. This differs from acculturation in that it is not necessarily equated with the complete loss of one’s culture.
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