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Faculty of Education
Department of English Language and Literature

Gender and Ethnic Identity in Sandra Cisneros and Cristina García

Brno 2011

Supervisor Written by

Mgr. Pavla Buchtová Bc. Dana Shejbalová

I would like to thank my supervisor, Mgr. Pavla Buchtová, for her kind help, valuable advice and inspiration.

I hereby declare that my diploma thesis was in all parts exclusively prepared on my own, and that other resources or other means (including online sources), than those explicitly referred to, have not been utilized. All implemented fragments of text, have been marked as such.
Brno, 30th November, 2011


Dana Shejbalová


The diploma thesis deals with the issue of gender and ethnic identity in the literature of Hispanic ethnics in the USA. The thesis focuses on Americans of Cuban and Mexican origin, as two different sub-cultures of one ethnic. The author of this thesis compares individual formative factors and their influence on the process of identity formation in both ethnic groups, with the focus on female position.

The first part of the study maps historical and political changes in both cultures and clarifies social roles and position of women. The second part analyzes particular literary works by female authors of Hispanic origin: Sandra Cisneros and Cristina García. This part of the thesis depicts differences and similarities between above mentioned ethnic groups and the way, these factors are reflected in literary works by each author. The aim of this part is to examine the extent to which different social development might influence the process of identity formation and self perception.


Tato diplomová práce se zabývá problematikou genderové a etnické identity v literatuře hispánských národnostních menšin USA. Předmětem studie jsou etnické skupiny kubánského a mexického původu, jakožto dvou rozdílných podskupin stejného etnika. Práce porovnává jednotlivé faktory působící na formování identity u obou etnických skupin s důrazem na postavení žen.

V první části práce mapuje historický a politický vývoj obou kultur a objasňuje společenské role a postavení žen. Druhá část se již zaměřuje na analýzu konkrétních literárních děl autorek hispánského původu, Sandry Cisneros a Cristiny Garcíi. Tato část práce sleduje rozdíly a podobnosti mezi etniky a způsob jakým se tyto rozdíly odrážejí v literárních dílech obou autorek. Účelem této části je porovnat do jaké míry rozdílný vývoj ve společnosti může ovlivnit proces formování identity a vnímání sebe sama.
Key words: Hispanic origin, Latino American, Cuban American, Mexico, Chicano/a, literature, identity, gender role, social role, ethnics, ethnic group, male, female, self-perception
Klíčová slova: hispánský původ, latinsko-americký, kubánský Američan, Mexiko, mexický Američan (Chicano), literatura, identita, genderové role, etnikum, etnická skupina, mužský, ženský, sebepojetí

Table of contents:

1Introduction 5

2 Tendencies in Latin American literature in 20th century 7

3Identity 9


3.1 Chicano literature 12

3.1.1 Origin of Chicano literature 12

3.1.2 Chicano in Mexican – American context 14

3.1.3Chicana in the literature 15

3.2 Cuban Americans 18

3.2.1Cuban migration to the U.S. 18

3.2.2Cuban – American literature


4Analysis of literary works 20

4.1 Introducing the authors 22

4.1.1Sandra Cisneros 22

4.1.2Cristina García 23

5 Woman as a wife 25

5.1Chicano family 25

5.2 Sandra Cisneros: Hegemony within the wedlock 27

5.2.1The character of La mala mujer 31

5.3García: Gender stereotypes reversed 33

5.3.1Hidden domestic violence 36

6Woman as the member of society 39

6.1Women in Cuba – political consequences 40

6.2García: Conflict between two worlds 41

6.3 Formation process of public self 44

6.4Chicana 47

6.5Cisneros: virgin vs. prostitute 49

6.5.1Domestic vs. public 53

7 Femininity - what does it stand for? 54

7.1Women across generations 57

7.2What’s in name? 58

7.3Phenomenon of telenovela: 59

8 Conclusion 63


Massive migration from Mexico and the Caribbean area fastened the process of Hispanicization in the USA throughout the history and by the end of the twentieth century Americans of Hispanic descent have become one of the largest and the most influential social group. However, the Hispanic contribution has represented a neglected chapter in American literature for a long time.

In my thesis, I decided to examine the way how identity is determined in contemporary Hispanics literature. I will attempt to depict the position of women in Latin America region with respect to their understanding of identity as women and members of society of Hispanic origin in the same time. I am going to introduce the contemporary issues of Hispanic ethnic focusing on two groups falling within the term Hispanic, according to their descent: Americans with Mexican origin (also called Chicanos) and Cuban Americans. I chose Chicanos because they represent about two thirds of U.S. Hispanic group, and thus they became the largest community within the ethnic, while Cuban immigrants are not so numerous, but since they moved to the U.S. in several waves, each of them different in motifs and circumstances, they create rather heterogeneous community. Another reason for my choice of these two communities is remarkably different political development in both countries, which is supposed to influence the social environment directly.

The thesis shows how different or alike these communities are, with respect to different social and historical backgrounds of both sub-cultures with the special focus on female social role in each ethnic group as well as the position of these ethnics towards the major Anglo-American society. The purpose of this is to explore the way, female issues are reflected in the literature.

The aim of the thesis is to question individual features of identity and their formative impact to an individual. I am going to examine the importance of different factors and various circumstances contributing to individual’s perception of self. I argue that identity is not stable, it is influenced by vast number of details, each of them equal in its importance, however, if some of the crucial element is missing, there still exist many ways to achieve fair perception of self. This feature is especially distinct in the case of Chicanas, who were able to combat negative conditions in order to achieve equal position in their world. Although the identity is framed within many aspects like geography, education, profession or family, I decided to focus on gender and ethnicity, since I believe they are the most influential factors to form the concept of self.

In the first part of this study I am going to monitor the main landmarks in Hispanic literary movement, such as origin of New Narration in 1940s’, culminating into Boom in 1960s’ and the year 1975 as the pivotal point in feminist movement and how these changes are reflected in literature. I will attempt to follow the evolution of Latin American fiction in the context of social and political movements in the region and the position of women in such movements. In connection with this, I am going to survey how the female literary portrait has been changed in the course of 20th century.

The second part of the thesis is based on comparison of the particular literary works by Sandra Cisneros, a Chicana and Cristina García, a Cuban American and the way they present women’s issues in their works. I will examine the way they follow or contrast the principles described in the theoretical part and the way, women are portrayed in their works. I will attempt to discuss individual features of women’s identity, depicted in literary works of above mentioned authors, with the focus on women’s roles as mothers, wives and citizens, so as to provide a reflection to their understanding of self. Novels, I am going to analyze are The House on Mango Street and Women Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros and Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García.

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