Cultural dualism confusion: view of three writers


cultural dualism confusion: view of three minority writers

Latinos who migrate from their native countries into the United States of America are often confronted with one of the toughest situations of their lives-choosing between their native culture and their newfound American culture. Their true ethnic identity then becomes an elusive concept that they have to spend the rest of their lives trying to discover. The concept of ethnic identity has been centre stage in Latino literature with a focus on the main focus on formation as well as the confusion that surrounds its actual meaning and importance as noted by Fisher, (2012).

The formation of cultural identity is a complex one that involves stress, conflict and confusion and this best explained by means of the Torres’ Hispanic identity model and the  Bicultural Orientation model (Torres, 1999; Torres, 2003). Minority writers through their work share stories about being torn between two cultures and being impacted by stereotypes and highlight the importance of celebrating diversity as seen in the writings of Julia Alvarez,   Esmeralda Santiago and Cristina Garcia.

Julia Alvarez

The initial first chapter of Julia Alvarez’s novel titled, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents described the confusion of  Yolanda Garcia as she struggles to solve one of her greatest dilemmas – to discover her true language.  In this book, Alvarez summons the thought questioning whether Yolanda Garcia speaks Spanish or English since both represent an aspect of the cultural divide and confusion that she goes through as a Dominican-American hybrid.  It is quite unfortunate that throughout her existence, she struggled for complete inclusion into one side of this confusing ethnic dichotomy as either an American or Dominican in expectation of comprehending her identity as a hybrid. She realized that she possesses characteristics of both ethnicities and this essentially prevents assimilation into either of the sides (Alvarez, 1991).

Esmeralda Santiago

            Yolanda’s cultural uncertainties are quite similar to the one exhibited by Negi as explained in Esmeralda Santiago’s book titled When I Was Puerto Rican. While being raised in Puerto Rico, Negi is confused due to the reality of two cultural dichotomies in her life: the social dualism between the Puerto Rican subcultures of the nation’s folk (jibaros) and the city dwellers and the cultural dualism of American imperialism fighting against Puerto Rican nationalism  as noted by Santiago (1993). One the character Negi arrives in New York City, she changes to become a Puerto Rican-American hybrid and the resultant division of loyalties for both cultures just leads her into an identity crisis and a general feeling of personal insecurity. We, therefore, realize that the concept of mestizo consciousness as advanced by Gloria Anzaldua (Azaldua, 1987) is present in her life.

Cristina Garcia

            The work of Christina Garcia also covers the theme of being torn between two cultures.  The work covers cases of hybridity and multilingualism for Cuban-Americans (McAuliffe, 2011). In fact, Maria Cristina Garcia notes that several Cubans in the initial wave of immigrants hoped to someday return home and maintain a sense of their cubanidad past while in exile. They, in turn, suffered from a daily push and pull between the culture of their country of origin and the country of exile (Jurney, 2011; Garcia, 1992).


            The works of Julia Alvarez,   Esmeralda Santiago and Cristina Garcia all explored the nature and reasons why Latino immigrants felt a cultural clash between two identities as a result of their original and assumed cultures. The stereotypes against Latinos are also beautifully explored and the need for embracing cultural diversity as the best ways of dealing with cultural dualism.


ALVAREZ, J. (1991).How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books

Anzaldúa, G. (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco, Spinsters/AuntLute.

Fisher, K (2012). Ethnic Identity Development of Anglo-Oriented Second-Generation Latinos. Journal of the Indiana University Student Personnel Association


Garcia, C (1992), Dreaming in Cuban (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993). Henceforth DC.


McAuliffe, SL (2011) “Autoethnography and Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 13.4


Santiago, E (1993). When I was Puerto Rican. NY, Random House.


Torres, V. (2003). Influences on the ethnic identity development of Latino college students in the first two years of college. Journal of College Student Development, 44(4), 532-547.


Torres, V. (1999). Validation of a bicultural orientation model for Hispanic college students. Journal of College Student Development, 40, 285-299.



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