The Hopes the Resistance and the Culture of Latina Women in America
Rima de Vallbona was born in San Jose, Costa Rica on March 15, 1931. She completed her childhood studies at Pilar Jim?©nez school and finished at Colegio de Se?±oritas in 1948. In 1962, she was able to obtain her bachelor’s degree in philosophy and literature at the University of Costa Rica. Later in 1981, she was able to attain her Ph.D. in Modern Languages from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, U.S. Continuing to pursue her education, she received another Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Salamanca in Salamanca, Spain.
In her time of an essayist, she has published a couple more. She has published Yolanda Oreamuno in 1971 and La obra en prosa de Euniec Odio in 1981. In addition, she has published numerous articles in magazines of different countries such as Mexico, Spain, France, Uruguay, Germany, Costa Rica, Brazil, Venezuela, and others (Rima de Vallbona 2012). She is currently a professor of Hispanic Literature at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. After living in Houston for more than 30 years, she was able to get her citizenship (Rima de Vallbona 2012).
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Numerous stories of hers are in anthologies and selections of some languages. Throughout the years, she has received numerous awards for her accomplishments and pieces. Some of those awards include National Novel of Costa Rica in 1968, “Jorge Luis Borges” of story in 1977, “Agripina Montes del Valle” of the novel in 1978, “Professor Lilia Ramos” of children’s poetry at the Southwerst Conference of Latin American Studies in 1982, and within other awards (Vallbona). These awards are in recognition of her excellence and the work of sharing the Hispanic culture.
In the academic and literary world, topics related to the current and ancestral world are not spoken of in recent years. The modern and classic way of things along with the traditional ways versus the most current things are topics Rima de Vallbona depicts effectively.
Furthermore, the author includes footnotes for the reader for reference. As a reader, it helps clarify any questions. However, majority of the footnotes are there to fully give credit to the right source. First, the main characters include Professor Thomson and Rodrigo. Rima uses imagery as the characters are described. The characters are portrayed as one thing at the beginning of the chapter and later giving a full insight of the reality of the characters. Professor Thompson is a double character that is an actual older woman professor that is described as dirty person, has smelly hair, and someone who is quite eccentric. She is known to be one of the best professors who teaches classical literature.
However, she is a double character as she is portrayed as a beautiful young woman with rich hair and having the ability to sing. There is also Rodrigo. Rodrigo is a young student who belongs to a bourgeois family and constantly gives in to Professor Thompson’s charm. Eva is another student who is Rodrigo’s friend that is constantly reminding him of professor Thompson’s charm and admiration to him. Lastly, Hector is also Rodrigo’s friend who in fact, also falls for professor Thompson’s charm. At the beginning before the text, it opens up with a dedication to her father.
Every chapter is included with an epigraph. Similarly, Muchacha also includes epigraphs in every section of the book. Interestingly throughout the second part in Los infiernos de la mujer y algo…, the epigraphs were Bible verses. Bible verses may tie back to one’s culture or background(s). Bearing in mind, Rima comes from a Latin American culture which most of the time, religion always plays a role. People rely on religion for life decisions. It helps individuals by choosing right from wrong. Rima inputs Bible verses to reiterate that women are rising in running the household.
In particular, she adds the verse Deuteronomy 24: 1-4 that states, “if a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, … her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled” (Bible Gateway). Religion is the moral foundation of a family, of a culture, and of an individual. Religion also gives meaning to life.
Paradise, being one of the main themes, may include heaven in terms of religion. Bilingualism ties into this, although the text is written mainly in Spanish. There are terms in which Rima decides to leave in English solely to reiterate the culture in American culture. The way of belonging in both cultures, Cuban and America and becoming Cuban American stands for the bilingualism. For example, “las baggy ladies” (de Vallbona 12) signifies how American women are usually careless about their appearances. American women used to have the tendency to put less effort in their appearance due to their status in class.
However, changing the narratives of a woman in society has now everyone look at it in a different perspective. In addition, in the second part of the text, Rima titles a chapter based on biblical characters: “Una vez Cain y Abel” [Cain and Abel one more time]. Another example of bilingualism is the epigraph in one of the chapters that focuses on the vulnerability that a woman can have. Analyzing, in this unfortunate event in which she felt as her virginity was taken away in an imbalanced manner, using bilingualism emphasizes the power in an American society in the text. Repetition is a large component in the techniques that was well played throughout the text as it focuses mainly on literature in the book. Repeatedly, the word “palabras” [words] is one of the top most common word used in the text.
For instance, Rima states “…ella era una h??bil manipuladora de as palabras, palabras que iba tejiendo a manera de una red…” […she was a skilled manipulator of words, words that wove in a net…] (19). It is repeated again, “…que de veras estaba atrapado en la red tejida por ella con sus palabras, palabras, palabras, palabras, escritas, susurradas, habladas, le?das, recitadas, palabras, y no, yo quiero irme a casa…” […that I was really caught in her net done by her with her words, words, words, words, written, whispered, spoken, read, recited, words, and no, I want to go home…] (de Vallbona 19). Entwined to the presentation strategy, repetition, perspectivism also ties in.
Constantly, the reader wonders the reality or the truth to the stories. There is one perspective and that is the narrator’s perspective. If the narrator would be switched to a character in the story, the perspective would change as well. Within these storylines, the author uses chronotope methods as a way to describe time and space. Metaphors are used a lot in the text such as “este espantap??jaros con figura de mendiga no puede ser una profe…” [this scarecrow with the figure of a beggar cannot be a professor…] (de Vallbona 13). As the text uses many metaphors, symbolism is used in similar ways. The way the reading is in the second part of this novel, religion plays a role in having a deeper meaning in the context of the entire story.
Topics such as the current and ancestral world, the modern and classic way of things, and the traditional ways and the most current things are seen through the text. For instance, in the first chapter, “La tejedora de palabras”, as Rodrigo fantasizes about professor Thompson, he starts to realize that the traditional ways and the most current things are starting to be seen. Within their literature class, several themes are shown that reflect Rodrigo and the other characters. For example, one of the topics is the myth of Homer, one of the mythical characters for their class readings, of “la hechizer?a” [the charm]. It reflects the effect of professor Thompson’s charm to Rodrigo’s life. Women in America may be seen as power playing when it comes to relationships.
All women throw temper tantrums once in a while — some are just better disguised. Sometimes she’s hurt, while sometimes she’s just being a brat. No matter the cause, it’s important to stop her manipulating power plays as soon as they hit the surface (Fox News 2010). Professor Thompson ultimately by manipulating Rodrigo, wins him over. As to hell and paradise, professor Thompson seemed to have made Rodrigo believe he will go to his paradise by escaping death. The other is Ulises: the hero which emphasize how Rodrigo becomes a hero in professor Thompson’s life.
As one of the weekly assignments given to the students, the professor wrote a note to him stating, “[Rodrigo, from what you say in class and write, I can see that you are very clever, more than other students. Before you, I experience the impression that you have come to my life as one of those mythical heroes we have studied in class, one who seems to break the rules of the ordinary and settle in the world]” (de Vallbona 15). The last theme shown that professor Thompson within the reading has is that it reflects the life of Rodrigo in Telemachus, the son of Odysseus and Penelope.
In reality, she expresses her feelings to Rodrigo and Hector who eventually also falls for her charm. Their youth is besieged with so many temptations that are against the norms of traditional ways. These may take away from what brings families together to the oppression of paradise, as mentioned as one of the two main themes. Rima is influenced by U.S feminism. Feminism is shown in the text between the two main themes: hell, and paradise. To define this, “feminism is a social movement and ideology that fights for the political, economic and social rights for women.
Feminists believe that men and women are equal, and women deserve the same rights as men in society” (What Is Feminism). The “hell” that can in a woman’s life may include aging. Women are usually self-conscious about their skin and the way the associations are with old and young. Becca R. Levy in the article, Mind Matters: Cognitive and Physical Effects of Aging Self-Stereotypes, states that when the individual reaches an age that is strictly defined by institutions, or informally by other individuals, as old, she or he joins the aged membership group.
The elderly is usually associated with loneliness since as for the most part, elderly people seem to find themselves like so. Professor Thompson may have the feeling of loneliness as she ages, therefore feels the need to charm her students. With age comes closer to death. Death has a negative connotation. In the text, within the two main themes, hell and paradise, death is associated with hell. To add to the things women may think hell is, women may also be insecure about their partner’s fidelity. Rodrigo’s mother aches from infidelity from his father in which constantly occurs with younger women.
Rima de Vallbona continues to be one of the most successful Costa Rican U.S authors in the academic and literary world. Her style of literature is beautiful to read, it is mostly in Spanish, and is mainly influenced by U.S feminism. She thinks women are strong, capable, and dominant. In the academic and literary world, she is considered important as she addresses topics related to the current and ancestral world, the modern and classic way of things, and the traditional ways and the most current things.
In the text, within the two main themes, hell and paradise in which death, age, and infidelity are associated with hell whereas religion is associated with paradise. Her way of writing includes with an epigraph at the beginning of her chapters as noted not only in this book but in her other pieces as well. De Vallbona uses different literary elements in which help shape her literacy to make it unique. Analyzing, religion seemed to play a part of her life as it is reflected in her literature. It shows the moral foundation of a family, of a culture, and of an individual. A woman Cuban American is a part of the identity built and portrayed.