Study Guide

Mami (Laura) in How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

By Julia Alvarez

Mami (Laura)

Like Papi, Mami becomes a different person once she moves to the U.S. In the Dominican Republic, she's a sort of Super-Mami. A glamorous mami who wears long, silver ballgowns and dances boleros with her handsome husband at Christmas parties. A loving mami who makes sure scary black cats can't get into Yoyo's room at night, and who comes running when Sandi breaks an arm.

In the United States, however, her daughters grow frustrated with her parenting skills:

Her daughters never called her Mom except when they wanted her to feel how much she had failed them in this country. She was a good enough Mami, fussing and scolding and giving advice, but a terrible girlfriend parent, a real failure of a Mom. (2.2.12)

Mami's "Old World" values and funny "misnomers and mis-sayings" (2.2.62) make her seem a little bit naive in this new country. She's no longer a glamorous lady of high society. Now she seems less sophisticated, and sillier. "Her English was a mishmash of mixed-up idioms and sayings that showed she was 'green behind the ears,' as she called it" (2.2.6).

In many ways, Laura is just as strict as her husband Carlos. She is constantly "fussing" at her girls, and passing rules governing everything from tampons to beauty products to how the girls spend their summers. Of course, cigarettes and sex are off-limits. And boy does she freak out when she discovers Fifi's bag of marijuana,

The dreaded and illegal marijuana that was lately so much in the news! Mami was sure of it. And here she'd been, worried sick about protecting our virginity since we'd hit puberty in this land of wild and loose Americans, and vice had entered through an unguarded orifice at the other end. (2.1.36)

But in other ways, Laura starts to lighten up. She even keeps the story of Fifi's marijuana a secret from her husband. Why, you may ask? Well, she doesn't want him to freak out and send everybody back to the Dominican Republic.

See, Laura really starts to like living in the United States. Although she doesn't label herself a "feminist" the way her daughters do, she starts to embrace some of the freedoms and opportunities afforded to her as an American woman. She begins trying to invent things, and "taking adult courses in real estate [...] dreaming of a bigger-than-family-size life for herself. She still did lip service to the old ways, while herself nibbling away at forbidden fruit" (2.1.44).

After living in the United States for a few years, Laura can't imagine going

… back to the old country where, de la Torre or not, she was only a wife and a mother (and a failed one at that, since she had never provided the required son). Better an independent nobody than a high-class houseslave. (2.2.42)

Mami doesn't "come straight out and disagree with her husband's plans (to move back to the Dominican Republic)" (2.2.42), but she does give him a hard time about reading the Dominican papers. She's not interested in going back to that life.

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