Study Guide

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Politics

By Julia Alvarez

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Once, the story goes, during who-knows-which revolution, a radical young uncle and his wife showed up at Tía Flor's in the middle of the night wanting asylum. Tía Flor greeted them at the door with the smile and "How delightful of you to stop by!" (1.1.12)

When the García Girls call their Aunt Flor a "politician," it's not a compliment. They're basically saying she's fake; she always pretends like everything is hunky-dory, even when it's so obviously not. Ironically, Tía Flor the "Politician" isn't fired up by political causes.

The father told them there was plenty more where that had come from. The revolution in the old country had failed. Most of his comrades had been killed or bought off. He had escaped to this country. And now it was every man for himself, so what he made was for his girls. (1.2.7)

Wait a second, Papi was a revolutionary? That's pretty cool. But, uh... it sounds like the revolution didn't exactly go according to plan. It also sounds like Papi is a little bit bitter about how things turned out. Have his experiences in fighting for a revolution changed him for the worse?

Then Papi went down for a trial visit, and a revolution broke out, a minor one, but still.

He came back to New York reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and saying, "I am given up, Mami! It is no hope for the Island. I will become un dominican-york." (2.1.1-2)

Even after Trujillo is assassinated, it's not all smooth sailing for the Dominican Republic. Political instability on the Island convinces Papi that it's time to settle in the U.S. for good.

[...] we had devised as sophisticated and complicated a code and underground system as Papi had when he and his group plotted against the dictator. [...] The third, on-duty daughter would get the third call, in which the first question would be, "Where are your sisters?" At the library studying or in so-and-so's room getting tutored on her calculus. (2.1.10)

So if the García Girls are the revolutionaries in this scenario, does that make Papi a dictator? Does anyone else think this is a little ironic?

It's possible that Mami had her own little revolution brewing, and she didn't want to blow the whistle on her girls and thus call attention to herself. [...]

Recently, she had begun spreading her wings, taking adult courses in real estate and international economics and business management, 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. (2.1.43-44)

When is taking a business class a revolutionary act? When your family expects your only job to be staying home and taking care of the kids. But do you think Mami considers herself to be a feminist?

But tonight, as we've agreed, we're staging a coup on the same Avenida where a decade ago the dictator was cornered and wounded on his way to a tryst with his mistress. It was a plot our father helped devise but did not carry through, since by then we had fled to the States. (2.1.122)

Oh, BTW, Trujillo was shot. Yeah, things didn't work out so well for him. We wonder if Carlos García feels redeemed that he helped to come up with the plan that eventually worked to kill Trujillo. He never mentions it in the novel, or seems to take much pride in it. Why not? Is it because, even with Trujillo dead, the Dominican Republic still had a few years of dictatorship ahead of it?

But in dreams, he went back to those awful days and long nights, and his wife's screams confirmed his secret fear: they had not gotten away after all; the SIM had come for them at last. (2.2.29)

Papi seems to be traumatized by what he experienced living under Trujillo's dictatorship. It sounds like it was really awful. The SIM, by the way, were Trujillo's secret police. You did not want them knocking on your door in the middle of the night.

Now she knows guns are illegal. Only guardias in uniform can carry them, so either these men are criminals or some kind of secret police in plain clothes Mami has told her about who could be anywhere at anytime like guardian angels, except they don't keep you from doing bad but wait to catch you doing it. (3.1.11)

For a little kid, Yoyo is pretty perceptive. Guns are illegal; therefore, anyone carrying a gun must be a bad guy.

At the first sign of trouble, Victor said, get in touch, code phrase is tennis shoes. [...] It wasn't his fault the State Department chickened out of the plot they had him organize. And he has promised to get the men out safely. All but Fernando, of course. Pobrecito ending up the way he did, hanging himself by his belt in his cell to keep from giving out the others' names under the tortures Trujillo's henchmen were administering. (3.1.31)

Wow, there is a lot of information hidden in this little paragraph. First of all, we learn that Victor works for the U.S. State Department, and that he had been organizing a plot to overthrow Trujillo, but had to abort when the State Department backed out. Secondly, we get a glimpse of how bad Trujillo and his secret police really are; so bad that this guy Fernando would rather hang himself than let them interrogate him.

Old buddy introduced him around till he knew every firebrand among the upper-class fellas the State Department wanted him to groom for revolution. (3.1.46)

In case you thought the people who were upset with Trujillo were just the poor people and the Haitians he had massacred, think again. The people organizing against him were from the upper class. We think that's pretty interesting.

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