Study Guide

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Part 3, Chapter 1

By Julia Alvarez

Part 3, Chapter 1

To the time machine! We've already gone backwards through the '80s, sailed through the '70s, and swung through the '60s. Now we jump back to the late 1950s, the García family's final years as residents of the Dominican Republic.

Keep in mind that, at this time, General Trujillo is still large and in charge. You do not want to mess with him.

Okay, here we go: It's 1960, and we're on the Island.

The Blood of the Conquistadores (Mami, Papi, the Four Girls)

Part I

  • Carlos spots two suspicious looking dudes walking up his driveway. They're carrying guns. Uh-oh.
  • He signals to the cook, Chucha, that he needs to go. Like, now. Chucha know what's up. She nods.
  • Papi makes a mad dash for the bedroom. Yoyo spots him on the way, and he makes a signal for her to keep quiet.
  • Carlos lets himself into the walk-in closet in the bedroom. And it has a freaking secret room behind the back wall. How cool is that? What is this, a James Bond movie?
  • At first, Yoyo thinks her Papi is playing a game. But then these super scary men ring the doorbell. Everything about them screams: Danger. Danger.
  • Yoyo knows guns are illegal, 'cause once when she accidentally told the neighbor Papi had a gun, Mami had to smuggle the gun out of the house under her raincoat. Mami calls that the time Yoyo "almost got [her] father killed" (3.1.12).
  • The scary dudes take out a gun and pass it around for the kids to play with. You know, like a fun conversation piece.
  • The especially creepy man tries get little Fifi to sit on his lap. Uh, no thanks.
  • Thank goodness Mami is home.
  • Laura tells her servant Chino to have Doña Carmen call Tío Vic and tell him to come get his tennis shoes. Which turns out to be a secret code for: help.
  • Turns out Tío Vic isn't really their tío. He's with the U.S. State Department, and he's been trying to organize an uprising against Trujillo. The State Department backed out of the plan at the last minute, but Tío Vic still promised to protect all the men involved.
  • Laura busts out her "grand manner" and tries to intimidate the guards. Plus, she does a little name-dropping. Her good friend Victor Hubbard is going to stop by! You know, Victor Hubbard, with the U.S. State Department? When Victor Hubbard gets the message from Laura, he's in the middle of having sex with a teenage prostitute.
  • But when he hears he's got a phone call from the Embassy, he knows Operation Tennis Shoes is underway.
  • Tío Vic goes to Carmen and Mundo's house to meet with the guys involved in the plot.
  • Carla and Sandi are there, and they wonder why Tío Vic is always coming over to pick up his tennis shoes, when they never see him leave with any.
  • Tío Vic asks them and the cousins if any of them want to go to New York to see the Empire State building? The kids try to play it cool, but they are totally psyched. Tía Carmen looks a little nervous, though.
  • Laura is super relieved to finally see Vic.
  • Vic makes the guards nervous. He asks for their names.
  • Then he spins them a story about how Dr. García has just gotten a fellowship at a hospital in the U.S.
  • This is news to Laura. Suddenly, she realizes they're leaving, and she's a little bummed.
  • Ready for a little shift in perspective?
  • Pupo and Checo are the two guards. Their boss told them to go spy on Dr. García, but Checo took his orders a little too far. He makes Pupo nervous.
  • If their search pays off, Pupo knows they will get a promotion. But if it doesn't, they can get in serious trouble. It'll be back to cleaning prisons and interrogation cells for the two of them!
  • When they arrive at the house, they can tell something's up by how nervous everyone is acting. The lady of the house is name-dropping like Oprah. She must be bluffing. She doesn't really know that red-headed American guy at the Embassy.
  • But then the red-headed American guy from the Embassy shows up. Oops.
  • The American guy knows their supervisor, and gives him a call. Pupo and Checo are in deep doo-doo.
  • The American tells their supervisor he'll have the doctor out of the country in 48 hours.
  • Okay, back to the family's perspective. The guards leave, and Mami tells the girls to pack. They're going to the U.S.
  • Carlos has been thinking about his childhood and obsessing about the failed plot to overthrow Trujillo. He's pretty relieved to finally be let out of this stifling closet.

Part II

  • Fifi, the youngest sister, is narrating in the first person. She doesn't remember very much about their last day on the Island. But she does remember Chucha.
  • Chucha was their cook, and she'd been with the family for a very long time.
  • Since Chucha was Haitian, she spoke French, and had difficulty pronouncing some Spanish words. Like the word for "parsley."
  • Why is this important? To answer that, we bring you this installment of our Very Shmoopy Introduction to Dominican History, Part III.
  • In 1937, General Trujillo ordered that all black people of Haitian descent get out of his side of the Island, or he would have them killed. Even if they were actually Dominican citizens.
  • Trujillo's soldiers would ask anyone they suspected of being Haitian, based on their dark skin or their French accents, to say the word "parsley": perejil. If they couldn't pronounce the Spanish j, Trujillo's soldiers killed them.
  • Over the course of five days, Trujillo's soldiers killed tens of thousands of ethnic Haitians living on the Dominican side of the island.
  • This horrible genocide is known as el Corte, "the cutting," in the Dominican Republic. In English it's referred to as the Parsley Massacre.
  • Thus concludes this sad installment of our Very Shmoopy Introduction to Dominican History.
  • On the night of the Parsley Massacre, Chucha showed up on the de la Torre doorstep and begged for help. Papito took her in, and she'd been with the family ever since.
  • On their last day on the Island, while the sisters were packing to leave, Chucha came into their room and unwrapped a strange, wooden statue. The statue had grooves along its face, and when Chucha placed a bowl of water on its head, it looked like it was crying.
  • Chucha cried, too, and prayed over the heads of the four girls. She told the girls they are leaving their homeland and never coming back, just like she did when she was a girl.
  • Time for a page break and a shift in perspective. Now we're inside Chucha's head. She's just said goodbye to the de la Torre family.
  • She's worried that Laura and the girls are going to live in a nation of zombies.
  • Now that the family is gone, all she can hear are the sounds of Voodoo spirits.
  • The spirits tell Chucha the future. They tell her how the house will fall apart and be raided by Dominican guardías.
  • Chucha goes to her room and lights candles for the family. Then she settles down for a nice long rest in her coffin. Yes. Her coffin.
  • Before she falls asleep, she tries to prepare herself for death by closing the lid to the coffin for a few minutes.

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