A Review: The Latina in America: A chorus of experiences so loud and significant

Pasckie Pascua recently posted a review of Hijas Americanas on her web-site, a review that ran in The Indie of Asheville, a monthly “open mic” magazine that she publishes and edits.  Here’s an excerpt: 

Take this example (from the book)– while 81.4 percent of Latina women are satisfied with their inherent beauty, only 39.1 percent are satisfied with their weight, and the belief that attractive women are more valued in society is staggering (86.8 percent). This could be a contradiction but on closer scrutiny, it is not. This emphasizes the “foreign woman’s” struggle to belong and yet still excise self-respect. Hence, the snippets of stories that Molinary compiled become empowering and illuminating – a deeper understanding of the sensibilities and sensitivities of a woman seeking her valued and esteemed place in a dominant culture that is almost always moved by face-value consumerism, self-consciousness, and double standard.

The popular TV series “Ugly Betty” partly responds to Molinary’s premise: “We are Latina and we are Americans.” The series—based on the Colombian telenovela “Betty la fea” by Fernando Gaitán—follows the life of Betty Suarez (America Ferrera), and her job at popular fashion magazine. Betty’s at times tragic and comical, but mostly heartwarming attempts to fit into the world of high fashion – as ushered and dictated by “Western” conventions – articulate what Molinary espouses towards the end of her book: “Raise your voice and demand an end to a narrow beauty mystique. No matter where you have been on the journey to selfhood, start each day with the intention of championing yourself and others. It is never too late to claim yourself. The revolution—for all of us, of any upbringing—is about to crescendo.”
“Hijas Americanas” is not a statement on womanhood or a political battlecry for women empowerment. It simply presents the Latina – or the foreign woman as she wades along two crisscrossing cultural rivers – bare-bones sincere, achingly honest, but silently powerful. By presenting the Latina as such, Molinary lets out an authentic voice that speaks from the inside and out – which, in turn, makes the book a significant work given current realities.

Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States, with an estimated population of 41.3 million. They are estimated to grow by more than 1.7 million a year. In 2004, there were 41.3 million Hispanics in the U.S., representing 14.2 percent of the total U.S. population. Meantime, Latina-owned businesses number 553,618, employ 320,000 and generate $44.4 billion in sales nationwide, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. More than one-third (34.9%) of all Hispanic owned firms are owned by women. Hispanic women-owned firms employ 18.5% of the workers in all Hispanic-owned firms and generate 16.3% of the sales.

Moreover, Latinas control 39 percent of the 1.4 million companies owned by minority women in the United States, which generate nearly $147 billion in sales. Four in ten minority women-owned firms are owned by Latinas. Between 1997 and 2004, the number of firms owned by Hispanic women increased by nearly 64 percent, to 553,618, and their combined revenue climbed by more than 62 percent, to $44.4 billion.

In between and beyond this data, however, is the heart and soul of the Latina that remain largely hidden behind fleeting facts and figures. “My own story and the stories of the handful of Latinas I’ve come to know in my adulthood were not enough,” writes Rosie Molinary. “I wanted a chorus of experiences. I wanted the volume to be loud and significant.”

“Hijas Americanas” presents an insistent and persistent voice that is almost impossible to ignore. The voice comes not from mouths spoken in two languages or stoked by a dual culture, but from the heart and soul of a proud, happy and brave American woman.  

Want to read the whole review and more of Pascua’s work?  Visit her blog.   

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