Culture is defined sociologically as the compromise of beliefs, behaviors, objects, and other characteristics common to the members of a particular group to society. Ana Garcia lives in a Latino community, with greatly fixed ties to her traditional Mexican background and upbringing, in East Los Angles. Throughout the film, issues such as ethnocentrism and the contradictory. Cultural relativism is revealed as well as multiculturalism. Confirmations were made throughout the movie such as the marianismo norm of Latino society, and the choices made by Ana.
The tendency to use our own group’s ways of doing things as a measure for judging others is a way to describe ethnocentrism. Carmen Garcia, Ana’s mother, demonstrated this term in a sense that, she stressed the importance of ‘losing weight’, ‘being thin’, staying pure, and working hard while putting a further education on the back burner. It is Ana’s last day of high school when she discovers that she has a great opportunity to gain a scholarship to go to Columbia University, in New York. Before she comes home and breaks the good news to her family, she goes to her workplace and quits her job. Leaving her job left her mother unimpressed. Carmen stresses to Ana how to work is much more important, and to put your education later in the future. When Carmen was 13, she began working as she has continued to do so throughout her life, she believes that Ana should follow in her footsteps and be working while growing up to start a family. Ana has now been forced into a job with no guarantee, working at her sister Estella’s dressmaker factory.
Ethnocentrism is shown, again through Carmen, by emphasizing the fact that Ana is not particularly thin. Carmen is longing for a baby in the household, and she believes that neither of her daughters will bless her with that because of their weight. Back in Carmen’s day, you had to be thin and a virgin ‘in order to find a man’; she, therefore, believes that this train of thought is still relevant in the present day, this is showing Carmen’s cultural lag. She claims that both Estella and Ana are too fat and that ‘they would look more beautiful if they lost weight’. It is made clear that throughout all of the fat shaming that Carmen has put her through, Ana has lost her self-confidence.
The term marianismo is a Latino cultural norm which prescribes for higher moral and submissive character through women, as opposed to men. It is made clear that there is a fellow classmate of Ana’s, Jimmy, who has partaken an attraction to her. Jimmy exchanges his phone number with Ana, and the two begin a romance kept on the down-low, as Ana is afraid that Carmen will not approve. After a few dates, Ana goes to the store, buys condoms, and proceeds to have sex with Jimmy, who clearly shows his appreciation for her and her ‘curvy body’ leading up to the sexual relationship. Ana doesn’t fulfill this social norm, by losing her virginity.
The confirmation of the University of Columbia was received and presented to Ana, and she lets her family know that she would like to attend with the full ride scholarship she was awarded. Ana is portrayed as a very smart intellectual throughout the movie, although Carmen is hovering over Ana, critiquing her every move. Ana receives her father’s blessing to attend the university, but not her mothers. She knocks on the bedroom door, asking her mother for her blessing to leave for New York. Carmen does not open the door to acknowledge Ana, nor give a blessing. She turns her back and leaves with her father to head to the college. The social norm of marianismo isn’t satisfied in this case, because Ana does not give full submission to her mother, showing a low moral standard.
At the beginning of the movie it is shown that Ana lives in East L.A. while attending school Beverly Hills. Ana has to balance and navigate between the culture in her educational life as well as her home life; therefore, Ana clearly shows cultural pluralism. Ana claims that she is living in an ‘old school’ household, but it is well-defined that she has adopted the mainstream culture that she is exposed to in her life outside of her home.
Ana leaving for college also blurs in with the term cultural pluralism which is when someone successfully adapts to another culture without surrendering their own cultural identity. She is portrayed as a person caught between cultures, one of traditional Mexicans, and one of modern day, to find her way within society.
Considering her upbringing, Ana ultimately made the right choice for herself. By staying with her family, she was restricted from growing culturally. Although she took the risk of upsetting her mother, she was looking at the bigger picture. The film made it known that her whole life had been controlled up to this point, and she was ready to spread her wings and live her life. Something that Carmen stressed was important was to “walk like a lady”. She made it clear that this was one of the ways of becoming an acceptable woman, to both Carmen herself and to society. Once Ana reaches New York, in the big city, you notice that she confidently “walks like a lady”. Getting away from the environment that was preventing her to expand who she was as an intelligent, beautiful intellectual, not justified by her body alone.
Carmen contends that one value and its associated norm changes when a certain social phenomenon occurs. The phenomena that occurred is the definition of female sex appeal in terms of body image and the perception of their sex appeal when they discussed their bodies in the dressmaker factory. The change that occurred was the women within that workplace coming together and showing that their sex appeal is not limited by the ideals of society, and they created their own meaning of female sex appeal.
In conclusion, with the background Ana held, she lacked confidence by living with the Latino norms of her subculture in society. Showing acts of independence may have been perceived as violating marianismo, which is difficult when you are exposed to multiple cultures and trying to understand the norms of each culture.