Using two different languages in a dialogue can make it difficult for the audience to understand the message. However, if the audience understands both languages, it allows them to connect and perceive the intend of the meaning at a deeper level. Such as in Real Women Have Curves, by Josefina Lopez, the playwright focuses on five characters, Ana, Estela, Carmen, Pancha, and Rosali, who work together in a tiny sewing factory in East Los Angeles. Using Spanish and English, the five women not only sow dresses, but sow their concepts and perception of cultural expectations, feminism, social status, and self-identity together.
After Ana finished high-school, she was convinced by her mother, Carmen, to come work in the sewing factory owned by her sister Estela. Ana wanted to pursuit her education in college, but she did not have enough money. The women receive thirteen dollars per dress, each dress gets retailed for around two hundred dollars at Bloomingdales. They work in unbearable conditions and struggle to meet the deadlines of the dresses due to machine failure and low staff member. Practically they do not get paid enough for the work that they do.
This propose that Mexicans who come as immigrants get lower paying jobs. Estela is the only one without a green card making her ineligible to work and live in the US. They are at the bottom of the social class and receive the lowest paying jobs. For example, Ana who also used to work received $3. 35 an hour at McDonalds. Another factor that contributes to this assertion is their low level of education. Carmen who was not educated about menopause thought she was pregnant. Other than Ana, the rest of the women seem to have ideals and beliefs that surround their cultural expectations.
Ana who finishes high-school, is able to make judgements for herself and rebel from the cultural norms. This can be seen Act 1, Scene 3 when the women listen to the radio about a wife getting beaten by her husband. Carmen says she’s lucky that her husband does not beat her and Ana argues that it is not luck, that women have the right to say “no”. Ana practices the idea of feminism, she believes in women rights and how those rights should not be violated. Additionally, she believes in self love. Throughout the play, Ana gets fat-shamed by her mother constantly.
Dispute all the negativity from her mother, she is still confident and celebrates her body. Anna does not believe she should be a certain size to feel or be beautiful. She accepts herself and her body for who she is, never doubting it. She starts to appreciate the dresses and admires her sister’s designs. She packages the dresses because “they were not for her”. It is ironic how they make these beautiful dresses, but they do not come in sizes that Anna, Estella or their Co-workers wear until the very end.
This makes me question how in America, the average size is not celebrated enough, and clothes are usually made and displayed for smaller people. In many cultures like my own, the ideal of beauty is similar. Women are pressured to be a certain size, usually thin, to be recognized as beautiful. Rosali, being the smallest out of all the women at a size seven, is still not satisfy with her body. She takes diet pills to suppress her appetite consequently leading her to lose consciousness. I connect most with Rosali because have gone through what she has.
In the past, I used to be a size 14 and I have tried diet pills and deprived myself from food more times than I can recount. Although I have lost a lot of weight, I have developed eating disorders and I still have the mentality that I need to lose more weight. In Act 1, Scene 1, the women talked about how “… Japanese women are always skinny. ” Even other cultures recognize that Asian women are suppose to be skinny. I used to have a hard time finding clothes in Asia because they did not come in my size. The shocking truth is I still have difficulties now finding them in my size.
Like Ana, 1 am constantly teased by my mother that I am fat and overweight. Ana embodies who I want to be, she is comfortable in her own skin. She embraces her figure and gets the other women to also embrace their figures in the end. She is a role model to me, if only I loved myself back then to not torture myself. Ana’s relationship with her mother is similar to mine. Mexican culture is collectivist, children tend to live with their parents until they are wedded, families tend to sick together and try not to get separated, they also try to work together, like Ana, Estela, and Carmen.
The role of women is more discussed than men in the playwright. Women do the domestic work, have kids, and is obedient to their husband. Even when Carmen is at work she is there to take care of her daughters. Carmen has eight kids, and Pancha has zero making her feel less of a women. In Act 2, Scene 1, Pancha calls herself an “old rag” praying “Diosito, why don’t you make me a real woman? If I can’t have children, why did you make me a woman? ” She believes that getting married and having children is her main purpose of life, and many others believe it too.
It is seen in Carmen as she pushes it onto Ana and Estela, but it is mostly seen in Pancha, who cries desperately because she wants to have children. It hows how important it is in their culture to have children, Pancha is so embarrass that cries alone to God. Additionally, this is also an example of using English mixed with Spanish. I would lose so much meaning if I did not know that “Diosito” meant god. Using two different languages in a dialogue can give the audience a hard time understanding the content of the message, but it is also more convincing to the audience because it shows the women’s struggle of speaking English.
Personally, I took a longer time reading it because I had to look up the words. If I did not have a glossary of terms, I would not be able to translate and fully understand. Once I understand the words, Thad to paraphrase the sentence and make meaning of it. There was also some repeating words which I remembered, so it was easier for me to evaluate and move on to the next line. When reading, I was more critical because I wanted to be open minded so I can understand the message better. I was biased towards the characters I disliked, like Carmen.
Then I realized that she did not know better, she was only the product of her culture looking out for her daughters. When you do not understand a message you tend to filter it out, I took my time and was patient and did not filter out the Spanish. At the beginning I tried reading it without the glossary to see how much I could grasp. I did not fully understand the content of the play, but it did remind me of an interpersonal verbal conversation. How when I speak or listen to someone, I do not always fully understand and have the time to process what they say, since I need to give an immediate response.
When reading, T have the time to think about the meaning and more time to paraphrase and make sense of it, especially since I do not understand Spanish. Those who understand Spanish, depending on how well, benefit by saving time since they do not need anymore processing time. They will also understand puns, slang, idioms and phrasal verb which is why it can associate to them deeper than those who do not. For example, when Estela calls her crush “el Tormento”, or her tormentor, which is romantic but not words that I would likely use.
Those who understand Spanish will also feel more connected, because they will feel like it was written for them rather than just the general public. This allows the audience to connect in a more personal way and relate. Additionally, it allows them to be a more empathic listener, they can see better from the characters perspective than I can. Although my knowledge of Spanish is limited, I connected to the story through characters and their ideal of women in society. The playwright is so powerful because it embodies the conflicts that people did not talk about during that time period, but the ideals still remain today.
The purpose to why Josefina Lopez uses Spanish and English is to relate with others who moved here from Spanish speaking places. People can empathize with these women, since they have probably experience similar situations. The US is the land of opportunities and many people migrate here for a better life, especially from neighboring nations like Mexico, and South America. Integrating the two languages make the playwright seem more genuine and authentic, and also allows for a wider range of audiences to enjoy.