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The Sexuality of Latina Women in Díaz’s “Alma”

One of the main aspects Cofer evaluates in “The Myth of the Latin Woman” is the associated sexuality that constitutes the image of a Latina woman by an outsider. She highlights three central stereotypes of a Latina woman: a prostitute, a housewife, or a criminal (Cofer 207). She comments on the complexities behind these characters through her personal experience living in the United States. Díaz explores the concept of a “prostitute” by integrating the Dominican background and the American realities in her character Alma, the main character’s girlfriend, through a variety of literary devices. While at the beginning of the story, the narrator embraces the concept of a sexy Latina woman by reinforcing it in Alma, the end of the story quickly demolishes the perpetuating stereotype by offering the reader a different point of view on looking at Alma.

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“Alma” instantly begins with the physical description of Díaz’s character, heavily operating with sexual metaphors and her boyfriend’s erotic explorations of her body. The author continues: “You love how she shivers when you bite, how she fights you with those arms that are so skinny they belong on an after-school special” (Díaz). This reflects Cofer’s story from her adolescence when a boy at the dance tried to kiss her (205). Alma’s boyfriend bites into her like a ripe fruit, her buttocks compared to the moon can be read as if it was compared to an apple or a peach. The reader witnesses the complete detachment of the body from her character right from the very first lines of the story. This is a cleverly planted trap, the invitation to fall into these stereotypes of a sexual, passionate Latina woman, dependent on her man, who taught her how to love her body.

As the story progresses, the narrator lets the reader look at the shared moments of intimacy between Alma and her boyfriend. Cofer reminisces about her childhood spent on the Island, the freedom to wear revealing clothes and still be covered by “the traditions, mores, and laws of a Spanish/Catholic system of morality and machismo” (205). At that moment, Alma is concerned by neither of these things; she indulges in her own sexuality, daunting her boyfriend while sexually pleasuring herself. She allows the outsider eye to perceive her sexually, where the important takeaway is the phrase “she allows.” She tells her boyfriend he cannot touch her – that simple act of regaining reign over her body. At the same time, still be in a submissive position of a Latina woman, imposed by the external force of society, something that she has no control over.

For the majority of the story, the reader looks at Alma through her boyfriend’s eyes, a sensual, desirable woman, “a Hot Tamale,” as Cofer says. However, only at the very end of the story, does the perception flip, and the reader witnesses the moral degradation of Alma’s man, and most importantly, raw, undiluted Alma’s reaction to his infidelity. For the first time, the reader understands what Alma feels, not how she looks, and that deconstructs the objectification that comes along with the stereotype of “a whore” that Cofer was referring to. As a result, the reader loses the voyeuristic sense that was planted by the narrator of the story, and Alma transforms into a person from the stereotypical manifestation of a Latina woman.

References

Cofer, Judith Ortiz. “The Myth of the Latin Woman.” 2004. Web.

Díaz, Junot. “Alma.” NYTimes.com, The New York Times. 2007. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "The Sexuality of Latina Women in Díaz’s “Alma”." October 10, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-sexuality-of-latina-women-in-dazs-alma/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "The Sexuality of Latina Women in Díaz’s “Alma”." October 10, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-sexuality-of-latina-women-in-dazs-alma/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'The Sexuality of Latina Women in Díaz’s “Alma”'. 10 October.

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