Littérature  |  Philosophie  |  Langues


Apolline Vo, 2004 | Villars-sur-Glâne, FR


Woman-penned works have gained increasing recognition in the contemporary English-speaking literary realm. This thesis wishes to inscribe itself in this upward trend, all while shining a light on works belonging to the tradition of Latino literature written in the United States. Through the transversal analysis of the works of Julia Alvarez, Cherríe Moraga and Sandra Cisneros, this thesis wishes to argue that socio-cultural conflicts rooted in real circumstances can be reflected through mother-daughter relationships in literary works.


On the premise that mothers are often recognized as main referents for their children, this thesis will strive to answer the following question: To what extent are Latina mothers touchstones for their daughters, be it as guides in life or as links to their heritage in Latino literature written in the United States? This thesis will show how and what Latina mothers do to raise their daughters in an American context, and why the conflicts that arise between them stem from cultural disequilibrium. It will also uncover how literary devices emulate their familial bonds and love for one another and showcase how traditions that take their roots elsewhere can stay alive on foreign soil as long as there are people to maintain them.


To set the groundwork for analysis, this thesis first synthesized the historical context of Latino literature written in the United States and its main characteristics, then provided an overview of two sociological terms associated with Latino culture: familism and marianismo. These two frameworks helped anchor the chosen works in the Latino literary tradition and sociocultural context, and provided a theoretical basis for the subsequent analytical subchapters. The three works that this thesis analyzed consisted of two novels, How the Garcia Girls lost their Accents by Julia Alvarez and Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros, and a memoir: Native Country of the Heart by Cherríe Moraga.


Close readings of the chosen books showed that core values of Latino culture such as putting family first (familism) and sticking to principles of purity and chastity (marianismo) were woven into all of the mothers’ teachings. These teachings were shown to be the primary reason for conflict, as they contrasted with the American values the daughters learned. However, the red string that guided all of the stories was precisely found within the motif of family. The ultimate reminder of the ineffability of family ties was incarnated through the rebozo, a Mexican shawl donned only by women. Present in Caramelo, this motif served as an objectification for the passing down of cultural values and also symbolized family. Family ties are also shown to be what hold mother-daughter relationships together in the other two books namely through depictions of shared mealtimes and the value of food.


The findings of this thesis offer a nuanced response to the main question. Indeed, the mothers in the books weren’t the only ones who offered support and guidance to their daughters. Society and the adults around them were also greatly influential. However, the mothers were definitely the main connection to their daughters’ cultural heritage. They achieved this through homemade meals and constant chidings (put family first, respect the elderly, maintain dignity by staying chaste). And despite the conflicts that arose between the mother-daughter duos being a result of those same teachings, the daughters ultimately always came back to their families and culture for comfort. The strength of this bond was also furthered through the repeated use of occasional words and phrases in Spanish in all three works. The recurrence of the usage of Spanish, the daughters’ mother tongue, was found to mirror the cultural affinities of each character. It also served as the reflection of the daughters’ bi-cultural identities.


With the current results of this work, it can definitely be said that Latina mothers are touchstones for their daughters, and that the latter maintain a strong attachment to their family and heritage despite growing up in an American context. It can also be said that the stories told were fictional, but not fake. All the authors of these stories have either admitted that they were inspired by reality to write their works, or in the case of Native Country of the Heart, that it was a biography. Thus, these stories take on a larger meaning: they help readers understand the realities of life between two cultures and encourage healthy dialogue between Latino and American culture.



Appréciation de l’experte

Dr. Sara Bernechea Navarro

Ce travail est une exploration des relations mère-fille dans la littérature latino-américaine contemporaine écrite aux États-Unis. L’apprentissage d’un rôle de genre marqué par le machisme, ainsi que la transmission d’un héritage culturel mexicain et dominicain sont très présents. La candidate fait preuve d’une grande sensibilité pour analyser et expliquer la complexité de ces relations dans des contextes biculturels, où il y a une culture contextuelle dominante et une culture minoritaire au sein de la famille. La structure claire et l’argumentation nuancée enrichissent la proposition.


très bien

Prix spécial «Exporecerca Jove – Barcelona Science Fair» décerné par les soutiens de Science et jeunesse




Collège St-Michel, Fribourg
Enseignante: Karen Junod