The Cuban-swimmer is a seven-scene play in which Milcha Sanchez-Scott depicts the individual’s need of self assertion as a major theme. Self assertion, according to her, is a metaphor standing for one’s true identity, a symphony combining one’s individuality as well as one’s cultural legacy. The play follows the life of the Suarezs, a displaced Cuban family who rode the ocean to take refuge in the United States. They have migrated from Cuba in search of a secure sense of self-worth. The central character among these people is Margarita Suarez, a nineteen-year-old Cuban girl, who tries to win a swimming race in the ocean as a Cuban not as an American. Margarita takes part in this race in search not only of the “Cuban pride” but also of her own self-assertion. In her play, Sanchez-Scott uses Margarita’s story as an allegory for the whole immigration experience which Latin Americans had to go through.
Milcha Sanchez-Scott (1955- ) was born in a multicultural family. Her father was a Colombian man who lived in Mexico; her mother is Indonesian with Chinese-Dutch roots. Jane T. Peterson holds that “her [Milcha’s] heritage reflects a diversity of ethnic and cultural influences” (293). She is regarded as a playwright of powerfully expressive plays. Her works consistently reflect her concern with racial and political issues, particularly with the Latin woman’s struggle for spiritual survival. Latin American heritage and the sense of this culture form the ultimate base of Sanchez-Scott’s material. Much of her writing reveals her concern for Latin women and their families. Peterson is clear about the idea that “Milcha Sanchez-Scott’s work frequently explores woman’s experiences in Hispanic-American bicultural context” (293).
Two different but powerful forces shaped Sanchez-Scott’s creative genius; one is the multicultural experience of her family and its flexibility in adapting to the ever-changing needs of society. The second one is her early desire for being a writer, which led her to read the works of many writers. She developed a passion for reading and discovered the world of literature such as British literature, American literature and Latin American literature. Referring to the elements that shaped her literary background, Milcha remarks, “ I think I would have to say, first of all, I started writing so young, they were the English writers,[Elizabeth Bannet] Browning, Jane Eyre and the Latin American writers. Of course, [Gabriel Garcia] Marqez. And [Eugene] O’Neill my ultimate favourite. I still read those plays. They are just so brilliant and beautiful” (Ramirez 36).
Sanchez-Scott’s own experience was the typical Latin American’s. She clearly identified with her Latin side that gave her a sense of subjectivity, and from which she learned who she is in the world. According to Jorge Huetro, Milcha encountered racism as a child in various situations. For instance, while she was waiting for the bus, a boy threw a small stone at her saying, “This isn’t the Mexican bus stop”. At this incident, she was unable to adapt to this racist treatment because she saw herself as an alienated, brown-skinned girl among white people. (Necessary Theater 82).
Consequently, Sanchez-Scott’s plays such as Latina , The Cuban Swimmer, The Dog Lady and Rooster dramatize the experience of Latin Americans and highlight how far Latin people in the diaspora have been suffering for so long from a cultural identity crisis, an inability to define their Latin identity within the white-dominated American society. She tries to help solve this crisis through her plays which expose the individual and social problems caused by the American mainstream culture. In her plays, “Sanchez-Scott expresses a strong social criticism against racism” (Godsey 1222). It is hardly refutable that the United States has always been a more or less racist nation. David Mamet acknowledges that “The Problem of America is racism. It has always been racism” (“The Human Stain,” no. pag. ). True, racism in America today is no more as bad as before, but there is a kind of hidden attempt to reach the ideal of one major mainstream American culture by sweeping away marginal cultural identities.
Sanchez-Scott, whose literary output represents a new generation of ethnic playwrights, strives to create dramatic writing that challenges the prejudiced racial structure of American society and, therefore, helps Latin Americans establish a sense of identity of their own within that society. Sanchez-Scott’s plays confute the myth of America as a land of equal opportunities for everyone, focusing specifically on the social and spiritual alienation and displacement of Latin Americans as a cultural minority in American society.
Self-assertion is a major theme with which Sanchez-Scott is preoccupied in nearly all her plays. In Sanchez-Scott’s plays, self-assertion is a symbol standing for one’s true subjectivity which in turn should be an amalgam of one’s personality and cultural identity. It is this subjectivity which reveals the very core of one’s origins, cultural heritage, desires and even one’s relationship with oneself and with others. According to Charles R. Bambach, man’s self-assertion “does not involve the assertion of something that self does not have, but rather the assertion of that which it already has namely, its essence” (92). For Sanchez-Scott, one would acquire self-assertion if one managed to feel self-confident.
Sanchez-Scott, then, believes that the true liberation of Latin Americans springs from their self-assertion through which they can achieve self acceptance. It is this sense of self-assertion that can confer on Latin self-sufficiency, racial pride and cultural identity. This theme is demonstrated in The Cuban Swimmer which can be seen as a model subjective play. In it, Sanchez-Scott calls on her Latin American folks to connect themselves with their cultural identity in order to understand who they are. Then, they can go out in the world and take part in the American life as Latin Americans.
Sanchez-Scott indirectly hints at the Latin Americans’ migration in The Cuban Swimmer. This play refers to the 1980s, when Fidel Castro forced thousands of Cubans to leave Cuba. This period was the climax of the Cubans’ immigration from their country to the United States of America in search of better living conditions. According to some estimates, “more than 120,000 undocumented Cubans arrived in Florida, placing tremendous strain on U.S. resources,” and as a result of this mass migration “an agreement was made between the two countries that limited the number of the Cuban immigrants to 20,000 per year” (Laurie G. Kirsner and Stephen R. Mandell 1731). Commonly, there must have been very strong reasons behind this mass exodus of the Cubans from their homeland to America because anybody is tied, by nature, to the place in which he or she was born.
Fleeing from oppression and persecution, Latin Americans started their collective migration to the United States searching for freedom and self-affirmation. They left their countries wishing to achieve a respectable sense of humanity. However, they obtained nothing but uprooting, homelessness and alienation. It seems that Latin Americans gained nothing but chasing deceitful dreams; they uprooted themselves and a lot of them lost their cultural identity. Since then, they have always been moving around the American cities looking for a better life, but most of them have become vagrants with illusory future.
Hence, disjunction and fragmentation of the Latin family were the natural results. Speaking of the Latin migration to America as the most insecure and miserable period in the Suarezs’ life as a Latin American family in Sanchez-Scott’s The Cuban Swimmer, Susan C. W Abbotson holds, “Eduardo and Aida Suarez, Margarita’s parents, are refugees from Fidel Castro’s government, leaving everything behind in Cuba when they take the dangerous boat ride to America, where they can better prosper” (155). Abbotson’s words indicate that Sanchez-Scott’s characters, in this play, are confused people searching for the right road, people in search of an acceptance of self that would help them feel how worthy they are. In short, the play can be seen as an allegorical tale of Latin Americans’ struggle to assert their identity in diaspora.
Sanchez-Scott’s play is set in the ocean where thousands of Latin Americans faced death in the search for their American dream. As a significant setting, the ocean with its waves mirrors the characters’ inner feelings and points up the anxiety of Sanchez-Scott’s Latin American folks during this period. The troubled waves of the ocean can be considered as a metaphor for unsettled conditions. The ocean represents Latin Americans who are alienated in life. To Michael Ferber, “The sea [ocean] has always been alien and dangerous” (179). The ocean, then, with its waves stands for the huge barriers facing Latin Americans in America and keeping them out of the favorable promises of the American dream. It also symbolizes all the obstacles which racial discrimination has set between Latin Americans and achieving their ambitions. Ultimately, employing the ocean as a metaphor enables Sanchez-Scott to link her 1980s play to the whole period of Latin Americans’ migration to America.
Uprooted from their homeland, dislocated from their origin and alienated from themselves, Latin Americans are all wanderers searching for something, and the ocean is their first station. Literally, they may seem to search for a job, economic security and fair treatment, but they really search for a sense of being worthy, for something reflecting their true essence. Their confused yearning for settlement, in a shattered society, reflects their deep sense of alienation and their need for a sense of integrity in their lives. They are separated from their countries, and as the play begins the members of Suarezs family, as a symbol of Latin Americans, are trying to redeem their lost relationships or find new common dream that can rescue their humanity and give meaning to their existence. The Cuban Swimmer suggests that it is not only American society that Latin Americans have to face, but themselves as well. This may explain the limpid absent, on the stage, of characters that represent the mainstream American society.
It can be stated that fragmentation is a visible element in The Cuban Swimmer as it is reflected not only on characters’ lives within the play, but also on its structure. In other words, Sanchez-Scott’s play may seem to lack coherence as it oversteps the fixed “form and style”. But from postmodern perspectives, the play is quite coherent as it dramatizes well the spirit of the period in which it was written. In other words, man’s life has lost its coherence, and thereby it is normal for literature to give thought to this lack of coherence by means of unconventional techniques. In fact, fragmentation is a characteristic of postmodernism which argues for embracing such fragmentation rather than “lament the loss of structure;” therefore, postmodern authors “celebrate the freedom from conventional form” (Rangno 70). In postmodern literature, then, there is no certain literary tradition and the author is utterly free to select any style or technique to keep with the content of his or her literary work, even if it stands with sharp contrast in the mainstream traditions.
The Cuban Swimmer is a chain of overlapping narratives and scenes. It can be argued that this kind of structure is convenient for the signification of the play. In other words, having the ocean as its setting, it makes sense that the play is made of series of wavelike scenes gathered into one play. As the Suarezs themselves are still on their way to self-discovery, they are not fully portrayed and only a few scenes of their confused lives are shown. Among those characters, there is Eduardo Suarez, a Latin American father who is not totally sketched, and while the focus of the play is divided between him and other characters, such as his daughter Margarita whom the title of the play is associated with her own story. Also, it is Eduardo’s search for self-assertion which pushes the action of the play. He and his family which consists of his wife, Aida, his daughter, Margarita, his son Simon and his mother, Abuela come to the swimming competition in search for self-assertion.
As the play moves on, the audience learns that the Suarezs were obliged to leave Cuba; Eduardo himself reminds Aida of their misery while they were on the way to the United States of America; he says, “We were cold, afraid, with no money, and on top of everything, you were hysterical, yelling at me with your nails. Look, I still bear the scars…telling me that I didn’t know what I was doing…saying we were going to die” (Scene 4, 1738). Thus, the Suarezs were forced to leave their homeland and to live as helpless outsiders in a strange society that treats them as second-class citizens. Such offensive treatment of ethnic groups asserts the illusion of the so-called American dream. Maria Chavez states that as late as the1980s, white Americans were still looking at Latin Americans as an inferior race, “As a Latino or Native American or any kind of minority, you’re just another wetback, or you’re just another migrant farm worker or whatever” (2).
It seems that it is Sanchez-Scott’s bad personal experience with racism that makes her employ the voices of Mel Munson and Mary Beth White, the commentators of the race in which Margarita takes part, as white offenders in her play. Sanchez-Scott depicts them as antagonists and “representatives of the mainstream, white, American culture,[who] behave condescendingly toward the Suarez family and symbolically and literally keep themselves above them in a circling helicopter” (Abbotson 160). In Sanchez-Scott’s play, the racial practices of Mel Munson and Mary Beth White prove that equality has not been actually matured in the minds of European Americans who are still regarding America as a European man’s country and thinking of other immigrants as unequal people with no human rights. They racially argue, Yes, it takes all kinds to make a race. And it’s a testimonial to the all encompassing fairness…the greatness of this, the Wrighly Invitational Women’s Swim to Catalina, where among all the professionals, there is still room for the amatuer…like these, the simple people we see blow us on the ragtag La Havan a, taking their long-shot chance to victory.
Vaya con Dios! (Scene 2, 1735)
Munson and White’s words denote the white practice of insulting other groups such as the Latin Americans. As Aida tells her husband, “Eduardo, that person insulted us. Did you hear, Eduardo? That he called us a simple people in a ragtag boat? Did you hear” (Scene 2, 1735). Over and again, in offensive unfeeling words Munson and White express their pride and unfair emotions towards Margarita and her family; “Look at the enthusiasm. The whole family has turned out to cheer little Margarita on to victory! I hope they won’t be too disappointed” (Scene 2, 1734).
Basically, Munson and White’s lack of sympathy with the Suarezs’ circumstances can be imputed to their purely different life experiences. It seems that, as their names betoken; they may never have to undergo the emotional effects of migration. As a typical example of settled White Europeans, they are contrary to the Suarezs as wandering characters. It is difficult for such stable persons as Munson and White to perceive why a lot of Latin Americans sacrifice their stability in the familiar milieu to which they are accustomed, and migrate to an unknown one of which they have no experience or why they left their homeland to live in a strange land with an alien culture. Abbotson remarks, “They have little regard for Margarita, scare her by flying in so close, and upset the whole family by their insensitive commentary. Such is the attitude of many majorities towards the minority groups” (160).
On their way to America, the Suarezs were motivated by “the dream of a big country with fields of fertile land and big, giant things growing,” but in America “by a green, slimy pond I [Aida] found a giant pea pod and when I [Aida] opened it, it was full of little, tiny baby frogs” according to Aida’s dream (Scene 5, 1739). The Suarezs are stunned by a sour fact that the American society is very far from being the generous land in which they can enjoy liberty, better opportunities, fulfilled dreams and full humanity. It looks as if unfavorable had followed Latin Americans to America; they had the worst jobs that whites would not take, got the lowest wages that are hardly enough for them to survive and lived in the worst housing that was not nearly inhabitable. Referring to Latin Americans as an ethnic group in the American society, Ruth Enid Zambrana writes that Latin Americans “maintain the poor and marginalized outside the social, economic, and civic opportunity structure” (271). The more Latin Americans overflowed the American cities, the more racism flowed into American society. Gradually, Latin American immigrants found themselves living in a society where they have to “face anti brown racism,” which Mark R. Warren refers to as, “an increasingly important part of America’s racial justice agenda” (11).
As a result, the Suarezs decide to release themselves from a feeling of inferiority by facing the American society. They make up their mind to find out who they really are by taking part in a swimming race as a Latin American team under the leadership of Eduardo, the head of the family. Julius Rivera says “Latin American family is a team and the husband father is a traditional leader” (49). As the play proper begins, the Suarezs are seen on a boat following their daughter whom Mel’s voice describes as “the little Cuban Swimmer from Long Beach, California, nineteen-year-old Margarita Suarez. The unknown swimmer is our [their] Cinderella entry” (Scene 2, 1733). The Suarezs’ boat is called La Havana, a name that discloses various connotations; it signals that the Cuban family is searching for its self-assertion and its Latin American ethnicity. Abbotson mintains that “this family [The Suarezs] are reluctant to see themselves as Cubans; in fact, they display a fierce patriotism towards their island home” (160). It can be said that Abbotson’s words explain clearly Sanchez-Scott’s choice of the title of her selected play.
Margarita, the Cuban swimmer, manages through her struggle with the ocean to win “two thousand dollars and a gold cup,” as a prize of the race and thus acquire a sense of self-assertion, which is much more important than the prize which according to Aida, “Doesn’t even cover our [their] expenses” (Scene 2, 1733). As illustrated before, almost all the Suarezs are, like Margarita, searching for something. There is Eduardo Suarez, a Cuban man who came to America with nothing but a hope that he will rediscover himself. Over and again, he tells his daughter, “Your papi’s [He’s] got everything under control, understand?” (Scene 2, 1733). A statement like this carries the implication that he can meet life’s challenges head on. Despite his fighting spirit, Eduardo who is a proficient operator of “Sea and Salvage Yard”, nearly fails to find room in the American society.
Consequently, Eduardo satisfies his need for self-assertion through his authority over his family. He decides to have control over his family and prevent any members of the family to decide for themselves, “as in many Latin cultures, the father decides how [things] should be done” (Trompenaars 9). It can be argued that Eduardo is a patriarch who censures his family in an angry way. He is disgruntled by the abusive remarks he faces daily, “He [The race commentator] called us peasants! And your father is not doing anything about it. He just knows how to yell at me,” Aida complains to her son (Scene 2, 1735).
Eduardo’s inaction to the race commentator’s insult is not motivated by cowardice or fear; it is motivated by his responsibility for his family. In order to survive and provide for his family, he has to control himself against such daily abuses; it is a kind of sacrificing his dignity for the sake of his family. He retorts to his son and his wife, “Shut up! All of you! Do you want to break her [Margarita’s] concentration? Is that what you are after? Eh?” while suppressing his ego and controlling his anger, Eduardo dreams that Margarita would be able to win the race so that she could riposte the insult in a practical way and fight the battles he himself couldn’t fight, “Swimming is rhyme and concentration. You win the race aqui” (Scene 2, 1735). The racism Eduardo faces affects him and disturbs his family as well. Thus, he imposes his power over his family, treats them cruelly to compensate for disappointment, disrespect and dignity that he faces daily because of the racial discrimination.
Sanchez-Scott avers that American white racism has continued to spoil the relationship between the men of the minority group and their families. On his journey of searching for a reflection of his true identity, Eduardo quells not only his daughter’s and son’s self identities but also his wife’s, Aida, the woman who has loved him and had to tolerate leaving her homeland and family in order to marry him. She recounts, “You didn’t give me the chance to prepare. You just said we have to go now, now! Now, you said. You didn’t let me take anything. I left everything behind….I left everything behind” (Scene 4, 1738).
Despite Aida’s fervent love for Eduardo, she says, “Standing next to you…I would ache…looking at your hands I would forget to breathe” (Scene 4, 1739), he insists on proving his manhood via his over-masculine treatment of her. For example, he exclaims, “How can a person think around you?” (Scene 3, 1736). He always rebukes her, “Callete mujer [woman] ! Aqui mando yo [I am in charge here]. I will decide what is to be done” (Scene 2, 1735). Eduardo’s utterance clearly reveals how he considers Aida as inferior. In spite of Aida’s acceptance of the gender role which satisfies Eduardo, he does not care for her advice to let Margarita withdraw when she feels that Margarita was about to drown, “I am her mother;” he taunts her because he insists on winning the race saying, “Not even by her mother. Especially by her own mother….You always want the rules to be different for you; you always want to be the exception” (Scene 3, 1736).
A shallow reading of Sanchez-Scott’s play may expose Eduardo as a villain who tries to sacrifice his daughter’s life for the sake of his own ambitions. However, he can be described as a simple man who couldn’t achieve his dreams. In other words, Eduardo’s frustrated dreams of self-assertion in America are replaced by dreams of his daughter’s awesome achievements as a swimmer. Margarita then becomes the only beam of hope in Eduardo’s life. Shelly Sanders summarizes Eduardo’s character when he argues that Eduardo’s, “driving ambition for his daughter Margarita to achieve athletic fame and success… projects his own complex set of needs and desire (as a father, immigrant, and exile)” (71). Unarguably, Eduardo’s passionate love for his daughter is expressed in his words to Aida when he feels that Margarita might drown: “Forgive me, forgive me. I have lost our daughter.” When his son, Simon tries to rescue his sister, Eduardo refuses saying, “God, take me, not my children. They are dreams, my illusions…and not this one, this one is my mystery…he has my secret dreams. In him are the parts of me I cannot see” (Scene 7, 1742).
Taking into consideration the 1980s context of the play when the rights of the Cuban immigrants were not yet completely perceived as a palpable reality in America, Eduardo has the right to foster his daughter to win the race to be a voice for the Cubans in American society and to be a model for her Latin American folk. He encourages her saying, “Hurray for mi Margarita y for all the Cubans living en the United States” (Scene 2, 1734). He wants his daughter to win the race “for the Cuba and her family the media attention they need to become recognized in the modern world,” Abbotson comments (161). In fact, Abbotson’s words express the core of Sanchez-Scott’s play; Eduardo’s acts and words are driven by his desire to force the American mainstream to care for Latin Americans as a marginalized minority.
Eduardo’s insistence on winning the race, then, can be seen as a scream to invoke his fellow people to rediscover themselves in order to co-exist with the American society as Latin Americans. Herbert Mitgang reveals, “Hispanic Americans use athletic skills to propel themselves into the mainstream of the middle class life in this country [America]” (no. pag.). Herein, Latin Americans can restore their sense of humanity, gain new respectable selfhood and get rid of all the negative codes of behavior which racism in America has implanted in their characters.
It can be said that Eduardo’s sense of responsibility and its motives highlight the appreciable difference between the way the American mainstream literature portrays Latin Americans and the way Sanchez-Scott portrays Eduardo as a Latin male. Frances Negron-Muntaner complains, “When Latinos are visible, they tend to be portrayed through decades-old stereotypes as criminals, law enforcers, cheap labor, and hyper sexualized beings” (1). In depicting the character of Eduardo, Sanchez-Scott tries to oppose such stereotype of the Latin male in the white American drama which presents him as an irresponsible person. True, Eduardo fidgets, “Goddamn Cubans, why, God, why do you make us go everywhere with our families?” (Scene 5, 1741), but he does not escape from the heavy responsibility. He makes the utmost effort to maintain his family unimpaired, refusing to be an absent father.
Surly, Eduardo’s main problem with his family is his harsh treatment. But Aida can no longer swallow such hard treatment for ever or utterly clears him of egoism. In his search of self-assertion, Eduardo never stops to think about the harm he can cause to Aida’s feelings because he sees familial values only from his own perspective. When she feels that Margarita becomes too tired to keep swimming, Aida ironically tells him, “she’s tired. I like to see you get in the water, waving your arms and legs from San Pedro to Santa Catalina. A person isn’t a machine, a person has to rest” (Scene 5, 1740).
Likewise, while lamenting his sister, Simon attacks Eduardo’s attitude nearly calling him egoist for questing his dreams at any expenses and by any means even his own daughter’s life, “Stupid. It’s his [Eduardo’s] dream and he can’t even swim” Simon tells Margarita (Scene 6, 1742). Neither Aida nor Simon could understand that Eduardo’s role as a husband and father does not fulfill his desire for self worth. He believes that his familial life has kept him stagnant for years during which he has been so concerned with supporting his family at the expense of his own self. Now he feels, even once in a lifetime, he has the right to achieve some success.
Undoubtedly, Eduardo turns a blind eye to the fact that Aida, as a mother, is led by her natural motherly emotions which push her to refuse any excuse Eduardo could give, and heartily refuses to offer up her daughter for any reason. He also disregards Aida need to quest her own self assertion which her role as a mother and a wife cannot satisfy. Margo Milleret maintains that “Women have few opportunities to attain any sense of self, since their most important role is a selfless mother” (90). As a Latin American woman, Aida willingly agrees to conform to the traditional role expected of her gender, to be a subordinate who favors the good of her family at the expense of her own self. In her essay on “Marianismo” as a part of Latin American families’ cultural tradition, Linda A. Curcio-Nagy reveals:
Marianismo assigns moral superiority, spiritual strength and pity to women, along with humility and a willing to sacrifice and suffer on behalf of their families. This strong element of self-denial is linked to submissive behaviour especially towards the men of the family (husband, older and fathers). This submissiveness translates into a patient and almost resigned attitude regarding the foibles and infidelities of husbands. (913)
A Latin American mother, then, considers her sacrifice for her family as a traditional role. Aida understands this, devoting all her life to her role as a mother and wife, and seeking no separate selfhood outside home. In other words, Aida suppresses all her desires and directs all her energies to the satisfaction of her husband’s desires. She accepts this as the price of marriage and stability. Maybe, it is Aida’s own fault that she allows the force of Eduardo’s personality to block the possibility of her growth as an independent individual. She restrains her own personality in order to give room for him. She explains, “You did not let me say even a good-bye. You took me, you stole me, you tore me from my home” (Scene 3, 1738).
Aida finally recognizes her fault; she refutes Eduardo’s excuse in a touching verbal confrontation which can be seen as one of the tensest dramatic moments in The Cuban Swimmer. She is infuriated by his words, “Es mi cupla, si, es mi cupla [It is my fault, yes, it is my fault]”. Aida rebuts his excuse with a short sentence which expresses her enduring long years of mistreatment; it is an assertive verbal self-expression in which she set free her penned emotions of soreness, and subordination, “Ya, ya vija … it was my sin…I left my home” (Scene 6, 1742).
Aida’s verbal self-expression reflects Sanchez-Scott’s own subjectivity as a female Latin American playwright who attempts to delve deep into the psychology of Latin American woman in diaspora. In other words, Aida, as a Latin American female living in an alien society, believes that her family is a substitute for her homeland; thus, she seeks to keep this family coherent by protecting its members as she considers them the walls of the fort which protects her from the hostile outside community. Commenting on the importance of family for the Latin American woman, Patricia Brownell and Eun Jeong Ko write, The Latino woman is expected to be family identified: her sense of identity and self-esteem is linked to her perceived ability to fulfill the ideal of the self-sacrificing mother and wife….She is accustomed subordinating her needs on behalf of her family, even at the risk of her own personal own Also, her sense of identity is so linked with her role of wife and mother that she may consider herself failure if she takes action to break up her family. (385)
Aida has a strong belief that her family is a blessing for her because of being inside this family makes her avoid the feeling of subordination or lack of liberation which she feels in American society. It is her family that helps her achieve a sense of self-worth, and spares her from the dehumanization of the white world.
The family, then, is still a shelter for the Latin American female. Perhaps that is why Aida keeps begging Eduardo to stop risking Margarita’s life because she does not consider the family as an imprisonment, but as her own kingdom, a place where she realizes all her dreams in life. To this end, Aida wants to keep the people whom she loves away from the rest of the world with all its forces which threaten her familial shelter. Like most Latin American women of her case, Aida believes that her true identity lies in being a wife and mother. As she lacks the sense of individual self, she imagines no future without her family. It is this family that gives Aida the feeling of security which she needs. While Aida’s desire to save her family overwhelms her, Eduardo insists on going on the race because he sees it as an opportunity to achieve a sense of self-assertion as a family leader.
Unlike his father and despite being eager to support his sister during the race, Simon thinks that the race stands for his lack of self-determination and his submission to Eduardo’s authority; however, he shares with the rest of the family the act of obedience to his father’s orders. Yet, he blames Margarita saying, “Stupid. You know you’re not supposed to die for this” (Scene 6, 1742). It seems that Simon’s paradoxical situation stems from his psychological desolation because of his father’s ill treatment of him. With his sunglasses and baseball cap on backward, Simon can be described as an Anglo-Saxon young man who has been more isolated from his Latin American cultural heritage than the Suarezs whose Latin American folk heritage has provided them with a means of survival and coping with the harsh realities of life within American society. Even his father agrees, “I don’t think he’s [Simon] Cuban…I don’t understand this idiot. He is not like us” (Scene 6, 1742).
As a marginalized individual living in the United States, Simon also represents a generation of Latin Americans who struggle to set themselves apart from their Latin American folk by inclusion in an Anglo-Saxon society that in turn rejects them because of its deeply rooted racism. Somehow, Simon seems to deny his cultural identity and forsake any physical singularity including clothing in order to blend into the so-called American melting pot. Thus, he struggles to assimilate into the American mainstream culture. Simon can be seen as a representative of a stereotypical character who declines, “his cultural heritage and attempt[s] to blend into allegorical melting pot” to use Huerta’s words (Necessary Theatre 47).
- Quote paper
- Hamada Abdelfattah (Author), 2017, Milcha Sanchez-Scott’s "The Cuban Swimmer". A Journey of Self-assertion, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/901792