In the autobiography Almost A Woman by Esmeralda Santiago, there are many cultural differences. She feels alienated from the rest of the people in New York or the United States, for that matter. When Esmeralda was thirteen she moved to New York with her family from Puerto Rico. She did not know a word of English nor did she have any idea of what the American culture was like. To top off her ignorance of the American culture,
she was poor, making her more of an outcast.
As she was growing up in the United States, most people related her to the only Latin people they had ever seen, who were Desi Arnaz from “I Love Lucy” and Rita Moreno from “West Side Story”. She hated those assumptions; they were inaccurate. Desi Arnaz played to role of a Cuban musician who was married to an American and was always put as the dumb, ignorant Hispanic who was sometimes lost in the ideas of the American. Some of that is true, but she didn’t like the idea that people thought she was dumb just because the American culture was new to her.
The other person that most people related her to was Rita Moreno’s character in “West Side Story”. Esmeralda hated this one even more. Moreno’s character was a Puerto Rican girl named Maria caught in the middle of a gang rivalry. Esmeralda thought they portrayed Maria as a whore because of the way she dressed and the way she acted towards men. Her peers and some teachers in school thought that way of her. Esmeralda knew that was not true because most Latin people she had met, including her closest friends, were never allowed to wear a skirt that was above the knee or even have a boyfriend.
Towards the end of Junior High School one of her teachers who had always had faith in her said that she should audition for the Performing Arts High School in Manhattan. She liked the idea that she could become a famous star when she was older. The other students and some teachers discouraged her. They thought she was stupid to try and go to the Performing Arts High School just because she was Latin and she had a little trouble speaking English. Esmeralda was a little discouraged but she kept on. To her and everyone else’s surprise, she was accepted.
At the Performing Arts High School more assumptions were made of her. All the roles in plays that were given to her were of foreign people. She tried out for many other roles but they said she did not fit the description of the character. Practically the whole time she was at the school she played Cleopatra with different attitudes each time.
Being poor did not help Esmeralda avoid the stereo typical beliefs that people had of her. Most people thought Hispanics to be poor and living with a very tight budget. In her case, it was true. Because she was unable to afford things that were more expensive such as nice clothes or jewelry, her peers alienated her. She did not have many friends.
Esmeralda Santiago’s autobiography is a great example of how people feel
alienated because of their race. The way people stereotyped her is what made her feel alienated. People thought of her differently just because she came from a different background and did not completely understand the American culture.