The linguistic and cultural clashes that children encounter, and how they negotiate between their ethnic and American mainstream cultures, and how these clashes and problems influence their relationship with their parents and their ethnic identities as a whole and how they were dealt with differently as we look at two stories dealing with two girls who are both coming of age in different society from where they originally came from. Jairys Jargon a story written by Carmen-Gloria Ballista, is a story that encounters the life of a young girl coming of age in Puerto Rico, except shes originally from New York. Milly Cepedas story, Mari y Lissy, is a story about twin sisters who differ in personality and are often at odds with each other, but are both learning to live in a city that is very different from where they came from.
Both stories represent both sides of bilingualism as far as Puerto Ricans who live in the United States and then move to Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans who move to the United States from Puerto Rico. The linguistic clashes that these girls encountered were frustrating to their new knowledge of the culture and language. Although, these girls are Puerto Rican, it is important to state that they were not all born on the Island.
In Jarys Jargon, Jahaira (Jary) Molina is an eleven years old who moves to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Jairy who grew up in New York finds herself overwhelmed by the difference from New York to San, Juan. Jary thought that she would fit in because she spoke the language. The only problem was her Spanish was funny and filled with English words, in other words she spoke what, Spanglish. The other children spoke and sang funny songs that did not make sense to her. In one occasion Jary was outside getting ready to play recess when she noticed all the other kids playing a game, as she tried to join in the children seem to speak Spanish so fast that Jary could not understand. One of the boys in her team became upset with Jary for not understanding and made fun of her. All the children laughed, and Jary at first did not even know what he was saying. She caught on fast that they were making fun of her and she began to run towards the bathroom with tears in her eyes.
Language is what makes a culture; it is the base of a culture. Without a certain type of dialect or language people would not join together and create a culture. It is very difficult to accept someone from a different culture, let alone, enter accept a different culture. Cultures can change with a dialect, as in the case of Jary. Her Spanglish is different from the Puerto Rican Spanish spoken amongst the children in her new school. To them she sounds funny, and vice versa. Children can be cruel when accepting new students, imagine a student that is far from the culture?
Jary is almost rescued by Miss Hernandez a teacher who spoke both English and Spanish, (and that is Puerto Rican Spanish). Jary befriends Miss Hernandez, as Miss Hernandez helps Jary learn the new language, and remember New York. Even though Miss Hernandez helps Jary with her new transition Jary still has to do a lot on her own. Jary is what many of the kids call a Nuyorican, Jarys parents are also Nuyoricans meaning, they were born and raised in New York but are still Puerto Rican. Jarys parents do not feel the pressure of the culture clash as heavy as Jary.
As Jary begins to sing songs like the other children, she notices she uses the same words as them, and that she starting to speak like them. These clashes influence her relationship with her parents, in that they began to not understand her, for example; Jary would say !que brutal! , (which literally translates into how brutal) when describing something she thought was interesting or nice. Her parents not understanding began to correct her, but she eventually explained to her. Jarys family had picked up many American customs, and many where different than those in Puerto Rico. One day as she invited two new friends from school over, her mother served macaroni and cheese for dinner. The girls laughed and made fun of Jarys fake food. These girls were use to eating fresh foods, and a full course meal of traditional Puerto Rican food. The girls making fun of Jary did not help. Jary screamed at her parents in a frustrated manner, saying that they were not fully Puerto Ricans.
As far as ethnic identity, Jary slowly began adapting to the ways of the culture surrounding her. She even began to have a crush on Miguel, a boy who also befriended her. Jarys Spanish improved, and she even learned to cook certain foods that were different from mac and cheese. She learned plenty of phrases, songs that were culturally linked, and she learned to surf (something that was impossible in Brooklyn, unless your on the internet). The ethnic identity submergence was noticeable on a vacation Jary took back to New York. Although, she missed the big city she felt estranged when visiting old friends. Not only was Jary physically different (she was taller, darker) the way she talked was too. Jary had taken on a different culture, and slowly began to leave behind her original culture, and her old friends in New York noticed this.
In Milly Cepedas story, Mari y Lissy, are twin sisters who differ in personality and are often at odds with each other, but are both learning to live in a city that is very different from where they came from. Mari is an extrovert and Lissy is an introvert, but both are a like when it first came to moving to New York. Lissy did not like the whole idea of leaving her small town of Utuado in Puerto Rico, her sister Mari was ready for a change. As both girls embarked on their adventures in the city that doesnt sleep, they find themselves in a sea of people rushing to get to one place or another. The culture clash is revealed on the first day of school when the two girls enter the doors of Public School 151, the girls could not believe the name of their school was a number, let alone that the school was going to be so big. When lunchtime came around the girls needed to use the bathroom, when they asked a student who mocked them as both girls tried desperately to explain in broken English, Where was the bathroom? Later on that boy so happens to be Seth Goetz who starts having a crush on Lissy, but finds it almost impossible, because his friends ridicule him for liking a girl who speaks broken English. In the course of a year Maris English is slowly perfected as Lissys drags on.
Mari and Lissy have very different personalities and it seems as though that trait of difference is what makes each one adapt to the culture in a different way. For instance, because Mari is extroverted, she does not care when the children mock her English, on the other hand Lissy does. Lissy is so conscious of the way she talks that she seldom does. Mari is loquacious and makes more friends than Lissy because she dares to speak the language.
Both Mari and Lissys parents were born and raised in Puerto Rico, and were very old fashion. When Mari had friends call her home (especially boys) her mother would get upset. Their parents would not let them play outside with the other kids, because of their fear of the big city. One day there were some children outside playing basketball and a new game Mari and Lissy learned called, double Dutch. Both girls were so excited to finish their homework and play. When their mother and father came home from work, Mari and Lissy were nowhere to be found. When they read a note on the refrigerator saying that both girls were outside playing. Their mother went in a rage and yelled at them and made them come home. In Puerto Rico they were not allowed to miss dinner with their parents or even leave the house without permission.
Living in Utuado, Puerto Rico, the girls hometown, where everyone knew everyone, and crime was almost non-existent, was different from living in New York where crime ruled the night and nobody knew everybody in the neighborhood. Going to the movies, even eating a hot dog for dinner were things that the girls parents were not prepared for. They did not consider hotdogs, Chinese, pizza or hamburgers as meals and were reluctant to having the girls enjoy such things. Lissy did not agree with many of these things but she did not argue the rules. Once Mari fought for a craving to eat nachos, as her parents laughed and finally gave in. Unlike Mari, Lissy never dared to challenged authority.
Mari began to speak fluent English in a matter of months as for Lissy who would stumble with her English, both of their ethnic identities changed, except Mari changed more. Because Mari was more extroverted she was able to engulf herself into the language and then into the culture. She learned songs, and started reading books in English, while Lissy read books in English; she still had difficulties with making friends.
Both stories, Mari y Lissy, and Jarys Jargon are stories that reflect a culture clash with American mainstream culture. Macaroni and cheese and Double Dutch are part of American childrens culture. All three girls in these stories experienced children mocking them, but also people accepting them. Although it seemed that Mari assimilated faster, it does not mean it was easy for her. All three endured the difficulty of being different.
Language is crucial upon entering a new culture. Eventually all three girls were bilingual but at first they were not, this made it difficult for the girls. Without the language or like Jary the right dialect, entering a culture can become difficult. The second problem when entering a new culture is not forgetting your old culture. In all three cases, the girls were in contrast with their parents when coming home with the morals, rules, and phrases of a culture so distinct to that of their parents.
As the girls grew up in their respective locations of the world, whether Puerto Rico or New York City, they faced the trauma of change, culture clash, ethnic identity, and their parental influence.
Ballista,Carmen-Gloria. Jarys Jargon. San Juan. Muoz Marin Publications, 1998.
Cepeda, Milly. Mari y Lissy. New York. Taino Press, 2000.
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