What is Laura Diaz's relationship with the political and cultural world that is dominated by men?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before answering your question, there is something important to make clear:  power in this novel is shown as clearly a feminine trait!  It all begins at her grandmother's funeral when Laura secretly follows a white crow.  This bird leads her to a giant bejeweled woman:  a goddess.  The irony is, Laura has to do through all of these "political and cultural" experiences with men first to determine that power is her own. 

Laura's first brush with politics and culture is with her half-brother, Santiago, whom Laura truly admires. It is Santiago who inspires the power of femininity in his half-sister, Laura.

Run your own home properly, girl, and you'll make more of a contribution than if you come to these neighborhoods to organize and save people.

Santiago is a revolutionary and is eventually killed by firing squad, but Laura is sure to name her first son after him. 

In fact, Laura eventually marries Greene (short for Juan Francisco Lopez Greene).  This time we see a labor leader in the fray.  Again, politics and culture are in the mix!  Yes, she names her first child Santiago, but Laura is unhappy.  Why?  Greene, as a labor leader, has both a public self and a private self.  Green has not allowed Laura to get close enough to see his private self.  Laura is pondering this thought when Greene becomes an informant to convict Carmela Soriano (a female rebel).  In one of her first signs of female power, this is too much for Laura.  She leaves her husband immediately.

Now we enter a fairly wild time in Laura's life.  Freed from both husband and children (and politics and culture), Laura begins seeing the conniving and philandering Orlando and artists such as Diego Rivera (who consequently paints Laura in a mural featured in the opening of the novel).  Laura eventually returns to Mexico and falls in love with Jorge Maura who leaves her to help another lover escape the Nazis.  This prompts Laura to return to the real power:  her power as mother.  Therefore, she returns to her husband and children.  Eventually, Laura is not only a mother, but a GRANDMOTHER, ... of the FOURTH Santiago, ... who is at both the beginning and the end of the story.

[Santiago wonders if it is] possible to live the life of a dead woman exactly as she lived it, to discover the secret of her memory, to remember what she would remember.

In conclusion, remember that the power in this book is portrayed as feminine, and a colored feminine at that.  In the political and cultural realm here, it is important to note that NONE of the characters are white.  White faces are always turned away.  Capitalism is demonized.  Careers destroyed by the white, right-wingers of America. So in the end, we return to women of color as powerful:  giant feminine goddess statues, Li Po (the doll), Leticia (Laura's mother and center of femininity). Even the title of the story suggests this feminine power.

Read the study guide:
The Years with Laura Díaz

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