Themes

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on August 14, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 315

“Fiesta, 1980” is the story of a family from the Dominican Republic living in America, as told by Yunior, a young boy. Two major themes run through Yunior’s narrative: secrets and traditional roles.

Secrets

Secrets are a significant theme in the development of the story. Yunior and his brother, Rafa,...

(The entire section contains 1019 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

“Fiesta, 1980” is the story of a family from the Dominican Republic living in America, as told by Yunior, a young boy. Two major themes run through Yunior’s narrative: secrets and traditional roles.

Secrets

Secrets are a significant theme in the development of the story. Yunior and his brother, Rafa, know their father has a mistress. However, they both have kept that knowledge from their mother. Yunior struggles with the secret, especially given his caring relationship with his mother. Waiting for the secret to surface creates anxiety for him.

Papi’s abusive nature is another secret held by the family. Tia questions Yunior about his home life, again making him the keeper of his family’s secrets. Yunior also speaks about Mami and Tia whispering during the party, suggesting they too may have a secret. The author parallels what is actually going on during the narration (preparing, traveling, and attending the party) with the underlying secrets that drive many of the character’s responses and actions.

Traditional Family Roles

Traditional family roles is another theme prevalent in the story. Papi is the dominant, authoritative father figure in the family. He makes all of the decisions with no input from Mami or the children. He is a disciplinarian to the point of seeming abusive. Mami is the loving caregiver. She takes care of the children and obeys Papi. However, you can see tiny shifts in the family dynamics. Mami is starting to gain her own independence since she came to America. Yunior talks about her physical appearance changing since the move. She also seems to have a secret with Tia, who expresses concern about Papi and how he rules the family. Yunior mentions that Mami will be without Papi in a few years, suggesting that a change is coming to the family. Mami appears to be on the verge of gaining her independence from Papi’s overbearing ways.

Themes and Meanings

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 704

Several themes compete in this story, but they are subordinate to the main theme of a young boy, an innocent in many regards, who struggles with the difficult knowledge of his father’s extramarital affair. The story can be interpreted as a coming-of-age story or as part of the journey from innocence to experience. However, because the story entails only one evening in time, the transformation from innocence to experience is not complete. In fact, Yunior’s knowledge of his father’s extramarital affair troubles him but leads, at the end of this story, to confusion rather than resolution.

The father, a loud, domineering man, is a foil to his sensitive son Yunior and exhibits his controlling patriarchal character, if not his misogyny, throughout the story. Papi makes all the decisions. Yunior describes how the decision to have the fiesta was Papi’s, even though it takes place at Tia Yrma’s house. Dressed and ready to depart, the entire family must wait for Papi, who arrives home at the last minute and must take a shower first, as Yunior suspects, to rinse away the perfume of the Puerto Rican woman.

Another recurring example of the father’s controlling patriarchy is his use of corporal punishment to make his family obey him. Yunior states his father “expected your undivided attention when you were getting your ass whupped.” The entire family accepts and endures this treatment.

The family alliances in the story divide along gender lines, the masculine types associated with control and coercion and the feminine types with passivity and compassion. For example, big brother Rafa follows Papi’s example, demeaning his younger brother verbally and punching him to humiliate him. Papi and Rafa think of themselves as strong men, but their strength is defined mainly as the ability to control others, and it is a particularly misogynistic type of control. They think of women as playthings, and Rafa’s constant flirting and boasting of sexual conquests are not unlike his father’s having a mistress.

Mami, on the other hand, is passive and compassionate; she sides with her weaker son Yunior, consoling him when Papi or Rafa humiliates him for being carsick. An archetypal long-suffering wife, Mami looks away from the petty, and not so petty, abuses of her husband. The characters align themselves in conflicts polarized by gender, with the shallow masculine characters, Papi and Rafa, oppressing the sensitive feminine characters, Yunior and Mami. For the time being, the young daughter Madai avoids this conflict, most likely because as a preadolescent her sexuality is not fully formed and presents no threat to the polarized stasis of the family.

Whether the conflict among the family is created by the characters or by the Latino culture is debatable. Although Papi and Rafa are cruel in their attitude toward Yunior and women in general, one must also recognize that the Latino culture, as depicted in the story, encourages their actions, or at the least, tolerates them. For example, the girls whom Rafa ogles do nothing to discourage him, and one of them encourages his sexual advances at the party. Moreover, when Papi brings Yunior to his mistress’s house, the Puerto Rican woman gladly obliges Papi’s sexual advances even while his son waits in the living room downstairs. At the party, it is Tia Yrma who questions Yunior how he feels and how his mother is doing while Tio Miguel simply jokes about how a boy Yunior’s age in the Dominican Republic would “be getting laid by now.”

These events and relationships seem to demand that the twelve-year-old Yunior position himself as a man in an immigrant Latino American culture. However, he is not sure exactly what that means. The bold, domineering actions of the male role models, particularly his father and brother, seem at odds with Yunior’s natural inclinations toward reflection and compassion. Yunior’s confusion as to his developing identity is underscored in the final scene, in the van returning from the fiesta, when he becomes nauseated while looking at his parents seemingly content in the seat in front of him. Yunior’s nausea is a physical manifestation of his confusion about gender roles in his family and his culture.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Fiesta, 1980 Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Previous

Summary

Next

Characters