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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.

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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

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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,...

(The entire section contains 1019 words.)

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