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The Experiences of Latina Immigrants

Set in the late 1980s, Josefina López’s play Real Women Have Curves focuses on the experiences of Latina immigrants in the United States and depicts their daily struggles to thrive and provide for their families. The story is based on López’s own experiences as a young woman growing up in Los Angeles. She describes how many undocumented Latina immigrants live in constant fear that the immigration authorities will eventually deport them back to Mexico.

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CARMEN: ¡La migra! (All the WOMEN scatter and hide waiting to be discovered. Then after a few seconds PANCHA makes a realization.)
PANCHA: Pero, why are we hiding? We’re all legal now.
CARMEN: ¡Ayy, de veras! I forget! All those years of being an illegal, I still can’t get used to it.
PANCHA: Me too! (She picks up a piece of bread.) I think I just lost my appetite.
ROSALI: I’m not scared of it! I used to work in factories and whenever they did a raid, I’d always sneak out through the bathroom window, y ya.
ANA: Last night I heard on the news that la migra patrol is planning to raid a lot of places.
PANCHA: They’re going to get mean trying to enforce that Amnesty law.

Lopez examines how many Mexican Americans struggle to make ends meet, often working long hours just to be able to put food on the table. The play’s central characters work in a small sewing factory, where they rush to finish all of the clothes on time so that they can pay their loans and bills. The protagonist, Ana, who is the youngest in the group, decides to use her experiences in the factory to write a compelling essay and pursue her dreams of becoming a successful author. Thus, the pursuit of happiness is one of the sub-themes of the play. In the opening scene of the play, Ana writes in her diary, revealing her thoughts about her current situation:

I just graduated from high school… Most of my friends are in college… it’s as if I’m going backwards. I’m doing the work that mostly illegal aliens do… (Scratches “illegal aliens.”) No, “undocumented workers”… or else it sounds like these people come from Mars… Soon I will have my “Temporary Residence Card,” then after two years, my green card… I’m happy to finally be legal, but I thought things would be different… What I really want to do is write…

Body Image and Self-esteem

Another major theme of the play is the discrepancy between one’s body and the cosmetic standards of one’s society. Many of the play’s characters have “curves” and often feel shame as a result. López shows how American women, especially young women, are pressured to accept society’s beauty standards. They are encouraged to suppress the idea that they should embrace themselves and their bodies. López describes her characters’ struggles collectively while also attending to their individual differences. For instance, Rosali is constantly dieting, which is why she is thinner than the other women, but she nonetheless struggles with low self-esteem. Carmen, the oldest of the group, never misses a chance to speak her mind and often makes comments on her daughters’ bodies. She calls them “fat,” even though she is chubby herself, and reminds them that being thin is the only way to be considered attractive and desirable. The following exchange reveals Carmen’s attitudes towards her own body and that of her daughter Ana:

CARMEN: A-ha… It’s true, those Japanese women are always skinny. Pues, give me your secret, Rosali. Maybe this way I can lose this ball of fat! (She squeezes her stomach.) No mas mira que paresco . You can’t even see my waist anymore. But you know what it really is. It’s just water. After having so many babies I just stopped...

(The entire section contains 1005 words.)

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