The Myth of the Perfect Cubanita


In raising me, my parents’ main goal, as with most parents, was to raise a good person – caring, compassionate, educated, confident, well-mannered, polite – you get the idea.  My parents, however, had a little bit more in the way of hopes for me.  They didn’t want me to just be a good girl; they wanted (want) me to be a good Cubanita.

What does that mean?  I’m supposed to keep an immaculate home, cook meals from scratch every night, iron my husband’s clothes, look my best at all times, be an amazing hostess.  I’ve always felt a bit of pressure to live up to this image of the perfect Cubanita.  I laugh now thinking of all those hours lost blow drying my hair because goodness forbid I leave the house with unruly hair.  When I lived with my parents in northern New Jersey, it was easy to work towards their expectations.  Everywhere I turned there were other girls working towards the perfect Cubanita myth – inspiration and knowledge that I wasn’t alone.

Their hair always blown out just right.  Make-up on perfectly.  Greeting everyone at the door with fresh pastelitos handing them over with neatly French manicured hands.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my life and don’t want to turn into a Cuban Stepford wife but the myth of the perfect Cubanita always haunts me.  Especially these days when I am a mess all the time.  My home looks like a tornado hit it – toys all over, piles of clean and dirty laundry getting bigger by the second, a garbage can with one too many empty microwave meal boxes and then there’s me.  I’d sworn to not let a newborn drag me down into the world of sweats, nursing tanks and sneakers but it’s happened again.  My parents would be mortified to see me sans jewelry or a spritz of perfume in clothes that look like pajamas.

You’d think this terrible haunting, this awful pressure would drive me in the other direction when it comes to my girls.  But you know what?  I find myself passing on the myth of the perfect Cubanita.  While their mami might be a mess, I’m always splashing the girls in Violetas Francesas and chasing them with a comb and barrette in hand.  Far too often, I hear myself telling my husband this or that isn’t appropriate for our little ladies . I flip out when one of Dessa’s earrings falls out.

I think a lot of it has to do with living so far from the culture.  I feel this intense need to overcompensate to make sure my little half-gringa, half-Cuban girls don’t miss out on or lose any little bit of their culture. I realize, though, I need to teach them it’s ok to be themselves.  Which really means I need to be ok with being myself; I can be a good Cubanita some days and some days I can be a little bit of a mess.

Do you ever feel the pressure to live up to a similar myth within your culture?

Share, por favor!

By Carla on June 29, 2009 · Posted in the habla habla

3 Comments | Post Comment

Juju says:

I know what you mean. Sometimes I can almost hear the voices of my mami y tias in my head.
But the way I look at it – I’m blessed.
I was raised with this beautiful ideals to strive for.
Something muchas Americanas simply don’t get.
It’s the reason Latinas make such amazing wives.
So I do just that.
I strive to be a good wifey but I never let the ideal rule me.

Posted on June 29th, 2009

Violeta says:

I looked like a little doll when I was growing up- barrette in hair, splash of Nenuco, smocked dress- and had the Spanish version of this myth impressed on me, too. As an adult, I manage all of the little perfections that don’t have to do with my appearance (my house is cleaner than most of our friends (though never clean enough for my mom!), I cook from scratch a lot of nights, grow an organic garden, write thank you notes, practice and teach the kids good manners…but my make-up, nails, hair can be a mess!). And with my kids, my girls especially, I maybe go against this a little too much. I let them be messy, be boisterous, in a way that I wasn’t allowed to be because I think that freedom does them some good. But yeah, I have the nagging little voice, too, and I’m always imagining little makeovers for all of us. And I think now that all three of my kids are no longer ALL babies/toddlers, will be the time I might pull the family-out-of-a-magazine-spread thing off a little better. Maybe… :)

Posted on June 29th, 2009

Carrie says:

I am in Miami right now…There is no more perfect Cubanita. Though perhaps if I really think about it, I should have better manicured nails and a really expensive purse…

Posted on July 1st, 2009