Anna Yunatskaya – University of Copenhagen

Latina/o Dual Identity Evolution: A Sociolinguistic Perspective

Anna Yunatskaya (Zaporozhye National University)

The proposed paper addresses the transition of the Latina(o) cultural identity through the prism of biculturalism and bilingualism; the author analyzes the data selected from fictional and non-fictional works of Latina/o immigrant writers. At the core of the research is Latinx integration into the U.S. mainstream in terms of dual intercultural identity, which is studied with regard to the specificity of the female and male gender national characters (marianismo and machismo). The notions of marianismo (female national character) and machismo (male national character) are explored from the point of view of gender role reconsideration while deconstructing identity in the course of integration into the U.S. society. The empirical data includes essays, novels and short stories of Latina(o) authors (Gloria E.Anzaldúa, Juan Cadena, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Rose del Castillo Guilbault, Richard Rodriguez, etc).

Apart from gender and cultural identity shift the paper traces the specificity of the “domestic conflict” between Latina/os and Euro-Americans, based on typical social attitudes about Latina/o people in the U.S. The mentioned conflict is actualized via specific communicative strategies and tactics used by Latina(os) and Euro-Americans. It is noteworthy that speakers often do not base their judgments on facts and reality, but are guided by the «crucial strategy» used in «model building for ethnic situations» which is qualified by Teun van Dijk as negative extension. Van Dijk calls negative extension «a very flexible strategy» which is «often part of the attribution process» (Dijk T.A., p. 31). The negative extension as a rule includes unjustified criticism and attribution of generalized exaggerated insulting characteristics without any reason in a groundless way.

The present paper investigates the role of Spanish in English writings of Latina/o first-generation immigrant authors. The research aims to study the Latina/o phenomenon from linguistic and gender perspectives and identify the specificity of the Latina cultural and gender identity evolution by researching the language and discursive indicators of these transitions.

One of the ways to explore the Latina/o identity transition is to observe the use of Spanish in Latina/o immigrant discourse. Whereas the verbalized negative social attitudes are actualized through semantic derogation of vocabulary borrowed from Spanish, Latina(o) authors often incorporate Spanish into their English writing for a variety of reasons.

It is argued that Spanish words used in Latina/o writings in English serve as certain code-switching to emphasize alienation (la gringa, Los Estados); describe the specificity of Hispanic life in ghettos (barrio, El Building); reflect the Latina original humility, submissiveness and subservience to men (Así es la vida, Niña); show rebellion against patriarchal values (“Why did I have to advertise my sexual status by the color of the mantilla I was told to wear: white for señoritas and black for married women?” (“My Rosetta”, J.O.Cofer, p. 75); serve as indicators of patriotism and loyalty to one’s own Latina community, and affectionate love for certain aspects of home culture (mi casa es su casa, Compadre/Comadre patria, compañeros); hostility of the adopted culture (la lucha), create playful linguistic hybrids (barrio-as-island fantasy); stress the vulnerable and hopeless position of an immigrant Latina woman (la mojada, la mujer indocumentada: “How many times have I heard mothers and mothers-in-law tell their sons to beat their wives for not obeying them, for being bociconas (big mouths), for being callajeras (going to visit and gossip with neighbors)… (Anzaldúa, G. E., p.16).

Unmasking of the home culture symbols is of great importance, too, because something meant to protect turns out to be oppressive: “La gorra, el rebozo, la mantilla are symbols of my culture’s “protection” of women. Culture (read males) professes to protect women. Actually it keeps women in rigidly defined roles) (Anzaldúa, G. E. p.17).

First-generation Latina immigrants in the U.S. while adjusting to the mainstream culture are unlikely to retain their heritage gender ethic, but rather act as rebels demonstrating feministic views and women's empowerment. The indicator and result of the reconsidered and deconstructed authenticity is the newly generated dual culture discourse.


  • Anzaldúa, G. E. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987, 260 pp.
  • Dijk T.A. van Cognitive and conversational strategies in the expression of ethnic prejudice // Text. Amsterdam: Mouton Publishers. – 1983. – Vol. 3-4, p. 375-404.
  • Rodriguez, R. Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood. In Multitude Cross–Cultural Readings for Writers / ed. by Chitra B. Divakaruni. – New York: McGraw–Hill, Inc., 1993, p. 307-322.
  • Rodriguez, R. (b) Hunger of Memory in Visions of America. New York: Persea Books. 1993, p. 229-235.
  • Cofer, J. O. Silent Dancing in Visions of America. – New York: Persea Books, 1993, p. 179-186.
  • Cofer, J. O. My Rosetta, Prairie Schooner, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, Vol. 74, # 2, 2000, p. 70–78.