“How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents” by Alvarez

Pages: 4
Words: 1099


There are several ideas the readers can get from the text extract of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. One of the intriguing ideas in the text was how background and upbringing could make a person different from others. This difference can be seen through some of Yolanda’s experiences in the text. There are several scenarios where it became clear her upbringing and background were getting in the way of being like the other students in her class. These scenarios started during the first roll call, through her relationship with Rudy, to her understanding and use of the English language. This paper shows some cases that bring out the idea of upbringing and background affecting Yolanda’s experiences.

Her Name

One of the ideas that readers get from the text is how one’s background and upbringing determine whom one grows to become. Yolanda was not like the other students in the class. The differences were very noticeable even from the first day. She had an unusual name, and even during the roll call, the teacher struggled to get her name right. As Yolanda pointed out, the teacher called the other students with nicknames and jokes but stumbled over her name, smiling falsely, a smile Yolanda had identified as one flashed to foreign students to show them that the natives were friendly (Alvarez 88). This scenario reveals how Yolanda is unlike other students. Throughout the text, her distinct cultural and family beliefs affect her behavior and interactions with the rest of the people.


One of the relationships affected by Yolanda’s difference is her relationship with Rudy. Whereas Rudy’s cultural values allowed him to view sex as fun and casual, Yolanda’s made her view of sex as a way of connecting with her partner. As a result, she was not ready to sleep with Rudy. Because of her upbringing, Yolanda was never prepared to make love with Rudy. Although her body wanted it, and she needed to keep the relationship with Rudy, her background prevented her from doing the one thing that Rudy required to keep the relationship. Yolanda even wondered if her past had disconnected some vital nerves (Alvarez 97). The fact that Yolanda loved Rudy and wanted to keep the relationship going but was unable to meet the condition that Rudy provided shows how her childhood had influenced her idea of sex.

Sex Education

Another instance where the text shows how childhood experiences can make a person different is Rudy and Yolanda’s differences in sex knowledge. Rudy was well knowledgeable on sex education to the point that he understood safe days and the female anatomy. According to Yolanda, “He calculated when I’d last had my period, when I’d probably ovulated, whether a certain night was a safe time of the month” (Alvarez 97). On the other hand, Yolanda did not have this information, and at one point, she even worried she would get pregnant from proximity (Alvarez 97). She was a virgin and did not know how sex works (Alvarez 93). The female anatomy was introduced to her by Rudy via diagrams; the ovary, vagina, and cervix sounded like synonyms. The difference between Yolanda and Rudy’s sex knowledge resulted from their background and upbringing. Yolanda’s parents raised her in a strict catholic environment, while Rudy was raised to be encouraged to have experiences with girls and be careful (Alvarez 98). Their backgrounds and upbringing had influenced the information they had on sex and led to different-sex values and beliefs.

Her Parents

When Yolanda first saw a picture of Rudy’s parents, she understood how different they were from her parents. Rudy’s parents were young and lively, while Yolanda’s were old-fashioned parents. According to Yolanda, “an embarrassment at parents’ weekend, my father with his thick moustache and three-piece fedora hat, my mother in one of her outfits. She bought specifically to visit us at a school, everything overmatched” (Alvarez 98). This representation of their physical appearances was also manifested in how they raised their children. Yolanda grew up in a strict environment where she did not talk to her parents about seeing boys. At the same time, Rudy informed his parents he was seeing a Spanish girl, and they thought it was an excellent experience for him to find out about people from other cultures.


Yolanda’s background and upbringing also affected her language. Since she was not a native English speaker, she had some challenges with the English language. These challenges were manifested in different scenarios in the text. For example, she wrote an entire poem with Rudy and later discovered it was a pornographic poem after Rudy explained all the wordplays and double meanings (Alvarez 93). Because of her background, Yolanda had challenges writing poems that could resonate with the other English major students; she notes that “no one understood what my sublimated love sonnet was all about, but Rudy’s brought down the house. Suddenly, it seemed to me not only that the world was full of English majors but with people with a lot more experience than I had. I cursed immigrant origins” (Alvarez 94). Similarly, she notes that if she had been born in Virginia or Connecticut, she too would be able to understand the jokes that everyone was making about the last two letters of the year 1969 (Alvarez 95). This self-doubt shows that her childhood environment affected her language and her self-confidence.

Additionally, people’s expectations of her language abilities are also different from those of the other students, as Rudy’s parents were surprised by her ‘accent less’ English (Alvarez 100). Yolanda’s challenges in school show how her background and upbringing had affected her language abilities. Again, Yolanda had additional flexibility with words compared to Rudy. For example, when Rudy jokingly said that “I’m not fucking going to rape you!” Yolanda noted how this sort of language would be frowned upon by her father (Alvarez 96). The fact that words had different meanings to Yolanda compared to Rudy and the other students shows the impact of her upbringing and background on her language.


How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents shows the Garcia girls’ challenges growing up in America after spending their early years in different cultures. This paper explores how their culture made them different. In this text, Yolanda is the main character, and the setting is her English primary class and school. The paper shows how Yolanda’s background and upbringing made her different in terms of her name, attitude and behavior towards sex, her sex education, parents, and language. Comparisons are done with the other students and mostly her boyfriend Rudy.

Work Cited

Alvarez, Julia. How the Garcia girls lost their accents. New York: Plume, 1991.