How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents Summary and Analysis of "A Regular Revolution"

The chapter begins with Carlos deciding to remain in the United States when the girls are still young, due to political instability on the Island. The girls feel out of place in America, where they have only second-hand clothing and are taunted in school. When they are sent to a fancy prep school, they still feel isolated, but they begin to gain freedom from their overbearing parents. Noticing this new trend, their parents determine to send the girls back to the Dominican Republic for the summers to reconnect with their roots and to nurture a more feminine, traditional, and Catholic attitude in them.

One such summer, while they on the Island, Laura finds a baggy of marijuana Sofía had brought to the house. Sofía takes the blame for the weed, and she is given the choice of staying on the Island the following year or returning to live at home and attend a local Catholic school. She chooses to stay on the Island, where she begins to date an illegitimate cousin, Manuel Gustavo. When the other girls return to visit the following summer, they discover that she has begun wearing makeup, doing her hair, and, worst of all, obeying Manuel Gustavo's tyrannical commands about what she can wear, whom she can speak to, and so on.

On learning that the couple is having sex without contraceptives (Manuel Gustavo will not wear a condom because he thinks it causes infertility), the three girls and their cousin Lucinda scheme to break the couple up. One day, instead of waiting to pick the couple up after their night out alone, the girls convince their chaperone, their cousin Mundín, to drive them all back to the house without Sofía and Manuel Gustavo. When the girls’ aunts discover that the two are alone together, they lament Sofía's tarnished reputation and Laura decides Sofía must return to the States where she can be under close supervision. When Sofía returns later that night, she denounces her sisters as traitors.


The theme of "revolution" runs through this chapter, beginning with the political unrest that drives Carlos to settle permanently in the United States. The United States becomes a haven for revolutionaries of all sorts: just as the family fled to the States for freedom from oppression, so the girls escape the tyranny of a patriarchal family by embracing the American sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s. While visiting the Dominican Republic, the three older sisters wage a revolution against the system of machismo that threatens to devour Sofía.

The chapter is written in the first person plural ("we"), and each girl is referred to in third person, so the three older sisters appear to act as a coalition, unified against the culture they fear is sapping Sofía's independent spirit. In their battle against the rigid gender roles of Dominican culture, they identify with Victorian feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, and Susan B. Anthony. The sexual hypocrisy that these famous activists encountered in their own society closely resembles the problems the García sisters see in Dominican culture. Mundín, for instance, demonstrates a gross sexual double standard when grows angry at the suggestion that his sister is not a virgin, but applauds Manuel Gustavo's sexual activity. Similarly, many upper-class men frequent brothels like Motel Los Encantos, which has private garages so the clients cannot identify each other by their cars. As in Victorian England, Dominican society ignores the infidelity of its men, while expecting its women to remain chaste.

On the night that they "betray" Sofía and Manuel Gustavo, the sisters recognize that they are on the same avenue where Trujillo was attacked on his way to his mistress. Their father had helped devise this coup, but had fled to the United States by the time it was carried out. The girls' revolution against corrupt male rule and despotic sexual hypocrisy thus parallels the revolutionary attempt to overthrow a corrupt dictatorship. Throughout the chapter, the three sisters compare Manuel Gustavo's domineering behavior to "tyranny," implying congruence between political and private patriarchy. The metaphor suggests that Trujillo derives power from the underlying patriarchal culture that expects masculine dominance and demands unquestioning submission from the female half of the population.

Trujillo fulfills the traditional model of a macho man, but Manuel's pettiness and ignorance indicate how superficial and uninspiring that masculine archetype is when viewed critically. The sisters nickname Manuel Gustavo "M.G.," a type of car they associate with sleazy, macho Dominican men, and they "rev up" by crying "Rrrmm, rrrmm" whenever they hear a misogynist comment. "Revving up" becomes a metonymic figure for the entire superficial, unfair system. It implies the male desire to possess the car's physical power, while hinting at the vanity and superficiality of the macho model. Machismo reduces men to cars: unthinking, flashy, and mindlessly violent.

As outsiders to the masculine structure and to Dominican culture, the four girls are among the few who can critically analyze the "macho system." One of the novel's ironies is that their father, who risked his life to oust Trujillo, nevertheless perpetrates a private form of patriarchal despotism over his wife and daughters. Even the girls' aunts embrace the misogynist system, and the sisters compare raising consciousness of women's rights on the Island with "trying for cathedral ceilings in a tunnel" (121). The metaphor of Dominican culture as a tunnel reflects the narrow blindness with which the sisters see Dominican women obeying and supporting the patriarchy. The concept of "rights" becomes a temple of enlightenment and freedom compared to the closed darkness of Dominican culture.