The story of the book of unknown americans is filled with stories and mainstream issues that are dealt with on a daily basis. One of the theme’s in the book however, is Domestic Abuse. Between a “happily” married couple, to father-son relationship. One family that is followed throughout the book is the Toro family. Following mainly Mayor, the son, we see his home life and his parents’ relationship. We learn who his family is, where they come from, how they came to live in the U.S., the whole enchilada. Mayor’s parents come from Panama. After fleeing their country because of poor living conditions they find home in Delaware. Rafael y Celia Toro, happily married at a young age, now with two sons, Enrique, and Mayor.
Rafael and Celia’s relationship is just as traditional as you would expect a young hispanic couple to be. Rafael the young, macho, hard working, stubborn hispanic father that brings home the bacon, and Celia the young stay at home mom, always cooking, hanging out with the neighborhood mothers and gossiping. As time has gone by, not much has changed about the way thing run for them. Rafael Toro is as traditional as they come. Having grown up in a broken family with an abusive father, it’s bound that he may have some of those same qualities as he gets older. His beliefs are that the man is the only sole provider for the family. That he should make enough money to live comfortably. He is the type of man that raises his voice and occasionally his hands to win and end an argument. This is just the way he’s been taught, the way it’s always been with men and their wives. To some, mainly hispanic people, this is tradition. These are the beliefs they hold. To others however, this is domestic abuse. To lift a hand or put your arms on another person is domestic violence. To raise your voice and yell degrading and or threatening words is verbal abuse. And while being such a firm believer of these traditional ways, one may not see it as actual abuse. Whether verbal or physical.
In one instance in the novel, we are reading what goes on in an exchange between Rafael and Celia. Rafael is having problems at a diner he works at as a cook and is unfortunately not making enough money to support his family. While he’s expressing his frustrations, Celia tells him she would not mind getting a job to help out. In fact, this is something she actually wants to do. Rafael instantly turns down that idea. He doesn’t like it and tells his wife no. She is not to do that. After her pleading and trying to get him to see that it’s the most logical idea to get them enough cash to pay bills and such, he pretty much explodes and overreacts when saying she is not going to get a job. He even grabs onto her wrists to make a point that he is very serious. Traditionally, this is the a somewhat normal reaction, for a husband to not want his wife to work. As stated before, Rafael believes in these ways because it’s how he was brought up. What he’s accustomed to. For Celia to go out and get a job to help with the income, would be a sort of embarrassment for Rafael. The shame he would feel to not be able to provide enough on his own, that his wife needs to help is something very common in Hispanic communities. Not only is it passed down from father to son but, many Hispanic women believe that a man should be the sole provider for her daughter. That he should be well off enough to take care of her and their family. According to, The National Violence Against Women Survey, it was found that 21% of Latinas experience physical assault from their significant others at least sometime in their lives.
While, being Latina myself, I understand the beliefs that hispanic men feel they need to fill and exceed at when providing for their wives and families, I disagree with it. I believe it’s sort of taboo and growing up with the generation that I did, I see way more women standing up and excelling and providing for themselves. This generation it going to break that stereotype and age long tradition of the male being the sole provider for their families. In reality, these men, ESPECIALLY, when alcohol is involved, can act very aggressive and dominant over their women and the choices she makes. It does look exactly like domestic violence. Although, they may not see it that way, from an outside eye, that’s what it is.
To end, while Rafael means well and does a great deal for his family, his attitude towards some ideas his wife has are very similar to those that a domestically violent person may have. The thought process is ultimately toxic for everyone in the family. Rafael however, has aspects to him that show he can change and shake those toxic beliefs off for the better. He is a good father to his family and does his best.