In East Los Angeles, an 18-year-old struggles between her ambitions of going to college and the desires of her domineering mother for her to get married, have children, and oversee the small, rundown family-owned textile factory.
This is the story of Ana, a first generation Mexican-American teenager on the verge of becoming a woman. She lives in the predominately Latino community of East Los Angeles. Freshly graduated from high school, Ana receives a full scholarship to Columbia University. Her very traditional, old-world parents feel that now is the time for Ana to help provide for the family, not the time for college. Torn between her mainstream ambitions and her cultural heritage she agrees to work with her mother at her sister's downtown LA sewing factory. Over the summer she learns to admire the hardworking team of women who teach her solidarity and teamwork. Still at odds with what her mother expects of her, Ana realizes that leaving home to continue her education is essential to finding her place proudly in the world as an American and Chicana.Written by
A coming of age story in which Ana (America Ferrera) deals with the effects of tradition, gender, social class and race on her future and on her family. The cinematic gaze on Ana is that she is a healthy sized Latin woman with curves and intelligence coming from a lower class family. Certain stereotypes of Latin people and women are reinforced in this movie in the form of Ana's mother, Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros) and sister, Estela (Ingrid Oliu), which are then in turn critiqued by Ana. For example, Ana's sister owns a clothing sweat-shop which relies on the upper class white people for everything. Estela fears the upper/dominant/powerful class, while Ana confronts them and makes her demands perfectly clear without compromising herself. Ana's mother has revolved her life around getting married and raising a family, while Ana refuses to compromise her future and dreams by taking a husband and household on before she really wants to.
The movie revolves primarily around Ana's college application. This is the plot device whose effects progress the film. The scholarship to the University is dependent upon the fact that Ana is a minority, and without the scholarship, Ana and her family make it clear that they could not financially afford to send Ana to college, which would then reproduce stereotypes of women and minorities of being less financially stable.
Eventually, both despite and with the help of her gender, race and social and economic class, Ana is able to advance herself and develop a sense of confidence in herself and her identity.
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