In Pat Mora’s “Sonrisas,” A woman tells the audience that she lives in between two worlds: her vapid office workplace and a kitchen/break-room with family members or colleagues of her same heritage. Mora includes many sensory details to enrich our understanding of the speaker’s experience in both “rooms.” The speaker is content living in the “hallway” between the two rooms because she can put on a metaphorical mask, as mentioned in Jungian psychology, which fits what is acceptable to the different social society that is in each room of her life. Adrienne Rich on the other hand, is not content with peeking her head into the doorframes of the roles she must play in order to be accepted. In her poem, “Diving into The Wreck,” she pursues, in my opinion, a form of individuation by diving into the wreck of her inner consciousness to find who she is among the wreckage of the world and its effects on her. Both Pat Mora and Adrienne Rich explore the dangers of being defined by others and the rewards of exploring different worlds.
Pat Mora was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, the city in which her four Spanish-speaking grandparents migrated during the Mexican Revolution. Her firm belief in promoting cross-cultural understanding and the appreciation of Hispanic culture often reveals itself in her works. She often writes about the elements of the Southwest to relate to and empower Hispanics to embrace the cultural traditions that are so significant to their identities (University of Minnesota).
The two stanzas in “Sonrisas,” work together as parallels, comparing the two main rooms that have been the most influential in shaping her as a person. In the first stanza, the speaker describes what I assume is her workplace with the words, “budgets, tenure, curriculum.” These words describe the corporate world in which she tries to fit in with. The tone of the first stanza feels strained; as if this is a foreign place with foreign customs that she is struggling to adapt to. The lines, “careful women in crisp beige suits, quick beige smiles,” shows us the women are most likely white with their “beige smiles.” Their professional attire that is the same color as their smiles suggests that they are conforming, people pleasers who are not friendly to the speaker who does not really want to conform to their ways. The goal of these women is to gain money, power, and prestige. They will keep quiet as their superiors tell them to in order to reach this goal; unlike the loud Mexican women in the second stanza. The Mexican women do not want to conform because they value their culture, family, and traditions and do not want to lose them in the growing fight to reach success without conforming to others’ values. Not to say the white women don’t also believe in similar values, but their desire to revere them in their lives in lower than the Mexican women.
The second stanza describes the warm setting of a family kitchen or possibly a break-room in the workplace in the first...