International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Mary, Mother, Jailer: Deconstructing Marianismo
Alicia Carter

Mayra Santos-Febres’ 2006 novel Our Lady of the Night focuses on the lives of three dramatically different women in mid-20th-century Puerto Rico: Isabel “la negra,” a successful black madam; Cristina, a depressed white housewife; and Doña Montse, an old, exploited black servant. This study examines the ways in which these women subscribe to, struggle with, and reject marianismo, a gender paradigm prominent in Latin America that demands all women emulate the Virgin Mary by embracing conservative feminine “ideals,” among them selflessness, subservience, and erotic repression. Although the rigid tenets of this ideology seem to cross racial and socioeconomic lines, the two black characters ultimately find strength and succor in the form of other traditions that, like marianismo, have their roots in Roman Catholicism. Syncretic manifestations of Catholicism, from a unique Black Madonna figure to Santerían orishas, or goddesses, galvanize these two women to rage against the self-abnegating demands of marianismo.

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