Dr. Yvette Guzmán-Zavala

Professor Yvette Guzman-Zavala Publishes in Eccentric Neighborhoods by Puerto Rican Writer Rosario Ferre

Assistant Professor of Spanish Yvette Guzmán-Zavala published "Milk and Blood: Rivaling and Familial Ties" in Eccentric Neighborhoods by Puerto Rican Writer Rosario Ferré in The Intersectional Approach: Transforming the Academy Through Race, Class, and Gender, which was edited by Michele Tracy Berger and Kathleen Guidroz (2009).

Puerto Ricans have a distinct national culture. They are very proud of their multi-racial country, which has no history of segregation. Many Puerto Rican families have members with mixed physical traits, an important fact in a country that is very family oriented. The national symbol that represents their racial roots confirms that they are a combination of Taíno, African, and Spanish blood. Yet, the reality of Puerto Rican family life is more complicated. Historically, some privileged women have relied upon other ones to help raise their children.

Guzmán-Zavala has written a book chapter that explores these issues in Rosario Ferré’s 1998 novel Eccentric Neighborhoods. She shows how the biological mother attempts to control the definition of family by limiting it to blood relations. Nevertheless, it is the wet nurse-–described as half black and half Taíno--that holds the family together with her love and milk. Guzmán-Zavala demonstrates how an other mother can challenge the Puerto Rican image of the family and their nation welcoming a non-traditional conception of motherhood that is built on milk and love, not just blood.

As profesora Guzmán-Zavala explains, her research interests have roots in her own childhood, “Growing up in Puerto Rico and being cared for as a child by other women besides my mother made me interested in the role of women like Miña, the wet nurse in this story. I had my abuela (grandmother) and also my other mothers, Isa and Rosa, who helped with childcare and housekeeping. They remained unmarried and childless, yet were celebrated by us on Mother’s Day. I have been interested in different types of motherhood beyond the traditional blood related model because of my own family history. My inquiries are partly a small tribute to them.”

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