In the United States, Mexican-American children are tormented by discrimination. Stories in Growing up Chicano described the struggles Mexican children faced on a daily basis. Gender roles and stereotypes restricted their identity and caused insecurity, which resulted in the loss of self-esteem and innocence. “The Scholarship Jacket”, “Eleven”, and “Juana Inez” each depict children affected by prejudice thoughts and actions. Martha, a Mexican teenager in “The Scholarship Jacket”, displayed anger and depression due to cruel stereotypes and gender discrimination toward her, which resulted in her loss of innocence.
After hearing she couldn’t receive her hard earned jacket because of her ethnicity she went home very sad and cried into her pillow that night so Grandmother wouldn’t hear her. It seemed a cruel coincidence that she had overheard that conversation (Chicano 129). Martha’s reaction shows how cold-hearted discrimination seemed to her. She was forced to conceal her anguish, signaling that her individuality was restricted. Because of her imperfections, Martha despaired every time she looked in the mirror. Pencil thin, not a curve anywhere, she was called ‘Beanpole’ and ‘String Bean’ and she knew that’s what she looked like.” (Chicano 128). Martha accepted the fact that her unusual traits were unattractive, and those not of a normal female. These gender discriminations caused her to be disgusted by her appearance, making her insecure. When Martha told her teacher she would not pay for her prize, he questioned her reasoning; “Your grandfather has the money. Doesn’t he own a small bean farm?” (Chicano 131). The teacher implied that Mexicans like Martha are cheap. She looked at him forcing her eyes to stay dry (Chicano 131). Martha was personally insulted by the racist comment, and she could barely hold back her tears. Her hesitation to cry shows she was holding back her true character. Martha experienced a harsh introduction to gender discrimination and stereotypes at a young age, but she was not alone. In “Eleven”, Rachel was treated unequally because of her race and appearance, resulting in her loss of self-esteem and innocence. Rachel provided reasons why she believed her teacher didn’t like her: “Maybe because I’m skinny” (Chicano 157).
Her viewpoint on why Mrs. Price disliked her was based on sexism. Rachel’s acceptance of gender roles caused her to become self-conscious of appearance. After Mrs. Price forced Rachel to take the jacket, Rachel expressed her desire to “throw it over the schoolyard fence, or leave it hanging on the parking meter, or bunch it up into a little ball and toss it into the ally” (Chicano 158). She knew the jacket was given to her because of a stereotype, so her hatred towards the jacket also represents her hatred towards discrimination. Her strong anger at a young age shows she was corrupted by the prejudice thoughts she faced. After being forced to wear the jacket and embrace her stereotype, Rachel explained that she “wants today to be far away already, far away like a runaway balloon, like a tiny o in the sky, so tiny-tiny you have to close your eyes to see it” (Chicano 159).
Rachel wanted the stereotypes to disappear because hey mentally punished her; causing her to become self-conscious of herself and express inner detestation at eleven years old. Embracing the stereotyped caused not only Rachel to lose innocence, but many other Mexican children. In ‘Juana Inez’, Juana’s extraordinary talents were overshadowed by gender roles placed upon her, causing her to lose her self-confidence. When she was made aware of her unusual attraction to a woman, Juana prayed, “Punish me, Padre, as you would punish the vilest sinner, but don’t make me say this to you” (Chicano 70).
Juana expressed that she preferred to be brutally punished rather than convey herself to the priest. Her fear of confessing her sexuality shows she was uncomfortable with her identity. When Juana ate in front of Padre Antonio she “felt exposed. Surely the ugliness in her soul would be apparent to Padre Antonio” (Chicano 77). She feared exposing her true character around him, which shows how gender roles restrict her. Juana described her own soul as ugly, which shows her inner insecurity with her sexuality.