“Fiesta, 1980” by Junot Diaz

Diaz endows protagonist Junior with a startling, curious master gestures – recurrent vomiting. Usually, a master gesture will denote a moment of emotional significance, as a way to alert audiences that something of interest to the character is transpiring. However, those gestures are not always so overt! Since Junior’s vomiting spells help to punctuate the story, they linger quite well in the reader’s mind. In terms of plot, it is interesting that Junior only experiences carsickness in the lime-green van his father drives. He notes that he “never had trouble with cars before – that van was like my [Junior’s] curse” (27). We later learn that Junior first met his father’s mistress during a trip in the van, which leads us to believe that Junior associates the vehicle with the crushing emotional distress of learning of his father’s infidelity. This explains his illness in a far more poetic manner. Every time he is in the van, he is somehow reminded of the traumatizing encounter. He attempts to reject the memory, causing him to physically reject whatever he can – apparently, his latest meal. It is a fitting form of catharsis. In its usual sense, catharsis means a purging of emotions and eventual healing. The word itself came from a form of ancient medical treatment wherein vomiting was induced on the patient, thus ridding them of sickness. As such, Junior is never truly “sick.” Instead, he is trying to rid himself of his father’s blight.

Local color infuses the narrative voice of the piece. Junior, through whom the story is told, regularly inserts Spanish words and phrases to remind us of his heritage and probable bilingual dialect. Also, the idiosyncrasies of the Spanish language creep into Junior’s interactions with his relatives. They always call him “Yunior” instead of “Junior,” emphasizing the soft pronunciation of J in certain Spanish dialects. This technique provides a firm sense of identity for the narrator and his family. We clearly know of their origin, and that they are proud enough of it to make it a part of their everyday speech. The Spanish aspects also help convey the enormity of the father’s bigamous misdeed. They call his mistress “sucia,” literally, “a dirty female.” The term is succinct and trenchant, revealing exactly how Junior’s family views the act. The woman has no other identity other than that tainted epithet, and by association, so too is Junior’s father corrupted.

Diaz, Junot. “Fiesta, 1980.” Drown. New York: Berkeley Publishing, 1996.


One Response to “Fiesta, 1980” by Junot Diaz

  1. John says:

    You are making a lot of assumptions when you link Junior’s vomiting in the car to his disgust with his father’s infidelities. The story makes clear that these incidences occurred before Junior had any knowledge of this other woman.

    Also, I don’t think you could make the argument that the characters use of the word “sucia” conveys a sense of enormity about the whole situation. That word is used all the time in spanish-speaking countries, and doesn’t convey any sense of a large transgression.

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