I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

by

Erika L. Sánchez

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Apá/Rafael Reyes Character Analysis

Julia’s quiet, aloof, and hardworking father came from Los Ojos, Mexico to Chicago to build a better life for his family. Apá works long, grueling hours in a candy factory, toiling and missing out on time with his family to secure the shallow pleasures of people who can afford to spend money on nonessential foods. The judgmental Julia never thinks about what her father might be going through, or why he’s so disconnected—she only resents him for not being more present. Once Julia travels to Mexico and learns the truth of what her parents suffered at the border—and realizes that her father gave up his passion for art when he arrived in Chicago—she develops more empathy for her father, and understands just how many of his dreams were stolen in the process of ensuring that his children would be able to realize theirs.

Apá/Rafael Reyes Quotes in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

The I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter quotes below are all either spoken by Apá/Rafael Reyes or refer to Apá/Rafael Reyes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Knopf edition of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter published in 2017.
Chapter 22 Quotes

My body feels like it weighs a thousand pounds. I picture my mother’s face streaked with tears and dirt, my father bowing his head in defeat. “And Olga? What about Olga? She was . . . She was ...” I can’t get the words out.

Tía Fermina clasps her hands to her chest and nods. “See, mija, that’s why I want you to know. So when you and your mother fight, you can see where she’s come from and understand what’s happened to her. She doesn’t mean to hurt you.”

Page Number: 274-275
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile
Chapter 23 Quotes

I can’t look at Amá without thinking about the border. I keep picturing her screaming on the ground, Apá with a gun to his head. I don’t think I can ever tell her that I know. But how do we live with these secrets locked within us? How do we tie our shoes, brush our hair, drink coffee, wash the dishes, and go to sleep, pretending everything is fine? How do we laugh and feel happiness despite the buried things growing inside? How can we do that day after day?

Page Number: 284-285
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 24 Quotes

“I understand that it hurts, believe me, but this isn’t about you. […] Why would you want to cause your family more pain?

“Because we shouldn’t be living lies,” I say. […] “I’m tired of pretending and letting things blister inside me. Keeping things to myself almost killed me. I don’t want to live like that anymore.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Forget it.” Part of me wonders if Angie is right—who am I to do this to my family?—but I hate this feeling, like the weight of this will make my chest collapse.

Angie wipes the tears from her eyes with her palms. “Some things should never be said out loud, Julia. Can’t you see that?”

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Angie (speaker), Olga Reyes, Amá/Amparo Montenegro Reyes, Apá/Rafael Reyes
Page Number: 295-296
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 26 Quotes

“What do I do with this?” I say to myself aloud. “How do I bury this, too?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, how am I going to keep this secret? Why do I have to be the one living with this shit?”

“Please, don’t tell your parents. Olga never wanted to hurt them.”

“Why wouldn’t I? And why should I listen to you?”

“Sometimes it’s best not to tell the truth.”

Page Number: 312
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 29 Quotes

How can I leave them like this? How can I just live my life and leave them behind? What kind of person does that? Will I ever forgive myself?

“We love you, Julia. We love you so much,” Amá says, and presses some money into my hand. “Para si se te antoja algo,” she says, in case I crave something when I get to New York. “Remember you can come back whenever you want.”

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Amá/Amparo Montenegro Reyes (speaker), Apá/Rafael Reyes
Related Symbols: Food and Hunger
Page Number: 338
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

I pull out Olga’s ultrasound picture from my journal before we land. At times, it looks like an egg. Occasionally, it looks like an eye. The other day I was convinced I could see it pulsing. How can I ever give this to my parents, something else to love, something dead? These last two years I combed and delved through my sister’s life to better understand her, which meant I learned to find pieces of myself—both beautiful and ugly—and how amazing is it that I hold a piece of her right here in my hands?

Page Number: 340
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Apá/Rafael Reyes Character Timeline in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

The timeline below shows where the character Apá/Rafael Reyes appears in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Julia isn’t alone in being unable to express emotion about Olga’s death—her father, Apá, also hasn’t cried yet. Julia insists that she feels a deep grief, but her body... (full context)
Chapter 2
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
...Her behavior begins to worry Julia—Amá is usually clean and put-together, no matter the circumstances. Apá, meanwhile, continues working all day every day, and comes home to sit silently on the... (full context)
Chapter 5
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...drenched in hot sauce. Even after finishing the whole thing, Julia remains starving. Even though Apá works in a candy factory, junk food is forbidden in the Reyes house—Julia can only... (full context)
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
The next night, when Amá goes out to her prayer group at church, Julia asks Apá if she can go out with Lorena. The indifferent Apá shrugs, and Julia hurries out... (full context)
Chapter 6
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Amá, Apá, and Julia are getting ready to go to Julia’s cousin Victor’s seventh birthday party—a party... (full context)
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
...but Julia is able to read for a full half hour before being interrupted by Apá, Tío Bigotes, and Tio Cayetano, who reminisce about their lives in Mexico as they get... (full context)
Chapter 9
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
At home, the tired Apá is soaking his feet on the couch. Julia feels bad for her father, who always... (full context)
Chapter 13
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
...and walks away. As she does, she sees Milagros talking to a concerned-looking Amá and Apá. Julia sits down at her table and gorges herself on a piece of cake. (full context)
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
When Amá, Apá, and Julia arrive home at their apartment that night, they flick on the lights to... (full context)
Chapter 15
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
...all to themselves. Julia is stunned that Connor’s parents would leave him home alone—Amá and Apá would never let Julia or even Olga stay by themselves—but tells herself that “white people... (full context)
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Late that night, after Amá and Apá are asleep, Julia gets up and opens the door to Olga’s room. She takes out... (full context)
Chapter 17
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...the painfully difficult and distrustful relationship she has with Amá, and the distant, ghostlike way Apá moves through their house. When Dr. Cooke asks Julia about her parents’ immigration to the... (full context)
Chapter 18
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
That night, at dinner, Amá and Apá tell Julia that they think she should go to Mexico for a little while and... (full context)
Chapter 19
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...asks Mamá Jacinta what she means, and Mamá Jacinta tells Julia about how Amá and Apá were robbed when they crossed the border. Julia says she already knows the story—she’s heard... (full context)
Chapter 20
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...to Mamá Jacinta and asks who drew it—Mamá Jacinta, surprised by the question, reveals that Apá drew it. Julia is surprised, and insists her father doesn’t draw, but Mamá Jacinta tells... (full context)
Chapter 22
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...starts to cry. Julia asks what’s wrong, and Fermina  reveals tearfully that during Amá and Apá’s border crossing, the coyote leading them through the desert raped Amá while his associates held... (full context)
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
On the bus, as she pulls away from Los Ojos, Julia cries quietly. She has Apá’s drawing of Amá with her, and has promised Mamá Jacinta that she will take care... (full context)
Chapter 27
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
Julia still isn’t sure how to talk to Apá—there’s so much she wants to say to him, but can’t. The secrets she’s keeping are... (full context)
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...one is from NYU. Julia has gotten into both places with full rides. Amá and Apá congratulate her, and though they’re disheartened that she wants to choose NYU over the closer... (full context)
Chapter 29
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
The next day, as he prepares to take her to the airport, Apá dresses in the same faded blue shirt he was wearing the night he found Julia... (full context)
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
Restlessness and Ambition Theme Icon
Family, Immigrant Cultural Identity, and the Self Theme Icon
Poverty and Entrapment Theme Icon
...[she gets] to New York.” Julia begins weeping, and then opens her backpack. She hands Apá the drawing of Amá, and asks him if he’ll draw a picture of her sometime.... (full context)