Latina Feminism, Modernism & Tradition in “Imitadora” by Romeo Santos

I cannot place this analysis outside myself and it deals with issues primarily rooted in my identity as a Cuban-American woman, educated three times over in language, literature, and education.  The song touches on issues of female identity, narrated by a man (a lover with desires), and language between lovers.

Imitadora, Imitation Woman, is about a lover who sings to his woman, telling her, in essence that he misses her as she once was. My inner feminist and ontologist questions this essentialized self. Who was she ever and how can you determine that she is not that way anymore? Who are you to define who she was and who she is? But the lover in me swoons.

This is where I return to my aforementioned statement about issues primarily rooted in my identity as a Cuban-American woman, single, living in New York City.
Before you roll your eyes in anticipation of a whining anecdotal, I’ll clarify. My point here is one of language. The way the man is communicating his regret, disapproval, or confusion is what sings, pun intended, to my heart as a Cuban-American woman. This is the way I want a man to talk to me. I question whether this is problematic to the standard White-American woman (It’s about time the “Race” “white” gets a hyphen). What does this mean for the definition of feminism? For me, this poses a real problem.

Generally feminism is defined as economic and social equality but in my opinion, that’s easy enough for us to settle in agreement; it doesn’t really say much. The harder understanding is the nitty gritty of every day relationships, the definition of what a woman can or cannot do, the quality of her work—the compensation sure is a part of it— but what about the conversations she’s allowed or not allowed to have, the manner she’s supposed to speak, or dress, or a number of other social details that are lost under the vagueness and the enormity of the broad definition?

Specifically, here in this song I address the language between lovers; I have a torn feeling, (again, this I attribute to my upbringing in a bi-cultural state) between traditionalism and modernism. One one hand I want him to beg for me; I want him to chase me and beg for my forgiveness; I want him to win me over. On the other, I am outraged at his physical insistence, his presumption, his nagging—clearly he did something wrong enough for the woman to have the courage and strength to leave,—and worst, telling her who she was and who she is in the first place.

He starts:

Mi memoria ha conservado lo que se ha llevado el viento
Y yo estoy estancado en esos tiempos
Cuando tú me amabas y con gran fulgor sentía tus besos
Dime, quítame esta duda

My Memory has preserved that which the wind has taken,
and I am stuck there in those times.
When you loved me and ,with incredible brilliance, I’d feel your kisses,
Tell me. Remove these doubts.

The issue here is that he is thinking of her of what she “used to be” and denying who she is and who she wants to be; he only wants what he had in the first place, probably when he was a better man. It seems that all he wants is a renewed physical passion. But the traditional me tells me “if a man is going to say sorry, this is the he way he better do it.” When a relationship goes awry, sometimes remembering the better times is enough to ignite again what you loved; perhaps, it is not always the right thing to brood over infractions and misdeeds. Is it enough to be sorry though? Again, my instinct is moved but my gut is offended.

¿Quién es esta extraña que se ha apoderado de tu ser?
¿Dónde está la amante loca que me erizaba la piel?
Porque ya tú no me tocas como lo hacía esa mujer
Algo no anda bien

Who is this strange woman who has taken over your being?
Where is the wild lover who caused my skin to tingle
Because now you don’t touch me like that woman did
There’s something off

How quickly he transitions from the entreating, apologetic lover to an accusatory and indignant one. What fascinated me most to write this essay is his distinct treatment of “possession”. When a woman is “not herself” it typically denotes a fault in the viewer, not the being. The viewer is selfish and possessive, holding on to what once pleased him and refuses the multiplicity of her being; he cannot accept that a person is more than what they want them to be so he attacks, bemoans, cries, and tries to change or manipulate the being back to what the viewer once knew. He whines: “You’re not what you used to be!” Well, I wonder if he ever considered: Maybe he isn’t either!
But imagine this: they are deeply married; they have loved each other for over ten years; they’ve committed to one another and have undergone a number of milestones, together.  We don’t know the context enough; we are so quick to judge him but perhaps here if we gave him the benefit of the doubt, we would admire and appreciate his effort.
It feels, as a feminist, that other feminists are so harsh with me for not letting go of traditional values so deep to the core of my upbringing. I feel tenderness for him, I see someone trying to love another being, especially sung in my native language, it just feels right. But I feel also conflicted that he’s doing her wrong; he doesn’t get it and he’s making it harder for her to continue her independence and leave a toxic relationship.

Finally, I will I concede that there just isn’t enough information to know what he did or if he truly is a harmful and toxic person; it could be romantic; if someone were truly fighting to keep our relationship alive, I’d at least acknowledge and at least show some gratitude for the effort, whether or not I continue the relationship. The choice is not easy and this essay is an attempt to remove judgment and augment understanding. I wanted to communicate what it feels like to be torn between what feels right and what I think is wrong and the cultural complications in between.

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