Heritage

The more time passes by, the more I am convinced why I never had any children. I was raised by  and with a tribe of people of all ages and ideas, even different backgrounds: my mother’s mother María and her younger children Maribel, Toño and Alejandro; my father’s mother Quina, her husband Juan; my uncles and aunt Miguel, Carlos, Chavo, Francisco and Lety; and also later on by a family that rented a space to my mom where she had a laundry business. They were the Jaramillos: Mr. Raúl, Mrs. Luz María, Alejandra, Raul and Luz Ma.

None of these people had the same upbringing and ideas, not even the same religion or culture. This made me a mix of all things, which made me “weird.” There was one thing, however, that they all shared, they all knew, they all agreed upon and without realizing, they all left as a heritage for generations to come: MACHISMO!

I really fought this monster my entire life without knowing I was doing so. I never even heard the word “feminist” until I was probably in college, and I thought it was a bunch of lesbian women fighting for their rights. It took me literally a lifetime to understand the cancer that machismo is in our society.

For as long as I can recall in all the houses where I grew up, there was always a motherly figure  who would take care of everything around the house -laundry, dish washing, cooking, cleaning, paying the bills on time (with the money given by the men in the family). When a man would come to the house, the women in it would move around like little ants answering to whatever needs he might develop even before he thought of them. It was magical. (For them of course)

When I was well into my teens, and I was at home with my parents, it drove me crazy to know that I needed to set the table so my brother and father would sit there and eat, and then I would have to pick up the dishes so my mother could wash them and put them away when dry. All they had to do was eat and say thank you. 

Why was I asked to perform all these roles, and why did my mom also always do them with grace and without hesitation?

When I started dating, my mother would always say, “Agg MoNo, those guys you date. They are such hippies, not paying for your things, not opening the door for you, not asking you to marry them. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” My answer was always the same, “I work to pay my own bills, Mom! I don’t need a man, a woman or a quimera to do that for me. If so, why am I even working?”

When I experienced my first rape attempt, I didn’t share it with anyone but a friend; first because I felt it was my fault, going out in the street at such an hour, and alone with no money. Then my friend said, “Well, nothing happened to you in the end, so why would you complain about it?” After almost a decade, I shared the story with a group of friends and my mom, and she said almost the same thing and thought the comments were intended to make  me feel like it was my fault. Why was I out at that time? Why did I do this instead of that?

My feminist quest didn’t have an exact moment of appearance. Several events triggered it; for example, when I started living on my own at age 22. Back then, in 2002, it was such a weird thing to do as a woman without being married. The quest continued when I started working, and I saw how women treated other women in the workforce. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but the competitiveness didn’t feel “sane;” it felt more like a crazy-ass, winner-takes-all competition. My journey into feminism continued with a set of wonderful women I began meeting along the way. Not only did they show me the importance of my own voice, but also the similarity mine had with their voices, which was further consolidated through the #MeToo Movement.  I heard so many women telling stories that resonated with mine. All the memories, all the insults, all the fear, all the pain. All of it started to emerge from inside me and poured out like an endless fountain. It hurt. I cried. Inspired by all those feelings, I created a workshop for women only to learn personal defense. It felt like something I needed to do, but later I also realized that this isn’t a battle for women to fight with fists, but with knowledge and by changing our state of mind.

Later when I found out my brother was going to have a baby girl, I was crying tears of joy, but then I got extremely serious. His father-in-law came over and put his hand on my shoulder and  asked me, “MoNo, aren’t you happy you are going to be an auntie?” I got up with tears still rolling down my cheeks and told him, “Happy? No, I feel afraid and extremely responsible for a little girl who is coming into this world. I need to step up my game.” I think he got a bit scared, and he just smiled at me and left.

Still to this day at my parents’ house, all the responsibility falls into a single person’s hands: my mom. But it is very important to state that it falls into her hands because to this day, she still doesn’t ask my brother or father to help with simple tasks like loading he washing machine, doing the dishes, sweeping the floors, or whatever. She has two reasons for this:

  1. She says that they do it wrong.
  2. She would rather do it herself.

But isn’t it funny that if I do it, there’s no problem? 

Is this the heritage I would want to leave to my children? Is this the heritage I would want to pass on to my niece? Is this the heritage we as women deserve?

I actually never intended to not to have children because of these issues; but the more time passes, the more these problems surface, and I find myself grasping the real baggage of machismo. I feel like I made the right decision. 

I can talk to my niece about all these things, but what I feel I should do – and actually have been  trying to do – is share my experiences more openly with my mom, ask her to listen to podcasts that talk about sexuality, machismo and feminism. I’ve taken the responsibility to educate myself, my family and the people I love, in order to live a life that might set an example of what happiness stands for outside the stereotypes of previous generations. 

To me, the best heritage for my niece would be to show her that all human beings deserve happiness, and that the pursuit of it is different for all of us. Because of that, her happiness will depend solely on her, on her values, ideals, ideas and faith. Furthermore, I want her to know it’s ok to go against the tide if that is what her heart tells her. That institutions (all of them) should be questioned, and she should make her own conclusions. That going down the road of intelligence rather than conformity is a hard and tortuous one, but that following it does bring the greatest of satisfactions. 

Above all, the heritage I want to pass on to my niece is to resonate with the sound of her own voice and femininity. I want to be there for her and for all women and sentient beings that I  possibly can be, in the best way I can possibly offer. After all, she’s the future of our race, and she and all the members of new generations deserve better than we had. I owe it to her and to all the women before me. I just hope she understands the importance of it.

Heartbreak

My grandmother was very young when she lost her first husband. The family legend says that she lay in bed for a whole week when he passed, and the eldest of her sons (my father), who was nine or 10 years old, lost his childhood in the blink of an eye. I have no further information about my grandfather, none whatsoever. It was a taboo subject, and my grandmother never mentioned his name again. NEVER. I think that when she lost her husband, my grandmother’s heart cracked in such a way that it could never mend again. The fact that she never mentioned my grandfather’s name kind of confirms that. Whenever she referred to him, she would call him “El Finado,” which literally means “the one that found its end.” The dictionary translates it as “dead.”

So, none of the six children my grandmother had (then) really overcame the death of my grandpa. My father cannot speak more than two sentences about him because the pain and loss overwhelms him, and his voice breaks and his eyes become watery. So no, no talking about EL FINADO.

My grandmother remarried very shortly after the loss of my grandfather, and her new husband Juan León was the only grandfather I ever knew and remember. He was a very darkskinned man, and I always remember him being at the entrance of my grandmothers house, looking at the horizon or in his garage, cleaning some piece of a motor or something. Grandpa Juan (as I used to call him) came to mend my grandma’s heart. She used to call him Gordo (fat).

Grandpa Juan was a weird person, but he was always sweet to me. I was his first granddaughter, and he was very patient with me. I grew up in their house because my parents were very young, and they worked all my life, so my grandparents raised me my Grandma Quina, my Grandpa Juan and my Grandma María.

Grandpa Juan LOVED to read, and he LOVED crossword puzzles. He also loved Coca-Cola and to have a smoke after lunch. I don’t think he ever had a steady job, but he would do one thing here and one thing there. He was always at home and was my Grandma’s companion. He did love to travel, though, and he joined a radio club called “Conejos Liberales.” With those friends, he would go up and down Mexico, and he would have long radio conversations with them when he was home. He was a very quiet person, and he loved my mom. They would always go and have a cigarette after lunch. He would give her honey candy. He would have one, too, and then they would smoke their cigarette together in the entrance of the house while looking at the horizon.

Grandma Quina was older than Grandpa Juan, and she always used to say she would die before him and ask him to take care of her children when she was gone. She had six from her first marriage and shared one with Grandpa Juan. They all got along pretty well, I think.

One day, Grandpa Juan went to the doctor for a checkup, and he never came back. The news of his death was a total shock for the entire family, especially for my grandmother. Her heart was absolutely shattered. The same thing that happened with Grandpa Felipe had repeated, and my Grandma had a meltdown. I think she had to be sedated, and she slept for days. I do remember, though, that when I finally saw her again, she had aged. She looked so old, so sad, so heartbroken. It was hard. It was extremely hard.

As time passed by, Grandma Quina started to get back to her normal life of cooking and keeping herself busy, but he light in her face was gone. She never actually recovered. A year passed by, and we met her for Christmas. She was sitting in a corner of my grandpa’s garage and solemnly said, “I miss my Gordo, dear family. I’ve done my best, but this is the last Christmas I’ll spend with you. I’m sorry.” We all pumped her up, telling her she had so much to live for, that we loved her, etc, etc. She had tears in her eyes but still managed a small, gentle smile. I felt for her.

On December 2 the following year, Grandma Quina had a stroke and died. She kept her promise and didn’t spend that Christmas with us. Even though the death certificate stated she died of complications due to her stroke, I knew she died of a broken heart.

I should confess something at this point. Grandma Quina was my favorite family member, and when she left, she broke my heart, too.

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Historia de un padre

Me dejó de dar envidia ver a mis amigas y miembros de mi familia disfrutando de una relación amorosa con sus padres. Recibir besos y un TE QUIERO o TE AMO HIJA nunca formó parte de la comunicación que mi papá y yo tuvimos y ahora entiendo o por lo menos trato de entender de manera amorosa por qué mi papá es así conmigo.

Yo fui producto de una relación amorosa muy inesperada, mis padres no estaban casados y la historia de como unieron sus vidas entre amenazas y malos tratos por parte del papá de mi mamá me hacen entender que tal vez mi papá vivió mi nacimiento con un poco de miedo y cautela.

No supe hasta hace poco, de verdad muy poco que mi papá no quería tener hijos, de entrada y luego supe que el motivo por el cual se separaron por una temporada cuando yo tenía nueve años y hasta pasaditos los 10 fue justamente porque mi mamá insistió en tener otro hijo, cosa a la que mi papá se negó tan rotundamente y resultó en una separación bastante complicada en la que fui moneda de cambio… pero esa es otra historia.

Tengo pocos recuerdos de convivencia con mi papá y en general todos ellos son compartiendo todas esas pasiones que forjaron las mías eventualmente. El deporte, los viajes, el conocimiento. Creo que cuando uno es joven lo único que quiere es la aprobación y respeto de sus padres y la manera en la que yo lo intenté conseguir fue copiando todas las pasiones que mi padre tenía, la lectura, la música, los deportes y viajar. Todo ello me hizo un poco masculina, ligeramente marimacha y bastante aventurera y justo cuando estaba agarrando carrera fue cuando mis papás se separaron y las cosas cambiaron mucho.

Cuando mis papás por fin se reconciliaron ya esperaban otro hijo y es curiosísimo, luego de sentarme y analizarlo y de horas de trabajo psicológico entiendo que mi papá por fin tuvo el hijo que no había tenido y toda atención que tuve de su parte simplemente se esfumó y se fue para su hijo. Nota, no es reclamo, simplemente fue algo que pasó y ya.

Alguna vez hablé con mi papá de ello y me dijo que sí, que sí sabía que había tomado esa actitud, que sí había hecho eso pero que no encontraba la manera de volver a retomar su afecto como padre hacia mi. Me da pena, digo, yo he tenido un camino pavimentado de una enorme cantidad de figuras paternas, que sí me dijeron al crecer lo mucho que me querían, lo mucho que me amaban y con mi papá pues simplemente lo tomé como a un amigo, alguien con quien comparto muchísimos gustos, alguien con quien platico de esas cosas que nadie en mi familia adoptó por no tener esa necesidad de aceptación y que agradezco.

Agradezco por supuesto la dureza de su trato porque me hizo fuerte, su necedad en hacerme ver toda película y caricatura en inglés porque de otra manera no hubiera desarrollado esa habilidad. Su lejanía para poder compensar con cercanía con los demás su discreción y su ética de trabajo, su pasión por el baile y su finísimo gusto musical. Su pasión por viajar y conocer, por investigar y por saber.

No hay tiempo como el ahora para agradecer y por eso en este día papá quería dejarte por escrito todas estas cosas que me han hecho lo que soy. Gracias por ser mi padre en esta vida. Que vivas muchos años más en felicidad y en salud.

FELIZ DÍA DEL PADRE!

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