Class Closed

This blog is now closed. It is an archive of work done by class on Chicanas and Latinas in the US: Girlhood to Womanhood, Coming of Age – Loyola Marymount University – Fall 2012

This course explored Chicana and Latina coming of age stories through an interdisciplinary reading of fiction, autobiography and other media sources. This blog is the online archive of Chicana / Latina stories and reflections.

The photograph for banner art came from Ingrid Truemper’s Flickr photo stream.

Discussion: Santa Perversa

On Monday, November 26, Dr. Reina Prado will be coming to our seminar. In preparation you should start following her on Twitter (if you don’t already). Her Twitter handle is @santaperversa.

Then, go to her website: and look around.

Read her poetry:

Watch her on YouTube:

And check out her alter ego:

Then discuss your thoughts and questions you’d like to ask Dr. Prado. 🙂

See you Monday!

Red Clowns.

          In Guadalupe the Sex Goddess, Sandra Cisneros talks about how some women often go on without a sexual identity because they are made oblivious to everything having to do with sexual relations. Cisneros recognizes that Chicanas and Latinas are pressured into a life of marriage and motherhood, and that they are also taught to believe that sexual intercourse cannot happen for pleasure. She notes, “my culture locked me in a double chastity belt of ignorance and vergüenza, shame.” Chicanas and Latinas are caught in between a paradox, a culture of denial – We are chastised for pregnancy out of wedlock, but we are not taught the means by which we are supposed to avoid that.
          When I was in tenth grade, my best friend at the time gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and I was made the godmother who would look after her in case anything happened. It was like playing house, except that there was a real child to look after. My best friend was only fifteen at the time, and her boyfriend was fourteen. He was convinced that he was going to become a professional baseball player so everyday after school (he was in ninth grade) he would go to the nearest park to play baseball with his friends. I told my friend to apply for welfare so she could at least receive food stamps (note, neither of them were old enough to hold jobs) but she told me that her boyfriend’s mother advised against it – of course! the child support would come from her pocket.
          My best friend left her boyfriend, moved into a single, and worked her first job at a fast-food restaurant while trying to attain her GED. We all thought she was walking on the right path until she started dating again. It didn’t take long for her to become pregnant again. I was really disappointed, even more so when I learned that she had several abortions performed since she gave birth to her first child. I wasn’t made godmother to the second child because I was too involved in my own high school things to focus on something like that. I lost touch with my friend shortly after that, and I haven’t spoken to her in about four years.
          Cisneros discusses the negative effects that our culture of denial can often have on teenage girls. She gives herself as an example, admitting that she would have mistaken sex for love because she wasn’t taught any better. Could that have been the case with my friend? Did she mistake sex for love?

“I remember wanting to be fearless like the white women around me, to be able to have sex when I wanted, but I was too afraid to explain to a would-be lover how I’d only had one other man in my life and we’d practiced withdrawal. Would he laugh at me? How could I look anyone in the face and explain why I couldn’t go see a gynecologist?”

          This is an excerpt from Guadalupe the Sex Goddess but I feel like I could take these words from Cisneros and claim them as my own. I knew a guy through one of my ex-boyfriends, and for the longest he thought I was still dating my ex-boyfriend. When he found out I was single, he didn’t hesitate to ask me if I wanted to have sex with him. I said no, and he asked why not. How was I supposed to explain to him that the culture I grew up in didn’t make it okay for me to have an active sex life until after marriage? I would maybe consider it if we were dating or something – but that is very naive of me, thinking that every boy is interested in a romantic relationship. I didn’t bother explaining my anxieties to him because he was Anglo-American, born and raised in Massachusetts amongst other Anglo-Americans. There was no way he was going to understand the culture of denial I was raised in, the culture that bounded me to chastity. Besides, I didn’t want to sound stupid. He would have thought I was making it up, since there are Chicanas and Latinas my age who have no problem with casual sex. I’m glad those girls are empowered, unrestrained from the chains that hold Chicanas and Latinas accountable to a life that is supposed to resonate that of La Virgen de Guadalupe.
          I sometimes stupidly wonder what would have happened if I had taken that guy up on his offer. How stupid would I have seemed in comparison the other girls that had laid in that bed before me? And – here’s a kicker – what would have happened if I had gotten pregnant? How would I tell him? Would he have even cared? I sometimes imagine what my life would be like if my undergraduate career were cut short, and I was taken away to Washington to meet a huge family of Anglo-Americans who were practically already my in-laws. I think I would be miserable, to be honest. Why do I have such silly thoughts?
          I highly encourage you to read Guadalupe the Sex Goddess by Sandra Cisneros. The full version of the text can be found here.

My Family Vine, Part III

          Fact : I have never been to a wedding. My family is one of unplanned pregnancies, shotgun marriages, affairs, and divorces, and there is absolutely no room for weddings in the midst of all of that. This has had an interesting effect on my life, because now I am able to talk about an obsession I have with weddings.
          My parents never got married. My stepfather has played an active role in my life for the past seventeen years, but he and my mother are not married. It’s funny, though, because when my mom is having a conversation with someone she knows she will never speak to again, she will refer to him as her husband the same way I will refer to him as my father when in the same situation. Strangers don’t question it, and it’s by far too complicated to explain anyway. My sister-in-law was only in eleventh grade when she found out she was pregnant. My nephew was almost a year old when she and my brother decided to get married, but they went to go file the paperwork at the nearest courthouse without telling anybody. It’s not like they meant for it to be a secret; it was just one of those things that happened out of the blue.
          When I was in twelfth grade, we received an invitation to a distant cousin’s wedding. I was so excited because I would finally have the opportunity to go to a wedding! I thought it was weird, though, because her dating patterns were always so strange. She started dating a classmate when she was sixteen years old and they were together for about six years before calling it quits. A year later she dated one of her college roommate’s brothers, and they were together for about three years before they called it quits too. She then started dating a photographer – I have no idea how she met him, but he was a really awesome guy and we were all hoping he would be the one. She insisted he become Catholic so that they could get married through the church – at her parents request of course – but he didn’t like that so they broke up after three years. She made it to thirty as a single woman – an old maid in the eyes of the older family members. She started working as a teacher in an elementary school, and she began dating one of the other teachers at the school. It only took about six months before they were engaged – weird, right? They had an intimate ceremony along the shoreline of Huntington Beach – beautiful. I was very happy to see someone in our family finally do things the right way, but then their first daughter was born five months later – hmm, that explains why it wasn’t a Catholic wedding…
          Here’s a scary realization: I am the oldest non-parent in my family, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about that. I am twenty years old. When my mom was twenty, she had a two year old in her arms; and when that two year old turned twenty, he had a one year old of his own to look after. My family’s standards indicate that I am well passed my prime, an old maid to say the least. I guess that means it’s my turn, right? I have already expressed that I want to do things the right way: I want to fall in love, and marry the man I fall in love with at a planned wedding ceremony. I am obsessed with weddings. I often dream of what my wedding dress will look like, and sometimes I even walk into dress shops for some design inspiration. I usually pick up magazines published exclusively for brides-to-be, and I have a Pinterest board dedicated to all of the ideas I have for my own wedding. I listen to songs and think to myself, “This would perfect for a first dance!” I am obsessed.
          I fear for the boy who makes the mistake of taking interest in me – I can only imagine myself coming up with the outfits that will look good on us for an engagement session, all while on a first date or something. I fear for the day that I bring him home to my family, because they are going to judge him by the same standards they would judge a potential in-law. I think that’s the problem with Chicano and Latino families – We have so many expectations for young women, expectations that often pressure them to make rash decisions. I wonder what motivated my mom to move out with her then-boyfriend and start a family. I wonder why my aunt and uncle – who were married well before they had kids – tied the knot after just a few months of knowing each other. Would a marriage be even more prosperous if it happened on the sole basis of love? Would families be stronger if the husband and wife were more critical of the decisions they were making?

My Family Vine, Part II

          I have come to accept my family tree for what it looks like, but there are some missing branches that I am still unable to overlook.
          My time in elementary school could at times be a painful experience, especially when I was asked to think about things like my family tree – but the family tree experience only happened once; Father’s Day never failed to hit a nerve. We were given craft materials and asked to make cards, draw pictures, and write letters to our fathers as gifts for Father’s Day. I would sit at my desk with a blank look on my face, not knowing what to make of the construction paper, stickers, and markers that were set before me. I don’t remember how I made it through kindergarten, first grade, or second grade – I guess I somehow managed to suppress the memories without realizing it.
          When I was in third grade, I finally got the courage to explain to my teacher that I didn’t have a father to write a letter to. She hesitated, I remember because I was really anxious to hear her response. “Did your father pass away?” she asked. “No, I have never met him. I know he lives in Miami, Florida, but I have never met him.” She told me she would find my father’s address so that she could mail the letter to him. I told her, “I don’t think my father understands English.” She told me to write the letter in Spanish so he could understand what I was trying to say. Most kids wrote things along the lines of “I love you so much!” and in comparison, “I wish I could meet you” sounded a little dark, mundane, and apathetic but it was the truth. I had never written anything in Spanish before, so I was afraid that the meaning behind what I was trying to say would get lost in translation. My teacher had convinced me that the letter would reach him, so I was very careful in my writing. I even included my address, and asked him to write back. I have had a boy break my heart once in my life, and it felt exactly the same as to when I finally accepted that my father wasn’t going to write back.
          My grandmother used to travel between Los Angeles and Nicaragua several times a year, so you can imagine just how many frequent flyer miles she had collected. When I was in fifth grade – months before the horrendous family tree experience – she traded in her frequent flyer miles for a pair of tickets with our names on it. My grandmother never liked my father, but she thought it would be a good idea for me to finally meet him. I didn’t know what to expect from Florida, but I was really excited to finally get to meet my father. The excitement didn’t last too long, though. I spent the week at one of my aunt’s house – per my mother’s request – and my father came by every day to bring me gifts, to take us sightseeing, to take us out to dinner, or to share some silly little story about my mother. It was so strange to hear him tell me about my mother – I couldn’t even imagine the two of them standing side by side. It didn’t feel right. How could he know so much? I left Florida with gratitude – grateful for the opportunity I had awaited for such a long time, but grateful to leave too. Why did I think that meeting my father would change things? He was a stranger. My father called me a few times after the trip, but it didn’t take him long to stop. I haven’t spoken to my father since I was ten years old.
          When I was fourteen, I heard the song “Dear Father” by Sum 41. The song was perfect in so many ways. I found somebody who understood exactly how I felt about my father, and the song became an outlet through which I could express anger, frustration, and resentment. I can no longer express the same negative attitudes that the song conveys, so I have included it in this post so you can listen to it for yourself.


          My family has a history of unplanned pregnancies, shotgun marriages, and separations. I am not the exception. I probably shouldn’t be sharing this, but I recently found out that my father convinced to my mother to have an abortion some time before I came along. It saddens me to think that the baby could have been me, and that my parents didn’t want to have me. It troubles me even more to know that I may not have had the opportunity to enjoy all the things I have been blessed with. My mother told me that my father became an abusive monster when they were alone, and she eventually stood up against him by packing up her things and moving back to Los Angeles, California with the rest of her family. My mother later found out that she was already pregnant, and there was nobody to stop her from having the baby she wanted to raise. Sometimes I think about my father – where he is, what he’s up to – but I don’t see a point in lingering on the past. I am no longer hurt. I am no longer angry, frustrated, or resentful. I have accomplished so much, and I have my mother to thank for all the blessings I have been able to enjoy. I dream about getting married and having a big wedding with family and friends invited, but I wonder what the walk down the aisle will be like. I try not to think about it too much though. I am starting to think about graduation and everything I have to do in preparation for the Commencement Exercises. I think I will send an invitation to my father – he is welcome to join us, but I don’t mind if he’s not there because the accomplishment is more for my mother to celebrate. I have to thank him, though, because even in his absence he has played a big role in shaping who I am today.

My Family Vine, Part I

          Memories are our unique ways of holding on the things we love and things we never want to lose. We have a way o embracing our happiest of memories, but we cannot lose sight of the painful memories that have also contributed to shaping who we have become. We all have one childhood memory that stands out form the rest. When I was in fifth grade, I was given an assignment that affected me a little more than what it should have. It has been ten years, and somehow I always find myself looking back at how the experience shook me up. I was never one for leaving a project for the night before but this one left me no other choice. I was sitting by myself at the dining room table in front of a big, blank poster. I had a permanent marker as my weapon of attack against it but the poster was intimidating and, frankly, I was comfortable having it win this round. I simply did not want to draw out my family tree.
          Where do I start? Who do I include? How do I show divorce? How do I show remarriage? How do I show stepchildren? I know there have to be a few illegitimate children somewhere! How about the people I know nothing about? Who do I ask? Who would know? How am I ever going to get through this? These were only some of the millions of questions racing through my mind all in an instant. The questions kept coming at me like a series of arrows, and the arrows struck me down to the ground. I was frustrated. I found comfort in crying. I didn’t want the tears to stop flowing because they kept me distracted from the task at hand. It was at this moment that I learned the power behind absolutes – I will always have a broken family. My family was broken beyond repair. It didn’t matter how much I wished, dreamed, or even hoped because I would never have a normal family like everyone else did. I came up with all of these realizations at ten years old, and they have stuck with me ever since.
          I don’t remember what the end result of the project looked like – a lot of correction tape leftover from lines that had to be redrawn several times, I suppose. If I were to take on the task of drawing out my family tree today, I would be just as clueless as I was ten years ago. I was right about a few things – I could never hide a family history of affairs, divorces, separations, and remarriages – but I have definitely learned to take a different approach to the situation. I used to be hesitant when people would ask me about my family, but later experiences taught me new ways in which ‘family’ could be defined. My family is small, and we are barely enough to fill all of the seats at the dining room table. I have a mother who has given me all of the love and support I could ever ask for. I have an older half-brother, Kelvin (31), who is not the best of role models but will always come through when I need him to. He has a wife, Nicole, and two sons, Aubrey and Andrew, who in many ways have given us new reasons to smile. I have a younger half sister, Maria (14), who I am slowly learning to appreciate as a best friend. Her father, my stepfather, has not always been the most affectionate towards me, but has provided more than enough support in many ways.
          I would be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes wish for something a little more conventional. However, experience has taught me the power in hope and faith. I cannot change the past, but I have full control of my future. I often feel like Esperanza from Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. I have seen so many examples of unplanned pregnancies, shotgun marriages, and overdue divorces in my family that I definitely know better than to walk into situations that will lead to those. This may seem a little too optimistic, but I do hope to fall in love one day. I want to get married with the person I am in love with, and I want to have a big wedding to celebrate. I want my marriage to be prosperous, everlasting, and – above all things – fruitful. I want to have children, all born within a few years of each other. I want to have a house with a white picket fence, and a tacky little mailbox with our family name written across the side. There are only two of us in my family that have the same last name – me and my brother Kelvin – so although we have always wanted to have something like this at home, we never could. I have learned to accept and love my family for what it is – a group of highly dysfunctional people bounded together forever by love – but I am madly in love with the idea of getting to start a new family of my own. Let the adventures begin!

(Re)Interpretations of La Llorona

          The legend of La Llorona is one of the most well-known stories amongst Latina/os everywhere. There are several themes embedded within the story, and the versions we hear vary from one person to another. Thus, the interpretations of the story also differ from person to person. Most versions often depict La Llorona as a disempowered, disenfranchised woman who fell victim to the circumstances determined by her gender, race, class, and social status. In recent times, these interpretations have been challenged by scholars who have argue that she is a strong, powerful woman whose cry echoes a longing for equality and justice.
          I have come across several different versions of the legend of La Llorona myself, so I am going to present to you the patchwork quilt I have sown together after taking everything in: The story features a young indigenous girl who falls in love with a Spanish nobleman. They do not get married, but they do raise three children together. The nobleman’s family does not approve of the relationship. They would like to see the nobleman marry a woman of his same socioeconomic status so they keep pressuring him to go through with a previously arranged marriage. He does not love the white woman he is engaged to, but he succumbs to family pressure and leaves the indigenous girl so that he can marry the white woman. His new bride is unable to have children, but she is willing to take in the nobleman’s children as her own. He recognizes this as an opportunity in which he can continue to manifest his love for his children by providing them with comforts they are unable to enjoy otherwise. The indigenous girl is left angry, resentful, and frustrated when the nobleman informs of her of what he plans to do. She lets him believe that she will let him carry out his plans as he desires, but the indigenous girl’s revenge against the nobleman comes in the form of homicide and suicide. She finds that death is the only outlet through which the can resist the nobleman, so she drowns all three of her children at a nearby river before taking her own life too.
          In “La Llorona: Archetype and Interpretations,” Arturo Ramírez examines the legend by first interpreting it as a mere battle for child custody. He recognizes that the struggle between he two parents is uneven – the woman is in a much more disadvantageous position because she has her gender, race, class, and social status working against her. There does not even exist the possibility for compromise between the man and the woman. The indigenous girl could either accept or reject the nobleman’s proposal, but she does not have the means necessary to act against the nobleman. Her gender, race, class, and social status make it so that she does not possess agency. The indigenous girl opts for an extreme form of passive resistance, yet death appears to be the only outlet through which she is able to act against the nobleman and maintain her integrity.
          This analysis can be a little dangerous. Ramírez acknowledges that this story has often been used to enforce discipline, behavior modification, and self-improvement. The story is able to do this because of the oppression that is embedded within its framework. The story is heavily influenced by PATRIARCHY, and we must move away from a single, narrow, masculinized understanding of the legend and begin to see it as an ever-evolving emblem of gender, sexuality, and power. I could go on with an argument on how La Llorona has been reinterpreted, calling on specific scholar work and case studies to support my claims, but I rather leave you with this list of suggested reading that may further spark your interest in the subject:

  • “La Llorona: Decolonial and Anti-Patriarchal Cultural Politics” by C. Alejandra Elenes
  • “The Legend of La Llorona: Excavating and (Re)Interpreting the Archetype of the Creative/Fertile Feminine Force” by Maria L. Figueredo
  • “La Llorona,: The Third Legend of Great Mexico: Cultural Symbols, Women, and the Political Unconscious” by Jose E. Limon
  • “La Llorona: Archetype and Interpretations” by Arturo Ramirez
  • “Letting the legend of La Llorona Go, or, Re/Reading History’s ‘Tender Mercies’ by Cordelia Candelaria

          …and on a final note, I refuse to include any kind of image on this blog post because I feel that the images of La Llorona that are currently up on the internet are all reflectant of the disempowered, disenfranchised woman that is no more. Happy Reading!

Celebrations of La Purísima

My family is very small, and our traditions are few. We do not feel the same holiday cheer that other families do since our get-togethers are not enough to fill all of the seats at the kitchen table. Still, we celebrate the things we love. My family is from Nicaragua, so we do not celebrate things like Cinco de Mayo or Día de los Muertos. I have never participated in Las Posadas, but I have clapped along to songs of praise at La Purísima my family hosts every year in honor of La Inmaculada Concepción de María. I am not sure how to define the celebration because I have seen it done two different ways, so I
will instead describe my experiences:
          Nicaragua: The best way to imagine the celebrations of La Purísima in Nicaragua is to think of what would happen if Halloween and Christmas were merged together. La Purísima is honored on December 7th, and the celebrations begin once the sun goes down. The custom is for a family to go door to door to sing praise to nearby altars, which other families have put on as public displays for all people to enjoy. There will usually be several families worshipping an altar at the same time, and everybody takes part in reciting a short prayer and singing a few songs. There is always one person who yells, ¿Quién causa tanta alegría? to which everybody responds, ¡La concepción de María! The host family then brings out goodies to share. The modest gifts are things like a pound of beans, a pound of rice, or a pound of cane sugar that the families can use at home. There are other families who give away rosaries, saint bracelets, and prayer books. The homes that all kids look forward to are the ones that give away all kinds of toys. The crowds of carolers begin to settle down at around midnight, and that is when a group of teenagers will light up for a fireworks show. When the fireworks show is over, someone will yell, ¿Quién causa tanta alegría? to which everyone will respond, ¡La concepción de María! before they make their way home.
          This celebration is beautiful, but we are unable to have them here in the United States. The Nicaraguan communities in Los Angeles are small and spread out, so there is no way the door-to-door celebrations could take place. There are many families that host their own celebrations of La Purísima and will invite their family and friends to attend, but it’s very easy to miss those.
          United States: My maternal grandfather’s family has set up an altar for worship in their home for over 85 years. My extended family celebrates their own version of La Purísima every first Saturday of December. We make our way to what used to be my abuelito’s house (now my great tía Haydee’s house) in outfits better than our Sunday’s best, and prepare ourselves for the “Wow! You are much taller than what I remember!” and the “Who are you dating now? When are you getting married?” that never fails. We enjoy traditional foods and drinks that some relative has brought back from their most recent trip to Nicaragua for us to enjoy. We then make our way to the living room where there are over 100 seats set up theatre-style, all facing the altar dedicated to our beloved Virgen de Concepción. Arnulfo, one of my mother’s many cousins, will start by leading us through a rosary prayer (and like the good Catholic I was raised to be, I recite the entire thing without making a conscious effort to think about what I am saying). We then start singing the songs of praise; and since we are not traveling from door to door, we sing most of them right then and there. When the songs are over, my tía Haydee’s favorite nieces (my tía Marta y my mami) bring out trays of nacatamales (traditional Nicaraguan tamales) for everyone to have for dinner. My cousin Maryem comes around and passes out bracelets to the little girls and miniature racecars to the little boys and her father, my tío José, hands out rosaries and prayer books to everyone. I go to my tía Haydee’s room to grab a box of goodies, and begin handing out bags full of several fruits to everyone. My mami joins me and hands out plastic cups with images of la Virgen de Concepción printed on them. They are filled with all sorts of candy – everyone is eager to get one, but of course there are perks to being related to the person who is handing them out (you have taught me the art of hiding my second cup without getting caught, thanks mother). My great aunt hands out baked goods – yummy empanadas filled with pollo desmenusado or, if we’re lucky, guayaba, and candied yams too. My tío José always comes around to make the same joke he does every year: What would you like to drink, kid? We have Budweiser in the cooler, but I can bring you some of my Heineken if you’d like! My mami sometimes gets upset when she hears this, but I have never understood why because she is the one who always brings me a shot of rompope (our version of eggnog; milk and cinnamon stick boiled in a saucer, shots of rum added afterwards). As the night progresses, the crowd becomes smaller and smaller. Soon, members of my more immediate family are the only ones left, and they begin exchanging stories of the adventure they have embarked on in the past year. It is at this point in the night when I regret bringing along the boyfriend who is about to hear an embarrassing story of my childhood if not another. After several exclamations of ¿Quién causa tanta alegría?, we leave Pasadena, California with new memories that will last us at least the year it will take to come up with a few more.

My Coming of Age

Throughout the semester, we have read many examples of the ways young women can come of age. Looking back over all the texts, I feel like the ones I relate to the most involve caring for family members, either grandparents or parents. In my opinion, coming of age is about creating your own identity, but it’s also a turning in point in which you realize your life is not about living for just yourself. The call to be selfless, in often very difficult circumstances is an act of true maturity, patience, and I believe, “coming of age.”

My coming of age journey so far has two significant points. The first was when I was 18 and had to start taking care of my aging great aunt Ellen, or my mother’s aunt. She was in her late 80’s, living in her small house with my grandmother, and her Alzheimer’s had advanced to the point where she couldn’t be left alone or look after herself. My parents refused to put any relatives into nursing or retirement homes, so we made it a point for us all to share the responsibility of caring for Ellen. Starting the summer after my freshman year of college, I would spend three days a week at my grandmother and Ellen’s house. When I, my sisters, or  my mother were there, we were up the full 24 hours, watching Ellen, dressing her, making her meals, giving her medication, helping her walk, taking her to the bathroom, cleaning up after her, putting her to bed, etc. We always had to have her in our sight because she always tried to get up off the couch and walk around, but she was very weak and would fall if she didn’t have a walker or someone holding her hand. But even with the walker, she would fall backwards. That was why we had to be up 24/7. At night, Ellen had difficulty sleeping and got up to use the restroom often 3 or 4 times. We had a baby monitor next to her bed, because the second she started to get up we had to go and help her. We switched off days, but it was exhausting, stressful, and lonely. There was no internet or cable, and Ellen’s Alzheimer’s made it so that she could barely talk, so conversation was out of the question. She lived with her sister, my grandmother, but she only made the situation worse. My grandmother was always a very cruel and verbally abusive woman to my mother and my sisters, but for some reason she hated me especially. The arguments and insults from her only made the hours drag longer. Towards the end of the summer, one of my sisters left the country to do work with a hospital in Africa, and my other sister got a job. What this meant was that I had to take over their “shifts” in caring for Ellen. My three days a week turned to four, which turned to five. Five days a week of no sleep, caring for a completely helpless woman who didn’t even remember who I was, and with nothing but the company of a horribly mean and abusive grandmother was one of the most difficult times of my life. I had to sacrifice almost all of my time, energy, and sanity to care for my aunt, but I loved her and knew there was no other option. I watched as all my friends partied, travelled, worked part time jobs and internships, and overall enjoyed the perks of being young during the summer. I felt like I was robbed of my college youth and forced into adulthood prematurely, and battled with depression and stress. Looking back though, I know I grew so much from the experience, and was able to give my aunt the company and care of family as opposed to putting her away in a lonely home full of strangers. I do not regret the experience, and I’m happy that I was even around and physically able to do the care taking, proud because that meant my own aging parents didn’t have to do the majority of the work.

That summer and the following year my family was absorbed with the care of my great-aunt, followed by the care of my grandmother until the time of both of their passings. Since then, although my family has had less stress and pressure, new challenges have been arising. This past year I consider my second and most significant coming of age experience, as I have had to finally give up my “carefree youth” and become a caretaker and even a parent at times for my own father. My father has advanced Parkinson’s Disease, and in the past year his symptoms and health issues have exponentially increased. His movement is very limited, and he has difficulty with everyday tasks such as talking, eating, and even walking. I never imagined that my experience as caretaker for my almost 90-year old great aunt would come in handy so soon for my own father, who is only 66.

Starting this summer and going into this semester, my father has needed several trips to the emergency room, and underwent two heart procedures. There were many days and nights where he lost all ability to move, and my mother and I had to help him off the floor where he falls often, and in and out of bed or the couch. I have missed many classes and shifts due to the need to care for my father or take him to his appointments. Although I am the youngest of three sisters, “the baby of the family,” much of the physical responsibility of caring for my dad falls on me. My eldest sister lives in Northern California and only visits a couple days a month. My other sister lives at home as well, but isn’t as patient or even present as much as I am. Also, since my father can’t drive and neither my mother nor my middle sister have their driver’s license (long, long story), it’s up to me alone to drive my dad to the doctor and run errands. Although I am the youngest in the family and still at the age where people are living on their own, partying, and traveling, I have been forced to grow up. I never thought that I would have the pressure of aging and sick parents in my early 20’s… it always seemed that that time would come much later in life. This semester I have been grappling with the loss my father figure as the man in my life who took care of my family, and the rise of my need to take care of him. I have had to be more patient, more gentle, more strong, more flexible, and more responsible than ever before. That is why I consider this overall experience as my coming of age.

Comparison of a Slave Master and an Abusive Father

As an English major, I am constantly reading upwards of 10 new texts a week, and often classes overlap in themes or specific works. The most surprising overlap that I’ve noticed this year is the heartbreaking similarity between Josie Mendez-Negrete’s “Las Hijas de Juan,” and Harriet Jacob’s “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” Both works are autobiographical accounts of the physical and sexual abuse imposed on young girls by patriarchal figures who treat them literally, as property. Even though they were published nearly 150 years apart, the parallels between their details are staggering.

I had to read “Incidents” as part of my American Literature survey course, and it came after  discussing “Las Hijas de Juan,” a work so powerful that I haven’t been able to get it off my mind. The autobiography is one of the many slave narrative published in the mid 1800’s before the Civil War. This one, written by Harriet Jacobs under the pen name Linda Brent, details the abuse the author dealt with during the time she was owned by the Flint family, in particular from the father, Dr. Flint. As I read the scenes of abuse I couldn’t help but be eerily reminded of Mendez-Negrete’s own experiences.

One scene in Jacobs’ text describes being in Dr. Flint’s study, and her immense fear of him.

How I dreaded my master now! Every minute I expected to be summoned to his presence; but the day passed, and I heard nothing from him. The next morning, a message was brought to me: “Master wants you in his study.” I found the door ajar, and I stood a moment gazing at the hateful man who claimed a right to rule me, body and soul. I entered, and tried to appear calm. I did not want him to know how my heart was bleeding. He looked fixedly at me, with an expression which seemed to say, “I have half a mind to kill you on the spot.” 809

 The dynamic between Jacobs and her master is very similar to the dynamic between Josefina and her father, Juan. Just as Jacobs fears the presence of her master, Josie fears the presence of her father, and with great reason. Although he is her father, not a slave owner, Juan claims to rule his wife and his daughters, “body and soul,” the way the slave master does. Also, Juan is always within inches of killing his wife and daughters and threatens to end their “good-for-nothing” lives often. Josie and her family have to live in constant fear of the abuse that can come at any moment, and are helpless to do anything about it. The resemblance of their lives to that of the slave girl Harriet Jacobs are astoundingly heartbreaking. The worst part is, that Josie’s family lives in contemporary America, and yet they prove that people will always live in oppressive, unjust, abusive systems of patriarchy as long as society allows it.




Loteria Love

In my last post I touched on my love of loteria and before that I wrote about my love for my boyfriend, Justin. For our one year anniversary, I took a pack of Loteria playing cards and wrote on each one something about Justin and/or our relationship that was associated with a particular playing card. On the backside of an actual bingo card I wrote him a letter. It is my favorite gift I have ever given because of my own personal love for the game. Earlier this month, I rearranged them on his mirror so he could see them everyday and be reminded of my love for him. Kind of cheesy, but totally something I would do. Enjoy!