My grandma, the feminist (¡Feliz belated día de los muertos!)
Por Siri Gurudev
Her skin was so light
Campesina de piel clara
And she couldn’t even keep a secret.
Some may even call her chismosa.
She loved chicharrón with papas criollas.
My sweet grandma,
Her heart held the entire family
(She was home for us).
She used to knit and watch TV
And cook for many
(The best food I’ve ever tried).
Waking up early, and working and working
For everyone to sit
At her table.
You may say
She was a typical grandma,
But she wasn’t.
In her 70s
She said “stop”
And left her abusive alcoholic husband
And she moved in with her usual smell
Her TV shows
And her wonderful food
Landed at my table.
I wish I could have
appreciated her more.
It is hard to be a teenager
And not hurt the ones surrounding you.
She was not a typical granny
She was Elvira
The first feminist I knew
My sweet grandma.
Elvira was light-skinned, and my papa was not, he had features like those images of the indigenous muiscas from my history books. Their kids were also brown, two men who made it to high school, and two women who both graduated from college. My grandma couldn’t write very well. When she scribbled addresses, my relatives looked at her with anguish. But she never stopped writing, even though her handwriting resembled that of a kid. She also learned how to drive in her sixties. She read pretty well (she had all the magazines about telenovelas). My sweet grandma.
She took care of me multiple times when my mom was working at the hospital during her night shift. I used to sleep on a mattress on the side of her bed, and I loved to stay there because she had cable. My granny had Cartoon Network and I was over the moon watching it. I used to turn the volume down so that she could sleep, and I would watch my cartoons until my eyes couldn’t stay open. I fight, I always fight until the end to stay awake.
Every time I stayed with grandma; she locked the bedroom door. How odd. It was such a tiny bedroom. It took me years to get it. She was protecting herself. She was protecting me. From grandpa. “When he drinks aguardiente it’s like he is possessed, he has these crazy eyes”, my mom used to tell me. “But it’s only with aguardiente, no más”. Yes, my grandma used to sleep with a broom by her side. How odd. I imagine her cracking my grandpa’s skull with a punch. Well deserved, I might have thought once or twice. Only in my imagination, I’m not that violent… I think. Who knows? Maybe I would if I needed to.
I can’t remember if I ever witnessed my grandpa “in action” (I mean if I was ever a direct victim of his violence). And sometimes I’m afraid I was, and I forgot to protect myself. It could be. I just remembered I was afraid of him, all of us were. I can count the words we said to each other in more than 20 years. I remember going on a few trips with him. And I remember him stopping the car and screaming “I’m out of here”, just because my mom didn’t take the route he wanted to or something silly like that.
My mom used to tell me that my grandpa called her guerrillera. Not only because her guitar had a Che Guevara sticker on. It is my guitar now. Whenever my grandpa went “crazy” (that’s what they said, I wonder if he actually had a mental condition on top of his patriarchal self), my mom would turn the radio on at high volume to make a statement. She was the youngest and most combative of her siblings, and she stopped my grandpa once when he was about to beat up my granny.
I used to complain that I was born in a chauvinist, misogynist violent country. That’s still true. But what I overlooked in my younger years is that I was born also in a “nest of feminists”. My abuelita Elvira the first, and my mom second. They were not perfect feminists, how could they? They also were and are homophobic and transphobic, and I came out as all of the above. But I can’t stop thinking about these brave people, my ancestry, a legacy that is so hard for me to relate sometimes. Today, I pay homage to my grandma, may she rest in peace.
God: allow me to have my mamita longer, so that we can keep figuring out how to love and accept each other. This is my prayer.
¡Feliz belated día de los muertos para todes!