RSS Feed

Category Archives: Chicana

TMW Juan Gabriel Dies and Your Parent(s) are Dead. aka Recuerdos de Juan Gabriel

Posted on
JG

Artist: https://www.instagram.com/medusczka/

Yesterday I wasn’t able to listen to his music. It was too soon for me to hear his voice, those chords, the intensity of his declarations. For some reason it felt more comforting to see his interviews on Univision and watch people paying their respects to him. I’m guessing I just needed to feel accompanied in my sadness at the death of Juan Gabriel.

For many Mexicanos and Chicanos who grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s, Juan Gabriel’s music was a staple in our households. He hit the music scene big with catchy pop tunes and tear-jerking ballads that evoke emotions usually reserved for tequila shots. He knew how to craft songs that perfectly captured the bitter sweet realities of life.

Today, I tuned my car radio to a local mexican station so I could hear his music. I thought I was ready. Then immediately, and to my surprise, the tears began to flow. I’m not the type of Juan Gabriel fan who followed his career attentively or kept up with his recordings. Instead I respected him as an immensely brilliant songwriting and singer, who had a big presence in my community, my childhood, and in my family. As I heard his music, my body remembered what it was like to be 9 years old, singing along to “El Noa Noa” in Juarez, Mexico with my niece and cousin.

Since my parents were raised in Juarez, Mexico; Juan Gabriel was naturally respected as a home town hero. Most summers our family would drive from Salinas to Juarez, and I remember passing “El Noa Noa” nightclub, and seeing Juan Gabriel’s posters plastered everywhere. His music seemed to be playing constantly.

It’s a silly video, but when I see it I can feel the hot Juarez summers with my parents, and remember my brother going out to the clubs.

 

I felt such sadness today as I heard Juan Gabriel’s songs on the airwaves. Hearing him released a flood of childhood memories and ripped open the wound of my grieving. Then a more recent memory came, which always hits me like a ton of bricks.

After my mother died, my father listened to Rocío Dúrcal’s rendition of “Amor Eterno” a lot (in case you don’t know, “Amor Eterno” is pretty much the anthem for those grieving a death). I remember seeing him sitting on the edge of the bed, with the portable CD player in his hands and headphones on. He looked up at me and asked me to help him skip to the “Amor Eterno” track on the Rocío Dúrcal CD. Something about that memory shakes me to tears inside and out.  My father lived 19 years without my mother, and those words crafted by Juan Gabriel must have helped him grieve that loss that never left his heart.

I just realized that this is the first time I’m hearing “Amor Eterno” since my father’s passing in March, and my god, que dolor. Ugly cry complete with all the tears, mocos, and vavas.

 

For us Mexicanos and Chicanos with parents who have passed on, hearing Juan Gabriel’s music is not only filled with the reality that he will never create or perform again, but it also re-awakens a grieving of family loss. With both my parents gone, these memories of childhood visits to Juarez, and other family memories hurts on a deep level. Today I felt the knot in my gut turn into a a twisting fist. The tears kept coming and I felt myself slipping into a dark place. Then I decided, that instead of falling into a pit of sadness, I’d make some room for  gratitude too. Gratitude to be able to have such memories of family in the first place, and growing up with the presence of a Mexican singer that was celebrated by those young and old.

Re-Adjusting: Resurrection and Transformation

Posted on
looking back.jpeg

Source: pexels.com

If you have ever experienced the death (or loss) of a loved one, you know that your life becomes a series of firsts. First birthday without them, first holiday, first year, and so on. So here I am in my first month without him.

These last 30-days have been a slow drip through the surreal. My emotions have ranged from acceptance to anger, but mostly I just want to be in silence. My hospice grief counselor says I am right on schedule for feeling all the feels. She mentions that after 2-3 weeks the shock usually wears off and the emotions begin to rise. This feels about right, because it has only been recently that I have felt more anger and irritability mixed in with the pre-existing sadness.

I wish I could go on retreat, somewhere in the hills or forest, and just be in silence with every emotion that arises. This feels like the ideal thing to do, but instead I go to work, and mostly it has been okay. After a full day I am exhausted and do nothing (and I am grateful for the ability to do nothing). Sometimes I get a burst of energy, but as quickly as it comes, it slips away (I guess that’s why it’s a burst).

Being in my grieving life, and “old life” has had it’s consequences. One day, I came home form work to suddenly feel a horribly paralyzing anxiety that left me feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally agitated for hours. I realized that being in both my grieving life and my “old routine” life felt like a schism, and that living in both worlds was/is probably too opposing for my psyche.

The flashbacks have been the hardest. At times I can’t stop thinking about my father’s last days. I remember the lightness of his thin body, his agitated body movements, the pained expressions on his face, and the sadness in his eyes. The inability for us to verbally communicate haunts me as I wonder if he was in more pain that we knew. I wonder if he was scared. I wonder if dying was scary for him.

Then there’s the wondering. Wondering if he really had dementia. Wondering if there was something else going on and that we could have helped him more. Everything happened so fast that we didn’t get a chance for a decent second option or tests. This helpless experience has made it easy to feel guilty for not doing more, especially before he became symptomatic.

On most days, it’s the experience of a routine that no longer is. I never realized how much my dad was on my mind. Like an idling car, he must have been a constant hum in my subconscious. I still wake with the thought of calling my dad to see how he is doing, or spontaneously have the desire to tell him what I saw that day. If I have a really good cup of coffee, I think of him and sending some to him. One afternoon I sat in a medical lab waiting for a blood draw. I imagined the many times he did the same. Even though he was relatively healthy, he had routine blood draws and doctor visits to monitor his health. I imagined how this must have been so tiresome for him.

Despite all this, I trust that both he and I are well. I trust that I will land in my new normal. I trust that dreams of him are our way of staying connected and I trust he is with me in my waking life.

With today being Easter, I find myself more aware of resurrection. It’s everywhere all the time! A resurrection is an awakening, and re-birthing, a renewal, and a transformation. On my dad’s final days, I was well aware that he was in his own transformational journey. It was intense to feel our lives changing and falling into deep stillness. At that time I wondered what both our resurrections would look like.

Today I still wonder, and yet know, that resurrection and transformation is happening in it’s own slow and gentle way everyday. Anxiety attacks and all.

#ThanksgivingWithMexicanFamilies

Posted on

This year, I will be keeping it low key, soaking in the time off from work, and having a simple Vegan Thanksgiving meal. Not because I “celebrate” Thanksgiving, but because I like food.

As I scrolled through the #ThanksgivingWithMexicanFamilies tweets, I began to long for “once-upon-a-time”, when my childhood home was filled with so much family and friends of the family during the holidays.

How many of these can you relate to?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anzaldúa, Coyolxahqui , and Dorothy: Homecoming and Re-Membering

Posted on

coyoEarlier this month I attended a conference titled: “The Feminist Architecture of Gloria Anzaldúa: New Translations, Crossings and Pedagogies in Anzaldúan Thought”. Although I only could attend half of day 2, it felt like an intense, and deeply rooted homecoming.

I first became familiar with Gloria Anzaldúa’s  work in 1996, when I was an undergraduate student at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. At that time I had been away from my hometown of Salinas, CA for 5 years. I was 24 years old and wrestling with issues of cultural identity, gender roles, academic poverty, romantic partnership, my place in my family and the world outside it. Although I enjoyed new experiences, I felt out of place and conflicted in the mainly White  campus. Being that Salinas is an agricultural town, with a predominantly Mexican heritage population, the 5 years away from it left me with mixed feelings of being hungry for new experiences and homesickness for the small things that brought me what comfort.

I was in a Feminist Studies, Cultural Studies class when I was introduced to Anzaldúa’s work. At that time, reading Anzaldúa’s work was both nourishing and challenging, I did not consider myself an academic, but loved learning. Anzaldúa and other feminist authors used words that were unfamiliar to me, and described concepts that felt bigger than what I was ready to understand. Yet somehow, I could feel some sense of familiarity as some concepts did resonate with me, and helped me to name some of the struggles and challenges I was facing as I questioned parts of my “otherness”.

Despite feeling too green to completely understand Chicana feminist texts, I kept their books close to me, taking them with me to every place I relocated to. Anzaldúa and other Chicana feminists writers became older and wiser sisters to me, and over time, I turned to them when I needed a reminder of where I came from, and a connection to a part of me that I was yet to meet. I suppose I subconsciously knew that I would eventually grow into their works, and as a result, grow more into myself.

When I decided to attend the conference this month, it was a complete confirmation that I had indeed grown into, not only knowing, but into living many of the experiences Anzaldúa describes. As I slept that night, I dreamt of earthquakes. An internal experience I am all too familiar with. I often have felt aspects of my internal world crash or adjust against each other, each piece of me trying to make sense of me. This has resulted in seeing pieces of me reflected in various people, places, works of art, and communities. It has mostly left me feeling out of place everywhere. A stranger among strangers and an outsider among outsiders. It seems I have spent my life trying to find people and places where I can see my complete reflection. In failing to find this, I resigned to accepting my outcast nature.

At the conference, I could feel the beginning of something magical happening. The day after the conference,  I revisited Anzaldúa’s words and I felt my parts come together, and my whole being finally reflected back to me. It felt like abrazos, like the “whole” I have been searching for. It was blissful and frightening. Too new to feel true.

Like Dorothy about to leave Oz, I wondered why I didn’t understand these lessons all along. The words were there and so close to me for so many years,  yet I couldn’t see their deeper application to my life. How much suffering could I have spared myself had I just opened Anzaldúa’s  books again? And like Dorothy, I knew that I had to make the journey myself, because I wouldn’t (and didn’t) believe the truth if it was told to me.

tumblr_luf92i0rbe1r4i5bgo1_500

Dorothy’s lesson of “There’s no place like home” always sat awkwardly with me for many years. Especially those years where I was deep in my journey away from home (both physically, emotionally, and spiritually). But I understand now that the home she refers to is not the little farmhouse in Kansas, but the home that has been with me all along. Even before my time. It is my birthright, my divinity, my ever-evolving identity, and communion with the divine itself.

It is connecting with my favorite parts, getting to know them, accepting them, loving them. It is coming home to my body, this body that has devoted itself to my very survival.

“With the loss of the familiar and the unknown ahead, you struggle to regain your balance, reintegrate yourself (put Coyolxauhqui together), and repair the damage. You must, like the shaman, find a way to call your spirit home. Every paroxysm has the potential of initiating you to something new, giving you a chance to reconstruct yourself, forcing you to rework your description of self, world, and your place in it (reality)…” G. Anzaldúa “this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation”

I have studied psychology, indigenous healing, myth, the S/hero’s Journey, shadow and light integration, chakras, dreamwork, the enneagram, and so much more, all in the attempt to make sense of myself of this world. All these have played a significant role in my healing. I wouldn’t be here without them. Re-connecting to Anzaldúa’s work has been both the journey home and the existential glue that fuses these pieces together.

More importantly, it is the fact that she speaks of psychology, existentialism, spirituality, and so on with concepts and language that is in my blood. She uses words and concepts that are culturally relevant to me. They are my cultural inheritance, so I have had them all along. Re-connecting with Anzaldúa has guided me to re-connecting  with myself on a deeper level that no colonization can take away from me, hard as it may try.

Hey Baby ¿Que Paso? Reflections of a Linguistic Contortionist

Posted on

Video: Jamila Lyiscott: 3 ways to speak English

“Sometimes I don’t speak right, but yet I know what I’m talking about.” ~ WAR

I have a visceral reaction when people correct what I say. Sometimes, I use the wrong tense, or wrong word altogether, when I am speaking. Sometimes, I can’t seem to find the right word. At work I use extra energy to fight through my brain fog. At home I can be a mess of words as I’m more relaxed and less self-conscious.

As a bilingual person, I wondered if this had a factor in the experience. I grew up in a bilingual household and community. My parent’s were bilingual in English and Spanish, and they chose to speak primarily in Spanish. So much so that my siblings and I spoke to them only in Spanish/Spanglish and often translated for them in English. I mainly spoke English and Spanglish with my brothers, sisters, and school friends. When I had English speaking teachers it was English only, and when I had Bilingual teachers, I spoke in English, Spanish, or Spanglish. The whole process of switching and mixing languages just happened naturally.

As a young pup I enjoyed English/Language Arts in school. I was good at spelling and loved to write books as a kid. In middle and high school I continued to enjoy writing and was acknowledged for my work. Simultaneously, I had the neighborhood pocho slang down thanks to my brothers, sisters, and older neighborhood kids. I also had the tendency to speak really fast and was at one point called Speedy because of it. Navigating between English, Spanish, and the DIY Chicano/a Spanish of my community didn’t seem confusing or complicated as a child. Over time that would change.

As I grew older, I lost a lot of my Spanish as I mainly spoke in English or Spanglish. When it was brought to my attention that speaking too fast was a hindrance, the pace of my speech slowed down. As time passed, and college entered my life, I lost my neighborhood accent and the use of sayings such as “aye” (fuckin’ aye), and “how stupid!” (emphasis on the “u”). I adopted what I call academic English. You know, the kind of English that works great for resumes, academic papers, and job interviews. With family, old friends, and other Chicano/as, I spoke Spanglish. At work and school I spoke “good English”. What was once effortless language gymnastics became an issue of purposeful self-consciousness and social acceptance. I wanted to be “good enough” on all fronts.

What I notice lately is that with age and various moves across states, cities, and communities it seems harder to find the right words and my tenses get mixed up in any language. I often find myself saying “Como se dice…” and “What’s the word/saying for…?” It’s as if all languages are at war in my brain. I find it harder to find the words to express what I mean. I’m simply at  a loss for words in any language.

Two years ago, while in graduate school, one of my professors commented that my “native language” may have something to do with my writing errors. At first I was offended. Then I realized that the academic world requires an active voice where the subjects do, and are not done to. For example, an active voice would say “Marlene fed the dog” instead of “The dog was fed by Marlene”. Casual Spanish tends to commonly use passive language, and in my opinion, it adds a beauty that is hard to translate. An active voice lacks depth and emotion. In my opinion, it is cold and dry, which is why I think it works for academic writing.

I never knew how much my passive voice dominated my papers. Although I am thankful for the lessons in writing in an active voice, I also believe that there is nothing wrong with the use of a passive voice. There is a place for each, and once again, it’s linguistic contortionism. On a side note, I understand why that way of speaking/writing is considered passive, and that term does not sit well with me. Don’t mistaken my passive way of speaking for being a passive person.

When I began writing this post I thought it was just my bilingual background that was a factor, then with more introspection, I began to question if there was something else at play.  Over the last four years I have grown into my emotional self, meaning I am much more connected to my emotions than before. This has helped me have a more balanced emotional life and deeper connection to myself in general. Because I experience things on this level, I often find that what I experience is hard to be captured by words. Which makes sense because the English language has its limitations in capturing emotions. The article “21 Emotions For Which There Are No English Words” provides a few examples of emotional experiences captured in other languages, that English has no equivalent for. I suppose, it is the limitations of the English speaking part of my brain that hasn’t caught up with my heart yet.

Which brings me back to how I react when people correct what I am saying. I feel angry, sad, and insulted. It recalls moments where my intelligence was questioned. It slices right into the place where I have felt like I wasn’t good enough.  Over the course of my life, my intelligence has been questioned because I am a woman, a Mestiza, a U.S. citizen, Mexican, American, Chicana, fat, not wealthy, under-educated.

In these moments of cultural complexity, I turn to Chicana voices to guide me. Ana Castillo, Sandra Cisnseros, Gloria Anzaldua, Cherríe Moraga. They have become my living and non-living saints. My connection to the Creator when I feel alone and in-between. I take in their words and re-calibrate my heart, soul, and mind. I become reconnected to the person I buried underneath all the societal “shoulds” I adopted over time.

“But Chicano Spanish is a border tongue which developed naturally. Change, evolución, enriquecimiento de palabras nuevas por invención o adopción have created variants of Chicano Spanish, un nuevo lenguaje. Un lenguaje que corresponde a un modo de vivir. Chicano Spanish is not incorrect, it is a living language.” ~ Gloria E. Anzaldúa, “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza”

I have spent my adulthood trying to undo all those places of inadequacy. Speaking English “right”, speaking Spanish “right”, going to college, losing weight, and trying to build a career. So when what I say is corrected it’s as if my body screams “What the fuck! Is it never good enough?!?” I know what I am saying. You know what I am saying. Does it really matter that it’s not “correct”? Being corrected feels like chains. Like punishment. Like trying to break a wild horse. It feels limiting and conforming. Like forcing a snake not to shed it’s skin. I feel resistant to it. I’m tired of undoing places of inadequacy. I have no space for it since I am growing into a place of self-acceptance. If my speech does not sit well with you, it’s not my problem to fix.

My language is a self-defined living language that cannot be heard by ears eager for acceptance through conforming. My language cannot be heard by ears not fully connected to emotions. If you can hear me, crooked speech and all, then you experience me fully.

The way I speak is not merely about code switching or speaking Spanglish or pocho. It’s inclusive of my emotional self, that has yet to find words. Like eager children, my words come rushing out with mix-matched clothing and uncombed hair. My words may not follow correct grammar, but they are alive in a new playground. My younger years learned the rules of old playgrounds, and followed them with ease. However now, I am allowing myself to un-learn mental rigidity, and embrace this messy, rich, and exciting language free of rules and “shoulds”.

Now, I’m not saying that there is no value or need in speaking or writing any language well and correctly. For a time I considered myself a member of the grammar police, and I still cringe a little when people misuse their, there, and they’re. However, I disagree with the concept that grammar = intelligence. It doesn’t. In my past, English, writing, and grammar were my strengths. With time this has changed, and my skills in these areas aren’t as relevant to my personal life.

When I hear Calo, Pocho, and/or Spanglish, I hear home. I smell earth and dreams. I hear unfiltered heart and soul. When I hear English I hear academia, adventure, and possibility. When I hear Spanish I hear he balance of heart and soul with words that capture emotion and experience in a humorous and sophisticated way. I never became familiar with the language of my indigenous/Rarámuri heritage. It is a loss and I am aware that, although Spanish is the language I grew up with, it is still the colonizer’s language (which opens a new discussion on identify and pathology altogether).

My life has become a mash-up of these experiences, and so I suppose it’s fitting that my language reflects this as well. With the addition of my emotional language, I suppose I am more multilingual than bi-lingual.

“I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent’s tongue-my woman’s voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.”  ~ Gloria E. Anzaldúa, “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza”

Will I Hate My Body or Love My Body?

Posted on

I attended an event last night that excited and empowered me like very few events have. Jes Baker (creator of The Militant Baker blog and many other amazing things) gave a talk at Curvy Girl Lingerie in San Jose, CA. Her presentation wasn’t just on body acceptance or loving yourself. Her talk, Change Your World Not Your Body addressed so many angles of the body shaming issue, that a socially and psychologically conscious gal like me can’t help but soak it all in.

I learned about Jes a little over a year ago, and was smitten by her bold, honest, creative, and positive energy. She touches on various aspects of body love and includes every body in the discussion, understanding than people of varying body sizes, abilities, and genders are pretty much fighting the same battle of body shame. She, and other women, dare us to see body acceptance as a means to revolutionize society.

I have been to many different types of conferences before, but I had never been to a conference that focuses on body issues or body acceptance before. It’s a topic I have shied away from due to my own shame. I believed that if I went to a fat acceptance event, then I would, well, have to accept my fatness. However Jes Baker’s approach to the subject has helped me see the negative impacts of having this shame, and normalized it. Last night, she posed the question that I didn’t even know I was asking myself: “Will I hate my body or love my body?”

As a bonus, I also met Vergie Tovar, who is currently rockin’ my world big time. If you don’t know about her, you need to. She is all the cute, smart, funny, fun and  gorgeous.

There are so many topics I can go into based on last night experience that I feel I need to highlight significant take-always now and go into these and other topics separately in future posts. So here it goes.

~FAT

The word itself is loaded. The emotional reaction I get from the word is painful and long-standing. For years I have tried to own this word, but fell short of truly embracing it. After last night, I can now say, I AM FAT! Wait, what? Duh! Everyone else knows I’m fat. Am I that late to the party? ¿Que nuevas?

I now realize that, throughout my life I have allowed everyone else to define what my body means to me. I avoided the F word out of the fear of what others have decided the word fat means. Specifically: ugly, undesirable, wrong, lazy, gross, etc.  What is new for me about saying I AM FAT is that I am finally owning the word fat and deciding what it means for me. For now, what fat means for me includes: I am human, I have a body, a body that takes up space, a body that works, a body that demands attention, a body that stirs up emotions and reactions,  a body that is bountiful. My body is only a part of who I am and it has things to tell me. I get to decide how I relate to my body. As most things go, what fat means to me will change over time, and at all times, I get to decide it’s meaning. So yeah. I’m a fatty fat fat and love every part of me, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

~I SAW ME

On the daily I would see my reflection in a window and cringe. I would sigh and feel shame. I would see everything I thought was wrong with me. My short legs, my wide body, my broad shoulders, my round stomach. I saw my failure as a human being.

Sitting among more than 25 women of varying larger sizes for 2.5 hours was life changing. I noticed how everyone chose to dress their bodies, their topics of conversations, and overall presence. In Jes’ presentation, she mentions neuroplasticity and the power of exposing ourselves to more diverse body shapes regularly as a way to bolster our own body love. This is crucial as we are purposefully bombarded with non-realistic images of bodies and, despite knowing better, believe that these are what “perfect” bodies should look like. Well, let me tell you, being exposed to bodies similar to mine, works. At the end of the night, after being in the presence of these women, I caught my reflection in the window, and for the first time, I saw me. I saw ME and for THE FIRST TIME EVER I didn’t have a knee-jerk cringe-y reaction to my big body. FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, I saw my reflection and said “Oh, hi there!” I am grateful beyond measure for this singular experience.

~TAKING UP SPACE

As a chubster, I take up space. I have slowly been trying to accept and get real comfortable with this reality, but my fear of fat kept me from being able to accept this fully. Funny thing is, being afraid of fat doesn’t make me “not fat”. Fearing fat doesn’t suddenly make me 60 pounds lighter. Instead, being afraid of (and not accepting) my fat keeps me from myself. In essence, I cancel out my own existence. Sad. Hugs.

Many of the women I was with last night took up space, owned their size, wore big bright bold patterns and form fitting clothing, short skirts, spoke honestly about real topics, and laughed loudly. There was a lot of unapologetic laughing out loud last night that I couldn’t help but feel elated. I also wondered how many of us audience members dial ourselves back for fear of taking up space. Last night, I’m glad so many decided not to.

~PHOTO ADJUSTING

I have never had the experience where, when someone took a group photo, there was a simulations group movement of self-adjusting for the photo. You know, tugging at shirts and skirts. Pulling our clothing that folded into our lonjas (fat rolls). Sitting up and finding our best pose to hide a chin or two. It was absolutely the funniest, most endearing, cutest thing ever.

Me, Virgie Tovar, Jes Baker, Dana

Me, Virgie Tovar, Jes Baker, Dana

~ EVENTS

There is an online Fat Activism Conference coming up next month with the most reasonable registration fee I’ve ever seen. Vergie and Jes will be presenting there. http://fatactivismconference.com/

The 2nd annual Body Love Conference is being planned and could use your support. http://www.bodyloveconference.com/

Tamale Power

Posted on

My family has gone through many challenges over the years, and this year proved to be quite intense. Two of my brothers passed away (one in May, the other in August), after battling cancer. As these things go, each member of my family is dealing with these loses in their own ways.

Like many men, my Father absorbed his grief somatically (in his body) and spent many months in increasingly debilitating pain. This effected his ability to sleep, move, sit, walk, and keep food down. As a result he lost quite a bit of weight, and at the age of 81, these symptoms have greater consequences. As you can imagine, I was pretty scared. I’ve only known my dad to be a strong man who never let anyone or anything get in his way. To see him in so much pain and to hear the distance in his voice was terrifying.

Months of Dr. visits and tests resulted in some understanding of what was going on, and provided information on what he could do to get stable. He has degenerative disks in his spine, which causes the nerve pain, and stomach ulcers that kept him from being able to eat.

These last few weeks have been a gradual improvement and I am really thankful that my dad still has fight in him. This is how I’ve always known him. This is how everyone who knows him, knows him.

So what do tamales have to do with all this?

Per last years “Vegan Tamales” post, you’ll read that making tamales is an annual Christmas tradition for my dad. This year, as October came around, I would hear my father say, “May God give me life so that I can make tamales this year.” Due to his physical pain, I figured he may make a small batch this year instead of his usual dozens. Boy, was I wrong.

The Saturday before Christmas, despite his physical pain and decrease in energy, my Dad managed to make 20 dozen tamales. Making this amount takes a lot of time and energy, so when he told me this, I was a little concerned. “Wow Dad, how are you feeling?”

Without hesitation, he replied, “Como un TIGRE!!” (Like a tiger!).

That response is my Dad in a nutshell.

It was good to hear his familiar self again after so many months. To hear my Dad’s energetic response filled me with pride, gratitude, love, and much needed happiness.

After losing two of his sons, this annual tradition was all he had to look forward to. It may seem trivial to some, but for him, making tamales is his way of paying respects to the poverty he grew up in, and showing gratitude for the prosperity he created.

This is what tradition and culture can do. It can give us a sense of normalcy during times of loss, and allows us to live from a place of agency when we feel vulnerable. It allows for some joy to grow in our hearts, and makes way for healing. For this, I am grateful.

%d bloggers like this: