I remember being a little girl and admiring my grandmother’s strength and aiming to be just like her when I grew up, everything minus the pistol. That’s right my Abuela toted a 38 Special wrapped in a white handkerchief like any true gangster would. The images of Latina women would always pop into my head when I thought about determination, feistiness, power and la chancleta. She was a reflection of the women in her life: Belen, Berta, Ester, Rosalina and Maria. Unlike the women in Sex in the City, these women wouldn’t gather to discuss dating over Martinis. They were too busy trying to conquer issues of upward mobility, raising Latino kids with dual citizenships and identities, and making sure no one’s husband cheated. They were a group of the sweetest old ladies. A gang of gun-packing doñas (yes, they all had pieces) that were not playing any games. And, they had each other’s backs. My Puerto Rican grandmother would send medicine to her friends’ families in Cuba. Ester took care of the kitchen when my grandmother lost her son, and everyone took care of Berta when she was diagnosed with cancer. They were connected in so many ways and would be of support to one another like family even though they were from different countries.
Actually the rapport that they had was more of “The Godfather” than “Sex in the City”. And yes they had their disagreements, chismes and escandolos, but they had a bond and loyalty that any gangster, anywhere would envy. They raised their children and grandchildren together, they guarded our neighborhood and made it a village together and eventually all died together. But what they had was glorious because they created a tribe far away from their homes. A tribe where they participated in a cultural exchange that was incomparable. When old ladies from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Nicaragua and the DR gather what you get is a beautiful barrel of jokes, colloquialisms, spells, stories and experiences that you can brag about for generations.
That was when I was a little girl.
As I’ve navigated through the many stages of my own womanhood, I’ve had such a tough time finding that Latina village. As a lover of my fellow woman, especially the one that looks like me, talks like me and more importantly, feels like me, it is my natural instinct to reach out and seek sisterhood. Yet, this experience feels like something of the past. I once auditioned for a TV show on a popular Latin network and got feedback that I was too dark and that my Spanish wasn’t Mexican enough. This news came from my own people: Latinos. How about that? Two things that I could never change. But what was most hurtful was that the dagger was delivered by a fellow Latina who was “white” and felt a bit pompous and condescending when she delivered the information. I guess this was something that I was supposed to come to terms with as an older woman who I looked up to explained, “ No esperes el apoyo de tu hermanas Latinas, están perdidas. No te pueden querer si no se quieren ellas mismas”. QUE? I refused to accept as a reality that my number one nemesis would be my very own people. I am Latina and I beam with pride every time Rosario, Salma, Jennifer, America, Gina, Zoe and the rest of them, no, US wins.
We can’t deny the disconnect amongst women because we are socialized to not trust and to hate each other. If all women stood in solidarity we could shut shit down. I believe in Latina power. We are so impactful and colorful, we can move mountains with our hips alone. We dance like nobody’s business, cook like nobody’s business and hold shit together like nobody’s business. Does it matter if you’re Cuban, Nicaraguan or Dominican? What is it that makes us feel that we can’t love Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek? Why can’t we all be pretty whether we have straight hair or pelo crespo? Chica, it is time for all of us to get it together!
So, let’s stay in solution. How do we work on making this pesky nat of a divide go away? Start by looking in the mirror and loving yourself, all parts of you. Yes, even the part with the non-English speaking Grandmother. Read about your glorious history. Not the ever trending headlines about Trump’esque thinkers highlighting the worst parts of us, but books about our rich cultures. We are all connected. Remember girl, your greatest ally can be someone who shares in your experiences and forming partnerships only empowers you despite what you’ve been fooled into believing. Now go and find your tribe, you owe it to yourself!