October 25th, 2011
Opening The Pandora’s Box Of Mexican Family Secrets

After the piece I wrote about my cruel grandmother, there was a maelstrom on my mother’s side of the family. In short, I have been shunned. Let’s just say that I don’t think I will ever be invited to any quinceañeras or weddings ever again.  What most upsets me, however, was that a few people called my mom and yelled at her as if my actions were her fault. I’m a 27 year-old woman, and the idea of my mom being responsible for anything I do is ridiculous. It also angered me because my mother was a wonderful parent and the person most deserving of such ire was actually my grandmother.

Also baffling was that everyone was furious at me and my grandmother was seen as an innocent victim. Many also accused me of lying about her purposeful and deliberate cruelty to me when I was a girl, which is ludicrous because I would have absolutely nothing to gain from fabricating such a story. Believe me, I wish it were not true. One person also expressed that she was saddened and deeply disappointed that I had exposed this story and condescendingly referred to my life as “my little world.”

After a few days of feeling terrible about this whole ordeal, I got over it. My boyfriend gave me a book about the courage it takes to write and it provided much needed comfort. Since becoming a writer, I decided that I would never shy away from difficult subjects. I have always been brazen and honest in my work and that will never change. I can sincerely say that I live for my writing.

I also started to realize that while growing up, I was often criticized by many in my family. For instance, one of my uncles once suggested I was some sort of whore for moving out of my parents’ house when I was in college and for traveling to Mexico with a boyfriend. (I will tackle the misogyny in my Mexican Catholic family some other time, however.) With an exception of a few supportive and kind family members, I always felt rejected. My unconventional lifestyle was too perplexing for them.

I was never a good Mexican Catholic girl.

So, despite the pain, the whole ordeal turned out to be a positive experience for me. For so many years, I had simply repressed my anger. I feel relieved now. I also began to reevaluate what family means to me. I know that my immediate family will love me and support me forever. My extended family is obviously a different story. In traditional Mexican culture (and in many other cultures), your blood ties are what’s most important in life. You are to be loyal no matter what.

But why should I be loyal to someone who mistreated me? Why should I be loyal to a group of people who have always judged me? Why do I owe them anything? Because we share some of the same DNA? Would that same loyalty be expected from someone who was physically or sexually abused? That doesn’t make sense to me.

I am grateful, however, that my dad’s side of the family has always been very kind to me. There are also people in my life that are not related to me by blood, but who I consider family. They are loving and supportive friends who don’t judge all of my life choices. They are the ones who show up to my poetry readings and cheer me on when I get discouraged with my writing or disillusioned with life. They are people who welcome me into their homes, people I love sharing meals with. The notion that you can only count on your “family” is not true for me.

I’ve always felt like a pariah in my culture, so I suppose this situation wasn’t a total shock to me. I do wish things were different, of course. I wish everyone were understanding and that we all had a mutual respect for each other. I wish we could have loud and crazy Mexican parties in which we eat great food and listen to horrible tamborazo music. But that’s not possible anymore. It seems this grudge will be taken to the grave. But I’m not sorry for writing the truth or for being who I am. As an adult, at least I get to choose who is family.

One of my angry relatives said that I was ashamed of where I came from, when in reality the whole reason I wrote about my grandmother was to understand where I come from. My world is not “little.” It’s vast. It’s vast in ways they will never know.

[Photo By megyarsh]

5 thoughts on “Opening The Pandora’s Box Of Mexican Family Secrets

  1. I too have been the one who would not accept being judged. Who was treated like an out sider in my own family.  my problem was and is my mother who lies about me who has accused me of things that are sick, i.e. I wanted to come between she and my dad’s marriage. I wanted to be the other woman, she tells me! My father left me only one thing in his will: one of his favorite cars. first she told me she sold it, then she said that she had it in storage. When I contacted the man who was “storing” the car, he said that mom had called him one day and told him she had a car he could have. And the list goes on. But for my family, I am the one who is ostracized, 
    etc. I have always defended myself from my mom’s lies and rumors about me. Like she says, I never learned to shut my mouth.

  2. It takes a lot of courage to be honest and speak the truth about our experiences. I relate to u in the sense that my family doesn’t understand me, and I don’t ever expect them to. I accept our differences, and its taken me MANY years!! I do believe that we are to honor our families, no matter what. As adults, we understand that we’re imperfect, and so are the elders around us. I think that we need to be more forgiving of them, because harboring hurt and anger maintain our state of sadness in areas of our lives that need to be healed and nurtured. When we don’t honor people around us, its a reflection of our own character. You’re entitled to your feelings, and I do believe that your experiences w ur abuela caused u pain and hurt. I also believe that putting it out there the way you did caused dishonor to her. With all respect, I believe that u are still in the process of healing from those experiences, and I hope that one day you will be free from this bondage. Try to humanize her as best as you can.

  3. i applaud you for your courage. subject matter? yea not so much, lol. seriously though, i’m not surprised your mom took the heat for this. i mean, you were picking on a viejita. mi mama was harsh at best, but when she got older she mellowed. my kids couldn’t believe she was the person i told them i grew up with. without thinking i told them she was now an old lady trying to get into heaven. she passed a few years later, i still miss her. i don’t however, miss her meanness & tyranny. apologize to your mami & let it go. you know you were right! don’t look back!!!

  4. Your piece about your grandma was raw. And I loved it. Most people will never face their past/upbringing the way you did in that piece. I am happy to read that you are not sorry for telling the truth or for being you. Write on amiga! Maybe, just maybe, others will look in their own lives too! 

  5. I can’t wait to read your piece.  Everything you touched on in this article stirs up some deepseated emotions for me.  This sounds like my mother.  I think you may have written about my life.  Again, I can’t wait to read it.  I’m clicking over to it now. 

    Be blessed.  Thank god for our pen, no?


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