Grandpa Told Grandma: “Make a meal for my mistress!”
One stormy night as my grandmother, aunts and uncles all slept, my grandfather crept into the house with a dead cow.
He jostled my grandmother awake and told her to help him unsaddle his horse in the middle of a Mexican rain storm.
Afterwards, per usual, he demanded she remove his muddy boots.
What followed, however, was not usual.
After drying off he told my grandmother to skin the cow and cut it up for consumption, with no time to waste.
His intention, he said, was to take the meat to his mistress. He laughed at the humiliation of his demand.
Grandmother, like others who have endured repeated abuse, suffered from low self-esteem. Plus, grandma had carried the shaming label of “orphan” her whole life, making her feel unworthy. Unworthy of being heard by “higher-ups” and unable to speak against an abusive spouse, but willing to weather disrespect in order to uphold her husband’s peace and the collective peace of the home.
So she robotically followed the command.
But then something else also happened.
As my mother witnessed this her rage burst over. She told off my grandfather, demanding he respect her mother! Her rage rose, unabated, in the face of his threats and his knife.
My mother’s reaction was all reflex — a terrifying one — and it left grandpa stunned at what he had created. He could not deny that her strength was his own doing. For even as grandfather had spent his life batting his wife down in hopes of lifting his own sorry ego, he had also put all of his children to work — both sons and daughters — which toughened them up.
My mother’s defiance of grandfather’s rule in that moment highlighted her strength in the face of a machismo fostered by a patriarchal society.
Once mom stood up to him, his children lost their fear. That moment. And always.
In the broader Latino community it’s exciting to see that with growing education and more access to a world beyond small pueblos, Latinas are taking it upon themselves to fight misogyny. My Mexican-American family, for one, is testimony of this change — a change that we younger generations hope to take even further!
This was written by one of my students.