Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Long Line of Vendidas

“This myth of the inherent unreliability of women, our natural propensity for treachery, has been carved into the very bone of [Chican@] collective psychology” ("A Long Line of Vendidas," Cherrie Moraga, 93).

There is much I could write about this piece, as it is so multi-layered. But my thoughts have been unable to turn away from considering the relationships between women in the Mexican-American side of my own family through the lens Cherrie Moraga provided. The distrust inherent in the relationships between women she described especially resonated with me, as I had a difficult relationship with my mother growing up, my aunt had a difficult relationship with her mother who also had a difficult relationship with her own mother (and so on, to the best of my knowledge). Not only that, but myself, my aunt, my grandmother and great-grandmother had distrustful relationships with other women in general. Reading about Moraga’s own experiences, this family history has been put into a new light.

“The daughter must constantly earn the mother’s love, prove her fidelity to her. The son – he gets her love for free” (94).

I recalled vividly when my grandmother was on her deathbed and I showed up with my younger brother (younger, but an adult). I can still picture the way she greeted him with open arms, wanting him to get on her bed and hug her, sit with her. Not like she greeted me. Her face lit up when she saw him with me, her face lit up when her sons walked in the door. She was always happy to see my aunt and I, as well, but was more reserved, in a way she never was with the men of the family.

This was my favorite grandmother.

I liked everything about her for as long as I can remember. The magazines she always had, dealing with psychics or UFOs or the Chupacabra. The breakfast we’d sometimes get, of chorizo and eggs and freshly made tortillas. The mariachi music that I liked but mostly sounded all the same, whereas she knew each individual song and had favorites. The smell of her house.

My favorite grandmother.

Even when I was depressed and feeling so totally self conscious and wanting to hide from everyone, including my family, I felt comfort in her house. And yet, as she was in the weeks leading up to her death, saying her goodbyes to her loved ones, I learned that she thought our relationship had “hard times”. And so stunned was I by this revelation that I never did get back to her to ask what she meant. At the time it seemed unimportant to have my own curiosities sated, as she prepared to die.

“Traitor begets traitor” (93).

Suddenly the difficulties of these relationships, unresolved at the time of both the deaths of my grandmother and my aunt, make significantly more sense. We Anglos (the other half of my family) have Eve, whose story tells us women are untrustworthy. Chicanas have that story as well as that of Malinche. Two powerful religious, cultural, narratives which show us why we cannot trust each other, two stories that teach us to value men, to trust our men, to identify with masculinity; over each other.

How can a feminist politics take root with so much of how you understand the world working against trust and solidarity between women? How can one be a lesbian, or a queer woman, in such a context? I understand more deeply now why “Chicana Feminism” is its own category. And I wonder where I fit in to that.