This Hispanic Heritage Month, I want to celebrate the Latinx women in my household and history who have shaped who I am as a Latina today.
Growing up, some people idolize actresses, athletes, activists. Me? It was my grandmother. I called her “Tata” and she had an enormous impact on my life. She was a strong, independent and caring woman who would do literally anything for her family. She had been there for every major event in my life – from my birth to my divorce - and is the most amazing woman I have ever met.
I couldn't imagine my life without her… and then I had to because she passed away last year.
She taught me a lot of lessons: how to never stop chasing after my dreams, what quite strength looks like, and how to never leave the house at least a little put together because you never know who you will run into (ask Connor about this – he’s gotten it drilled into his head by now). She taught me how to be a giver (no matter how many times being so generous has backfired on her, she continued), how to be a comforting shoulder, and was a fountain of advice (such as how to cook a certain dish or general life questions).
I could write books about how much Tata means to me, but I can’t because I usually end up a puddle of tears when I think about how much she will miss – seeing me graduate with my PhD, seeing my younger brother and I get married, seeing our kids (her great grandkids).
A large part of who I am today – especially my emotional intelligence – is because of her. I can never thank her enough.
My mother and I had a rough relationship growing up; there were many times when I hated her and felt that she didn’t want me to breathe and have a life (hello dramatic teenager). Now as an adult, I have a close relationship with my mom, and am keenly aware of the impact she had on my life.
On top of the usual generational conflicts, one of the biggest challenges we faced was the tension between two dominant women in a household. Mami didn’t raise ninguna tonta and that was the problem- she taught me fierce independence from a young age (something I sort of lost sight of in my early 20’s as I tried to make a failing marriage). Which meant that as I grew up as a teenage the culture of where she came from (Puerto Rico) and the culture of where we currently lived (Florida) reared its head- there were many times when I was told I couldn’t do something because “that’s not how it’s done in this household” but I was utterly confused because we were in the 21st century not 1960’s Puerto Rico.
There are many things my mother and I have in common: our taste in travel, enjoying HGTV “House Hunters,” and music we can dance to (lol my mom is one of those people who dances very confidently as my brother and I cringe. Love you mom!). Within these memories are lessons that helped me fiercely stand in my truth (and still leads to butting heads sometimes). I think fondly back to sitting together and watching HGTV (or the “Home Gets Fixed” channel as seven-year-old Melissa proudly proclaimed), and it bonded us in a way that I could always go back to when we were fighting about how I wasn’t allowed to go to junior prom or for have my boyfriend come over. Sassiness… she taught me that too.
“The growing Latina population is an untapped resource in this country. If we give Latinas the tools to unlock their potential, we will see amazing results.”
Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
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