All Posts By:

Alejandra Briceno

  • Articles, Environment, Women's History

    It’s an A

    It's an A

    It’s an A

    For someone of my features, my color, my almond eyes that turn down slightly, it would be expected of me to open my mouth and dribble confidence. A fiery confidence that is neither feared nor appreciated, but a confidence that is taken as sass and a command of unnecessary self-respect. As a Latina, I am supposed to be loud. Authoritative but servient. So why couldn’t I ever speak up when someone mispronounced my name? In elementary school, giggles would follow. Not only did the substitute or my own teacher say it wrong, but they had pronounced it in a way that dismissed a crucial part of my identity – my femininity. 

    It’s a DRA not a DRO. 

    Do I look like a boy? I would think to myself. The hair on the center of my face did like to hold hands across the bridge between my eyebrows, I wasn’t good at dancing like my mami or my aunt or my grandma, and I never really liked makeup.

    Already struggling to figure out what it meant to be a girl, I was held even further back as another part of my identity was questioned. A part prodded at and rejected. My journey to shamelessly expressing myself as a woman and a Latina was guard-railed by the very woman who gave me such a “complicated” name (its beautiful). My mami.  

    Femininity thrives in Spanish-speaking countries. Americans will attribute it to rampant sexism but the reality is much more complicated. We feed our children. Nourish both their body and soul. We love to dance, feeling the rhythm like one would feel a heartbeat. To feel pretty, dressing our “sunday best” to go around town every weekend. We pass down our stories, our recipes, our laughter and mannerisms. But we also pass down our weaknesses.

    As Latinas, we must be feminine. Becoming a senorita, the buffer between child and woman, takes great sacrifice. We must be willing to give it all for our family. Be direct and authoritative but never dramatic or overpowering. We must stray as little from perfect as possible and raise our daughters the same way. When Latinas come to the United States, we feel a pressure to continue this cycle. If anything, the pressure is increased – augmented by the expectation that the American dream is for us to seize and realize. Even in the American workplace, it is reported that 29% of Latinas experience burnout…an issue associated with perfectionism.” (Brainz)

    But many women, including my own mother, know there are inconsistencies in these perspectives. Double standards pull those who think they can meet them apart until they snap. My grandmother, however tainted by the exhausting expectations of being a Peruvian mother, instilled a principle of which my mom has utilized to “break the cycle”. 

    Be better than me. 

    I asked my mom what her favorite thing about my grandma is, hoping to get a little more insight on the woman I know as my mother’s mother. She was not the same way at the beginning of motherhood as she is now. Being present in the lives of the children of your children could change anyone, exemplifying the beautiful ways you have raised your child but also forcing a difficult reflection on what hurt you may have indirectly inflicted. My mami said this:

    “She always wanted everything to be bien hecho (well done). She would say there is no use in trying something if you wouldn’t give it your all. I admire her discipline, and even though we may have different interpretations of what is bien hecho, I carry this saying with me everywhere.” 

    So, yes, my grandmother did feel the weight of expectation and perfection on her back. And yes, she had unknowingly pulled my mom under the weight for her to get a feel for it, but my mom didn’t let it hunch her down. It is not to say that my mom was immune to the heaviness, in fact she remembers being  slightly relieved when she was pregnant with me.

    “It was the perfect moment. I had gotten pregnant with you not too early after my wedding but also not too late. Of course, right now I don’t think the same way about these ‘moments’.”

    If I had been born later than a year after her wedding, she would feel a pressure, a judgment on whether she was ready or even willing to fulfill a Latina’s greatest duty, creating a family. 

    Of course, women all over the world, and even in the US, have had these absurd standards placed on them. We are given little space to speak up for ourselves. In fact, of the 535 members of Congress, only 156 are women. But unfortunately, Latina women, as many other POC women, are victims of intersectional discrimination. We are attacked from every which way. 

    So, how are we expected to be better than our parents, when barriers exist wherever we go? How are we expected to fulfill the American dream, battle the pain of our past and overcome the pain in our future, when no one is kind enough to take the time to learn your name? How are we supposed to explore what it means to be a woman when the world has decided it for you?

    All I ask is that we are given the space. Give in a little of your own even if it means you are no longer in the spotlight.

    Sources:

    https://www.americanprogress.org/article/fact-sheet-the-state-of-Latinas-in-the-united-states/

    https://www.brainzmagazine.com/post/Latinas-have-been-raised-to-be-perfect-how-to-break-the-paradigm

    https://www.latimes.com/delos/story/2023-08-28/Latinas-breaking-generational-curses

    https://cawp.rutgers.edu/facts/levels-office/congress/history-women-us-congress