I am Mexican-American, first generation to this land and the oldest daughter. All of my cousins were guys, so I grew up a tough little girl. In Mexican culture, there is a lot of “machismo” and I grew up seeing so much of it that  I became fed up with the norm. I told myself that I was not going to take the same path that many women in my culture took. It was clear that the proper thing for a Mexican woman to do was to get married. Girls were supposed to come out of their parents’ household dressed in white and “pure.” I quickly grew up hating that ideology. Not to mention that I saw a lot of arguments and heard so many stories about the infidelity of some of the men in the family and yet, their wives were still with them.

My grandmother was the one person to always tell me, “Estudia hija para que nunca tengas que depender de un hombre. ‘Study so that you never have to depend on a man.’” One day, sitting at the table with my parents having dinner, I remember telling them, “I am never getting married or having any kids. What do I want marriage for if I can do things on my own.” They laughed and said, “Ojala, ‘Hopefully.’”

At the age of 12, I remember my dad getting mad because I was not helping my mom in the kitchen. I recall him saying, “Tan siquiera parate ahi para que veas como lo hace tu mamá. ‘At least stand there so you can see how your mom does it.’” I got so mad and told him I did not like the kitchen. He quickly said, “Que vas a hacer cuando te cases, necesitas saber cocinar. ‘What are you going to do when you get married? You need to know how to cook.’” I could feel the heat in my whole body and I quickly responded, “Nunca me voy a casar, para eso tienen dos manos. ‘I’m never getting married, that’s why they [men] have two hands.’” The idea that cooking related to being married was awful to me and I refused to learn how to cook. I preferred to do all the cleaning in the house, but never cooking. My dad and I had arguments about cooking for years, but I stood my ground and finally, he stopped commenting about it.

It took time, honestly years, for my dad to get rid of that machista ideology he grew up with. There are still a few things that he has to work on, but he has surely progressed. There were rules he would always implement with my sister and me that later on he was so lenient about with our younger brother. He would even tell me, “No quiero que me traigas a ningún novio a la casa al menos que ya sea para algo serio. ‘I do not want you to bring any boyfriends to the house unless it’s going to be serious.’” I would respond by asking him if he preferred for me to lie about having boyfriends and to sneak around behind his back. I would ask him why he didn’t want to know who his daughter was going out with in case anything happened to me. He would just stay quiet and look mad.

When I was 18, I decided to go to his hometown of Oaxaca, Mexico for vacation after school was out. Before I left, he said, “No vayas a estar tomando porque la gente haya piensa diferente. ‘Don’t be drinking because people over there think differently.’”  I got mad and replied, “So what, those people are not gonna pay for my beers. They don’t feed me or live with me so, why should I care what they think of me. You and I know who I am, so why do I have to care about what people think who do not even know me.”

I hated the fact that he wanted me to hide who I was, like it was my fault for growing up in a more opened-minded environment than he had. He later understood that he couldn’t keep me from being me and that he had to learn to embrace my ideas and my personality. As I became a young woman, he learned to communicate more with words, rather than through anger. Besides, I am so much like him. I’m like his twin and he was probably scared I would turn out exactly like him in female version.

I now appreciate my father so much because thanks to him, I have the strong willingness to do things for myself. Gracias pa, por siempre apoyarme. Thank you pa, for always supporting me.

Esmeralda Mendez is Mexican-American.  She is the proud daughter of immigrant parents and has Latinx roots.  Esmeralda is a dancer, poet, and passionate young woman who is beginning her Masters in Social Work in the summer of 2019.

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  1. Eddy Aviles

    Women will always be in the wrong for the Mexican society. Whether you leave your house in white and wash dishes and cook for your man and have a family. Or the other ,you study and turn out to be successful and financially stable your partner will make less money than you and the” society” will point for supporting your man. And being a ” mensa” either way you will never satisfy anyone. That’s why I say do what makes you happy . F… The world until you have kids then your mind will change forever .

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