I find myself 40,000 feet aboveground flying back to New York City, as I finally gather my scattered thoughts. I attempted to sit down and write but a voice within me kept repeating ahorita, ahorita(which translates to “now, now”). The curious thing about this expression is that, when said, it means absolutely any time, except now. My heritage is composed by a series of mothers, who, despite their class and conservative environment, did everything in their power to thrive. These mothers were flawed, some perhaps never recognized their own harm, but certainly I wouldn’t be here without them.

My mother, Maritza, was raised in Aloag, a small town in Ecuador. She belonged to a middle class family. She wasn’t raised under the conditions of extreme poverty, but certainly her resources were limited. As you may know Ecuador, like much of Latin America, is a Third World country. A very high percentage of the population has no access to efficient health care, education and resources. Opportunities in countries like Ecuador are very restricted, and demand hard work. My grandmother, Mama Clemen, was born in a ranch. Her mother, Teodolinda, was raped several times by the ranch owner, leaving Mama Clemen with a series of siblings and an illegitimate father.

Teodolinda couldn’t escape from the ranch, since it was her only resource to provide for her children. Mama Clemen recounts this story with a trembling voice and with watery eyes. Her life revolved around the uncertainty of having food that day, of her body being violated, and being extremely careful to not “wear out” the sole of her only pair of shoes. Mama Clemen grew up in a conservative and violent environment, an environment that was too afraid to recognize the horrors of her life. Whenever she would feel sad, ten Hail Marys would take her pain away. Years after, Mama Clemen’s father was begging Teodolinda to sign the paternity papers so Mama Clemen could receive his last name, but Teodolinda refused. Throughout her life she served the men around her, and her daughter was the only thing she was not willing to give up. Mama Clemen kept her mother’s last name, Ruiz, and this was passed on to my mother.

The seatbelt sign is turned on. The aircrew informs us that there will be turbulence ahead. I anxiously shift towards the front and my peripheral sight catches my Doctor Martens boots. I wonder about Mama Clemen’s fear of wearing her shoes out, while I have more than 15 pairs to choose from. I was raised in a wealthy area of Mexico City, and was fortunate enough to have absolutely everything that I needed. My life revolved around spacious apartments, cars, domestic service, and many other commodities. I had the privilege to go to a private school, and to learn English as a second language. My reality was constructed within this tiny bubble and for some moments I believed that there was nothing else aside from my privileged life in the west side of Ciudad de Mexico. Classism is what contaminates the air. The city skyline is formed of two separate worlds, thirty-floor buildings, and concrete, unfinished houses. Unfortunately, these never collide, making it easier to forget that the other side exists. This segregation creates an atmosphere of corruption and materialism, were we quantify our persona with the things we can or cannot buy. There is not enough money to feed all. Some steal to survive and some steal to buy a new sports car. Corruption is deeply engraved, to such an extent that we learn to outsmart and distrust our fellow citizens. Violence is normalized—it seems normal to get kidnapped in a cab, find oneself caught up in a narco fight, or killed for a cellular phone.

Perhaps Mama Clemen’s world and mine is not that far apart, for the same violation of rights repeats itself like a broken record. Perhaps it is in us to recognize and stop, to stand for ourselves in whatever way we can. Whatever the circumstances, we can always speak up. We can tell our daughters our story, we can tell them how great they are, and we can choose to pass on the strength we found. Our stories aren’t only sad. There was joy in Mama Clemen when the family met for dinner in her house. There was freedom in my mom when she would dance her heart out. I find my own spark in my art. Perhaps the “ahorita, ahorita” I repeat to myself is a part of what those generations passed on. Like all of them, I am imperfect. My task is to let go of all the bad and to let that passionate and warming Latin American heritage thrive.

 

Domenica Garcia is a senior in the Film program at the School of Visual Arts. She hails from Mexico City.