Un Arco Iris de Mujer
She carefully puts on her vibrant, bold red lipstick. She then takes the lipstick and puts three dots on each of her cheeks. One. Two. Three. And then she proceeds to vigorously rub the bright, fiery red tint onto the contours of her strong cheekbones. She wears a high-waisted, long, black skirt with white daisies, and an embroidered black V-neck blouse with a delicate string of pearls draped carefully along her collarbone. She gently brushes her short black hair to the side. She’s ready.
Rosa María Chacón Cárdenas. Mi Mami Rosita. She was a daughter of twelve, mother of three, and a grandmother to four. Although, she only met two. She was known around el barrio for her nurturing nature and kindness. She cooked some of the best tamales, arepas, pasteles de yuca, y envueltos. She never turned down help on anybody, even when she barely could. Yet, she never asked for any help for herself either.
As a woman, she was enigmatic. Her disposition always showed the woman she was expected to be: a strong, resilient, composed lady. Yet, Rosa was a different woman behind the blue barred door separating the outside world, from our own little world. In my little world, she was mi abuelita who made the best arepas in the world. In her world, unfortunately, I’m not so sure.
I could not tell you what being a hija meant for her.
I could not tell you what being a mamá meant to her.
I could not tell you what being a abuela meant to her.
I could not tell you what being a mujer meant for her.
She did what she had to, to survive. She persisted through a misogynistic culture, in which I’m afraid she fell prey to. She endured physical and mental abuse from her husband, Rafael, for many years to then raise her three small children on her own. She survived because that was what was expected of her. That was her only choice. She survived as most humans do.
Until she couldn’t.
“Me duele como cuando Rafael me pegaba”
As I remember her last days on Earth, these were the words that stuck with me for the longest. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized she had had a journey of pain, love, survival, and death. As a young woman now, I often think of what my own tomorrow will bring. I find myself questioning what defining moments will outline my journey. In the end, I’d like to believe that Mami Rosita had these same questions.
What pain had made her stronger?
What love had made her caring?
What obstacles helped her survive?
And like many other resilient women, she left without a goodbye.
There’s something pure and fascinating about it all. Have you ever felt someone so strongly in your blood? They are the little voice in your head. The gentle push when you need it most. They are the life source of the generations to come. Your generations to come…
I may not know Mami Rosita well outside of my twelve-year-old memories. But something in my blood tells me, she is here. And she never left. Because she is remembered by 3 children and four grandchildren. She survived, and that is the greatest lesson I have ever learned from Mi Mami Rosita.
Denisse graduated from St. John’s University earning a Bachelor of Science in Television & Film Production with a minor in Dramatic Arts and International Studies. She was born and raised in Colombia, and moved to the U.S. seven years ago. As an actor and filmmaker, she aspires to tell stories that often go unheard, but are so crucial to the creation of a new narrative in today’s entertainment industry. She recently wrote, directed, and co-produced her thesis film, Incubus, and is currently submitting her film to festivals.