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Why I Don’t Write About the Women in My Family

16 April 2018

From The Literary Hub:

It is a fact universally known that in Lima, if you are a lady of beauty, you are likely to be a whore. I learned this when I was around 13, and my mother was obsessed with me being a lady of the night, too. She liked to check my pockets to see if I had extra money, money I couldn’t account for, a domestic IRS of my little, never-been-kissed vagina. But I digress.

I’ve been wanting to write about the women in my family for some time, but haven’t known where to start. I’ve always located them in a 19th-century rural world of dusty roads and wooden carts, like the ones carrying the 13-year-old prostitute Eréndira and her abuela desalmada in the Gabriel García Márquez story. Their Peruvian lives ooze a vague Vargas Llosa air, but the places they hailed from would have been irrespirable for his bourgeoisie. Melchora, my great-grandmother, was a native of Huánuco, a small village at the center of the Andean plain, a yellow world trapped between jungle and mountains. She couldn’t read or write, though it really didn’t matter; she spoke Quechua, and Quechua is a spoken language—its real life exists between mouths and ears, though it can be transcribed. Melchora loved going to the movies and yelling at the screen, especially at the villains: You are as ugly as your deeds! Melchora married an Irishman, Byrne, who beat her frequently and was drunk all the time. Eventually he left, and Melchora moved to La Victoria, a shoddy neighborhood in Lima, along with her two daughters, Olga and Ana, and a retarded little boy, Pepe.

Ana was the prettiest: by the time she was 12 a line of suitors had already formed in front of her. Men came to the house and offered their charms and gifts: platters of carne seca, furniture, ham, jewelry. Ana loved dressing up and dancing. She was wispy at the waist, she had wide Bambi eyes, and she loved getting dolled up in capri pants to dance boleros at the Lima clubs. Sometimes she wore jasmine in her hair like La flor de la Canela, a bolero heroine, the Madonna of the Rímac. She enjoyed the vanity of the temptress; she had fun with it.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub



One Comments to “Why I Don’t Write About the Women in My Family”

  1. Wow! … read the whole thing … that was some beginning.

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