A Thank You Note by Laura Montoya Cifuentes


My grandma passed away two weeks ago. It was an opportunity for my family to gather and be grateful for her life and company. We enjoyed being together and sharing stories about her influence, love, and service for each one of us. She taught me to grow potatoes, to take care of every single living creature, to cook wonderful soups, and to spend the money I have on the ones I love. She was generous and always took care of her husband, four sons, three daughters, six grandsons, and six granddaughters, brothers, sisters, and in-laws. She was a committed Christian who knew exactly every name of every single flower and plant in her garden, God’s most perfect creation. She was lovely and fought against an invasive disease for eighteen years. She was strong and beautiful like no other.

Grandma’s garden.  

Thinking about her and her inspiring life made me also see how rooted it is in our family that women need to be as sacrificial as my grandma. She was an amazing mother and wife, but inevitably accommodated to the Christian/machista Colombian culture, a still colonized euro-centric country in South America. She had to surrender to our society’s expectations for women. She had to cook, raise the kids, buy the groceries, clean the house, iron grandpa’s shirts, take care of the garden, and being an “always ready for your requests” wife. She had everything functioning at home, but all the credit was for grandpa because he was “the provider.”

Curiously, and not suspecting that Grandma Lucy was about to leave us, I had the opportunity to talk with my mom and aunts two months ago about the domestic violence and the patriarchal culture in our family. It was a surprising experience to see how aware they are of the replication they have made of grandma’s sacrificial model. They all got married to what they call “an extra child” husband, becoming devoted wives at the cost of quitting personal dreams. They acknowledge they have been reproducing some old patterns that maintain machismo in our family. However, they are also intentionally trying to teach different ways to their children and encouraging their girls to become educated women who achieve everything they want. They are giving their best to change our family history.

I see myself as a big part of that change. In fact, inviting them to talk about it was a huge first step for us. We all agree on preserving the wonderful things that grandma taught us, but we want to change the way we see God and what it means to be “a woman” in a Christian-Pentecostal family. We want to preserve her teachings on traditional cooking, taking care of each other, and growing plants, but we want to change vicious habits on marriage and motherhood. We are ready to become a better version of the Cifuentes family while embracing grandma´s power and beauty.

My sister Annie, grandma Lucila and myself.    Christmas – 2018

All these reflections and conclusions are in part the result of the challenges proposed by Dr. Xochitl Alvizo when I became a Feminism and Religion intern. She invited me to think about feminism in a practical way instead of an abstract one. Living in a macho culture I had no clue about the amount of discrimination and daily violence we suffer in Colombia. The mistreatments at the hands of men at home and streets become our air, therefore violence is normal. Additionally, there was a sort of disconnection for me between feminist theories and practices. So, these conversations with my family, which were part of my learning plan for the internship, helped me to have more insight into the difficulties and patriarchal patterns that we as family and society maintain. Now I can seek transformation in my country based on better data and reflections.

Being part of Feminism and Religion has been a wonderful journey, mainly in recognizing the extent and dimension of women’s power and the decadence of its historical opponents. As an intern behind-the-scenes, I have appreciated your backgrounds, stories, passion, and commitment to women’s struggles. I have enjoyed reading you and learning from the diversity of your thoughts and interests. It encouraged me to dig deeper into my own context and, as you do, to see the beauty and the challenges in it. You helped me to write this post believing that you will appreciate my grandma’s story because you communicate trust, respect, and a sense of community in your writings and comments. You also help me see with hope this struggle for a change because you have seen a transformation in your own lives and history. Thank you all and I hope we can keep transforming together.

Thanks to Grandma too. I’ll love you forever.

 

Laura Montoya is from Bogotá, Colombia. She is a Psychologist, devoted to work alongside communities affected by the 60 years of war in her country. Currently, she is a second-year student in the Masters of Divinity program at Boston University School of Theology. She is also a FAR intern and Office Assistant in the Anna Howard Shaw Center. Due to the pandemic, she is living in her hometown with her husband, a baby dog named Joy, and two lovely cats, Agustin of Hippo and Consentido. 

 

 

 



Categories: General

12 replies

  1. This is such a lovely reflection on and tribute to your Grandmother. All honor to her!
    The story you tell is one that is familiar and painful and real. May you have community support for a long, healthy and powerful life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dr. Xochitl Alvizo is an amazing woman.. (Hurrah for her encouragement!)…. and so are you. I am so sorry that your grandmother died but she apparently also opened a door for the women in your family and for you to walk into a new way of being in the world. As we know, Violence and Hatred of women are inculcated into most cultures today. To break that cycle is a monumental task because this cycle is passed from generation to generation. The first step to changing what is is to see it. So I also offer my congratulations to you… On this first day of the (cultural) new year may you walk in beauty and strength..

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Perhaps the new legality in Argentina for a woman’s right to choose is an indication of how the new feminism is taking root in Latin America. Thank you for your good work in these directions and for sharing your story here.

    Like

  4. Welcome Laura!

    Your post seems very connected to Joyce Zonana’s from a few days ago. Both of you spoke of the value of women’s work and of the constraints under which it is done under patriarchy. Joyce spoke of her mother as a “dutiful” wife and you go further to speak of the violence that occurs in so many homes where the men dominate and rule.

    Siggghhhh.

    The question is how to honor our mothers and grandmothers and the gifts of their house-work, while not accepting and transforming the cultures of male domination in which they lived.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Hooray for you and for Xochitl and a gazilllion thanks for the good work you both do for this FAR community. Yes, I hope you can overcome the macho culture in which you live in Colombia. I have no doubt that you will move forward and break the old misogynistic habits that surround you. Blessings to your grandma and to your mother and to you. And to us all!

    Happy New Year. My first act today will be both practical and symbolic: I’m gonna take out the trash. Out with 2020! Let’s move into 2021 with grace and determination to make it all better.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Thank you for this wonderful post, for letting us get to know your grandmother and your family, and for all your work to keep our FAR community humming along. I’m so sorry for your loss of such an amazing and loving grandmother. I think what you and your family are doing is exactly what we need to do to move forward. We can both appreciate the daily tasks women have been expected to do while also understanding and no longer accepting the burden that has been placed on women to stay in their traditional roles. By empathizing and realizing that previous generations grew up with pressures and limitations that those in younger generations have not we can recognize and honor their strength while at the same each generation can take what steps forward they can for change. I’m so excited for you and for the world you will transform as you bring into it your caring, talents, and wisdom!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Deep sympathies, Laura, as you mourn and honor your beloved grandmother. I love the photos of her garden and hearing about her intimate knowledge of and passion for plants. Seems like the garden was a place where her creative spark could bloom. And her wisdom, courage, and beauty bloom on in you. Happy New Year and thank you for being part of this community and all you do to help it flourish.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Blessings to you and your family as you remember your Grandmother, and thank you for your work for our community.

    Like

  9. Thanks for this awesome piece, Laura, and sorry for your grandmothers passing. . Our struggle as women will only really evolve when we join together with others to say your fight is our fight. I was just reflecting on the reasons (white) feminism has not changed the world is because it cant just be white. Your families experience and the danger women are in cannot be accepted. Here are some articles I found on Latin american feminism. Seek and we shall find!

    https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/02/26/the-new-wave-of-feminism-sweeping-latin-america.html

    with love and support,
    Jamilah

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So sorry for your loss Laura. I love how you have looked into your family’s history to find your own truths and your own path in life that honors your ancestors and is integral to who you are.

    Your grandma must be so proud of you, both when she was here in the flesh and now that she is on the other side of the veil.

    And this blogpost does rock and has also given me so much to think about, learn and grow with. I am so grateful. Thank you Dr. Xochitl and thank you Laura for your taking on this work and being so honest with your journey.

    Like

  11. Laura, this is just lovely. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. As a pentecostal, you come under the Wesleyan umbrella, and you will find that there is a rich depth of feminist theology within Wesleyan traditions. I believe you will find liberation and healing and power in your faith. Bless your beautiful family. <3

    Like

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