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.
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.
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.