Written by Yulissa Chavez.
Graphic by Emma Robinson.

Originally published as part of the Spring 2019 “Challenge” Issue.
– 

Growing up in a Latina household, forced me to comply with the idea that my body was the property of God. This mentality may suggest that I learned to appreciate my body, but instead, I grew up learning to be afraid of it. For even though I had my heart in the right place and my intentions were always righteous, I was still imperfect to others. And so, I could never satisfy myself if I did not have the approval of others.

This letter is to my mother.

Mother,

You used to respect who I was when I was under your roof. You used to respect me because I followed your definition of a Latina woman: modest and respectful.

You taught me that a Latina woman should critique other women to gain honor, that courage is supreme, and that she should remain in agreement with her man; women who are strong are those who do not have high expectations.

A Latina woman must not be too submissive because she will appear spineless, but she must not be too dominant because she will appear disrespectful.

The perfect Latina is adaptable. She is there to satisfy the visual thirst of those who see Latina women as objects. As long as she pleases everyone else, she is seen as humble and respectable.

To you, I am a slut for owning and exploring my sexuality.

Being sultry makes me a slut. Being confident in my own skin makes me arrogant. To you, my body serves one purpose: a vessel for children. My mind is not capable of loving itself without having your approval because you are my mother; your opinion is what matters the most.

But just how your kind, righteous words can reassure me into comfort and security, they can also tear me down and make me confused about who I am.

It shouldn’t be that way. Although I love you, I will not apologize for being proud of my body.

Who am I to you? Am I your little girl who has to be afraid of herself and everything around her to be worthy of honor? Am I a woman who needs to get over the fact that the world is not perfect and settle for mediocrity?

Rewind.

When I was ten-years-old and I was bullied for not wearing a bra, you taught me the value of being carefree. You told me I should not care what people think. You told me that being myself is what God would want me to do.

Replay.

That same afternoon you told me I need to be modest to make people comfortable.

Fast Forward.

I am twenty-years-old and still feel like I do not have ownership of my body.

Replay.

You tell me that the perfect Latina daughter always obeys her parents.

Replay.

Being a Latina Christian girl meant that I had to always be modest and gracious with flirtation. If a man confronts me, I better be ready to graciously decline without being aggressive or fierce. Fierceness equates to being unapproachable. The perfect Latina smiles through the toxicity. As long as she stays quiet and bows her head, she is perfect.

Rewind.

I am who I am, and I am not who I am not. I am a work in progress that needs reassurance and I will continue to make mistakes for personal growth.

I am me, and that is enough.

Yulissa

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