Fearfully, the witness approaches the stand and swears an oath on the Bible, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Then, she moves to her place and narrates her story. After listening to her, they will decide.
The above seems to be part of the narrative of a modern legal trial, right? What would you think if I told you that it is the narrative that, as Hispanic women, we frequently play in our lives? Because of the role women have had in their ancestors’ countries of origin; Hispanic women ‘seem’ to remain on the sidelines of important or critical events.
Rocío wakes up suddenly to a noise coming from her son’s room. The son has been drinking and can hardly stand up. Her husband orders her, “you stay here, I’m going to talk to him”. Rocío stays in her room and anxiously listens to the argument between these two men. She hears a thud and suddenly her son is yelling, “this is the last time you try to punch me”. A moment later, her husband returns to the bedroom and tells her how their son – who is now taller and stronger than he is– has pushed him away. Rocío listens to him in silence. The next morning, she timidly recommends her husband to approach their son to fix things.
At another time, the boy finds Rocío and shares his version of what happened that day. His father was yelling and wanted to hit him. He pushed him away. She listens to her son in silence. “Talk to your papá, fix things,” she recommends.
When father and son finally decide to talk, each one asks her to be a “witness” of what happened that night. She feels between a rock and a hard place. She is afraid.
How many times do we face difficult situations like the one described above? How many times our role is limited to witnessing events? How often do we feel frightened by the repercussions our words may have on us, our loved ones, or even those around us?
Rocio’s story as well as the stories of many other women, reminds me of ‘las Marias.’ Those women who accompanied Jesus throughout his life: Mamá María, María Magdalena, María the sister of Lazaro, María the mother of Santiago, among many unnamed women who were there.
Those Marías lived in a time when women had no voice or vote. All became devoted and faithful to the God of love that Jesus was inviting them to meet. They accompanied, helped, fed, cared for, or washed the feet of our Savior. All of them were undoubtedly afraid.
Despite their fear, as women of faith, they moved forward and responded when others had failed Jesus. All of them were witnesses of honor in the most important events of Jesus’ life, joyful, challenging, or dreadful moments. Think about this, la Virgen María was the living repository of the incarnated God. María, accompanied by her sister Marta, witnessed the return to life of their brother Lazarus. ‘Las Marías’ were at the foot of the cross, and were the first witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ.
I wonder what would have happened if these faithful women had not been there. What would have happened if ‘las Marías’ had not risked their lives and respectability to follow a Teacher from Nazareth? Despite the fear and threats around them, they forgot about the conventionalism of the epoch, followed, and witnessed.
Today, older Hispanic women give testimony to the new generations. They are our faith keepers, especially las abuelitas! They remember the family’s history and the arduous paths our parents and grandparents walked to be here. They share funny anecdotes, recount events that left marks on our ancestors, and recall the names of relatives that nobody knows but who are linked to us in one way or another.
Thus, it may seem that the Hispanic women remain on the sidelines of family life. Following ‘las Marías’ example, it is precisely for these women that we are not bystanders of our own lives.
One morning, my father and I were having a coffee together. I asked him how my grandparents met. I have heard the story, but I wanted to know more. He shared my abuelitos’ story in less than two minutes. I told him to give me the details and he abruptly replied, “If you want to know more, go and ask your aunt.”