I grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico. Oaxaca is a very active city both during the day and during the night. Although the community is large with many streets, and great groups of diverse people, everybody seems to know each other.
My family consisted of my parents, seven brothers, one sister, and myself. We were all very different despite being so closely related in age – each sibling being apart in age by only two years or less. Due to our proximity in age, each of us was closest to the sibling that was immediately older and/or younger in age. This way, the sibling who was immediately older in age would have to take care of the younger one, and so on.
We had this system worked out, and it worked. It was like a chain of dependency. Despite being around each other often, we were definitely not the “typical” Mexican family that sat around the table for supper and exchanged stories and laughter. Instead, my mother would make food and store it; we were all expected to serve ourselves whenever we grew hungry. This created a very distant relationship between our parents and their children. But it also made us very independent at an early age. My parents did their best to educate us and teach us manners, but their very long work schedules, at times, made it very difficult for them to give us all the support we needed. I cannot complain, though. We never lacked food, clothing, or a shelter.
Our home was dominated by a strong male presence. I recall being aware of the gendered differences between the way that my brothers and I were treated as opposed to my sister and my mother. I accepted this difference without giving it much thought, because I assumed that Mexican households were run. We, as men, were taught to be auto-sufficient and independent. We were encouraged to make our own decisions and to provide for ourselves. Our father served as the example of the breadwinner. It was ironic though since my mother had to solicit a job so that she could help my father provide for all of us. Unfortunately, times were rough and the economy did not provide many job opportunities for folks like my father and so my mom had to take on increasing responsibility.
My mother was a housewife for a large portion of her married life. However, eventually she did have to get a job in order to help my father pay the bills. She became a seamstress at a boutique in Oaxaca. She would get paid very little to make custom clothes for the people who came into the shop. She was one of many underpaid seamstresses. Meanwhile, my father worked as a government employee for the Municipal Department...