Tag Archives: la mapu

la Mapu horseback riding in Puerto Aysen

Daughter of the Earth : Mapupüñeñ


My first born has returned from a visit to the country she left when she was a growing secret inside of me. When I left her at the airport On Christmas Eve, I worried like most mothers would. It was her first international trip. She couldn’t be bothered to learn Spanish including key phrases I made her write over and over in her journal like “I’m in trouble please call my father,” much less Chilean colloquialisms. She didn’t read Chilean travel books or Chilean history. My partner made her read an essay about returning to Chile by an exile who left during the Pinochet dictatorship and my heart sank, I felt like a failure when the question she left with after reading was “Who is Pinochet?”. I felt less worried about the logistics when she messaged me via Facebook from the plane, impressed with the little details of international travel many take for granted, like real airplane meals, separated into neat little sections and wrapped in plastic, free headphones, a pillow, blanket, and an eye mask. My partner scoffed a little when I shared this detail with him. Like he saw her as not worldly enough. “Jibara” my mom and sister would say. I thought it was sweet. It made me remember my first international flight and my own fascination with these same little details. When I woke up at 4 a.m. Pacific Standard Time and saw that her plane landed and that she made it through immigration quickly. I confessed to someone I work with that I worried about her being let into the country. I worried that since she is only 17 they would question why she was traveling by herself. I worried they wouldn’t believe that she was there to see her father whom she hadn’t seen since she was a toddler. I was worried they wouldn’t believe she was meeting an entire side of her family she has only known through occasional internet photos and carefully dictated anecdotes.

Then I worried about her feelings. What is it like to spend every day with a man who is your father but who hasn’t been present throughout your life? What is it like to travel through a country that is part of your DNA but you have had no connection to except in Violetta Parra songs sung to you as lullabies? What is like to travel into the campo where your arrival will be greeted by the killing of a sheep in your honor and where you have to navigate your head, heart and tongue around Spanish, English, and Mapundungun? Soon the pictures came. Snapshots of her sitting in a dimly lit room in Chanquin around a table. She is sitting there with her grandfather, her great uncle and two great aunts. They are all the same shade of reddish brown, the color of earth, Mapu. Mapuche, people of the earth. They are drinking tea and there is dried meat on the table. In other pictures her father helps her with her life vest for a rapid rafting trip down a river in the Patagonia. Her grandfather looks on. There are more touristy shots, her on the beach in Viña del Mar, riding the funicular in Valparaiso, the Santiago Metro Map, her walking in a forest in Puerto Aysen. Aysen is her middle name and she is there, on that earth, Mapu.

As the weeks went on I was irritated by messages from her father who noticed things I have lived with for the last 17 years, like how she needs to be reminded to shower. Welcome to parenthood I thought wondering what I was expected to do from thousands of miles away.
“Take a shower” I texted. I could feel her roll her eyes at me and at her father.
When my partner, his son, Poroto and I picked her up at the airport yesterday she was tired but seemed happy. Would you go back? I asked. She said she wasn’t sure. I’m sure it was/is alot to process. I asked questions gently. How was your grandmother with you? What were your cousins like? Did you learn any Mapundungun? All she could remember was the word for crazy. I wonder if that is because it’s how she felt, a little crazed by it all. I know I would. But she was happy to share. She emptied wool bags gifted to her by her great aunts. They were filled with tiny paper tickets from the micros in Viña and Valparaiso, seashells from Chanquin, and a brochure from la Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s home in Valpo, and jewelry her grandparents gave her. Earlier this evening she shared more pictures of her rafting, horseback riding, kayaking, flying over the 11th region of Chile in a tiny plane, and more mundanely, petting her father’s cat, Orejas. In all the pictures she is clearly happy, smiling, laughing. That is how I want her always.

The Mami’Hood Goes Back to School


Call this a state of temporary bliss. A gift.

I am sitting in a cafe in the middle of the day – ok it’s really a chain restaurant that offers free wifi- but don’t ruin the image.

I’m sitting in a cafe in the middle of the day with an iced coffee and my fingers tapping away. My four year old is not pestering me to play a Dora game on the computer or to play with her princess toys. My 14 year old isn’t asking for the computer so she can update her very serious role play where the future of genetically modified vampire clone warriors is at stake.

It’s back to school time.

I never wanted to be one of those mamis, the ones in the commercials who joyfully run through the aisles of the office supply store because they are getting rid of their kids for a few hours pero here I am.

On Thursday, La Mapu started high school (!!!). She had to commute via the subway for an hour and go through a metal detector (Oh thank you NYPD secured DOE public schools). But despite her worry and mine (none of us slept very much the night before), she made it and actually liked it. She scored a new friend (a young woman who has never been to school before). Getting la Mapu into high school was a nearly two year process that involved tests, open houses, interviews and essays. I’m pleased that the hard work we both had to put in was well worth it (so far) pero the fact that we had to go through such a process pisses me off.

The only thing that pissed me off more than the high school application process was the Pre-K application process. Really wanting Poroto to attend a full day public school program meant putting myself through two lotteries, none which yielded ideal results. In this second round of the NYC Public School Pre-K lottery- Poroto was on of 46 percent or so that got a spot. She didn’t get a spot in our neighborhood. Nor did she get a full day spot. On Thursday I stood in a crowd of people outside her assigned school for over an hour- in the rain, with poroto. El Chileno came with thinking it would be a quick process, but he left to go to work. Clearly this was mami’hood business.

Once I made it inside the school, I was given a number (17), a stack of papers to fill out and we waited…….for two more hours. We sat through one assembly listening to the new principal of the school tell first and second graders that they were in school because President Obama wanted them to get good jobs and make a lot of money. We then sat though a second assembly where the principal told students that in the halls they should be “still, silent, and straight”. Umm yeah this was when I was ready to walk out and say fuck pre-k. Poroto – who napped and was more patient and quiet than I have ever seen her- begged me to wait a few more minutes because she really wanted to go to school. So I waited and finally our number was called.

The actual registering was fast. I had all my papers in order. The only confusion I caused was by checking off that my daughter was Latina and not white. With half an hour to spare before her first class, Poroto was an official public school Pre-K student.

Asking her, she’ll tell her her first day was boring, because I had to sit with her for orientation, making the grand total of hours spent in a public elementary school yesterday 5 and a half.

Pero back to today – with me sitting in a chain restaurant cafe, finishing my iced coffee, almost not annoyed by the ambient noise around me (note to self – next time do not forget your headphones), finishing a personal blog post! I left Poroto at Pre-K land’s special door. She didn’t cry. In fact we both skipped away happily in opposite directions, excited about the changes in our lives.

(PS – please consider donating to Poroto’s panderia fund which I will be renaming Mala’s cafe writing fund).

(PPS- I need to find a place where I can have a glass of wine while Poroto is in Pre-K. That will make this even more fun)

Do Not Feel Sorry for (me) Us


When I sat down next to your desk, with it’s neatly placed photographs of your daughter on her wedding day, I wanted to hear your take on the grade that went down. I already knew though. I knew that you, like every other teacher I had sat with that day, would say, “She’s so smart but..”

She’s always writing stories

She’s always planning what she will write in those stories

She’s always working on something besides her school work

And this you see as her failure, not yours

my failure, not yours

Our living arrangements, extended family supporting one another is suspect, not a successful example of community and love.

My work, writing/teaching/fighting is seen as not being attentive enough to her needs instead of modeling what working to love, not just to merely live looks like.

You said it was sad, sad that her internal meditations spilled on paper in ink were mistaken as a suicide note because you couldn’t believe that brown chic@s like her, whose name you still refuse to pronounce correctly, can/want (t0) write novels about other brown chic@s engaged in science and magic and saving themselves instead of waiting for you to demonstrate how to fill in a bubble for the right answer.

You said you felt sorry for me.

That made you stand apart and set you up as someone who like the elementary school principal who once looked at my hija and told her not to grow up to be like me, me with my big bilingual mouth and and my not fit for motherhood pink hair.

Ella, will no be like me, pero tampoco will she be like you. She already is the person she will be.

Thinking About Teen Abortion y The Privilege of Absent Papi’Hood


I don’t have cable so I missed the MTV special on teens seeking abortions. I wanted to see it because 13 years ago I was a teen seeking an abortion. Well, kind of. I was 19, pregnant and in Chile, a country where abortion was and still is illegal. My housemates, other young mujer college students far from their home (although in their country), and I watched a special on TVN de Chile about underground abortion clinics filmed with uv cameras that made the young women look like ghosts. One of my housemates confessed to having used such a clinic herself. And I was weighing my own options.

The other person responsible for my pregnancy didn’t want me to stay in Chile (what I wanted at the time) and instead told me that I was better off returning to the U.S. where abortions was allegedly safe, accessible and legal. I stayed in Chile travelling for a while longer, convinced I wasn’t going to carry my obvious pregnancy to term. By the time I made it to U.S., I was too broke to afford an abortion and too far along anyway.

It’s not that I regret mami’hood or la Mapu. Most people know that I have centered a good portion of my identity around my role of mami and 13 years, another kid, and yes two abortions later, I love mami’hood, even in its moments of struggle.

Pero the papi? I think I am connecting my own personal history with abortion with fatherhood because recently la Mapu’s father has pressing hard to see her. He hasn’t seen her since she was 3 or 4 and is talking to my sister apparently even to get her to accompany la Mapu to travel to Oaxaca where he is chilling now, not paying rent and working at a hostel to feed himself and his girlfriend.

It’s not that I don’t want la Mapu to see her father or that I don’t want him to see her. I would never deny that, but there is a part of me that remembers him sending me on my way. Yes he was young, but for 13 years I have registered voters, sold furniture, temped, table danced, tutored and written my heart out for my hija and he’s been travelling the world, with his college degree picking fruit because his job in Chile bored him. So yeah, maybe I am a tiny bit resentful and irritated.

The language of choice doesn’t always translate across continents. Access isn’t always interpreted precisely. And parent’hood or not isn’t always an accompanied trip to Puerto Escondido.

Cuarenta y Ocho Horas


My three year old is sleeping under the Puerto Escondido sky and yes I’m a little bit celosa. I miss her silly maniac ways and have found myself repeating all of her catch phrases over the last two days without her. Like “stupid asses”.

Yes, she is my child.

The break hasn’t happened yet, nor has the breakthrough. There is still an older child to mami and even though she spends most of her days not wanting to interact with me, she needs me. I still have to work to pay rent and electric and gas and eat. There are big blog issues over at the other site that I need to fix. And the poems.

Creo que hay tres, una de la primavera, una para Haiti, y otra donde soy la puta de mi papa. They are dancing in the back of my mouth. Waiting as patiently as they can for my hand the guide the pen so they can be born just a little before being unleashed into the wild/mundo.

Pero casa mala isn’t ready yet. I am not quite ready. The conditions aren’t right. I was thinking this morning as I struggled to find a poem I wanted to read at an event next week, how I need to organize my space better. It was like when I gave birth. I wanted quiet and darkness. Tomorrow, la Mapu will be at school and la casa will be mine. I will set aside a space, an altar to the work that will be done.

PS : I had a whole other angry post that I was going to write this morning about other issues but I’ve let it drop for now. Suffice it to say, I stay am struggling with some things and my level of comfort. Pero that’s ok.

PPS: No I haven’t gone on a date yet. With la mapu with me it just hasn’t happened even though there have been offers. You all will be the first to know porque I kiss and tell (most of the time).