Happy Birthday, Mom

Your life has taught me about resilience.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

My mother was born in March, 1953, in Sucre, Bolivia.

Her name is Carmen.

When she was little, she laughed frequently and was very talkative. During lunch, she’d hold the fork long enough for the house cat to snap her food.

My grandma told me my mom hardly stopped talking. She was curious and imaginative.

One of the few photos of her childhood features a young, thin, 13-year old with shiny, straight black hair that reached her calves. She’s holding a puppy.

She loved to swim, read and play the guitar.

When she started going to university, Bolivia was in the midst of political turmoil and military governments. In August 1971, Hugo Banzer overthrew Juan José Torres in a bloody coup d’état. Universities closed.

The coup forced my mom to move to Chile to continue studying. Along with my aunt, they met several other Bolivians living in exile.

They were politically active, but they also had fun sunbathing on the beaches of Santiago.

Life can be both beautiful and painful.

On September 11th, 1973, Pinochet overthrew Allende. His coup changed Chile forever. My mom was changed too.

Once Pinochet took over, my mom could not continue studying economics. She went back to Bolivia in 74.

Though Banzer’s dictatorship was praised due to economic growth, thousands of Bolivians were killed and tortured during his government.

From 1974 to 1980, several coups, counter-coups, and caretaker governments took place. In 1980, General Luis García Meza executed a ruthless and violent coup.

My mom fought for her country and risked her life. She was part of an underground movement. She believed and still believes in democracy. Many of her friends were among those captured, tortured, and killed.

As dark as these times were, there was joy and also love. There was solidarity and friendship. There was conviction.

Everything comes to an end, even ruthless dictatorships. In 1982, democracy was somewhat restored.

In 1983, my parents started dating. They had known each other for a while. They were comrades.

In January 1984, they married, and I came into their lives that same year in December.

My mom didn’t give up politics when I was born. She continued working and was loyal to her party.

In 1986, my brother was born. He was a handful (so was I, to be honest), but she kept working.

In 1989 she founded her non-for-profit organization, Centro Juana Azurduy, which is still running today, dedicated to supporting women and children, specifically victims of domestic abuse.

We’ve moved around a lot as a family, and I think my father is the luckiest person to have had my mom support him. She believed in his dreams, and that’s why we followed him wherever he went.

There are many things I could say about my mom. But if there’s one thing I want you to know about her is this: she is the most resilient person I have ever known.

No matter the horrors and difficulties she has faced, she’s always found a way to overcome them and learn from them.

She has a sweet, gentle voice and warm hands. She is a positive person and has a generous heart.

She holds no grudges or resentment. It’s not worth it, she says.

Tomorrow is #internationalwomensday, and I couldn’t think of a better hero than her.

Feliz cumpleaños mami.

Writer. Creative artist. Photographer. Feminist.

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