I never understood my grandmothers love affair with John F. Kennedey. My abuelitas house full of family photos, pictures of Jesus, Crosses, the pope, the Virgen of Guadalupe, andsantos de todos rumbos. I always attributed the campaign poster of JFK that hung in her bedroom to be an extention of being a devout catholic and supporting this countries first and only Roman Catholic president.
My abuelita, illiterate, orphaned by the context of Mexicos reform period, the war after the revolution, the unrest of 1910-30s, born under a bridge, family torn apart by war. She, unlike my Abuelo, had only contempt for figures like Pancho Villa, who pillaged when they “liberated”. In Jicalan, where my grandparent’s family is from, a village in the Sierra Tarasca, both Cristeros and Agraristas (Villistas) would take turns burning their village down, pillage and rape, and commit summary executions of any men who did not take their side. My abuela was born with hazel eyes, light skin, and a woman.
Maybe my abuelas obsession with JFK was that of a crush for a beautiful being, theres no doubt that Kennedey estaba pero bien bueno. The fact that my grandmother had a sexuality beyond bearing children does not escape me, but still.
My abuela is remembered by my family as the one who worked harder than everyone else in the family, who literally worked herself to close to death, whose complete selflessness led to tuberculosis.
Mi abuela wasnt without fault, she was raised by wrath at the hands of others and dealt it out. Memories of domestic fights that ended in the silent treatment for weeks at a time, she may have seemed like a passive woman, but my abuela, she was much stronger than that. My abuela has a mean streak that I’ve only yet begun to understand when my grandfather fell ill from heart desease, her response,
“Ya se hizo muy coyón”
since his bypass surgery as mortality revealed itself as very real. I dont think my grandmother is afraid of death.
My obsession with Itzpapalotl must come from her, my abuela a keeper. Whose energy has brought her to the most subversive areas of Mexican Roman Catholicism, after all, Dona Juana, who made my birth and the births of my sisters possible through my mothers damaged body, was my abuelas comadre. How I wish to have been privy to conversations passed by, dona juana is gone now. My abuela still attends exorcisms and understands the need to adapt and the change of language to survive, just like I learned and now communicate primarily in English to survive, My abuela took on the Catholic Church’s language to practice something much more immense an a 2000 year old cult that has refused to acknowledge the influence of ancient wisdom.
My abuelas love for John F. Kennedy didnt lie on power, but on subversion. Realizing he was human and had his drawbacks, JFK was assassinated for a reason, which was probably a similar reason that MLK, Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Ruben Salazar…All men, all tlatoanis, who chose to speak, ideals as my abuela knows them and many of our elders know. Yet, they weren’t perfect, and in their imperfection, they were still loved.
It is important to point out that it was the men here that died, in our society men are seen more valuable than women, through my abuela I know, this has been our only saving grace, which I am greatful for, because it has been through the women, through people like my abuela that the seed has taken deep roots and every now and then reaches out to touch the sky. Our salvation has been passed down generation to generation through our mothers and grandmothers. The Itzpapalomeh who dont appear as they truly are, the keepers of balance.
My grandmothers love for John F. Kennedy was not for who he was but for what she believed he stood for, what she believed he was doing, what she thought he was saying, being both illiterate and a monolingual Spanish speaker.
I am that seed, of hope, and so are you. I will gladly and greatfully take my place as my grandmothers messenger, and through my faults which are many, will proclaim that love is more powerful than laws, bullets, bombs and coercion. Even though I cant yet practice what I preach. All my Relations, My grandmother.
“Man will be what he was born to be, free and independent.” -JFK