When Women Hate Women: An Abuelita Story

My maternal grandmother was very cruel to me when I was growing up. To this day, I’m not sure why, but I can only speculate that most of it was due to deep-seated misogyny. She didn’t mistreat any male grandchildren that I know of. In fact, she very obviously favored them. (Thanks, machismo.) There was something about me, however, that she really hated.

When I was eight, to my chagrin, my family moved into my grandparents’ basement for a year to save some money for a house. During that year, my grandmother made fun of my weight, called me marimacha (the feminine version of macho), slammed a door in my face, and was generally rude and cold towards me. One instance that stands out was when I really, really wanted to get a sub sandwich, like the fat girl that I was, and she ridiculed me for it. And though I was indeed too chubby and loved food to perhaps an unhealthy degree, what kind of grandma says that? Grandmas are supposed to give you candy and ugly scarves, right?

Then when I was 13, I stayed in my grandparents’ home in Mexico for three weeks during which she told me I was stupid, and that I would never amount to anything. (Ironically, I’m the only granddaughter with a graduate or college degree.) When I cried out of anger and frustration, she laughed at me. And even though they were not at all poor at the time, my grandmother gave me cactus for every single meal. At the end of my stay, the sight of the slimy cactus made me want to barf and my resentment of my grandmother had really deepened.

Over the years, I’ve tried to forgive her for my own well-being. Though I don’t love her and know I never will, I’ve tried to understand why she was so bitter and why she took it out on me.

My grandmother grew up in the middle-of-nowhere Mexico, a place that still offers almost no opportunities of any kind, particularly for women. If you were a woman, you went to school for a few years if you were lucky, got married very young, and then had many children. The labor involved in running a household was backbreaking and I imagine the bleakness of the Sierra Madre landscape could fill one with complete despair. I also know that my grandfather cheated on my grandmother multiple times, and that when she told her father about it, he essentially told her that it was something she simply had to endure as a woman. In addition, my grandfather spent a lot of time the United States as a bracero migrant worker, leaving my grandmother to raise all their children on her own.

Though I can understand how her bitterness was cultivated after so many years of misery, I can’t fully understand why I was the target of her ire. It was as if there was something in me that she wanted to break. I know that I was often a very difficult child, but I can’t help but think that regardless, grandmothers shouldn’t be evil jerks.

Sometimes I’m tempted to ask her why. Other times I just want to tell her that I haven’t forgotten how hateful she was no matter how kind she tries to appear now. I can rationalize and intellectualize the situation all I want— look at it through a socioeconomic lens, see in a feminist context — but it still bothers me more than I’d like to admit. Unfortunately, not all abuelitas are kind and soft old ladies who make hot chocolate. But at least now I can stand up for myself and eat all the sandwiches I damn please.

Oh Hells Nah is a small and sassy Mexican woman exploring the relationships between poetry, politics, and food. She lives in Chicago, you can check out her blog — like hot dogs for your brain — or follow her on Facebook or Twitter @OhHellsNah.

[Photo By mrspyy]

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

Coronavirus: Mexican wrestlers sew Lucha Libre face masks

Victor Landa April 23, 2020

Unable to compete due to coronavirus, Mexico’s Lucha Libre wrestlers have taken up sewing face masks. Social distancing means the iconic sport is on hold for now, so fighters need […]

Latinos: COVID-19 Disrupts Finances, Daily Life, Mental Health

Victor Landa April 6, 2020

COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. But U.S. Latinos are more likely than all Americans to say the coronavirus pandemic changed their daily lives, and disrupts their mental health, finances, and jobs, according to new Pew Research […]

A Profile of Coronavirus and the Latino Workforce

Victor Landa April 13, 2020

*This article was originally published in the NALCAB Blog. Over the last month, the Coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the lives and well-being of all Americans. It has disproportionately impacted the most […]

Hispanics more likely than Americans overall to see COVID-19 as a major threat to health and finances

Victor Landa April 14, 2020

Hispanics are more concerned than Americans overall about the threat the COVID-19 outbreak poses to the health of the U.S. population, their own financial situation and the day-to-day life of their local […]

Coronavirus could ‘decimate’ Latino wealth, which was hammered by the Great Recession

Victor Landa April 16, 2020

Octavia Nieto worked for over 10 years as a pastry chef at a bakery in Princeton, New Jersey. Now with the business closed indefinitely, she relies on a part-time job […]

Latino Teens: Distance Learning Is a Giant Stressor amid Coronavirus

Victor Landa April 22, 2020

Latino teens are more worried than their peers that they won’t be able to keep up with school work or extracurricular activities amid coronavirus, says a new survey by Common Sense and […]


Victor Landa

Despite these uncertain times, the 2020 NFL Draft will proceed as planned. But because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 NFL draft will be held virtually for the first time […]

Government Relief Less Likely To Reach Latino Businesses

Victor Landa April 23, 2020

Latino communities may face a generational setback in growing wealth, as the pandemic-driven downturn exacerbates an already present gap in funding for their small businesses. Juan Rios sits among the […]