By Carlota Vásquez
There is a myth that comes from the Arhuaco indigenous people, the natives of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and so it goes: when the world was created, all its inhabitants, including the Arhuaco tribe, lived in pitch-black darkness. Then one day, one of their women gave birth to two beautiful children who emitted light. Out of fear that they would be taken away from her, the woman hid them away—but she could not keep that up forever. Eventually, the tribespeople found the cave they were hiding in and barged in to steal the givers of the miraculous light. To escape them, one of the kids—the boy—floated up to the sky. His sister followed, and that is how the sun and the moon appeared.
That’s just one of the many ancient myths in Latin culture that portrays the sun as male and the moon as female. Therefore, I ask you, one woman to the other: why?
Why is the moon’s glow merely a reflection of sunlight? Why is it that we as women have to work ten times harder, aim ten times higher, go ten times farther, to earn half the respect a man in our position is given without a second glance? Why is the system rigged against us?
Why are we worth less than men, from the moment we are born to the moment we are buried?
You must know the answers, for you were there when the questions were first asked. You were there when women wore corsets so as to be the perfect trophy for their husbands to boast about. You were there when women weren’t allowed to vote. You were there when they weren’t allowed to play sports. You were there when they weren’t allowed to wear pants. You were there when they weren’t allowed to live the same way as their fathers and brothers and husbands. You were there when they were hunted for being witches; they were thrown off a cliff and if they survived, they were burnt alive, and if they didn’t, it was too late to do anything about it—they were already dead.
And you are here now. Women are condemned for being women; they are left to fend for themselves and make their way through life, and if they decide to have a career, they are judged for not being stay-at-home moms, and if they decide to be stay-at-home moms, they are judged for not having a career. Women are taught to be ashamed of their bodies; they are taught that when a man assaults them, it’s their fault, because they were dressed inappropriately, or they led him on, or they told him no; they are taught to be quiet. You are a witness to all of this—to the woman who was raped and shamed into silence; to the woman who dreamt of being a lawyer, but became a housewife instead; to the women who rebelled, and to those who didn’t, and to those who couldn’t.
Only now, some of us have learned not to obey. Now, we shout. Now, we shift the blame to where it truly is. Now, we know that the skin we are in is armor, and with it, we march into battle. We don’t let ourselves be judged, and we don’t let ourselves be burnt by the sun.
You watch a baby girl being born. You watch her parents pull her away from the soccer field because only boys can play. You watch her teachers send her home because her skirt is too short. You watch her look at herself in the mirror and see nothing but defects—thighs that are too chubby, breasts that are too small, a butt that is too flat. You watch her learn the meaning of the words “slut”, “bitch”, “prude”, and other labels that are written into the fabric of society so that she can never be right. And then, one night, you start whispering in her ear until she realizes the reason why: because she is a woman. That is your duty, that is why you’re there, that is why you watch; because you hold the truth in your heart, and you must share it with us. We are worthless only as long as we think we are.
Finally, she rejects the labels. She rejects the image that had been carved in her brain and instead, she slowly unlearns everything that she was taught and begins the journey that will lead her to a light that is her own—not the reflection of someone else’s.
You are 384,400 kilometers away from the Earth, and still, I can see you shine. Even when there are no stars, you shine. Even when the sky is cloudy, you shine. And even when, sometimes, you don’t shine, you are there. And if you think about it, the sun, who so mightily lends you his light, is further away.
I’m speaking for all of womanhood when I say thank you.
About the writer:
Carlota Vásquez was born in Bogota, Colombia, in 2005. She has been writing since age seven, and she has been doing so in English since age 12. She is currently a high school student, as well as a hard-core feminist and an aspiring fantasy writer.
Featured Image by The Conversation.
Want to read more stories like this? Give us your feedback here!
Latinitas Magazine is a department within Latinitas, a registered nonprofit. Readers like you fund us, so please consider donating today. Thank you!