Trenzas ~ “¡Yo soy!”

“¡Te veo querida!”

By Jorge D. H. Prósperi (Spanish followed by English version)

Trenzas nacen y crecen en chacras
Manos cansadas entrecruzando
Tres mechoncitos con cuidado
Frágiles entre dedos duros – amando.

Bailan a brisas infantiles
Con tiempo tocan al piso
Resaltando contra sol y luna
Brillando un negro azulenco – celebrando.

Cantan por atrás con inocencia… “¡Yo Soy!”

Una saluda a la otra
“¡Te veo querida!”
Bailando con harmonia
Juntas cuidando una a la otra.

Festejando juntas con identidad… “¡Yo Soy!

En silencio no es lo que parece
De repente cuelgan mudas
Raíces arrancadas del alma sin pedir
Lagrimas con ojos apretados – aguantando.

Se lavan ahora con desafió… “¡Yo Soy!

Resurrección de indignación
Se limpian… se cuelgan
Sin asco lucen de nuevo
Adhiriendo sin soltar – liberando.

Gritan de atrás con nobleza . . . “¡Yo Soy!”

“¡No te las puedo prestar
No te las puedo dar…
Nunca ser tuyas…
Ni en tus sueños!”

Braids ~ “I Am!”

Braids born and raised in hamlets
Tired hands crossing them
Three locks with care
Fragile – gentle between stiff fingers – loving.

They dance to juvenile breezes
With time they touch the ground
Skipping against the sun and moon
Shining their black blue – celebrating.

They sing from behind with innocence… “I am!”

One greets the other
“I see you dear one!”
Dancing with harmony
Together one watching the other.

They sing from behind with identity… “I am!”

In silence all is not what appears to be
Suddenly they hang muted
Roots torn from the soul without asking
Tears with eyes shut tight – tolerating.

Washed now with defiance… “I am!”

Resurrection from indignation
They are cleaned… they are hung
Without disgust they shine again
Adhering without letting go – liberating.

They scream from behind with nobility… “I am!”

I can’t lend them to you…
I can’t give them to you
Never to be yours…
Not even in your dreams!

Trenzas ~ “¡Yo soy!” came to life during my youth, watching my grandmother brush and braid my mother’s hair and my mother brush and braid her sisters’ long black hair. Braiding was a time to ask and answer questions, for storytelling, sharing wisdom and always a time for caring and loving. There was an intimacy about it all that always finished with besos (kisses), abrazos (hugs), and with a resounding emphatic ¡Cuídate! (Be careful!) – especially expressed by the older braiders who knew the reasons why caution needed to be ever present.

Every woman wore her trenzas with pride and dignity. There was a sameness and yet singularness as trenzas danced in the wind behind them with a story to tell. I remember how beautiful they were… especially my mother’s trenzas… how they made me feel safe and loved as they danced behind us.

As a young boy the women in my life were not only family members but mentors – all destined to be criadas.” The word comes from the root criar– to raise – to be brought up. In the case of my family, it meant “raised to a life of servitude.” The women were taught to nanny, cook, sew, iron, wash, scrub and herd animals. Servitude was their profession at the expense of schooling, choices and options. They were taught from generation to generation to serve privileged land owners made privileged “patrones” by colonialism. The feudal system required maintenance which the gauchos and their families supplied living in “pueblecitos” (hamlets).

It was during the braiding that women would tell stories often filled with belly laughs at the expense of the “panzudos patroness” (fat landlords) and their families. This is when “payadas” in form of couplets would be heard venerating family, land and stark reminders of the struggles of gauchescan life without the pandering and romanticizations of porteños (from Buenos Aires).

The older women were held in reverence with the title of “Doñas”(elder women). While braiding, they would pause to warn the jovencitas(young girls) with a serious desperation  in their voice to remain alert after sundown for “patrones” (bosses) seeking their entitled “just deserts” destroying virtue with loathsomeness – without conscience. The Doñas would relay strategies of how, when and where to hide. Strategies on how to keep their fathers and brothers alive who would seek vengeance unsheathing their facón (gaucho knife) on perpetrators of innocence. Trenzas ~ “¡Yo soy!celebrates each woman as she faced her life of servitude with dignity, courage, resiliency and muted resistance.