Feminist without a discourse

I was fortunate to be the daughter of a feminist. I think it´s probably one of the main influences I´ve had in my life. My mother was, what one of her good friends called a “feminist without a discourse”. She wasn´t a militant of any movement. She had a strong character, she knew what she wanted and she lived under her own terms. She didn´t give in to the conventions of the sexist and conservative culture where she grew up.

She didn´t need a husband to support her. She was the head of household and she raised my sister and me all by herself. She was a successful professional at a time when there weren´t a lot of women in high ranking jobs in Colombia. She didn´t know how to cook, she loved to dance and had a lot of friends, for whom she was the connector. Her best legacy was the endearing love of her million friends that my sister and I inherited. We all still feel the void she left and it still hurts.

I have come to appreciate my mother in her real dimension only after her death. How sad! Her sudden and premature death left me in a state of shock from which I still am trying to recover. We had a close and turbulent relationship. We have very similar personalities and have the same character. We fought constantly, hurt each other, said mean things, stopped talking to each other. But we always remained close to each other, we were there and we felt proud for each other.

Her unexpected death robbed us the possibility of… I don´t know what. Something that I would have wanted and couldn´t be, something I cannot name. But that is gone and is not coming back.

Telling her story fills me with pride. She came from a middle class family in Cucuta, a small town in the border between Colombia and Venezuela. When she finished high school, she used her innate intelligence to negotiate with her father let her go to college. Women weren´t supposed to study past high school. They were destined to get married and have children. But not her. She knew she wanted more. She wanted to learn. She wanted to travel. She was curious and had a passion for life.

She went to school at the Universidad Nacional in Bogota, the best public university in Colombia. She was a student of Camilo Torres, the revolutionary priest, whom she adored. It was the 60´s the decade that transformed society. She met my father at the Universidad Nacional where he taught English. She got a scholarship to do postgraduate studies in sociology at the Sorbonne University in Paris and went to live there with my father. I was born in Paris without a warning. My parents got married when she was five months pregnant with me to facilitate the paperwork in the conservative France of the time. Not for any other reason. Not for religious reasons or because she cared what people thought.

My father was a writer and didn´t have a stable income, so she paid the bills from the beginning. They got divorced after seven years.

My mother didn´t come from an affluent family and didn´t have “godparents”. She had a special magnetism due to her wits, her sense of humor, and her beauty. She made friends everywhere and led a very active social life. She was the friend and confident of ministers, directors of newspapers, writers, artists, chefs, academics, etc. She loved to go out and party and she knew everything that happened in Colombia. She wrote for many years for Teléfono Rosa, one of the most read columns in El Tiempo, the leading newspaper in Colombia.

She was a natural connector. If she knew someone did something that could be of interest to someone else, she would put them in contact. She helped people without expecting anything in return and without bragging about it. She liked that: connecting people. When I talk to her friends they still say they feel disconnected and lost without her. I feel the same.

At her funeral there were intellectuals, politicians, artists, lawyers, hippies, people from all sorts of life. It was a big church and we couldn’t fit everyone. Those demonstrations of love kept me going at the time. In that shared love we kept her with us.

My mother lived her life intensely. She enjoyed every minute. She didn´t miss a good trip, a good meal, didn´t skip a Festival Vallenato. She fell in love many times. She was the life of the party. Maybe she intuitively knew she wouldn´t have a lot of time and she enjoyed everything she could. That is her biggest lesson. To always keep going, to enjoy every thing you can. To live life.

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