1.Don’t ever talk to strangers. It could seem a bit contradictory knowing that Latin Americans are very open, welcoming and friendly o anyone. You can literally meet someone at the bank while in line and five minutes later you end up talking about your grandmothers death; but when it came up to our parents dropping us into the real world outside, it was literally 3 things: Don’t talk to strangers, dress appropriately and don’t talk to strangers. Although if you ever bumped into a family friend and didn’t say hi (even if you didn’t remember who the hell he/she was), you were the most uneducated and unfriendly child they’ve ever had.
2.Stay a virgin until marriage. Yeah, some of our parents still believe in this virgin fairy tale (until I stopped being one). All our generations from our grandmothers, mothers and aunts have passed down to their beloved daughters the importance of being a virgin to maintain that “pristine” and “clean” image. They will even scare you or make up some non-scientific facts in order for you to stick to your hymen. Lies can go from:
- Girls who have sex get a fat ass.
- Your boobs are going to get saggy.
- You’ll look old.
- Sex is a tool to use women and discard them afterwards.
- Men don’t like “used” women.
- Being a virgin is a woman’s pride… and last but not least:
- Our father God tells us to be virgins in the Bible.
When my mom knew that I was’t a virgin anymore she told me that I had “disappointed her” and I “tore my image up”. Of course, it has changed while time passed and I grew older, my mom even goes with my to the OB-GYN appointments, but, it wasn’t that easy for the stigma to go away. I even had an aunt who offered me a “hymen reconstruction surgery” or whatever that is useful for nowadays…
3. Having to learn how to cook and clean from a young age. My case was totally different than the rest. I had the privilege of having a house maid while growing up so I was never forced to do them, and since my mom isn’t the greatest cook, she never taught me how to. Most of my girl friends learned to cook as young as 9 years old. It not rare to know a 13 year old girl who can prepare a whole meal on their own. I, unfortunately like my mother, were never taught how to cook, and were left to figure it out on our own. I barely know how to do an omelette, but I can follow any recipe to a “T”.
4. No sleepovers, no questions asked. Yeah, I’ve never went to a sleepover, EVER! I have other latina friends that have but having super strict, traditional parents sleepovers are always a no-no because of reasons like:
- I don’t trust young girls by their own your age.
- What can you possibly do with your friends one night that can’t be done in one day.
- I have a feeling that so-and-so is a bit weird, probably a lesbian. You’re not going.
- There are men living in your friend’s house…and those men in your friends house can lead to another common teaching which is:
5. Bad men can rape you (actually, ANY man can rape you). Teachers, friends, colleagues, that taxi driver, your best-friends brother, your cousin…every man is a rapist. Of course, when you’re starting to get older and you start daring, the intensity tones down a bit but the paranoia lays in our subconscious. That’s why I get that adrenaline rush when that Uber driver takes an unexpected different route or when your boss unexpectedly invites you to his house to drink some wine.
6. Not being able to start dating while your brother or male cousins were encouraged to, simply because you were a “girl”. So one day the four of us (mom, dad and my younger brother) were sitting in the living room having a family talk when my dad told my brother: “You have to start daring a couple of girls to gain experience”, and I said: “So, I can date a couple of guys also to gain experience”(I already knew the answer, I just wanted to trigger him). “No” he said “because you’re a girl”. In our Latin American culture, male chauvinism is very much encouraged and applauded in boys from a young age, while girls are taught to sit with their legs crossed until they reach the age to marry. In my family it wasn’t that oppressing towards women, but some situations and ideas were made with a base in male chauvinism, even if they were made subconsciously. Men are encouraged to not cry, not to do house work, exploit their masculinity and gain plenty of sexual experience while girls are encouraged to d house chores, go to school and keep their legs closed. Fortunately for me, my parents weren’t that determined to turn me into a Bedford wife, instead they helped me get a good education to not need to depend on a man in the future; but like I said before, some situations have a male chauvinism background that is embedded to our genes.
7. Always having to fill your family’s expectations. A lot of our parents and grandparents didn’t have the opportunity in their countries to receive a higher education due to a ton of factors typical of our countries in process of global development, so the only way they knew as a social and economical ladder for their future generations was doing hard work. Girls from my generation and a couple decades older were granted the opportunity to study, go to college, and even achieve a masters or doctorates, which leads us to be the main pride of our parents and the “hope” or “light” of the family. That’s why when your cousin Maria got pregnant at 16, she was the embarrassment of the family…Thank God you’re in Med School! That relieves the family shame.
8. Hating your parents during all the years you’ve lived with them for the strict, non-humanly rules they set you, but realizing afterwards that they only had the best of intentions. It’s not easy to be raised by overly-protected parents, but after years pass by you realize that you didn’t come out to be a bad kid after all. Maybe some of the rules and discipline might’ve been unnecessary, over-the-top or traumatizing, but it made you into the awesome girl you are today (and who your parents keep talking about in every conversation they have).