My Memories

It is funny how we associate certain memories with specific moments in our lives. We associate these memories with our senses, like how we felt in the moment or what we saw. These emotions can affect the way we remember these memories, it changes the course of events we thought had occurred.

I remember I once had to write an assignment on a theoretical encounter with my favorite writer and if I could spend a day with them what I would talk about with them. It took me a while to begin to answer this question, so, I sat with it for a couple of days. The only writer that came to mind was Julia Alvarez. I was always so intrigued by her life and why she was so passionate about sharing Dominican life and stories from the Trujillo Era. She is my idol, she represents my culture and she loved sharing it.

Growing up my parents always encouraged my sisters and me to read books in Spanish. Our home library was filled with English and Spanish books. My favorite book was the Spanish version of How Tia Lola Came to Visit Stay by Julia Alvarez. I reread this book several times and could even recite it in English and in Spanish. My mother then bought me more and more Julia Alvarez books. As I grew up, I began reading some of her more mature novels. In high school, I finally read In the Time of the Butterflies, her novel on life and death of the Mirabal Sisters. This really opened my eyes to the era my grandmothers lived through while growing up in the Dominican Republic.

I wrote my assignment and never really thought about it again until I met Julia Alvarez. This past summer, I worked at a sleep-away camp in Vermont. One of my camper’s grandmother is Julia Alvarez, and my camper knew I was a huge fan of her grandmother and wrote letters to her about me.

On one of the visiting days, I heard an unfamiliar voice call out my name. When I turned around, I saw Julia Alvarez standing in the doorway of my cabin. I was in shock and did not know what to say. She darted towards me and gave me the longest and tightest hug I have ever received. Her husband, Bill Eichner, followed in behind her. He had a giant camera and was documenting our interaction. I later found out from my camper that her grandfather loves taking pictures, his favorite being human exchanges, and will always carry his camera around just to capture the perfect picture. I introduced myself and told her how excited I was to finally meet her. “When I saw your curly hair, I knew you had to be Dominican. My new Dominican friend” she exclaimed. We talked a bit more and hugged, even more, she finally left after she remembered how hungry she was. I had the biggest smile on my face for the rest of the day, later, I called my parents to brag about meeting one of the best Dominican writers. After meeting her, I felt a strong urge to reread In the Time of the Butterflies. I had to revisit the story of the courageous Mirabal sisters.

The Mirabal sisters are some of the most important female political figures in Latin America. Their efforts to end an oppressive regime made their story iconic. Now, they are seen as martyrs for their fight against injustice. They spoke against the injustices that Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo was committing in the 1930s and 1940s. The Mirabal sisters began a resistance movement in hopes to overthrow the corrupt government. As soon as Trujillo saw an opportunity to assassinate the Mirabal sisters, he ordered his army men to attack their jeep and make the incident seem like an accident.

What makes their story so special to me was that they were all educated women. They had small children and still managed to start a large resistance movement. They symbolized the working, educated, and active mothers. It also emphasized the movement to end violence against women, which is now a national holiday.

The Mirabal Sisters were so passionate about this movement. It makes me think if I will ever find something the drives me. I hope that one day I can find something I am so passionate about. Sister Ita Ford, a nun who was assassinated in El Salvador during a service mission, wrote a letter to her niece telling her “I hope you come to find that which gives life a deep meaning for you.” What am I passionate about? What gives my life deep meaning?

Last fall was I able to attend a protest, my first protest. I have been to marches and rallies but never a protest, it was a completely new experience. It was a Donald Trump rally, that I was going to in order to protest for women’s rights and against Trump’s rhetoric surrounding women and our bodies. I was so excited and very unsure of what would happen or what I was going to encounter. The group I went with had prepared chants and signs for everyone to hold up. As soon as I stepped out of my friend’s car, I could hear chanting, it was absolutely thrilling. Standing in solidarity with other protestors was very meaningful and powerful.

Political participation is very impactful. It helps people have a voice and have the opportunity to express their opinions in hopes of making change possible. I was so moved by this experience that I began thinking of women in America, specifically how we are treated and what we experience.

Why is it ingrained in our minds at such an early age that women are the homebodies? The one that takes care of the home and the children. Are women meant to stay at home cleaning, cooking, raising children, and taking care of their husbands? Why can’t women be professionals and mothers? Men have the pleasure of being both, why is it so unbelievable that women can as well? Women are jacks of all trades, we are capable of doing any and everything. Equality should, at this point, be the norm. It is insane that so many groups of people are still fighting for equality.

I have been privileged to have grown up with women in politics.  Generations before me did not have the opportunity to have women in politics with positions in the federal government. I feel that it is very special for young girls to grow up in a society, where women are valued and participate politically.

The government should reflect the people they represent. We usually associate the United States as being a forward-thinking nation but progress in politics has been very gradual. For example, in Germany Angela Merkel is the Chancellor, in Poland Beata Szydło is the current Prime Minister, and in Chile, Michelle Bachelet is the current President. But then in the United States, there has not been a female president or vice president.

Coming into college, I had no idea what I would study. My first year, I took classes in different disciplines to find what I was interested in. My favorite that year was a class named Religion and American Politics. After taking that class, I decided to take more politics classes. By the beginning of my sophomore year, I knew I would be a politics major and I wanted to declare on election day.

The political climate at the time was very heated and tense, but many Americans believed that Hillary Clinton would be the next president. I truly believed that she would be the first female president and associated election day with joy. I made an appointment with my advisor to officially declare my major on November 8. There are not that many women in politics and I wanted that day to be memorable and symbolic. This would have been the day a woman took the highest-ranking position in the United States government.

I stayed up that night watching the electoral votes slowly come in on CNN. I witnessed an overwhelming amount of states turn red, I felt sick to my stomach. At around 1:30 in the morning, I came to the realization that Hillary Clinton was not going to the next president. I left before I heard, who the next was. I woke up the next morning sad and embarrassed of my country. For the weeks that followed the election, I was ashamed of my intended course of study. I felt as if the world I lived in never learned from its mistakes and was in a constant cycle of regression. Now, I have realized how powerful it is to have more women in politics and standing up for our rights. There still is a symbolic meaning for my declaration on that day, it stresses the importance of diversity in all of the aspects of American life, not just in politics.

These memories have shaped the outcome of my life today. There is still an overwhelming abundance of feelings I have when I look back on them. Memories have a lasting effect on our lives, they guide our connections with others and our will to keep moving on in life.

About The Author

Elizah Laurenceau is a junior at Bates College. Her hobbies consist of binge watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, cooking and trying new foods, and playing with her dog. She spends her days either glued on her computer or late nights finishing up work.