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Deborah Happ

Encanto Understands the Overwhelming Pressure Put Upon Latin American Women

My grandmother was a warhorse. She kept a spotless 3-story house all on her own, kept a garden with rose bushes, mango trees, and coffee plants, repaired clothes, embroidered carpets, and cooked 5-star meals for her family. Vovó Julia never left the kitchen and would cook everything from fresh bread to empadinhas and ice cream from scratch. She would whip egg whites to perfection using only a fork and her sturdy forearms. There was homemade cake and fresh-cooked beans in the kitchen at all times. She was also a devout Christian and taught herself to read with the Bible. When she was younger, she worked as a school cook, gave birth to five daughters, and raised four. She was a tiny, five-foot-tall woman, and had lost the tip of one of her fingers in an accident involving pig feeding at my great-grandfather’s farm in Mantenópolis.

Once, my sister and I asked her to make clothes for our Barbie dolls on her old Singer sewing machine. All the while she did it, she told us how boring she thought the whole process was; how she felt like doing anything else but sewing. She did it anyway: a useless task she hated, just to make her granddaughters happy. Sometime around then, she took me and my siblings to learn embroidery at a local Home Depot. She finished up all the rugs we didn’t. There was another occasion when my aunt got a job at a shining new amusement park and took all the grandchildren. I remember Vovó Julia carefully packing sandwiches and snacks for everybody. I asked if she would go with us. She said of course not. Actually, I don’t remember her ever relaxing.

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