This article is dedicated to grandmothers that found ways to survive white supremacy, colonialism, heteropatriarchy and the many -isms we still resist today. As well as those that did not make it. May your teachings guide us to create strategies that allow our communities to thrive.
Clothes carry stories — and for a growing number of us from Abya Yala — what is now called Latin America and the Caribbean — they are the narratives of our elders.
As the movement toward relearning ancestral knowledge and acknowledging femme labor and brilliance continues to grow, it is important for those of us that had positive relationships with our grandmothers to recognize their pivotal role in our upbringing. Many of us who grew up in families and communities that centered and upheld the cisheteropatriarchy find it important to learn new systems that center and honor feminized labor because we acknowledge that without this from our caretakers, we would not be here.
Looking back into abuelita teachings is critical to confront and create strategies of survival in a violent world, and many of us are carrying this on our sleeves. We invited a few artists and healers to share the importance of wearing their grandmothers in their daily lives through their clothes, thoughts and prayers.
1. Yos Erchxs Piña, Ella/Elle/Ell*, Madrid, Spain
(Photo Credit: @erchxs)
When you are a migrant, you carry little things with you. You carry pieces of your story with you. I’ve carried this piece of cloth, which belonged to my abuela Carmen from Isla Margarita in so-called Venezuela, since I started my diasporic journey. I carry it on my body, and it feels like a hug from my grandmother and my aunt. This ripped piece of cloth adorned my aunt’s body and touched my grandmother’s hands, both of them are no longer here. I wear this piece of cloth as a turban and scarf.
My grandmother was a seamstress and would make sheets and curtains from random pieces of cloth. It is ancestral survival skills to make so much with so little. During slavery times, white slave owners would give Black and Indigenous people scraps of food. The people would make collective meals to survive. My grandmother would make blankets from the cloth scraps from her sewing job to benefit many. This piece of cloth that I carry with me reminds me of her survival and self-care strategies.
Follow Yos on Instagram.
2. Kashí Tzintzuni, They/Them/Theirs, San Diego, Calif.
(Photo Credit: @la_queerandera)
This rebozo belonged to my great abuelita Guadalupe, Doña Lupe, from the Purepecha territory in so-called Mexico. It was gifted to me by my grandmother’s eldest daughter, my aunty. This rebozo carries the magic, wisdom and strength of Purepecha women living in colonized environments. All the people that have carried this rebozo have been healers in many different ways, and I’m humbled to give it its current home.
My grandmother shared her mother’s food medicine ways with me when I was a child: remedios, recipes and consejos. I know “manzanilla es bueno para la panzilla” y que ruda es buena para los aires y dolores de cabeza as well as many more. Most of the traditional Purepecha food I make are vegetarian or pescatarian renditions of my abue’s cooking growing up.
Follow Kashí in Instagram.
Juju Angeles, She/Her/Them/They, Oakland, Calif.
(Photo Credit: @babymamahood)
This sweater belonged to abuelita Maria Altagracia Garcia from so-called Dominican Republic. I carry my grandmother in the ways I resist patriarchal violence. I carry her in my long skirts, in my face and in the ways I work with oregano. I remember her through my mother, who tells me the stories of her being a hard worker, a caretaker and a seer. I carry my abuelitas who weren’t given permission to live their bruja out loud. I carry their medicine in teas, stews and soups. I carry the culture and tradition of looking for plant life to aid illness and disease.
Follow Juju on Instagram.
Ana Izquierdo, She/They, Lima, Peru
(Photo Credit: @brownbitch_wshorthair)
This sheer top belonged to abuelita Ana. I carry my grandmother on her jewelry and tapados (lace, glitterish transparent tops). Her clothes are protective amulets against daily patriarchal violence. Here in Perú, women are destined to be mothers and wives. My grandmother was an Afro-Peruvian woman who married four times and taught me to never negotiate myself for somebody else’s “idea of love.” She was independent and needed no man to find happiness. She inspired me to find family in femmes and see femininity as a strength.
Follow Ana in Instagram.
Angela Camacho, She/Her, London, UK
(Photo Credit: @thebonitachola)
This makancha/petticoat belonged to abuela Carmen from so-called Bolivia. I carry my grandmother’s hands in my hands; all of her teachings are still alive in me. I carry her trenzas to honor her firmeza for refusing to cut them when she ran away from the poverty of the highlands. I carry the smell of our herbs and our Indigenous cosmovision.
I can’t remember the name of the plant that grew in the corner of our house, but I remember it was to help with scars. I remember her voice saying, “You fall again misky, rise up. We [Indigenous people] always rise.” She used to wear beautiful traditional makanchas. She never wore trousers, and I never understood why until I visited the highlands and witnessed so many Aymara-Quechua women wearing our traditional makanchas. Our clothes are resistance and the way we preserve ourselves.
Follow Angela on Instagram.