Mi papi has the most contagious smile. When he smiles at you, you feel special and seen. He can light up a room with his smile. His best feature is his smile. When mi papi gives you a nickname, you carry that nickname for life. He is a nickname-giver. He names people, blesses them. Mi papi is a talented person who loves being around people, I think in solitude he truly suffers. He was designed and born to be around people and infect people with laughter.
Mi papi also would force my sister and I do to “womanly” duties, while he and my brother watched TV. And if we ever questioned him, we were made to feel as though we were disrespecting our mami by not wanting to help her—but that was not the case. We just wanted the option to do nothing like my brother, or to have him help equally. We wanted to be treated well, respected.
Mi papi is a giver. When mi papi has money, it disappears in days. He is the type of man to pay for everyone’s dinner, to send money to his family, buy me an unexpected present. He has the world on his shoulders and he feels a responsibility for people. When mi papi feels financially blessed, he desires that for other people and blesses them. He thinks of this gesture as a God-calling. I think it is because he knows intimately what it is like to not have money, so he does the most to make people feel less alone and less desperate.
Mi papi also has screamed at me because he saw I had tattoos. He told me no man would ever love me because I had tainted MY body. Mi papi was ashamed of me and what I had decided to do with my body, because to him my body was never mine. My body was for him to guard, and then for him to relinquish power onto another man to guard. The idea that I could make decisions about my body which were not sanctioned by him, baffled him. No one will understand the dissonance of seeing your papi who never cries, shed real tears, because he has discovered your tatted body, “arruinado.”
Mi papi had to grow up fast. Mi abuelito killed himself when mi papi was 16 years old, and his two older siblings fled town because the pressure and the responsibilities he left behind were too much for them. Mi papi at 16 had to become the bread-winner for his four younger siblings and his mami. Mi papi put his younger siblings through school, private schools, and paid off their childhood home. Mi papi did not get to be a teenager for more than three years before his childhood was taken from him. Mi papi is a proud man who cares so much for the well-being of others and would die trying to take care of everyone he loves.
Mi papi has no idea that I majored in college, or what I got my masters degree for. As recently as 2016, he asked me what my most recent degree was about, and I laughed because I knew what he was saying, and I knew intimately what mi papi thinks women like me. Women like me think too much, we are too smart for our own good, we are our worst enemies.
“Women like me dishonor their papis, and women like me would be best suited within a household with a strong man who can tame me.”
I wish his cruel words did not sting as much as they do. I wish I were praised more for being that person I am, instead of whenever I have allowed myself to fully step into myself in front of him, he has screamed at me because I got too ahead of myself, for a mujer.
I know mi papi loves me, and I know he would do anything for me but mi papi has made me hate myself often. Mi papi has made me wish I was a man, so that he could actually be proud of me. Mi papi has made me wish I was a quieter woman, so that he could actually be proud of me.
Mi papi loves me, but mi papi does not know how to love all of me, and I still have to deal with that. I still have to manage how that affects me every day, and the pressures I put on myself to be perfect, to be great at everything I do, when I could just work hard to be happy with my own skin and the direction my life has taken me in.
I love mi papi, but I have also learned to love myself enough to step away from his skewed view of me and women in general. The best thing I have done for myself around mi papi is create distance, advocate for myself, and create boundaries that protect me from his internalized sexism, as well as protect me from his clone: my older brother.
That’s who mi papi is.
Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez is a grassroots foreign citizen, maneuvering and resisting assimilation and respectability politics through what she calls her a chonga Mujerista ethic. She is the founder of Latina Rebels, an online platform that boasts over 200K followers. She is from Managua, Nicaragua, currently living in Nashville. Prisca has written for Philadelphia Printworks, TeleSur English, SupaDaily Latin, Huffington Post Latino Voices and other publications. Her interests are within biopolitics as it relates to Latina embodiment, specifically concerning models of conquerable flesh around narratives of naturalization for women of color. ¡Que viva la mujer!