Updated: Mar 19
I was born in Barranquilla, Colombia in 1971, of an Andalusian father and mother of Lebanese decent.
My parents divorced while I was very young. I believe I might have been 4 or 5 years old at the time, but it is still unclear to me.
Back then I lived with my mom and both of my maternal grandparents who shared the house with us. The arrangement was something very typical of a Latin-American household. Except our family dynamic was anything but typical.
As I look back on that period of my life what springs to mind is if the walls of that house could talk, they would waver back and forth between hand-wringing and a sob fest while perhaps manifesting a severe anxiety attack, or even a profound depression.
As memories of those childhood years flood my mind what resonates most is the hypnotic rhythms of flamenco castanets and “taconeo” (stamping of the feet) and the plaintive wail of the Spanish guitar and flamenco music. It was the fiery soundtrack of my youth and a source of cultural grounding I still feel passionate about to this day.
People of all ages walked in and out of my home all day long. My mom had a dance studio, (flamenco was her forte), in the back part of the house. I remember her students would have to come in and out of mom’s studio through our home.
I recollect how stressful it became at times. My grandmother, Pity, would complain incessantly about how dirty the floor would get due to the students traipsing through the halls. At other times my grandmother would grumble about how she didn’t want the students to wait outside for their rides because they would damage the lawn.
It was a struggle for my mother, a constant fight between the two since this was the main source of income. My mother would worry that the students would not return to her class.
So, even though I was the only child of an only child, the house was rarely quiet. If the dance studio was not in function, then the arguments between the grownups could be heard echoing throughout.
On occasion there was silence, or maybe it was just the internal monologs each one of us engaged in during peaceful respites.
I remember being in elementary school, maybe 7 or 8 years old and walking into the chapel during my recess, alone, (it was an all-girl bilingual, catholic school, “where the girls with money” would attend.)
Since mom worked there, we got a break with tuition. I would often sit on the front pew looking towards the altar and the different religious statues.
Some days I would cry and ponder why my family had to be the way it was. On other days I would feel grateful for being surrounded by such authentic, unique individuals who invariably nurtured and enriched me.
I distinctly remember watching them as if I was the audience observing a theater performance and wondering what the next act would bring.