"The Women as Bright as the Stars"
- By Bartola Garcia -
Women do not need to carry one specific trait to be a warrior. There are women from our everyday lives, like mothers, political activists, and even teachers, who shine as bright as stars that are warriors. They constantly fight their own battles to be who they are. They shine all over the world with the little acts they perform, like patiently going for a grocery run with their crying children. All these women inspire the younger generations to grow up to be as wise and gracious as they are. One of them is Maria Garcia De La Cruz, my mother, who was also influenced at a young age by her mother to keep going. She moved to a world that was unknown to continue a battle that everyone had told her was lost. Her persistence, belief, humor, and the hope she holds to see light shine through the darkest of tunnels motivate those who meet her.
At a young age, Maria had to learn to persist through her struggles. Growing up in a small, poor, and rural town named Tabasco in Mexico, she was held to high expectations of duty as soon as she could walk, learning how to make handmade tortillas at the age of six, even having a homemade step stool to reach “el comal,” the griddle- like stove. At the age of eight, Maria was learning to cook meals for her family of nine. She was also held to the expectation of cleaning like her mother while looking after her baby nieces. At the age of sixteen, to escape her poverty-ridden cycle, she got married and soon gave birth to a child. When the infant wasn’t able to breathe on her own due to deformed lungs, she began to rethink her decisions. Nevertheless, this challenge didn’t impair her. Even though their debt kept accumulating, she and her husband never stopped looking for cures to save their child with the illusion that she could grow into a healthy kid one day.
Seeing no solution anywhere near, Maria packed her bags and decided to head for the United States. With a one-year-old in her arms, a bag slung over her shoulder, and everyone telling her that she and her child would both die on the way there, she made her way to the destination that would save what little she had. She did indeed find a solution for her child’s illness once she got to the States, and from there she only went up. The persistence and strength she had to overcome all the little obstacles along her way have now earned her the love of the community she now has in Morehead City, NC. Now, when people tell her that it’s impossible to do certain actions or goals, Maria laughs and says “things are only impossible if you make them out to be.”
Maria makes life look easy with the belief and humor she holds in difficult situations. In September of last year, she came close to death when excruciating pain found its way to her. Keeping the pain to herself for three days until she was finally dragged to the hospital by her husband, Maria learned from the doctors that the frontal right lobe of her brain had been bleeding for days due to a rupture of an arteriovenous malformation, and the doctors informed her family that she had a very small chance of making it through because it was in such a critical place. As she heard the prognosis, Maria and her mother prayed, believing it would save her. Even as she felt pain, she tried to laugh and crack jokes. These actions aren’t gestures that everyone could pull off; only a woman who had suffered far greater could deem the constant pain as something minimal. Only a woman invincible to everything except love could fight her way through her days the way Maria does. If you ask her today about the incident, she says she can’t remember how bad the pain was but that she could have only overcome it with the support and belief she had.
Maria sees hope shine from the inside of the darkest tunnels. Whenever she was told she couldn’t do something due to her physical appearance or ability, she bowed and accepted it only to turn around and prove to the person that she could do it. That’s how she ended up showing the doctors at Vident Hospital that she could walk up and down seven flights of stairs only hours after waking up from two major surgeries. She claimed that the sooner she showed the doctors wrong, the sooner she would go home. Maria also sees people’s goodness shine from the inside, even when everyone around them deems them as the devil’s work. She feeds those who come to her house saying they hadn’t eaten anything all day, even if she knew that they spoke ill of her and her family. She even sees the best in inmates at the local prison. She reads and teaches them about her religion on a weekly basis.
Maria has many admirable characteristics, but if there’s anything that Maria lacks, it would be pride in herself. When asked by her mother why Maria had declined a chance to be interviewed as a woman warrior, she explained that it was due to the stigma and sexism that surrounded women in our culture that Maria had rejected: “They do not want to boast about themselves. They have a sense of humility and not in a negative way, but just that this is their life and this is what they’re doing. It’s just who they are, and they’re fine with that, but don’t ask them if they’re a warrior.” Maria views her life as her duty, but this duty and humility are what makes her stand out in the crowd. Her sense of humility makes me want to be a better person, makes me want to succeed in life, makes me want to run to her and tell her she has reared wonderful human beings even if they have flaws, and makes me want to conquer the world just so I can hand it all to her. She has hope even when hope isn’t an option. She inspires me to be a woman with values and virtues who holds her heritage and expectations close to her standards. She has gone through rebellious teenage years, abusive experience, sexual harassment; she experiences no love from many that should give it to her, and even now she fights a battle with her own decaying body. Nevertheless, she persists, and nothing stops her. She sees herself insignificant, but everyone sees more than that. Maria leads and advises her family. From the way she walks, cleans, and even presents herself, she transmits an aura of safety. However, if we look closely, we see a woman with steel armor made of experience, love, virtuous strength, and wisdom. We see more of what the world should look like.
Carrol, Carmen. Personal Interview. January 27, 2019.