Leslie Cortez

Resiste 2/8/2018
acrylic paint, oil-based markers, gold fabric sheet
18 x 24 in.

My Ama grabs Chaos by the tail and demands order. This Matriarch is a winding and untamed river. My love for her is complicated… but I owe everything to her. She was not equipped with the tools for coping or surviving, yet she persists. She launches herself onto obstacles. These qualities make it hard for me to love my Ama. Not because of how lively she is or for her many quirks, but because despite being illiterate, facing trauma stemming from abject poverty in El Salvador, and raising three girls in Humboldt Park Chicago… She breathes fire and warms your soul. Her Eyes pierce through you. I can see all of the pain. All the years of sexism endured at the hand of her family and in the factories that she worked. Yet, she dances freely and lives loudly. She wears her years of hardship sometimes like a coat and other times like crown.

My childhood felt stunned. At the early age of seven, I was helping my Ama navigate through English speaking institutions. I was the go-to. I helped her translate complicated documents into English, set appointments and follow-up on the phone, de-escalate situations…. but because of her I was first in my family to graduate with a BA. Because of my Ama, I was inducted into my Alma Mater’s Honors Program. My free-spirited Ama inspires me to be the drummer of your own beat… to believe that we are all capable of much more. She who bore children early, who does not always know what to do or say, is that… a mother. A mother trying to make it past the inequalities and internal struggles to love and nourish us.

© Leslie Cortez