A Letter to Milagros: Your Voice is Your Gift

by Dr. Tracey T. Flores

May 10, 2022

Querida Milagros,

It is late at night. I sit here alone at our kitchen table while you sleep. Surrounded by your art and our plants, Frida, Lucky, Chica, and Gloria (yes, Anzaldúa).  All lovingly named by us. 

The lights are dimmed. The only sounds are the hum of the refrigerator and the ticking of the clock. 

Today is Mexican Mother’s Day. 

For the last few weeks, I have reflected on how we might celebrate and share Mexican Mother’s Day, for you are the one that birthed me as your mother. 

In celebrating today, I draw on the wisdom, stories, and consejos of the mujeres that are part of my story and now your story. My mother, my Nana Josie, and Nana Flores, all live inside of me, inside of us. I hear their voices in my head and carry their dreams in my heart, some realized, some deferred, all part of my journey into myself. 

Although their vidas, words, and actions have influenced my life and how I walk in this world, I did not always understand the lessons present in their embodied stories, and the ways in which they manifested in my own life.

As a young Chicanita, I did not have the words to understand what I witnessed.

It was not until I was older, sitting at this computer, alone at this table, typing this letter to you, that I began to have the language, to begin to speak their truth, our truth. 

Reflecting on the ways I have come to find the language to share these stories and consejos with you and my evolving understandings of what they mean, at this moment in time,

I recognize that coming to language, to voice has been the biggest lesson that the mujeres in my family have taught me and given me. 

Nana Josie, through her prayers and remedios, used the strength of her voice and the power of her hands to heal us spiritually and physically. Una mujer de la tierra, she spoke to the plants, listened to the spirits, and beckoned them with her prayers to protect us from el ojo and the everyday oppressions that she endured and those of the mujeres that came before her. With her prayers and healing hands, Nana Josie created nourishing meals that filled our panzas and sustained us as a family. 

Nana Flores, her warm, distant eyes and laughter, held family stories and memories, and her dreams deferred. Una mujer tranquila, she showed me love, listening to me read stories, and sharing with me what she could remember from the life she kept tucked inside her mind. She held onto her dreams, and placed them in me, as we sat on her couch, teaching me through her silences, the importance of my voice. 

My mom, through her kind, generous spirit, created space for her voice to ensure that we were provided the education and opportunities that we deserved and that she never had. Una mujer luchadora, she advocated not only for her daughters but for her younger self to be seen, heard, and valued for our brilliance, strength, and integrity. My mom, with her voice, which at different times in her life, has been silenced, taught me to advocate for myself and to never dim my light for others. 

My Mom Vivian Flores and Milagros
Nana Josie (my mom’s Mom)
My Nana Flores and Tata Flores
Milagros and Me

Sitting here writing this letter to you, reflecting on these mujeres, I am overcome with emotions as I embrace their sorrow, joy, fight, and love. 

Milagros, today, on Mexican Mother’s Day, we celebrate the power of our voices and of all the mujeres that are part of us coming to voice. 

You are a storyteller, healer, luchadora, y más. These are the embodied regalos that have been passed on to you by the generations of mujeres who came before you. 

Be a reflective watcher and listener. Draw on what you learn from being a reflective watcher and listener to seek justice and deconstruct the systems of oppression that cause harm to you and others.

Be confident. Do not allow the negative stereotypes that society imposes on you, on us, to break your spirit or chisel away at the identity you create for yourself.

Be loud. Do not be silenced, bring your silence into action—share your stories and create the world that the mujeres before us deserved and that you dream of for yourself. 

Each day will be a gift of learning and wonder. There will be days of heartache, sadness, and uncertainty, but these too, are gifts in which we learn and grow. 

I am here to share all these gifts with you, both the uplifting and the heartbreaking, and be there for you as a source of strength, support, and encouragement—a guiding light reminding you of all that you come from and the power of your voice. 

Love,

Mom

About the Author

Dr. Tracey T. Flores is an assistant professor of Language and Literacy at the University of Texas at Austin, where she teaches Language Arts Methods and Community Literacies in the K-5 teacher education program. Dr. Flores is a former English Language Development (ELD) and English Language Arts (ELA) teacher, working for eight years alongside culturally and linguistically diverse students, families, and communities in K-8 schools throughout Glendale and Phoenix, Arizona. Her research focuses on Latina mothers and daughters language and literacy practices, the teaching of young writers in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms, and family and community literacies. 

Dr. Flores is the founder of Somos Escritoras/We Are Writers, a creative space for Latina girls (grades 6-12) that invites them to share and perform stories from their lived experiences using art, theater, and writing as a tool for reflection, examination and critique of their worlds. She believes in the transformative power of reading and writing to change lives, help us understand our experiences, imagine our futures, build community, and heal.

This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Series, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE to read yesterday’s blog post by Jung Kim (and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog series).

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