MUJERES is a spoken-word, media-rich video poem by Ana Maria Caballero, with original artwork by Cuban artist Octavio Irving. A deeply intimate piece, this poem explores Caballero’s personal history to question the unequal burdens placed on the women of her family.
Octavio Irving is an artist and art professor living in Havana, Cuba. His work has received numerous awards, among them the Grand Award in “La Joven Estampa,” the most important contest for engraving in Latin America.
My toddler daughter and grandmother
like to doze off together
to the sound of TV after lunch.
Just look at them—
Napping on the tarmac grey couch.
Nina in her yellow Journey t-shirt
and whimsy-printed panties, face down,
occupies space like dropped cutlery.
Estelita guards her posture.
You’d hardly suspect she snores (though she does),
positioned in the corner like a minor museum artifact—
the kind none would bother to re-catalogue.
I watch them from the kitchen counter
while I sip soup and answer emails with a wrung spine:
Yes. Okay. But first.
The movie playing on TV is La isla de las mujeres,
a 1953 black and white Mexican film
Estelita found on Univisión.
The movie’s unreal world is governed by women—
men are forced to pound clothes clean,
soothe bellowing babies, pulverize
via muscle and mortar.
Naturally, they—the men—rebel.
Three out of four generations of my family’s women
occupy the realm of my kitchen.
Estelita, ninety something
(of her years none is certain),
left an alcoholic husband in Colombia
to raise six children alone in South Florida.
My mother, nearly seventy, tends to my father,
whose mind was swallowed by a drunken slip.
And I, forty, winching two companies
from the abyss of my brother’s avarice.
I cannot recall Nina as a baby, I tell you—
I rise to turn the TV off, but don’t.
Instead, I take my place between the resting bodies
and watch the men revolt.
In loving memory of Estelita Botero