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By Damián León

I recently asked my mami for one of the traditional Mexican blouses that she wore when I was younger (by which I mean I pestered her for weeks). She said she didn’t have any (by which she meant I shouldn’t be wearing women’s clothing).

She had accepted my queer inclinations when they were jokes, when she needed a best friend. Now they were costing her a son, her first son, and that she could not allow.

     When she gave me a very final no, I asked my Abuelita Ofelia. She nodded excitedly and said she’d put them away in the garage. She came back with the clear plastic bag that once held my mami’s wedding dress; it was covered in dust and cracked. Inside were six white shirts that seemed to glow. I gave the smallest to Bianca, my twelve-year-old cousin.

     It looks funny, she told me. Try it on, I said. I put on the biggest of the shirts to encourage her. Bianca laughed at me and pulled on the shirt. Te ves bonita, my Abuelita told her. Bianca looked like a vision from heaven: the white shirt hung loose around her torso, and her dark skin and hair shone all the more for the contrast.     

     I can’t wear it. It’s weird. I told her of all the hipster white girls that wore traditional Indigenous and Mexican clothing as fashion statements. They felt comfortable wearing Mexican femininity as a performance piece while Mexican girls and women were denied the freedom (I wondered where that left me).

     I can’t wear it, she told me again. That made two of us.


About the Author

Damián León is a writer and educator from the Salinas Valley. León is an alum of Vassar College and the VONA Writers Workshop whose writing has appeared in Hispanecdotes, the Good Men Project, and the Acentos Review. León is currently working on a collection of short stories centering around the immigrant community of East Salinas.