• Natassia Paloma

My grandmother Palmira: The strongest, toughest lady I know

My grandmother, Palmira, is the strongest, toughest lady I know.

She cared for my cousin and I since the day we were born. Our mothers were both single and had full-time jobs to help pay for my grandmother's humble home.

The years I spent with my grandmother shaped me into who I am today.

She drives the stories I write, defines my character, and I hear her brilliant voice in my head when I feel lost or afraid.

To illustrate who my grandmother is, I always tell one of my favorite recollections of her.

Before violence surfaced in Ciudad Juarez, it was common for those who did not have health insurance to walk over the international bridge and visit the doctor.

I remember I had been sick for several days, and my grandmother grew tired of seeing me ill.

Before I knew it, we were riding a bus to the border.

I remember she led me up and down the rough neighborhoods of Juarez.

At 70 years old, she tightly wrapped the strap of her purse around her hand and held mine with the other.

She took each step with such confidence - it was as if the medallion she wore around her neck, carved with Jesus Christ, guided her through the ravaged streets.

At one point, an intoxicated, homeless man came up to us asking for money. He came out of nowhere, and I was afraid - but not my grandmother. She quickly yelled, "Quitate de mi camino! (Get out of my path!)"

She tucked me behind her and gave the man the most stern look. Needless to say, he instantly moved.

She is still, at almost 80 years old, a tough lady, and I believe it is because of what she has experienced in life.

She was born and raised in Mexico with great responsibilities at an early age. She would care for her younger brother like a son, and she would cook and clean for the household.

She married and divorced at 25 years old with three children under her wing. Her husband was violent, and she is not one to stand for any injustice or cruelness. (A trait I admire immensely.)

She withstood numerous hours daily on her feet and worked at a factory to support her children. She raised her family in the projects of "Segundo Barrio," a neighborhood in El Paso that has never risen above poverty level.

Nevertheless, her children all remained on an ethical and educational path. While surrounded by drug dealers and gang members, they did not assimilate to their surroundings.

My grandmother was the disciplinary, the nurturer and the breadwinner for her three children, and she did it all on her own. She taught her children the values of determination, education and hard work - all in the heart of poverty.

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