Tia Esperanza is gone. Bold, loud, and present Tia Esperanza is gone and I’m sitting at her wake fidgeting with her siete suertes bracelet on my wrist.
I can feel her gone. She’s not talking about change and equality anymore. She’s quiet today and forever will be.
I remember one time, years ago, Mami and I were walking with her to get quimbolitos, usually a treat for special occasions but any day with Tia Essie was a special occasion. There was a fair that day and we had to walk through all the people and the booths of organic this and that. Tia and Mami were talking and laughing as they walked and Tia, laughing with her eyes closed, bumped into a large red-faced man in a sleeveless tank top.
“Oops! Perdon, perdon,” she giggled, her bracelet jingling as she waved an apology.
“Watch where you’re going, spic!”
“Excuse me?” Tia turned around, the giggle in her voice gone. Oh no, I thought, my eyes darting from Tia to Mami, she’s gonna start a fight again.
“Essie, common,” Mami whispered, locking arms with her and holding my hand tighter, “just walk faster.” Mami, the opposite of Tia Essie, is always quick to run away from trouble.
The man was no longer looking at us, he had gone back to talking with his fellow whites after laughing us off. Tia was furious, she didn’t like those words and couldn’t ignore them like Mami does. But she loved her sister and didn’t like the fear in her voice and the fear she felt through her tight grip.
“Don’t do this with Paz here,” Mami begged, tugging her away and dragging me along.
Tia looked at me, the ten year old copy of Mami. She gave me a humble smile and I tried to look less scared in response. “Okay, Mari. But one day Pasita will learn, I’ll teach her if I have to. We can’t let these people stomp all over us.”
Mami had always sheltered me of Tia’s “radical” life, saying it’s too dangerous and things will work out eventually porque diosito nos cuida. Whenever I asked her why Tia Essie puts herself in danger, if it’s the right thing, Mami wouldn’t answer and told me to pray for Tia. Praying was all I was allowed to do because it was safe. I told this to Tia Essie one of the many times she asked me to join one of her protestas and she told me that she doesn’t need anyone’s prayers. That the siete suertes, the seven lucky signs, she wears on her wrist are a sign of her faith but she doesn’t really need it like Mami does because, unlike Mami, she is brave enough to stand up for herself and others. But I think maybe Tia Essie did need at least one of her siete suertes, and she shouldn’t have given me all seven the last time I saw her. It was almost like she knew my sixteenth birthday would be the last time she could tell me to be brave, at least for myself. Or maybe she knew that this protesta was more dangerous than any other she’s attended in her short lifetime and wanted to say goodbye with a parting gift. Whatever the case, she gave me her siete suertes just in case I needed them but I know she wouldn’t want me to use them. She would want me to continue the fight for her, for Mami, and everyone else that’s too afraid.