A letter to flaquitas everywhere

A message to flaquitas from award-winning Cuban American author Chantel Acevedo.

Via Latina:

A Letter to Flaquitas Everywhere

http://www.latina.com/sites/default/files/styles/main-image-article/public/skinny-latina-0908-main.jpg?itok=xTBU_X2PDear Flaquitas,

I hope it’s okay that I used that term. I know you’ve heard it all your life—from relatives, friends, strangers on the street. Maybe, like me, you heard other colorful terminology for “skinny.” As a Cuban-American growing up in Miami, I was often called “una vara de tumbar mangos,” or a rod used to knock down mangoes. It wasn’t meant as a compliment, and back then it ruined mangos for me altogether.

My mother was a flaquita, as was my grandmother. They didn’t like the teasing either. My grandmother often told the story of her wedding day, of how her crowd of sisters (she was the youngest of nine) literally lifted her off her feet while she was wearing her wedding dress, and plopped her on a scale, just to see if all the accoutrement of the big day—veil, heels, bouquet—tipped the scale past 90 pounds. They didn’t.

So, my grandmother, in her eighties now, ends each phone call with the following, “Eat. Eat a lot. I want you to gain weight.” The years have softened her, but when I was little, she used to chase me around the house with malted milk, or slices of guava. Or else, she would limit the time I played outside because exercise would just make me skinnier.

Growing up in Miami, the popular girls weren’t magazine-thin. They were curvy and bosomy. They were everything I wanted to be. To this day, I am bony, sharp-angled, flat. I can’t shake my flaquita genetics, as hard as I wish to. Physically, I am an aberration in the Cuban community I once called home.

Flaquitas, does this sound familiar?

When I moved out of South Florida, the comments on my size morphed into back-handed compliments or questions about what diet I preferred.

“Diet?” I remember thinking. “Diet?” The word alone would give my grandmother a conniption. At my house, we ate big plates of steaming rice and beans, glistening fried plantains, long cuts of steak with onions piled high on top; we ate bean soup and buttered bread; we scarfed down avocados with a bit of lime on them; croquetas were fried early in the morning and put in my lunchbox; we drank batidos of mamey, or papaya; sometimes, we bought a stalk of sugar cane and just SUCKED it. Even the dog got some café con leche in his bowl at night.

We complimented our meals when they arrived—“Isn’t it beautiful?” we’d ask one another, because the way food looked was important. We learned to cook early, our first job rinsing rice in the sink. We whipped egg whites with a fork until they formed peaks, and then toasted them over the stovetop to make merengues. We went to the pier to pick out fresh snapper, and at Christmas, went to the farm to choose the pig that would become our Noche Buena lechón.

We also heard stories about Cuba during the 80’s and 90’s, and how relatives there were frying up banana peels for lunch, or how their ration cards made it so that they ate meat once a month. My grandmother, while mixing up that malted milk, told me about her own childhood in the 1930s, how her brothers scoured Matanzas for milk, and found none. And we hosted many cousins who came to the U.S., and I watched as nearly all of them hoarded food, hiding it in medicine cabinets and under beds.

Continue reading HERE.

1 thought on “A letter to flaquitas everywhere”

Comments are closed.