A Glance Into the Past//Giazú Enciso Domínguez Ph.D




Last year, I gave my 12-year-old niece RoseMary the book "Goodnight stories for rebel girls". Her face of happiness on the day I gave it to her, it is only surpassed by her fascination after taking a look at the book.

That afternoon, RoseMary, my mother and I, had dinner together. It had been an excellent day, so we finished and we got in the car. Quickly the conversation turned to the book.

RoseMary was excited to see everything she could do with her life. Ecstatic she saw the illustrations and  let's say "empowered" , told us about the amount of opportunities that she had ahead.

My mother, so wise as she is, congratulated her for how happy she was, told her that it was wonderful that she was so excited about her future and finally said:

"Because this, this was not like that before. This is new"

RoseMary looked at her bewildered and asked her what did you mean? How is this new? And my mother, with her almost seventy years, said: I'll tell you a story:

"Many years ago, around 1950, the majority of the population lived in rented houses. Rents were very affordable so there was no need to buy a property. Buying a house was not a priority for families. We lived paying a monthly rent.

Even so, my mother insisted, to my brother and me: 'Buy a house, a rent house is a bottomless barrel’. And as soon as I started my working life in 1967, she insisted every single day. It was her motto.

That’s how my older brother decided to buy his first house. It was extremely easily and quick. The bank gave him a credit without a down payment. In a blink of an eye, he got a brand new house. From there, seeing how easy it all had been for him, I took a major decision. I was going to buy a house.

I was 23 years old when the same person who sold the house to my brother, and processed my brother's credit, said to me that it was not possible for me to acquire a house because I was a woman and I was single.

I will never forget RoseMary's face expression, my mother continued:

As you heard RoseMary, I was told, as if it were a disease, well two: being a woman and being single. And of course, this had its consequences, its punishments: not having a credit, but also not being able to buy a house. As a woman, I could not be an owner.

I did not stop. I visit one bank, after another, after another ... I always got the same answer. It was sad and frustrating. Every time I was rejected, it was a reminder that I had no value as a person. I was not enough to buy a house.

I do not remember how, but luckily I met a realtor. An excellent realtor, who did not want to lose his sale, found the fault in the system. The figure of "head of household". Although for the bank I was a woman and single, I was also head of household. I worked and supported my mother and me. That means: my family.

Filling the paperwork, I realized about the requirements to buy a house. Four requirements. None of them was about being a man. None of them was about been born as a man. None of them was explicit about being a man. It was just one option: being the head of the household.

In August of 1975, after two years of paperwork and too many blinks, I received my house"

My mother finished telling the story. She was proud and happy. But RoseMary was quiet and confused. My niece did not understand why being a woman prevented someone from buying a house. She did not understand why youhave to be married in order to buy a house. We spent the rest of the trip talking a little bit about being woman, being married, being privileged...

I could not stop thinking about it. How "new" this story seems and how close those stories are to us. How easy it is to forget. Forget our predecessors. Forget others’ experiences. Forget those who defied the system and won, like my mother acquiring her house, but also those who challenged it, and lost...

Today more than ever, when it seems that feminism is gaining ground in some places and does not exist in others, when in social networks we are invaded by memes, videos, opinions and more questions than answers: it is now that we must keep in mind our past. Take strength from it. Learn from it. Because when one takes things for granted, many times one loses their value. Or like my mother, so wise, usually says:

"lo que no te cuesta, se convierte en una fiesta"
(sort of like: “easy comes, easy goes”, but it sounds best in Spanish)


Written by Giazú Enciso Domínguez Ph.D

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