Thought Catalog
April 28, 2014

Ode To La Doña: The Linchpin Of The Mexican Family

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FelixFamilia
The Felix Family circa 1972. My grandmother, mother, aunts, and uncles.

The Mexican man takes pride in the fact that he is the man of the house. In his mind, he possesses the huevos, so he naturally runs shit. If he wants to stay up late on a Friday night listening to musica norteña from the $1,500 after-market sound system of his ’95 GMC Yukon while drinking Bud Light, eating carne asada, and bitching about life with his carnales, he’ll do it, damn it!

Then his phone rings. “Es mi vieja,” he says as he looks down at the screen of the ay-phone. He quickly picks up and answers. “Si, mi amor?” His friends hear the muffled sound of his wife yelling at him that it’s time to come home. “Mandala al la chingada,” say his carnales who are single. But they are well aware that he is in a powerless position and when his wife says it’s time to come home, he better move his fucking ass or run the risk of having his favorite Chivas soccer jersey cut up again. His wife may be young, but she is stubborn, brave, and resourceful. She has the makings a future “La Doña.”

In the Mexican family, much like the British monarchy, the man is the figurehead in name only. La Doña is the one who is the true shot-caller. La Doña is the alpha female. She could be the grandmother, oldest sister, or the most assertive, fiscally responsible, and reliable female out of the many characters that comprise the family. She has a commanding presence and rules with love, fear, and respect.

There is no love like the love of La Doña. Upon seeing you she’ll give you a hug, kiss, comment on how fat you gotten, and ask if you’re hungry. Then she’ll immediately get in the kitchen and throw together whatever she can from the contents of her fridge. Even with minimal ingredients, La Doña is able to magically assemble a delicious meal that you eat to the last bite.

La Doña will be the first person you call when life has kicked you in the balls. If you’re broke and struggling to pay your bills, La Doña is hardworking and frugal enough that she can lend you money. If life gets to the point where you lost your place to live, she’ll be the first person to let you stay in her spare bedroom until you reestablish yourself. When you’re downtrodden and everyone is looking down on you, La Doña will ferociously defend you and make it clear that your bad luck is only temporary.

She’ll be at your birthdays, graduations, and major life events. La Doña will be your biggest fan and supporter in all your dreams and endeavors, however farfetched they may be. She will speak proudly of you to others and highlight all of your accomplishments whenever the opportunity presents itself.

But La Doña will also fill you with fear. She will be the first person to confront you when you are fucking up. Get a bad grade in school? Be ready for her to yell your ear off about how if you don’t get good grades, you’ll be washing dishes at Denny’s with the other dumb Mexicans. You want to be cool and hang out with the little gangster kids across the street? La Doña isn’t going to let you become a good-for-nothing cholo that gives the rest of us Mexicans a bad name. She’ll go to their house, find you, and berate you in front of everybody with a combination of your name, swear words, your last name, and more swear words. Then she’ll grab you by the ear and drag your ass back home. Did you decide to get drunk and get your ass bounced out of the bar again? Don’t worry, La Doña will pick you up. The price: her beating the crap out of you for being tan estúpido. It doesn’t matter if you’re 27.

La Doña rules mostly with respect. Maybe she isn’t highly educated or well traveled, but her knowledge of how the real world works in invaluable. She has worked long, hard hours for low pay. She has seen life come into this world and has seen it leave. She has had her share of love and heartbreak, excitement and disappointment, happiness and sadness. She has selflessly put her family’s needs ahead of her own. She has made the right connections and has become a key figure in helping the family establish themselves in a new country.

La Doña knows how to get shit done and has connections who speak Spanish. Your ’92 Camry is having transmission trouble, but you don’t trust any of the gringo mechanics because they’re always looking to rip off Mexicans? Don’t worry; La Doña knows a guy who speaks Spanish and is trustworthy. You need a job? La Doña has a friend who owns a little taco shop and will hook you up. You’re traveling back to Mexico to visit? Just let La Doña make a couple of phone calls and you’ll have yourself a place to stay.

La Doña has more balls than most men. While many men willingly abandon their offspring, La Doña has more character in her right pinkie and will never let any child in her bloodline feel unloved. La Doña leads by example, never expecting anyone to do anything she isn’t willing to do herself. She’s the most levelheaded of the men and women in the family, often putting herself in the middle of their petty feuding to help find a solution so the family stays whole.

La Doña seems superhuman in the way she skillfully governs the chaos that is the Mexican family. Her fuel is her love for every member. Their trials are her trials. Their burdens are her burdens. Their success is her success. Their happiness is her happiness. She will have her favorite picture of you hanging up on some wall in her home. Even as you grow older and start building your own life, she will always worry about you because to her, you’re still esé niño who barely knows how to wipe his butt. TC mark