She Was a Bobolo Grandmother by Norma Elia Cantu

She was a Bobolo grandmother
en el Nuevo Santander
who in her grief self-immolated
like the Vietnamese monks and nuns. 
But in the 1700’s, no TV camera recorded
her death at her own hands,
protesting the invasion.

The Spanish took it as proof of
the savagery, the inhumanity.
The others, her own people, 
wanted her to succumb, 
to give in. Pretend to believe in their god.

But her grandchild laid dead.
The tall foreign soldier had taken the infant
from her daughter,
smashed the tiny piece of her heart
against a tree, then raped her daughter.
How could she
live in a world where
such things happened?

So, she set herself afire
calmly sitting at the very spot that would become
the center of the town’s plaza of that river  
town in Nuevo Santander,
the flames burning all her pain and hate.
No marker honors her death
and no one knows her name,
but the historian chronicled her death,
and thereby she lives.


Contributor Notes

Norma E. Cantú is founder and director of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa and co-founder of the group of Latina/o poets, CantoMundo, as well as a member of the Macondo Writers Workshop. As a creative writer she has published fiction, poetry and personal essays in a number of venues. Her book Canícula Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera chronicles her growing up in Laredo, Texas. Her most recent work is Transcendental Train Yards, a collaboration with Marta Sanchez, a visual artist and print maker. She has also edited or co-edited a number of works including Entre Guadalupe y Malinche: Tejanas in Literature and Art.