Main Piece: The informant’s grandmother, whom many call Chuita, was a midwife and hero in the small town of Caazapa, Paraguay. Chuita only went to school up 1st grade (a very baseline education) and, instead of becoming a nun and living in a convent, she asked her aunt about how she could help the town. Learning under her aunt and looking at her own vagina in the mirror, Chuita learned female anatomy and became the town’s resident midwife, as the nearest hospital was miles and miles away. Using herbal medicine, she delivered over 600 babies without fail in her lifetime, never accepting any form of payment from the poor mothers she helped. “She literally delivered a whole town.” Later, Chuita received an honorary degree from National Health Ministry of Paraguay for having safely delivered more than 300 children during here life in Caazapa, but these were cases that were traced and recorded. “Chuita knows that she delivered well over 600 babies, never losing one. She had an extraordinary faith that her purpose was to serve others through God.” By the end of her lifetime, she was the town’s carpenter, farmer, engineer, civil advocate, emergency first responder, policeman, welfare service provider, tailor, chef, and household organizer. Her and her husband were often considered to be the local king and queen of their town.
Context: The informant (OC) is half Paraguayan and half American, and she speaks both Spanish and English. Her mother immigrated to the U.S. as a young adult, so the informant is first generation, but the rest of her mother’s side of the family resides in their home city – Caazapa, Paraguay – and are very well-known in their community. Her father’s side of the family are “classically Jewish” people from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York. Although she is not religious herself, her upbringing was culturally Jewish and Catholic. Our discussion took place in her home in Orlando, Florida while her mom made us tea and lunch in the background. The informant cites the following legend as the basis for her family’s legacy today, with her larger-than-life grandmother being their small Paraguayan town’s hero. This story was recounted to OC at her high school graduation party from her cousin, who believed that the informant was of age to learn of her roots and the lore that has kept their family devout in their values of hard work and faith. This legend is the basis of the matriarchal power that has been passed down through each generation in OC’s family. In fact, this story served as the inspiration of OC’s tattoo over her ribs, which depicts the mountains bordering Caazapa to honor her roots and larger-than-life abuela.
Personal thoughts: While it’s clear that not all of the astounding facets of this iconic grandma cannot be proven to be true (i.e. the 300 recorded vs. 600 theoretical babies delivered), this legend is rooted in the firm truth of her widely-known feats. The way OC tells this story is reminiscent of ancient legends with a heroic character conquering the impossible; one woman with barely any education becomes her town’s jack-of-all-trades through learning from the little resources she had access to (her aunt, who was her mentor, and her own mirror).Even the way OC phrases her grandmother as the town’s “queen” demonstrates her hero status among her people. Chuita, in typical hero fashion, overcomes her circumstances without complaint and rises to the occasion, setting a legacy of matriarchy and the power of perseverance for her family and town.