Abuelita’s Advice About Life In Your 20s

Hugo Balta

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I don’t really think much of my birthday, but this year, I’ve been really dreading it.

This past year, especially these past few months, have been especially draining. I lost my job to the pandemic, the family dog died and my mother dealt with some health issues just days after we lost our dog. To be completely honest, if I could just skip this whole year and try again next year without any consequences, I would.

But every year around my birthday, I think about two of the most influential women in my life: my Abuelitas (grandmothers). Both of these women have been present for every birthday and have had a hand in raising me into the woman I am today. 

In my latest article for Pero Make It Newsy, I spoke with my Abuelita Gladys a few days before my birthday. We talked about what life was like in her 20s and what she hopes I accomplish while I’m still in mine. 

“My biggest hobby was dancing. That was all we did. We used to go to all the clubs and [dance] the mambo and the cha-cha. I used to dance with the best dancers. I met your grandpa on the dancefloor, and he danced [just as well as me],” my Abuelita said.

Maria Elena with her Abuelita Gladys


MEP: Tell me about your relationship with grandpa.

AG: When we first started dating, grandpa was a shoe salesman and I did some bookkeeping on Wall Street. After we became boyfriend and girlfriend, he wanted me to meet his parents in Brooklyn. It was a really rough time. I [am] Puerto Rican and your grandpa was an Italian American, and when his mother heard he was [dating] a Puerto Rican girl, she was furious with him. She wanted no part of me. So he left his home.

MEP: He left his home? I didn’t know that. 

AG: He never told me this until [I spoke to his mother] years later. He ended up living with one of his friends, but she left her home looking for him to come back home. When she found him, she said she wanted to meet me. If he had told me about all of this before, I would’ve left him. When I met [his mother], her attitude about me changed because she saw that I am a [light-skinned] Puerto Rican woman. She eventually apologized to me later on, but if I would have known this originally, I wouldn’t have been with your grandpa.

The new issue of your favorite Latina curated newsletter, out today, also features news curated about a Harvard professor who’s the first Black woman to launch her bid to become the next governor of Massachusetts and an organization that was launched to provide support for families with transgender children. There’s also a new book review for readers to check out. 

Readers can check out this week’s issue at Pero Make It Newsy. As always, be sure to sign up to receive new articles and a fresh newsletter every Wednesday!