28 June 1969
As my only daughter in a house full of men, you should know that you hold an important place in this family, and that I will provide you with all of the support a mother can. You are maturing more quickly than I could have known. At nine years of age, you are already so bright, inquisitive, and graced with an uncompromising sense of morality. I want you to know that these qualities will serve you well, Malena, certainly, and I am proud of who you are. I want you to know that times are tough, and showcasing your strength and desire for justice will not always be prudent. I will try to explain.
Hard times have befallen our province. Even though our plantation has remained open, your father’s job has gotten increasingly more difficult. As I know you’ve overheard us discussing, his employees often refuse to come to work, and have, on occasion threatened to use violence against him and the other managers. This is not because your father is a bad person. In fact, he is very compassionate. He knows that his workers deserve good lives with financial security (I know, big words!), too. He is trying to keep everyone at work, but it seems as if many are resistant to compromise. To them, we represent a system that represses and mistreats.
You are of strong mind and will. I watched you the other night at the restaurant, as you fought your brothers for the last alfajore. You said that Luis and Emile had already eaten two cookies while you had had only one, and that it was only right that you get the last. Luis grabbed for it, but you jumped on him and wrestled it out of his hands. We were all laughing, because it was cute that a girl as tiny as you could beat out a boy four times her size. It seems like a silly moment to bring up, I know, but, as I watched from the kitchen, I felt unsettled. I saw in your eyes and your little hands a courage and conviction, an unwillingness to shy away from achieving even this small justice, even if it meant fighting someone who could, in theory, hurt you so easily.
You speak out when you find something unfair, and you take action against it. Your oldest brother, Fabricio, is the same way. As a show of his solidarity with the workers, he participated in the protests last month in Córdoba, where he attends university. Your father and I do not condone his actions. While we know our workers deserve more, we are not willing to put the safety of our family at risk to achieve those ends. Those in power govern with an iron fist, and we do not need to give them any reason to be suspicious of us. My goal is to keep you safe, and not to scare you, which I hope I have not done. All I want is for you is to act justly, and with all the caution that the situation warrants. This is difficult language, but, again, it will make sense soon.
Now to the point of this whole long thing! I’m giving you this notebook in the hopes that it will help you to process your feelings and your actions. Practice thinking, forge a relationship with your own creative mind. Record your questions and search for answers…with discretion!
Use these pages well.
Your loving mother,