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  • Foto van schrijverGisèle Mambre

Un pal'i muhé

During my sabbatical on #theisland (Curaçao) I spent many afternoons with my aunties and my Mom, collecting stories. One of those stories is about my oldest aunt, Tanta Angèle, aka Tanta.

She turned 85 today. Sadly, she won't be getting a lot of visits because she is in a retirement home, and because of the corona regulations family members are only allowed to visit one at the time.

I wouldn't have visited her anyway considering there's an ocean between us but I can celebrate her life from afar by telling one of her many stories.

My aunt was/is 'un pal'i muhé', she did one badass thing after the other. In the '50s of last century, she was determined to leave the island of Curaçao to become a teacher. She needed a scholarship for that. She applied, together with her friends, for one and got a big fat no. Since all her middle and upper class friends but her got one, the family thought that it maybe was because she was the daughter of a fisherman turned blue-collar worker. Whatever the reason, Tanta didn't take no for an answer and applied again. And again. Until her application got the attention of the highest officer in charge and he granted her the scholarship for being so persistent (for a working-class girl). She came to Holland, studied hard, got her degree, and went back to the island for her first position as a teacher. And proceed to do her 2nd badass thing: demanding equal pay for teachers that were born on the island (in comparison to Dutch teachers who received a whole 100 guilders more a week). Again: she succeeded. Her 3rd badassery: she demanded and got tenure as one of the first women to do so. Women didn't get tenure in the 50/60's because 'they were going to get married and quit work anyway', she was told. My aunt's response: 'I'll never get married, so I need tenure to live.' She got it, proceed to become a principal, and was a beloved mentor to a lot of kids until she retired.

She eventually met the love of her life, still didn't get married tho. She is truly an inspiration and, besides my Mama, one of my biggest role models. Tanta is now suffering from dementia but is still very strong-willed. I love that about her. Pabien, Tanta!

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