A Family Recipe

We are interested in knowing more about you and the context in which you have grown up, formed your aspirations, and accomplished your academic successes. Please describe the factors and challenges that have most shaped your personal life and aspirations. How have these factors helped you to grow?

The circumstances surrounding my family are defined by an absence of choice. At age 11 my abuelita dropped out of school to begin working as a full-time maid, a job she didn’t choose to have but had to have in order to support her family. At age 27 my mother was raped and impregnated with me, a lifetime subscription she didn’t sign up for but undertook. At age 34 my tío would be woken up at 2 A.M. to chauffeur for a cocaine trafficker, a situation that he--with a gun pointed to his head--was forced to stay in.

Although we were overpowered, on Fridays we felt empowered!

Carrying a candle with my tiny, trembling hands, I illuminated the figures of my family members greeting each other after a week apart. Power outages were frequent in the Dominican Republic, but not even the darkness could disrupt a Friday Dinner: the one meal each week when my family, scattered throughout the week by work and circumstance, reunited in the kitchen of my grandmother’s two-bedroom townhouse.

Pon la mesa, mija.

“Set the table, my daughter,” my mother instructed me.

Reverently, I spread the hand-woven tablecloth over the wooden table constructed by my tío. I set a vase of flowers, nurtured by my abuelita, in the center of the table. The table was...

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