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from the April 2019 issue

The Head of Household Manifesto

Catalina Mena's manifesto confronts the dilemmas facing women forced to choose between private household duties and public endeavors.

Listen to Catalina Mena read "The Head of Household Manifesto" in the original Spanish.

And if the Head of Household were to draft her manifesto, it would be in the absence of a form that can hold her. And because this same absence left her adrift. Stamped like a Chilean census form. A form that called the Head of Household a national hero. But that was just statistics. 

Always sanding down the edges of words unsaid. The Head of the Household isn’t head in the usual sense of the word. The authority vested in her, encoded in her imaginary kitchen apron, is another: she oversees the days’ chaotic toils.

The hearth is a fire that’s always being extinguished. No longer a tribe united for survival. No longer that blaze crackling in insistent splendor. Now the hearth is a flame that flickers out in an apartment in a residential neighborhood. It feeds on sighs and stammers, on sweat, smiles and armchairs, on loves, tantrums, and flowers.

Jostling the alimony apparatus, wandering the halls and corridors, negotiating profanities about origins and blame.

"Manifesto of the Head of Household" © Catalina Mena. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Susannah Greenblatt. All rights reserved.

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