The Braided Life: Las Trenzas de Quetzali

By Araceli Esparza | November 8, 2019

  • A braid/Una trenza

A braid/Una trenza (Photo by femme run)

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The connection between a grandmother and her granddaughter — and mother and daughter — is special, especially when it’s bound by braids. Writer Araceli Esparza tells us more about it in the story, “Braided Life.”


Braided Life

wears their hair differently.
But not me.

My braids, My braids

I wear them every day. Because I like it that way!

I wear a braid, like mi mamá, and she wears her braid like her mamá,  — my grandmother.

Braids are familia, but some days with all of its twists and turns I want it loose or to cut it short and wear it spiky.


“Mamá, why do we wear braids?” Quetzali asks.
“Braids are who we are, mija.
I wear braids. Abuelita wear braids. Braids are like family and we are family every day.”

“I don’t want to wear my braids anymore; I want to be like everyone else with short hair or curly hair and be me!”


At school, I see wavy hair, corn-rolled hair, twisty hair and even colored hair.
I want to snap mis trenzas away, but when I touch them I remember what Mamá said and I walk on.


In front of a mirror, I comb up,
“Hmmmm, maybe like this,”
Tease sideways,
“Or like this,”
To make new hair and a new me.


“Abuelita, when I go to the tienda, there’s short, spiky and long hair — but my trenzas are woven.”
At the dress shop, I see round, soft and fluffy hair — but my braids are pulled tight.
At the fix-it story, I see sleek back and shiny hair — but my braids hang down.
“You are right, Quetzali, everyone wears their hair differently,” says Abuelita.


“Our hair connects us to where we work, who we are and where we come from,” Abuelita tells me on the way to the park.
I run, but my braids make me slow to chase, or too big to go under.

After a while, my braids are like two matted fighting cats.


“Abuelita, the kids at school yanked on mis trenzas and sometimes my braids get in the way of having fun.”

Gently she sits me up on the chair and begins to part my hair.
“Hmm, I understand, Quetzali. Sometimes, when people see trenzas they wish to have one. They feel that teasing is the only way.”

“Abuelita, if I cut my hair, will I still be familia?”
“Ahy, Quetzali, familia is familia always. Remember if you do cut your hair, it will grow back!”


Sitting in the Salon, with pinned up hair ready for my haircut, I see me without my long strong hair and I see…
And plain.

With a twirl, I stop her scissor hands, and make my braids like propellers — with a WOOSH!

I’m in the air, Zoooooom ZOOOOM!

Between backyards, from playgrounds and rooftops I see all these people with
brown braided hair, like me,
looking royal and proud.

My braids, My braids
I wear them every day. Because I like it that way!


SONGS: “La Trenza” by Mon Laferte

“Cielito de Abril” by Mon Laferte

“Helicopter” by M. Ward

Araceli Esparza

Araceli Esparza

Araceli Esparza is a poet, writer, and teacher based in Madison. She is an MFA graduate from Hamline University, with strong migrant farmer roots, and named 2015 Women to Watch by Brava Magazine. Araceli is also the host of the podcast, Midwest Mujeres.

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