Stephanie Sánchez Belén

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“She was my mother, Irmaculada. Wavy dark hair, light skin, and a half smile. My mother never fully smiled because she had things to sort out. One of those things was my father for she was not my father’s wife, but his mistress. Irmaculada gave him a wife’s oath, ‘’til death do us part.’ She also gave him three children: José, Irma, and me, Lillian, the oldest. Everyone in the neighborhood knew my father could not decide between her and his wife. My mother, being the decisive woman she was, made the decision for him.

One morning, I helped my grandmother prepare the corn meal for breakfast as usual. My mother hummed a song as she set the table. ‘Well! You are positively glowing with happiness today,’ said Grandma. Mom gave her half smile and kissed my forehead. Her scented skin smelled like flowers.

When we sat down to eat, my sister, Irma, sat on my mother’s lap. As we ate, my mother just kept smiling. After the table was cleared, my grandmother went to the patio to wash clothes. As soon as she was out the door, my mother took Irma in her arms and grabbed José by the hand.

‘Follow me,’ she commanded. Her voice and face were suddenly tight and hard as she yanked José towards the bedroom.

‘Please do not spank me! What did I do, Mom?’ I cried as she shut the bedroom door behind us.

Laying Irma on the bed, she knelt in front of me and stroked my face gently, “I am not going to spank you Lily.”

Standing again, she moved to a corner of the room where she bent to grab a large canteen. Turning slowly towards us, she popped open the canteen and held it above her head, bathing herself with the rancid smelling liquid. Fumbling for a nearby box of matches, she struck one on the box and before it was even completely ignited, flames danced in my mother’s hair. Soon her body was wrapped in a black and orange-gold cloak. For an instant, I did not see her. Instead, I saw the fireworks of El Día de los Reyes that light up the sky in January.

Then she stepped towards us, her blazing arms outstretched. I realized at that horrible moment, that she wanted to take us with her.

Her fiery hand brushed José’s stomach, but he did not cry nor scream, even as his skin melted under her last motherly touch. Smoke poured from the windows. Then I heard thunder and realized it was my uncle breaking down the door. As the three of us escaped, I turned to see the last image of my mother, a charred mass of flesh engulfed in a fiery shroud.”


Reprinted with permission. Mancha… © Copyright, Mancha de Plátano, Inc., Cabo Rojo, 2007. All rights reserved. 


  1. I was amazed with the story, as I never expect it to have such ending. It is truly remarkable what the human mind can convince you of doing. I can’t imagine in what state Irmaculada was, trying to murder her children because of her own affairs. The story is very well written, a very captivating and emotional one.

  2. death is so becoming. I knew i had my own pain in my heart that i deal with every day and some time the pain is so hard to explain and the memories at times even worse but not bad just good loving memories and wishful thinking that they were not. but no one can compare the lost of my mother lilliam Ivette Sanchez. I love, cherish and miss my mother and always knew she had a deep pain in her heart even when we were little kids I always heard the stories of my unknown grand mother, but it never was told my my mother. i feel her pain and i am sad and my heart break.
    My mother had a rough and trouble childhood even as she grew, but my mother was a strong, honest, loving, giving, proud, hard working, and a great kind hearted soul and she over came many challenges and become the best woman you could ever meet and has touch a lot of people in her life time in the most positive ways. she was truly bless and very prosperous!! one thing my mother always showed us is that she was not a quitter and she was a fighter…omg was she a fighter. even in the darkest hours when she battle cancer she never gave up.. never … but my mom was bless god bless her and rest in peace. she had 3 wonderful children Ismel Ramos Sanchez (nino), Angely Marie Serrano Sanchez, and my self Ismael Ramos Sanchez.
    I have had my share of battles and demons even after a lot of attempt in Death… I was really close to my mother but never really knew why we were so close but yet so far apart but i figure maybe something were meant to keep me safe…hmmm. it was not until my brother stop me one day from fully cutting my throat open when he told me ” what would mom think or say if she was here to see you do this?” never knowing what he knew and every one else knew, he had told me that my mom always hated her mom for doing what she did and leaving them the way she did for giving up and not fighting… my mom thought of her mom as a coward and there for never entering heaven!! .. it was then when when I looked and my brother and realized i did not want my mother to look down on me and think the same. i lost a lot when my mother passed away i lost a part of me … there a lot of untold stories about my family about me her son and i dream and see to much sometimes and i always feel tired and like giving up… but I am always remember that i am my mother son!! So I am a fighter and I will never give up no matter how many times i fall I will get up and keep fighting.

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