Ok, this is a subject i’ve long been thinking on how to tackle, and i’m not sure i’ll ever know what the best way is, so i’ll just start and see where it leads..
It’s no secret i’m thinking a lot about what makes me a Latin American woman, i mean, what bits come from having been born and raised in a specific culture, and which ones have to do with being just a girl, with a conscience and an attitude.
I grew up very very confused, my parents where teaching me all this things, you know, values and ethics and that sort of thing that one teaches their children, and time and time again i realized that i was pretty much alone (that’s how it felt) in my awareness of how one should act towards others. In kindergarten there was the “light haired” girl that openly discriminated towards the girl with the darkest skin and less fancy dress in the class. She (for no apparent reason) and me (for not agreeing to hand in my lunch), were often sitting next to each other looking at the whole group playing together happily, where were the teachers? did they realize the kind of discrimination that was going on?
My school class was very clearly separated in groups, girls played wit girls and boys with boys, but i remember there where groups amongst the girls: the well dressed -always commenting on my bad choices of clothing- very good students, all of them fair skinned for Bolivian terms; the not such good students but also pretty and sort of white; and the rest, with different characteristics, but surprisingly to me, all with the same sort of tanned skin. they were probably also divided in groups, but never mixing much with the groups i seemed to belong to.
So from my experience i know that Bolivian society is very aware of the differences in genetic background, even inside the same social class (in our case, middle-upper i guess, as it was a private school).. And then we are also very aware of geographic provenance: a family that is from the “city” will have more status than one which just recently arrived, or just one generation in.. So even if you are white-ish, but come from a rural background you’re bound to have less status. Then there is also the difference in wealth. So to mix and match, if you have money and are white, even though your dad is in jail for being a drugs lord, people might be keen on hanging out with you. If you are a brown-ish successful entrepreneur from a small town you are considered a new-rich and in the city you’ll have no status, you may become a very successful uneducated politician, but the middle classes will not like you.
So naturally, the worst case scenario is a poor, brown-ish, living in the city but coming from a village single woman, or a child with such a mum -or a child with no mum, but lets not get there because that is just heartbreaking-. I don’t want to make this a hard to read post, but some truths should be repeatedly told for people not to think that thing s are fine just because they always were like this.
If you are a girl from a poor family, or a girl that came to the city to help out with the cost of living back home, chances are you’ll be unhappy, you’ll be exploited and you’ll end up a single mum. Along the way you are likely to be seduced by man who have no intention of staying with you, they find you an easy pray because you are not “street wise”. You are also not wise as for contraception methods or STD’s and that is very appealing for some man. If you have and keep your child you are likely to suffer even worse abuse, as you can’t just leave the job, just because your being groped: how will you feed your children?
It’s not strange that women choose to stay in abusive relationships, some how that is safer than being on your own.. And then man have such control over women that it becomes a normal thing that woman are physically abused for not complying with their partners wishes, and i don’t mean sexually only, anything becomes a power test.
Here’s a collection of unacceptable experiences from girls i crossed paths with (+myself)
To be groped by strangers on the street; to be groped by your partner in front of friends; to be cheated on repeatedly, to be asked to accept it; to be hit be a male friend; to be hit by a drunk partner ; to be hit by a sober partner; to be raped by a stranger; to be raped by your husband; to be kicked by your husband while pregnant, then raped and then asked to accept to be cheated upon; to have your child abducted from you by your abusive partner; to have an abusive partner threaten to take his life if you don’t take him back; to be outcast by your family for not accepting to be cheated on; to be locked up by your partner to prevent you from running away, to have to leave your children behind in order to be physically be able to leave and hope to be able to return to collect them; to have your children taken from you because your refuse to remain in an abusive relationship..
And no, i am not a social worker, these things have happened to me and people i know personally, all of us Latin-American. But this is happening everywhere.. The impunity that seems to be a perk of being wealthy, the general need for social status, the struggles faced by being a single parent -especially if there is no social security in place-, the pressure from society and some religions to abide to certain “rules”, and the want to keep the power in male hands drives people to do and accept outrageous things..
This is what pushed me to finally write this post, and i love the song that comes next