Thursday, February 26, 2009

More Women Talk

Sorry for the slack in writing, I have been swamped with work and haven’t had the time to give my blogging and thoughts about my first world white girl life much attention.

But I’m back and thinking about so many of the women I have met here in Latin America. I’ve met women who are smart, strong, successful and confident. Some are also scared, afraid, and unsure about their role in society because they are women. This is not a condition exclusive to Latin America, but definitely this is definitely a place with masses of mujeres that are afflicted.

When I travelled through Latin America in the winter, I met this one chica in Bolivia that still blows my mind. She had gone to college, she spoke at least three languages and when I told her about my trip wandering around South America, she told me she could never do anything like this. Her reason? Because her dad told her that she could not do anything alone because she is female. And since she had heard it from the time she was little, she believed it.


Another dear friend lives here in Buenos Aires because in her home country in Central America, it would not be acceptable for a woman in her 30’s to live alone, to be unmarried, to have a life that does not include a husband and/or children.

Even here in Buenos Aires, some women move from their parents’ house to their husband’s house without ever having a chance to be on their own. We spoke about it in my Spanish class the other day. Sometimes it is economic, but it is equally cultural, with many parents not understanding why a woman would need to live on her own.

Hell, it existed in North America not too long ago. I recall several years ago having a conversation with my mother, grandmother and a close family friend. They all remarked how they had never lived on their own, going from the house of their parents to the house of their husbands. Even after getting divorced, they had children camped out at home. In fact the only people around the table who had lived alone were my grandmother and I.

She had been recently widowed and I asked her about living alone. She looked at me with the raw grief, sadness and anger that could only come from the loss of the biggest piece of your life that can never be replaced and said to me, “I hate it.”

A few months later, she mentioned our conversation from that day and told me she had changed her mind, “It’s amazing to be able to do whatever you want.”

I’ll leave it at that.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Dogs. I love them. Many of you have heard me wax poetic over the years about my darling Maxwell, a lovely dachshund whose ashes are now in a box in Delray Beach after 18 years of being waited on paw and tail.

I’m not alone. People in Latin America love their dogs too. Tons of small dogs – Yorkies, Doxies, Toy Poodles -- all nipping at your heels as you walk down the street. While the perritos are no bother to me, I have started to develop a fear of bigger dogs.

I think part of it comes from the fact that most people don’t keep their dogs on a leash. Another contributing factor is the large number of strays around town. It is actually quite horrible, as I often see dogs that are battered, bloodied and scabbed. Sometimes they lay listlessly on the sidewalk and I can’t figure out if they are dead or alive. Other times I watch in amazement as these “slumdogs” exercise the caution of a crossing guard to make it to the other side of a busy avenue.

In the tranquil neighborhood I live in now, there are not a huge number of strays and the pups are well behaved (like the people, generally). But I think my newly found fear can be traced back to a few months ago when I was literally chased by a pack of wild dogs while riding my bicycle. It was terrifying to say the least, the adrenaline coursing through my body as I pumped the pedals for dear life. As I streaked through the streets like Mario Andretti on a bicycle, the six-pack of wild dogs were howling and baring their teeth at me. I could feel the breath and saliva of a bastard German Shepherd on my heels as I put every last bit of oxygen I could find into getting away without getting rabies. Happy to report I escaped.

Stray dogs are not the only things in the street, though. There’s dog shit and lots and lots of it. Everywhere... in the nicest neighborhoods and the mas sketchito ones too. Piles of caca, little landmines everywhere just waiting for you in your new Havaianas.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sexism Produced (and Washed Too)

I am a fruit and veggie addict. When I worked in an office, I was known to bring a veggie bag to work everyday as a snack. Since arriving in BA, I have had some dreams about Whole Foods. I either dream about the one on P Street in DC or the one in Columbus Circle. All of these dreams usually involve the produce section where I can see for miles and miles and miles the endless rows and piles of crunchy fresh overpriced goodness. In my delicious dreams, I see 55 types of apples, every newly plucked spice known to man and piles and piles and piles of exotic organic greens harvested by some third world child.

Oh how I miss it.

Here the produce is pretty good. You can buy it in the grocery store (which I do on occasion) or you can but it at the verduría (vegetable stand). I prefer the verduría, if only because they usually have more variety and the stuff seems fresher. Plus, I like to help the small guy and it appears that many verdurías are owned by Bolivians or Peruvians. Sometimes you can hear them speaking quietly in Quecha or, even better for me, in the gently accented Spanish of the northern half of the continent which I find much easier to understand.

There are two joints by my house that I frequent and I’d say the quality is about the same. It ain’t Whole Foods but it ain’t the Soviet Safeway, know what I’m sayin’? One is located on the main drag near my house, the purveyors a group of young men who barely understand my slowly evolving Spanish. I typically ride up on my bike after the gym and don’t even lift my big tush off the seat while the boys scramble around fetching my spinach, tomatoes, apples and peaches. It’s like a drive thru veggie joint, Jill-style.

The other place is about a block or two away and is a little darker and danker than the drive-thru. It is filled with a couple of women who come up to my armpits and flurry about in long skirts with their midnight hued hair pulled back into messy buns. The weird thing about them is that after they gather my broccoli and red peppers, they won’t take my money. They direct me towards a man with pockmarked skin and a little belly who manages the funds. The women are not allowed to touch the plata.

This is also something I noticed at the lavadero where I get my laundry done. The chicks do the work, the men take the dough. Why?

When I see those nice woman all look at me meekly from behind their inky bangs, I get pissed. These chicks birth the kids, clean the houses, do the labor. Is it about trust? Is is about sexism? Is is about women being bad at math? Who knows. Maybe the women of Latin America need a hand from Barack to get a little more equality.

Update 6:27 pm: Just picked up some laundry and guess who took my 20 pesos? A chick!