Monday, January 28, 2008

'Dos Equis' Buses Sprouting In Mexico

When I think of Mexico, just as when I think about most foreign countries, I tend to immediately think of women. Of course I think of their children as well, but my thoughts start with the women.

Maquiladoras. Feminicides. It goes on...ayayay.

It's impossible to lay it all out in text, let alone in words. But here's a small something that can serve as one lens into the complicated world of the brown woman:

Andrew Gumbel, from The Independent, reports that Mexico has finally established a female bus line.

Mexico City residents take a staggering 22 million bus rides every day, creating an atmosphere ripe for chaos of all sorts.

Officials say about one-seventh of the city's rapes and incidents of sexual harassment take place on buses, but the number of actual complaints is stunningly low – just seven last year.

Every woman has her own defence mechanisms – everything from wearing dowdy outer clothing to carrying a safety pin to deter wandering hands.

Mexico City is not the first place to introduce women-only buses. Similar services already exist in Brazil, Japan and India. The concept is not entirely new in Mexico City either – on the city's underground system, the first three cars are usually reserved for women.

The response in the first few days, though, has been enthusiastic. A couple of times, men have got on a bus, only to be mocked by the passengers and shamed into climbing back off.

"Now he knows how women feel," Yolanda Altamirano, a 64-year-old office cleaner, said after one hapless caballero retreated from her bus.

Well, these buses aren't complete life savers, because women do have to exist outside of the buses for most of the rest of the day...but at least they get a small break. For now.

You can never know enough about Mexico. This is the one thing that I would say to anyone who asks me anything about the country. I have never been there. But the Mexico experience fills more spaces than merely the geographic.

To complete this post now that I have more time (I was running late to class when I put this up), you can't just look at these events without understanding the layers and layers of cultural, political, religious, and spiritual spaces of Mexico.

Too many working women of color are systematically targeted, violated, and killed--known as the feminicides that take place in areas like Ciudad Juarez. Too many women of color in Mexico are the family bread-winners, many working in factories along the border--living off of some of the best wages in all the country, yet what they make is barely enough to live in suffering. Many of these women hold onto their love for family, religion, and rich culture. They hold the country together, as daughters, mothers, grandmothers, wives, friends...and collectively make up that essential flame that gives Mexico life.

This is why I am elated to hear about such buses. I have no way of imagining a bus ride with these women--but with the little knowledge I can piece together, I feel (and I hope) that for a small part of their day, they can step into a space where fear and anxiety can be put away for a little while.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Interracial Thoughts On The Presidential "Race"

Really quick, do you ever think that this year's election feels somewhat like a popularity contest from high school?

Maybe not totally like that, but maybe more like how Margaret Cho from the Huffington Post puts it:
"I just think overall there are too many people running. It is like a reality show. It's like America's Next Top President. Why don't we just let Tyra decide?"

Oh MY. That's a funny idea.

"If you become the President of the United States, can ma' momma and I have a slumber party in the Lincoln bedroom?"

Lincoln? What, because he "freed" blacks? Give me a break. Girl, you need to get a grip. If Obama is president, you're not even going to be last on his list of all the screw-ups he'll have to fix--you are beyond salvaging.

Sometimes I'm embarrassed to admit that I am voting for Obama. I think it's because I am a light-skinned Latina, and people might suspect that it's because my boyfriend is black. It's really a ridiculous thought, but I admit that it's one of those many self-conscious ideas you get when you are in an interracial relationship. You know, something you'd hear in some lame joke on Comedy Central, worthy of no more than a "heh."

I am not embarrassed *of* Obama, don't even get me wrong there. What I am saying is that since I am not black, and since my boyfriend *is* black, I hesitate to proclaim my strong support in some cases when I believe someone might shallowly perceive it to be evidence of some kind of fetishism of the black man. Oh it's a real thing in this world, but don't start with me on that.

And another thing. Why should I ever even consider Hillary just because she's a woman? Women are just as capable of deception as men. As my boyfriend put it, "I would put my wallet in Obama's hands...but not in Hillary's." It's not about the money, you see, it's about trusting that the person would actually hold and take care of something of yours. Kind of like when another female student asks me to watch her *laptop* at a cafe while she goes to order a coffee. Or before when we used to have to sit on the floor in lines to board our our planes at Southwest and a fellow passenger would ask me to watch her things as she visited the bathroom.

I would not trust Hillary with my wallet, my laptop, or even my luggage full of used textbooks from last semester's classes. She reminds me of a self-righteous ESL teacher who patronizes and condescends dark-skinned, accented students and parents. I feel like if she met my mom, she would listen with her eyes stretched open, a forced smile, and re-pronounce any mis-pronounced words back to my mother as she nods excessively. Ech, if you know what I am talking about, you'll understand my quivering at the thought of that. Ha, my mom would hate me for even hypothesizing about Hillary being anything less than a hundred miles near her.