Thursday, December 20, 2012

Raising Feminists.

I have a problem with the fact that "feminism" has become a dirty word. I believe that I am a feminist, but I needed to redefine the term for myself. I didnt feel welcomed in the space created by other feminists on my campus. I will always fight for the rights of women everywhere. I want to see them achieve and reach their potential without being held back.

For me, my gender should not be the first thing you notice or remember about me. I want you to notice what I have accomplished, where my interests are, and why I am excited about the work that I do.

How do we bring about a new generation of women who consider themselves feminists and celebrate strong women everywhere?

Easy. We raise strong daughters, and supportive sons.

This TEDx talk was absolutely brilliant and it came out of TEDxBeaconstreet this past fall.

Watch Me

Saturday, December 8, 2012

You Cant Ignore Us



Election results do not lie. As statisticians break us down, Latino voters went 75 percent for President Obama this November. I saw campaign ads in Spanish whenever I turned on the TV. Linda McMahon’s ads sat on the sidebar of my computer whenever I logged on to Facebook, but translated into Spanish. Now, the immigration debate is creeping into political coverage across the board. America must keep paying attention.
This election we voted against those who tried to suppress our votes. On Yale’s campus, we responded to voter suppression and sent canvassers of all kinds to Fair Haven. On several doors that we knocked that week, we met registered voters in Fair Haven who were told by the others that their votes didn’t count or that they could not vote because their driver’s license had recently expired. What began as voter outreach turned into a full-blown campaign, as Americans alongside Latin Americans and undocumented students reminded residents across the city where they could go to vote.
Now, it will be our students who make lawmakers keep paying attention. The DREAM Act — a piece of federal legislation offering undocumented students a pathway to citizenship, provided that they serve for two years in our military or completed high school — grabbed everyone’s attention when it reached national headlines. While it did not pass, states across the country have considered their own versions of the bill, and Massachusetts became the 13th state to pass its own version of the DREAM Act this month. “Groups like Connecticut Students for a DREAM,” a local immigration activist group, are pushing Connecticut’s legislature to improve access to colleges and universities for undocumented but very well-qualified students. This was the first time that undocumented students held such a symbolic voice in politics, and politicians like President Obama and Sen. Marco Rubio reached out to them with variations on the bill.
This past week, local activist Lorella Praeli, who stared the Connecticut Students for a DREAM and now works for the national umbrella organization United We Dream, was featured in a New York Times article discussing immigration reform. On the same weekend I heard Gabby Pacheo, the other woman featured in the article, speak for senior partners at Morgan Stanley, startup gurus and nonprofit heroes at TEDxWomen. She shared her story with the crowd, about growing up as a very successful student whose options were limited by her immigration status. Every face in the room was deeply moved. The stories of our students are everywhere and permeating different levels of society than they could before.
We’re still a mixed bag: As the recent report from the Pew Hispanic Center reminds us, Latino voters were not solely concerned about immigration. More often, our immediate concerns were focused on economic, education or health care issues. I’m a Massachusetts liberal, but I still work in communities that aren’t familiar with what homosexuality and gay marriage entail. While I support decriminalization of marijuana for numerous reasons, I have never and will never smoke in my lifetime. I still cringe whenever I smell marijuana smoke because statistics from the drug wars flood through my mind, and all I can see are images of violence.
Our views are more nuanced than politicians often give us credit for in campaign ads and targeted speeches. We are not a one-issue community, and we never will be.
One of my professors made a joke at an election panel we held this year about how the “Latino vote gets rediscovered every four years.” After this election, we are no longer in the shadows, waiting to be “rediscovered.” Our activists are in the streets, spreading information and dispelling myths. Politicians are reaching out to our communities, even in states like Connecticut where the Latino presence is quieter than it is in states like North Carolina and Texas. We’re here, and we’ve been here for a long time. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes to the table for immigration reform in these next few months.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Yale Daily News - Elections Efforts

Political groups tense around election

Photo by Corinne Kentor.
Yesterday, members of the Yale College Democrats and Yale College Republicans donned T-shirts, buttons and, in some cases, war paint, as they prepared for the culmination of more than a year and a half of work. It was Election Day.
More than 18 hours later, the Dems raucously celebrated President Barack Obama’s victory over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. It was a “truly joyous occasion,” said Brinton Williams ’16, who added that the Dems members around him were yelling and hugging one another. Gathered in the AEPi house on Crown Street, the young liberals cheered as states turned from undecided grey to Democratic blue, filling in their own hand-drawn version of the United States electoral map with red and blue Sharpies. Gathered in the Silliflicks theater on the other side of campus, members of the Yale College Republicans said they were supportive of Obama as American citizens, but that they were not optimistic about his second term. The atmosphere among YCR members throughout the night was initially “tense, but hopeful,” according to Austin Schaefer ’15, vice chairman of the Yale College Republicans, but members grew increasingly anxious as more results were announced, booing television reports on Fox News, their outlet of choice, as more states fell to the Democratic incumbent.
Members of both organizations spent the morning and afternoon of Election Day urging registered voters to go to the polls and canvassing neighborhoods throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, said the two organizations’ presidents. Each added that the campus groups were very concerned with the Connecticut Senate race, which had the potential to swing in favor of either Democrat Chris Murphy or Republican Linda McMahon.
“Most of the [Dems] volunteers are working on Connecticut and the Murphy campaign,” said Zak Newman ’13, the president of the Dems.
Schaefer said being able to support a Republican candidate in a traditionally blue state enabled his group to “be actively involved and make a difference.”
Yale College Republicans chairwoman Elizabeth Henry ’14 said Election Day found her more excited than ever to be a young Republican.
Both groups took steps to transmit that enthusiasm to Yale’s student body. Beginning at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Newman said, the Dems divided their resources and volunteers among the 12 residential colleges to ensure high student turnout. Volunteers spent the first hour of Election Day posting cards on student doors encouraging all registered Connecticut voters to “Vote Obama, Vote Murphy, Vote Today.”
Two and a half hours later, a group of Dems went to cast their ballots. Ben Healy ’16, a Dems member, said he and other volunteers spent the rest of the day reminding students to vote by going door-to-door throughout the Yale campus and calling registered students on the phone to offer them rides to the polls.
“The best part of today [was that] the response I heard most frequently was ‘I already voted,’ ” Newman said.
The Dems were not alone in their efforts. MeCHA de Yale worked throughout the course of the campaign to combat voter suppression among Hispanic voters in Fair Haven, Conn., said group leader Diana Enriquez ’13. She added that groups like hers enabled students who did not necessarily have a direct interest in working with either of the major parties on campus to still get involved in the political process by helping to educate voters in the Latino community.
Meanwhile, activist organization Students Unite Now also joined with the Dems in efforts to get out the vote, Williams said.
By midnight on Tuesday night, the Dems were in high spirits, while the Republicans looked pessimistically on the next four years.
“I think it’s a really regrettable thing that Obama has won a second term,” said Alex Crutchfield ’15, a Republican student. “Over the past four years, he has not made policies that are good for America.”
Rafi Bildner ’16, who spent the past year working in the finance department of the Obama campaign, disagreed. He said he flew to Chicago Monday night to help out at Obama HQ on Election Day.
Bildner said he sees students as having an even larger impact on this election than they did in 2008. Newman said he agreed, adding that the large turnout among Yale students — which was higher than in 2008 — indicates the success of on-campus organizations like the Yale College Republicans and the Dems.
“At the end of the day,” he added, “I think we know we did our job well.”
Obama received 60.4 percent of the vote in New Haven county as of press time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Obama wins.

60 spanish speaking canvassers
17 hours running the ward 1 NHV polls
hours on the phone turning out voters and volunteers
emails with offers of help with Spanish homework for life

and one evening sitting on the floor watching the states get called until Obama won and we all danced until we were going to fall over.

With two of my closest friends...

He won. I cried laughed and screamed all at once.

Four more years. Here we come.

Election Day -- 2

10:00am -- passed 300 voters

Sending 60 shifts to Fair Haven to canvass today. We need to end voter suppression. We've already run into several cases where canvassers on the other side told voters that they could not vote today because their only form of an ID was a recently expired drivers license. Others were told their votes would not count or didnt matter.

Your vote matters. Turn out today.

Then call Colorado/Ohio through the Obama website and make sure those dems turn out to vote. We need everyone!

Election Day! -- Morning

4:15 am -- Wake Up. Run into a college student just going home from his all-nighter. He asks if I'm just starting or just ending and I tell him that I'm headed to the polls for the day

5:00 am -- arrive at polling station, tape signs in 27 Degree weather (tape starts disintegrating, adapt with creative measures of attaching signs to the trees)

5:55 am -- the first voters try to come in and vote, we assure that that it will be soon but they cannot come in yet.

6:00am -- first 5 voters go through.

8:00 am -- we've passed one hundred voters and the lines are growing.


Monday, November 5, 2012

One Day to E Day

I woke up and my computer and phone pinged, letting me know that there is only one more day until the election. Thanks, I really wasnt sure when it was... haha

The number of emails calling for canvassers, volunteers, phone calls, last minute efforts has gone through the roof. I apologize to anyone whose emails I've read and forgotten to respond to. I am working the polling station for Yale students all day tomorrow and getting excited for it. I dont know how anyone will be able to sleep tonight.

My friends abroad keep emailing me and asking me what to expect tomorrow. Instead of working on some homework I need to turn in soon, I ended up predicting the states as follows (for the presidential election). Let's see how much of this I get right.

So. Today, make some calls. Tell your friends to turn out tomorrow. let's get out the vote!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Diary of a Democrat

Current status: worry about polls. Check polls. Read election coverage for Ohio and Colorado. Think I read the polls wrong. Check polls. Check other sites for other polls. Still the same. Damn. Better than yesterday. Make calls for Colorado voters to turn out. Check polls. Canvass latino communities and make sure they know that they can vote and where they need to go to vote. Write emails to other volunteers. Check polls. Read coverage. Pretend to do other work. Worry about the polls. Make plans for Tuesday night to watch the states get called. Worry about election day. Check polls.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Design Your Own Path

ENRIQUEZ: Design your own path

It’s telling that a year later, Marina Keegan’s piece on consulting and banking recruitment, “Even Artichokes have Doubts,” continues to ignite heated conversations across campus and the country about campus recruitment and the jobs we take once we leave Yale. The piece left us questioning what we value, how we measure our own impact and what we want to learn along the way.
I didn’t go through the consulting and banking interviews many of my friends did this past year. I spent my summers working in rural Mexico on development projects and running around Colombia doing research on drug cartels for my senior thesis. My value system developed through these on-site experiences, because I learn better from full immersion into my projects than I do behind a textbook or my laptop. I grabbed these opportunities when they were offered to me because I wasn’t sure I’d ever have these chances again.
The most interesting people I’ve met at Yale are the unconventional ones. The ones who didn’t follow the rules and instead made their own. The ones who skipped down the path written out for them or forged their own way. The ones who aren’t afraid to be different and push beyond the expected in their fields — whether this is in engineering, philosophy or social sciences. There is something to be said for people challenging the accepted order of things.
It feels like the big question on all of our minds, and especially the anxious seniors, is how we get to the next step. Once we leave, how do we realize the larger projects we have in mind — the ones we developed while we had time to explore at Yale?
It requires a certain confidence to accept uncertainty, to accept being different. I’m talking about those people in your sections, your seminars and your afternoon activities whose eyes light up when they talk about their ideas and projects. How do we hold on to these interests and turn them into our future projects? As we begin the job search, we are also figuring out how best we can put these ideas into practice.
Personally, I have come to understand that my future job will require me to pitch my own ideas, and to me this is both terrifying and exciting. I spent my break talking to people who were doing work that I found interesting. I learned about the pros and cons of working in think tanks and living in various cities. I asked about what work life was actually like and how much people could control in their daily lives. I asked about skill sets and what people hoped to get out of their current jobs. It’s all given me a better way of understanding what I am looking for in a work environment.
One statement came up over and over again in these conversations: the single career path no longer exists. You will probably change jobs several times over the course of your lifetime, and each one will teach you something you need to take on to the next round.
This is exciting. It means we don’t need to have that 10-year plan carefully laid out and set in stone right now. You have the chance to work on all kinds of projects and talk to interesting people, but you also need to keep pushing yourself to come up with new ideas.
We came to Yale as individuals, each with something to offer to our classes as a whole. Over time it gets more difficult to give these unique traits the same degree of weight, and we may be tempted to conform and give them up. But make a promise to yourself here and now:
Celebrate everything that makes you unusual. Because that individuality is what will help you find your first job and your space in whatever community you find yourself after Yale. It’s up to you to decide what impact you want to have in the world, and how you’ll measure it along the way.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Activities

Lesser known fact: yale turns into a summer camp a few, selected times each year.

One such instance of this is during hurricane shut downs. This is the first one in 30 years. So what are students doing in their two days off of classes and kept inside.

1. reading about WWII from a facebook perspective:

2. Watching movies

3. dartying (amusing, since the deans of colleges sent out emails requiring all students to be inside by 5:30 pm. Ours even included a "no parties" line in her email)

4. Seniors: writing thesis stuff

5. everyone else: actually doing the homework they needed to do over the break but never got to

6. me: editing my introduction to my thesis, finishing up work for an internship, and then starting a new research project on Bulgaria.

And charging everything I own before the lights go out.

Here we go, Sandy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Myth of the Latino Vote

ENRIQUEZ: The Myth of the Latino Vote

I genuinely look forward to the debates, the speeches at the DNC and the RNC and voter outreach programs that generate mountains of press. But nothing makes me grimace more than the discussion of the “Latino vote.” Because I wish it was that simple. Really, it’s a myth.
Even at Yale — in La Casa Cultural, Yale’s Latino cultural house — we are splintered into numerous cultural groups: all sensitive to our countries of origin and our traditions. The Latino population includes at least 19 different cultural groups; uniting groups across these disparate interests is a serious challenge to organizers within La Casa.
There isn’t a solid voting bloc here that can be won in its entirety through a speech by Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, at the Democratic National Convention. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio cannot win every Latino vote through his own version of the DREAM Act, a bill to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented students.
I’ve watched socially conservative preachers turn out their congregations for Democratic candidates because the party made targeted outreach efforts to these communities and addressed their concerns. Senator Rubio and other political figures appeal to voters’ social concerns and immigration interest groups in Florida. Campaigns translate their ads into Spanish and hire volunteers to answer calls in Spanish and Portuguese. The election cycle is working hard to gain our attention in every venue they can.
For some of us, immigration is the main issue on the political table. Many of the students I work alongside at Yale feel a little safer because over the summer the Obama administration offered them the deferred action program, protecting them from immediate deportation. A few of them are now protected by this status and are now reaching out to other students at Yale and in New Haven who can benefit from this government program.
This bill only applies to a very small subsection of the population. For many of us, this means our families are still concerned about our uncles, neighbors or friends whose fates are less certain. We feel there is still a lot to be done.
We live under the knowledge that the Obama administration has deported more people in the last four years than the Bush administration in eight. We watch Obama speak in carefully selected sites, like Miami Dade County, a site with a well-known majority Latino population.
For years, immigration activists have demanded that President Obama follow through on his promises to our community. Through this election cycle, he has simply repeated these unfulfilled promises and his wish to keep families together.
Many of my friends in La Casa are second- or third-generation immigrants. They primarily focus on aiding their own communities here in the United States. They see disparities in education and affordable healthcare as the most pressing issues in this election. They see their taxes increasing locally, and they have a hard time saving enough money to support their families. All of these issues come up in different spaces, at different times in our communities, and we don’t always agree on the solutions.
I am a first-generation immigrant and for every day I’ve been at Yale, immigration has been the issue at the front of my mind. My time and my focus has been torn between my community in Mexico and everything I left behind there, and my community here in the United States.
But ultimately all of us are voting for candidates who address our concerns — all we ask for is follow-through.
In the same way that some members of my community will vote for the Republican ticket because they identify with the social principles they stand for, others will vote for Democrats because they hope Obama will increase access to jobs for minority communities. For the Latino community to continue turning out at the polls, our politicians can no longer throw out empty buzzwords and unrealized policies.
Diana Enriquez is a senior in Saybrook College. Contact her at .

Saturday, October 6, 2012

From Sao Paulo, with love.

(originally printed on the MEChA de Yale blog)

I'm writing to you from Florianópolis, Brazil where I am finishing up some research for a project I'm doing on informal economies. It was an exciting adventure that I've been planning and working on for a few weeks now, and well... here I am!

Being Mexican means I really spend a lot of time comparing this and every other Latin American country to the one that I know best. To be honest, though, Brazil is entirely unlike any other Latin American country I've been to. Besides the obvious -- everyone here speaks Portuguese first, and then more likely English than Spanish -- there are a number of differences I see in the cities here that we dont have in Mexico. Maybe in a good way!

I ended up understanding Portuguese even better than I expect to. Awesome, considering I have virtually no experience in this language. I found that speaking slowly and clearing in Spanish and having the other person do the same in Portuguese has made this experience possible. It's funny though -- I look like most of the people here. Particularly in this region of Brazil because there are so many tiny German towns in the mountains. And when I say German town, I really mean German Town.

I'm trying to see if I can get to Blumenau tomorrow, which is a small village in the mountains on this coast settled by the German immigrants who came to Brazil in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is one of a few German towns in this region. Best known for its knitting products and Oktoberfest... Strange, since we always think of immigrant villages in the US as being people of color. Here, it means they are very European.

And really... they blend in pretty well.

Something that has surprised me about southern Brazil is how European everyone looks. Today was the first time I had seen villages full of people with different racial backgrounds... and trust me, I've been looking...

When I asked a local professor why Mexico has such a mixed population compared to Brazil, he answered me very plainly: The indigenous people of Mexico had jungles, mountains and other areas of the country to hide in. Most of Brazil's indigenous people did not. Save some of the still isolated tribes in the Amazon. Many of our indigenous people died during colonization (at least, compared to Mexico).

An appropriate conversation for me to have, since Monday is Columbus day. Or really, as we've come to respect it through MEChA, it is indigenous people's day. It's a chance for us to celebrate the original cultures of this hemisphere -- or really, learn more about them. Since the US does a pretty good job pretending that they dont really exist. Ok maybe that is unfair. I do remember my 5th grade class spending the year researching different tribal groups in the US, including some who lived very close to me in Massachusetts. Still, we could and should all learn more. A lot of this rich cultural history of the United States is lost and overlooked in the regular curriculum.

More reason for Ethnic Studies! (We all know that was coming...)

So Happy Indigenous People's Day! I hope you take this chance to learn a little more about the ancient history of the United States.

Tchau e tenha uma bao noite!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Brand of Feminism.

You know what it is?

I prefer to be in a room full of strong women who are women AND something else. More importantly, they are something else. Something unique and interesting and colorful that they own completely. Rather than in a room full of people where being a woman is what defines them.

Does that make sense? I don't want it to define me. it's just an awesome detail

Friday, August 31, 2012

BRB eloping to NYC tomorrow!

I'm planning a weekend trip to New York for tomorrow with one of my closest friends from school (we're joking about how this is a weekend long date even though that's not at all what our relationship is like!)

Most importantly, I just bought our discounted student tickets to MoMA and he bought tickets to see Chicago on Broadway tomorrow night (my first Broadway show!).

And I'm blaring my favorite song and reading through guidebooks and having such fun.

Cant wait for the 8 am train tomorrow!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Accepting Vulnerability

ENRIQUEZ: Accepting vulnerability

“I can imagine the face you are making right now,” says my best friend over the phone. And it’s true: He probably can. That is part of what makes this relationship and a few other friendships as rewarding as they are. He knows me well enough to know not only how I will react to something, but also how I will communicate this reaction publicly.
Many of the Yale students I have come to know and love started off with similar social patterns: They liked having big networks of friends. These networks are filled with people to talk to on the street corner and ask “How was your summer?” without necessarily wanting a long and detailed answer. They come with promises of lunches and coffee that may or may not actually happen — and yet we aren’t offended when someone didn’t really mean she would follow through. We also have friends and suitemates with whom we spend nearly all of our time — and yet some Yalies still feel lonely though they are constantly surrounded by activity and groups of so-called friends.
We have all learned to manage challenges and failures and move forward. It’s part of the reality of being a student here. You simply will not be able to do everything offered to you and do it perfectly. Every single other student I know was in some way unprepared for academic, social or mental challenges. During those low points, we feel more alone than ever in our lives. We are surrounded by some of the most talented students from across the country and around the world. How can we admit we’ve done something wrong?
Vulnerability is terrifying. It means standing in front of the mirror of your own judgment and scrutinizing yourself for much more than your physical appearance. You can put on your war paint and a smile for every day you spend at Yale without developing the internal strength and understanding of who you are as a person. What will carry you through every challenge you face here and when you leave Yale comes from that personal fortitude that only you can build up by allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
University of Houston professor of psychology Brené Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability went viral shortly after it was posted on Her message is simple but profound: She defines shame as a fear of unworthiness of peers’ acceptance and friendship. If they know this about me, we think, then they will not accept me. We choose to “numb vulnerability,” Brown says. But we cannot do this without turning off other emotions like excitement and anger and joy, because numbing vulnerability also means numbing emotion.
How often I have listened to this TED talk and felt the weight of truth in her words. But where could I start when I, like many other Yalies, learned to turn off emotions to get whatever I needed to done, come off as completely put together at all times and be able to adapt quickly and effectively to all environments?
I found peace and acceptance in my friendships — in relationships where everything is laid out in all of the beautiful and ugly truth it holds. My best friends call me out on my mistakes, bad decisions or good work, even when I will not reach these conclusions on my own terms. My friends’ words hold weight for me, because we are able to see, understand and respect each other for all of the pieces that come together and make the whole of the other person. These friendships I have formed at Yale come from late nights sitting in common rooms and hallways, tears, frustrations, failure, unexpected success, celebration of jobs well done, criticism to push the other toward improvement — and acceptance when I never thought it could come.
I could only form these relationships that give me the strength to do everything I do because I accepted vulnerability as part of the bargain. There’s a constant pressure to duck out early and stay emotionally safe. But it’s not worth it. I will tell my friends that I love them because it is true and we both know it, even with the occasional pain that sometimes comes from trusting people on this level.
I believe in them, the same way they believe in me. And that is always worth the price of being vulnerable. So take the time to say what you really mean to those who matter. The results are something you will always carry with you.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Designing My Own Job.

It's beginning. That time of crazy thoughts,

the pretty steady "So you're a senior... what will you do next year?" pleasant conversation question

always awkward.

There are three possible scenarios here:
1) the person is cool and would understand what I'm talking about when I explain that I am obsessed with informal economies, latin america, and the dynamics of the drug trade. So I say, straight up, I want  to find a way to be paid to research and model informal economies in Latin America.

2) the person would FREAK OUT if they knew where I did research and what I am interested in, so I said "I study Latin American economies. I'll probably work in some way with businesses" vague. Socially acceptable. They usually dont ask further beyond that, because frequently (at least within the US) this category of people tends to fear Latin America as a blob of countries where the American news show violence and tan people running around in the jungle speaking Spanish. They feel better knowing less about it, and I feel better saying less about what I actually study.

3) the people who are interested but conflicted about what I do, and generally express concern about my interests. This category is tricky, because they ask more questions. They want to know but at the same time cant help but let a look of I'm-concerned-for-your-well-being cross their faces.

So I've been writing for the past two days. Word documents filled with ideas and people I want to work with, ways to reach them, stories I want to learn more about...

and realizing, slowly

through shaping

and some very masochistic episodes of looking through job recruiting offers on various NGOs, Non-profits, Government, and business sites that I am potentially interested in while realizing where some of the holes are in my previous experience. Somehow I-lived-in-India-and-worked-a-research-project-I-designed-in-the-slums doesnt seem to fit in nicely in the black ink resume "previous experience" section they usually mention.

It took my Dad telling me, it's ok to be out of the box, several years ago for me to come to terms with it. The fear crept back in AM I DOING THIS ALL WRONG? during the evil period of consulting/banking interviews on campus this fall. When everyone and their mother was going to these interviews all the time... and it wasnt for me. But you cant sit there and not wonder at the time.

So here I am. I'm writing out my dream job and then going to find the closest thing I can to it over the course of the next year.

Watch me. :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Today I watched women from the US dominate the track and field and the beach volleyball court. As much as I take issue the US on various accounts, today was one of those days where I was proud to be an American citizen and proud to be able to associate with these incredible women, even if just through the thinnest of connections in this imagined community.


(Mexico is also doing pretty well in these rounds... let's see how our futbol team does this weekend!! ANDALE!)

Familial Bonding

My mother and I spent the evening talking about different kinds of violence and Colombia last night. Why, you may ask. Well... because we're both working on research projects for two very different fields and from very different perspectives on Colombia and it's history with violence. She is interested in how Colombia remembers its past through art and history and stories, I'm interested in how Colombia remembers its history through its laws, its modern political campaigns, and through its politicians (whatever they are or arent willing to say aloud).

It's been helpful to me to have this additional perspective. Not just because she is a professor (though that is a serious plus when I'm working on my research and interview methods) but also because she is deep in the books too trying to make sense of one of the most confusing and conflicting histories that exists. We'll often compare notes on various incidents and see what makes sense where. Or if it makes sense at all. Like Mexico, there are clearly chunks of the history that no one wanted to remember or touch.

Which is a bit where I come in. There wasnt a legal code strictly governing campaign finance during the 1980s. Which made it easier for dirty money to get into the political system.... for people to invest in campaigns without being noticed and recorded... and other similar events.

It's interesting though. I'm building a model to explain price changes in the Plata o Plomo approach to things. I'm working off of a few data sources that I am collecting myself... but it takes time. I'm working  on a few different ways of showing trends and seeing which ones make sense. While she doesnt work in this kind of methodology, she has been helpful in terms of seeing those trends once I come up with data sets. One number at a time.

To be continued...

This song feels like appropriate background music, for some reason: Maximo Park: Books from Boxes

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What Will It Take To Get Your Attention


I'm sitting here in a room enjoying the breeze on an American summer afternoon. It's delicious. Sheltered. Forgiving of my mistakes, my outbursts, my opinions. My gender, my history, my studies, my aspirations, hopes dreams wishes thoughts.

And still. We have something to disagree about. (well, maybe a few things)

I'm reading piles of histories, testimonies and accounts of Colombia from the 1980s, 90s and 2000s. The hardest part is reading about things that happened within my lifetime. And now. When I know I'll go back to school and the same rules about drug laws will be preached, but the same users will keep using. And frequently. With complete disregard to the market, where it came from, the blood on their hands between lines of cocaine.

When people preach about college they say, try new things. Explore. #YOLO right?

When did we stop thinking about the consequences of our actions? When did pop stars, politicians, journalists, TV personalities tell us to try everything once, and forget about the rest sometimes. When did the price tag attached to those actions, what it costs other people and other places much more than we can imagine... just fade away? When did drugs become so sexy that we can ignore the bloodied hands they came from? The communities they destroy along the way?

Thank you for your purchase.

You have now funded: ammunition for a guerilla army occupying southern Colombia. A hit man to take out a politician speaking out against drug violence or a journalist providing accurate coverage of the violence. You've given a paramilitary group money to fund dirty politicians who will keep corrupting the government's efforts for peace. Pick one. Do you want any of these on your hands?

I watched a grown man cry on a journalist's footage of the violence and occupation of rural towns plagued by extortionist practices of these armed groups. He will live in fear each day for the rest of his life, while he waits to see who is next.

And while the coca grows in South America... THE PROCESSING CHEMICALS COME FROM THE UNITED STATES. And Europe. The two markets bankrolling this process and ensuring that visitors to cities like Medellin need to go through 3 or more military check points and interrogations wherever they go near the city.

The irony is that the students who use will be in their quiet apartments or at a party. Safe, controlled spaces where the most they have to worry about are the police busting their event.

Imagine the alternative and what production ACTUALLY looks like. Imagine fearing for the future of your children to the point that you would willingly send them away to live with strangers. You probably cant, if you are someone I just described.

I have a personal soft spot for conservative cocaine users. Rich upperclass students with access to disposable income who believe in everything the Republican party pushes, including the war on drugs, all while keeping a steady supply of cocaine in their possession. If this isnt corruption, I'm not sure what else is. Yes, end the supply. Get rid of the sellers in South America... they say. Yet...

The day we started ignoring the reality of where are drugs come from and the consequences of our actions is the day that truly lost sight of our supposed desire for "peace" in the western hemisphere.

To those students I mentioned earlier: It's not about you. Your hour long experience of drug induced haze is not worth this. And if you had to stand before these people affected by your decision and watch what the reality of this trade looks like, you wouldnt make the decisions you are at present.

To the US: Stop hiding the truth behind your political speeches claiming everything in Colombia is cleaned up, and saying that Latin America is the source of all these problems. Without a market, there wouldnt be the same degree of production, economic growth and promise that comes with this trade.

To my readers: Keep yourselves informed, but with a grain of salt. The media in the US takes one angle, and other countries will present themselves in the best light that they can as well. Only by reading and talking to as many people as possible (carefully) will you understand the extent of the consequences we face from our decisions right now.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Medellin and Antioquia: a Check-List

Imagine a city where the history is still so present that it sits on rooftops, on the backs of motor cycles, in dark alleys, crevices in the mountains, whispers, names, the cover of DVDs on sale in the informal street market, and on the beautiful metro-cable cars that climb into the barrios in the mountains...

Welcome to Medellin.

You wont soon forget what you learn here.

A Check-List:

[done] found people speaking in a much higher volume than usual.. or at least this is true for me because I mumble frequently. They speak with a rich, loud and whole hearted voice, or at least, the stereotypical Paisa does. There is so much love for this city from so many of the people who live here. Love for this area, and it's people and it's personal strength -- which people frequently point to as the reason that this city grew and prospered after it's long period of violence.

[done] the flower festival is going on right now. A tradition attributed to former president Uribe when he served as mayor of Medellin and then governor of Antioquia. Tourists have come pouring into the city to see the free theater productions in the streets, the antique car show tomorrow, the parades, street markets, tourists... so much activity. Right from an air rich in agricultural production and growth of beautiful flowers like the hydrangeas that will soon go to the US. Some of them will even be spray painted darker blue to meet American preferences.

I feel that last statement is funny in a dark, bitter cynical humor kind of way.

[done] went through three military check points on one outing from the city. The driver assured me, it's good. it's good! It means they are keeping the city safe. It's hard not to feel a little nervous when a young solider with an AK-47 is standing outside your car drilling the driver about who you are and where you are going, asking for endless papers and proof of activities... then he leans into the car. His arm resting on the top of the door way, and he watches you with cold, calculating eyes. Who are you. Where are you going. whereareyoufromdoyouknowthismanhaveyoubeenherebeforeforhowlong... it all blends together.

The history is raw and sitting there in front of you. You realize in these moments that perhaps less has changed than we all thought.

[done] endless books, comic strips and now a TV series exist on the life of Pablo Escobar. From street corners, for formally certified national bookstores, windows and displays feature his face prominently and his name in red or black bold font. I now own a bookstore (or at least, pretty decently stocked table in the informal street market) worth of new things to read...

[done] bandeja paisa. Sort of. Being vegetarian proved to be impossible while I was here given the circumstances. So I dove in with other things, but I fear a good 1/3 of what comes with this local specialty. Mainly, the seriously intense pork rinds and the blood sausage.

[done] enjoy the breeze and amazing fruit in the nearly permanent spring time. Even the papaya tastes somewhat ok!

[done] the city allows artisans, hippies and artists to sell their work in the plaza bolivar on the first Saturday of every month. Which happened to also be today, my day off and the first day I am not doing interviews while I have been in Colombia. I saw all of the different ideas and skill sets that came to this space today in a very festival and colorful display of works, local resources, and new ideas. The other thing I love about informal markets is that you meet and talk to zillions of super different and interesting people. From the woman who was a long time artist making silver rings with flowers pressed inside of glass to the backpacking Argentine man who sold me a pair of meticulously women flower earrings to the two Antioquian women who made my first Arequipe (it's rice wafers with caramel and queso fresco inside) and the true Paisa man who sold me my Medellin gaucho bag.

And here ends my tale for now. I need to pack to go home tomorrow.

Research in Dharavi Part II: Actual Cases

It is not hard to find women working in Dharavi. Even before we arrived in Dharavi, we met some women working as sales people in the women’s compartment of the train. One woman dropped her bin of pomegranates onto the seat beside me before going through the compartment haggling prices on the fruit. Another woman sat in the doorway vending bags of pistachios while her son played under the seats of the train. From the entrance to the main road going back towards Sion Station, women sell Chat and other snack foots and they carry baskets of fruit and roasted peanuts, selling them along the street. There were far fewer women working on the main road than the men operating snack stores, barbershops and restaurants. Women working in this street tend to be with their husbands or a male figure while they work, hardly any of them are here alone. Overall, women seemed to be far less involved with the public face of these businesses, and far more involved with the behind the scenes work. This also seems to be true given the statistics of female versus male street vendors in areas of the city like Colaba.
Once we started moving through the dark, twisting alleys in this informally planned space, we saw more women. Each little house front had clear signs of someone caring for the space: whether it was plastic flowers hanging from the doorway, curtains sewn and hung over the open door, carefully swept front steps, and clothes drying from wires outside of the home. Women sat together chatting in small candy and odds-and-ends stores in the less public parts of Dharavi. 
We ran into three older women, probably in their late 50s, sitting in a circle chatting and making brooms out of dried grass and twine. They explained to us that these are sold in bundles to stores and businesses outside of Dharavi. Just across the narrow dirt and rubble road from them was a young woman in her early 20s printing on an old fashioned printing press. While she worked, her husband sat on the floor stacking and cutting pages. She showed us how she ran a round of printing and then went back to work. The little shop sold paper, printed goods, and provided a cheap printing service for manuscripts and books. 
A third young woman, at most sixteen years old, was sewing pants with a sewing machine in the doorway of her home. She was working alone. She had a pile of finished men’s trousers beside her, and she excitedly showed us how much English she knew by pointing at various things in the room and giving us the word for it in English. Most of the women that we saw producing goods independently were working alone or with other women off the main streets. In this capacity, their work seemed to be very limited in its interaction with customers or clients.
A few industries within Dharavi are famously run and operated by women. One clear example of this is the Popadam industry in Dharavi, which is run entirely by widows. The widows work in a collective to make this kind of bread, which is then sold in restaurants all across the city. Women making and drying this bread fill one of the public spaces in Dharavi with colorful saris, kids running around between the baskets, and baskets with drying bread. Their work is limited by the weather: the process in which the bread is dried and cooked requires the round sheets of raw dough to lie on wicker baskets to dry before it is cooked, so they must find other ways to supplement their income during the monsoons. 
The traditional fish market is also an industry dominated by women. Bombay began as a Koli fishing village, and this rich history remains in the heart of Dharavi, where Koli women have sold fish for generations. Women originally inherited this job because the men would fish while the women sold it, but now, even as others have taken up the job as local fishermen, the Koli women of Dharavi continue with this tradition (see appendix A). There are 60 women who sell fish in this space, and the tradition is passed down through women in family. Once the sons in the family get married, their wives are trained and expected to sell fish in the same way the elder women do. These women go to the wholesale fish market from 4:30-5:00 am, buy fish in bulk, and then return to open their market stalls at 9 am and then again at 6 pm until the sell all of their fish. Each woman has a marked block where they sell their fish, and the stands are passed down through generations of women. While there are men selling fish in other parts of Dharavi, this market space is an integral part of Bombay and Dharavi’s shared history as a Koli fishing village. While other factors have changed, the presence of women in this part of the industry serves as an important piece of Dharavi’s economic activity.
Outside of these professions, the majority of workingwomen are drawn into a few keys industries that offer them informal “contracts.” Often they are given work in construction sites in a sort of delivery service, where women bring supplies like bags of cement back and forth between trucks delivering supplies and the construction site. Another 1.68 million women are employed as domestic labor for the middle and upper classes outside of slum areas across India.[1] Many another women are employed as low skill labor within informal garment production in Dharavi, offering help as assistants to trained tailors and finishing garments before they are sold off to western companies. These jobs often have very low entrance barriers, which is appealing for women without training in specific skill sets, but their wages were usually far under minimum wage standards and come with very low job security.[2] 
Another option for work comes from self-employment and running local, small-scale businesses that often end up employing other workers. The benefit for women who start their own businesses is that they control their own wages and have direct access to their profits. On this level, they are more likely to receive the same wages as men working in the same industry. Street vendors are some of the most visible workers in the informal economy for any part of the city, and about 40% of them are women.[3] Often, these women can run and operate their own small-scale business while competing alongside men without significant barriers to entry based on gender or skill set.
We found a one-room schoolhouse run out of someone’s first floor apartment and children poured out of the room chewing on sweets and being led out of the alley by their sisters. The kids looked ranged from ages three to six and they were taught by a young woman who looked like she was in her early 20s. One clear benefit of a community like Dharavi was that children could go through the streets in groups while their parents worked and it was safe enough that boys and girls alike did not need constant supervision beyond that provided by the community. The space and the street belongs more to these families here than the streets in middle class neighborhoods do to those families. Only when we stood in corners, watching games of cricket or cards, did groups of children gather around us, curious about what had drawn our interest, and often older women would appear and shoo them away, giving us more space. In some ways, the neighborhood helps lessen the burden on working mothers who need to care for the family as well as complete domestic work, an added benefit of living in Dharavi rather than living in other parts of Bombay.
Even the space seems to have certain expectations to it for men and women. We walked through a few “men’s spaces,” where we were the only women present. Often these spaces were filled with little boys and men of all ages playing cricket. We typically found women interacting socially by sitting in their door thresholds and chatting with their neighbors. At first, most the women looked at us cautiously, or even warily, but we grinned and said “Namaste!” to all of the women we saw along the way, and often they returned our greetings very kindly. Their presence in the social sphere was much less public than that of the men in the community. Unlike my interactions with men in other areas of the city, all of the men that we encountered in Dharavi provided us with respectful amounts of space and only communicated their curiosity about our presence in Dharavi by asking if we were lost and needed directions. Besides the typical problems workers in the informal sector face, women also face cases of sexual harassment, limited access to restrooms near their work places, and limited bargaining power in their workplace.[4]

[1] Geetika, 535.
[2] Ibid, 535.
[3] Ibid, 535.
[4] Mathew, 8. 

Love Letter to my Lonely Travelers

Dear Lonely Traveler, Explorer, Friend,

Well, you've done it. You've done what most people spend their lives fearing -- you've left what you know and decided to try something new. You're learning to adapt to a new space. You're meeting new people, you're (hopefully) trying new foods, maybe speaking a new language, seeing all the places you're supposed to see... and getting to know yourself a little better.

What you can actually do when there arent people there telling you how to do it. You're navigating a new space. You're learning about how you fit in in the grand scheme of a city... because for the first time you may be figuring out what it is like to adjust and have to find a place for yourself. If you are lonely, you're doing it right. It means you've gone beyond whats comfortable and seeing the brand sparkling new, there in front of you.

I've always felt lucky. I like being in different places and learning how to leave that uncomfortable time of mal-adjustment and hope that things will get better. Because, they do. I promise. I've lived in a few different places so far. Always with the goal: learn to survive. learn to find comfort where you are. make a space for yourself, because you can. It's tough. uncomfortable. Painful sometimes. I know I'll never be able to leave everything behind, and I carry parts of home with me wherever I go. Because you have to, dont think you cant. You will never forget where you came from, and that's a beautiful thing about you.

So, my lonely traveler, you're getting better. It is getting easier. You're doing a great job! And soon, very soon, you wont even notice that feeling of "foreignness." You'll tell your friends about the places you went and people you saw, and they'll smile because guess what... you look like a pro.

You'll return as a different person because you made yourself jump these hurdles. You made new friends and built a new space for yourself. Guess what? When you do it next time, it will only be easier :)

And in the meantime, know that you have a friend in me. And I'm always here for a chat.



[Disclaimer: this post is dedicated to a very wonderful friend and loyal reader now in Belgium, but I think the theme is universal enough that I wanted to post it as an open letter to my friends every where going through the out-of-place-in-my-new-space experience. Good luck!]