Notes from the Street: A Mothers Wisdom

I always worry how my blogs might be received when I know I’m about to delve into a troublesome topic. I have had to learn it the hard way thanks to A Chorizo Tale, which prompted this blog, and now I’m about to head into murky water once again. Today Luis and I overheard the following heart-to-heart between Luisa and one of her daughers:

Hija there are only two places you must never steal from: the home and from the school. If you steal from someone like from your family will make you a domestico – and this is the worst possible thing you can be. Betraying the trust of those closest to you would put you in the lowest place you can go – a position which even the hampas [delincuent commiting crimes like robberies] look down upon, You can steal from the supermarkets and the stores but not from us or your school so I don’t want to hear from your teacher again!”

Before everyone condemns Luisa for her motherly advice, it might be worth remembering the world that she comes from. The reality is that on the lower wages people struggle. Like everyone, they struggle against the media, the injustice, the system, their partners etc while also struggling against a world that seems to be moving on without them. While people around Santiago are slowly waking up to the fact that diet affects health and wellbeing, people like Luisa have never heard this information and still believe that coke for babies is not only acceptable but perfectly normal (and not so long ago we thought so too – thanks Coke propaganda!).

As I write this, my earlier blog How To Keep Safe in Santiago is under attack because I question the wisdom of fighting while being robbed. In fact, like every other security pamphlet in the world, I advise against it.  There is nothing wrong with running away.. I once saw a man nearly beaten to death by a mob for no apparent reason and the whole situation could have been avoided had he just run away.  There is a difference between blindly fighting for honor, like trying to change the social system through one successful scuffle with a guy wanting your purse. Although you may win, if we advise everyone to fight then alot of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, might lose the battle and become seriously hurt, or worse, die.  And what will change? I get to hold onto my 10,000peso handbag, my BIP card and my lipgloss? My Louis Vuitton I ferociously guard while others struggle to buy gas?  This isn’t to condemn those of you who might own a LV – I’d sure love a wallet! – the point that I’m making is what changes? There is a quote from the book The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls that goes “It gives me strength to have somebody to fight for; I can never fight for myself, but, for others, I can kill” and I agree with this. If someone attacks me, I am forced to realise who I really am. I’m Emilio’s mother, first and foremost, and I am here to protect him. Sometimes the best wisdom is walk away – to know when to really fight. If all of us got together to fight for our children we would be stronger than ever imagined. Would going to the areas where criminals live and imprisoning people, or sectioning ourselves off from them, make a difference in the long run? We would be tearing families apart, children would grow up with revenge on their minds, not knowing anything other than the hateful world around them. The real solution would then be to change their world.

“The only way to break a circle is to change its shape. Teach people that there are different ways to live the life, that you don’t have to repeat what people say or what you see around you. The only way to do something different is is to understand that you can.  So somewhere you have to be given the chance to see that. It’s all about education.” – Luis D.

Honestly, it hurts my soul when people take my blog the wrong way. It hurts because they don’t realise how much I care – how much I passionately care – for this city. For them. I’ve lost readers due to this passion but maybe they don’t see that, like them, I’m wanting a good future for Chile. I have only one motivation and that’s Emilio, but it terrifies me sometimes the world we are leaving for him.  Education is key.

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