AND WHAT THEY REALLY MEAN
The streets are dangerous.
Do not eat fruit from local vendors.
Do not speak English in public.
Cover up your body as much as possible, for your safety.
These are just a few of the warnings you receive when visiting your homeland. Next time you visit your motherland, say these longer but more intentional explanations/rules OR when your friends and family visit. Please remember that our families come from here, some of our families are still there…
“The streets are dangerous.”
Our countries have been so screwed up and corrupted by shitty politics--due to relationships with the USA and other wealthier countries–that income redistribution and food insecurities are real, and when someone sees your very distinctly foreigner-ass walking around, the chances of you being robbed are high.
“Do not eat fruit from local vendors.”
We understand that the water and overall hygienic practices of these counties are different. The people here have different immunities to different things, a lot more things in fact, because the access to medicine and doctors is sub-par (at best). So things that in the USA are considered priority and necessary, like washing your hands before preparing foods, is redundant in countries where the running water is also polluted.
“Do not speak English in public.”
Similar to the first point, but more distinctly: do not make yourself stand out with your “lavish American lifestyle” because no matter how poor you may be in the USA, poverty in our countries is different and not hidden by the government like some states do by outlawing homelessness (basically). You see starving children begging on the side of the street, you see amputees with makeshift wheelchairs, you see unadulterated need. So be kind, if you speak Spanish, speak it – because you are flaunting your status as someone who “broke free” when you stop making that effort. Even if you are not trying to, be intentional.
“Cover up your body as much as possible, for your safety.”
Now THIS one I hate. This is rape culture at its finest. This is sexism and victim blaming without any disguise. THIS particular warning can be shoved up someone’s ass. I am never asking for it, in Nicaragua nor in the USA. And the assumption that I cannot dress like I do in the USA when visiting the motherland is to vilify our own people. We suddenly make them into animals with uncontainable sexual appetite that cannot be controlled. It's as problematic for our people as anything else.
So remember us, when you give warnings. Rephrase--it is the least we can do when trying to reframe our various motherlands with intention.
Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez is a chonga Mujerista from Managua, Nicaragua currently living in Miami, FL. She recently graduated with her Masters from Vanderbilt University, and is looking to take some much needed time off to refresh. She is also the founder of Latina Rebels, a blogger for HuffPo Latino Voices, and a columnist/editor at Chica Magazine. Her interests are within biopolitics as it relates to Latina embodiment, specifically concerning models of conquerable flesh around narratives of naturalization for women of color. Thus her work is around reclaiming and upholding embodied resistance, particularly within chonga and chola subcultures. Que viva la mujer!