Friday, March 17, 2006


March 8th was International Woman's Day, a good time to honor women and their bodies. Here in the third world physical and emotional pain for women is a way of life. In a recent conversation with our host mom, Doña Mímí, we learned that her mother gave birth to 11 babies, always alone. She would shoo the kids and husband out the door until it was over. Doña Mímí remembers being at the fire in the kitchen when her mother would appear with the baby wrapped in her skirt, still connected by the umbilical cord. The mother would boil water to wash it and then cut away the cord and placenta, tossing them into the fire. Three of the 11 didn't survive long after being born, a common occurrence in Guatemala. While the infant mortality rate in the United States is 6/1000 babies, here it is 35/1000, a number that seems low to me given the number of women I've met who have lost a child. I dedicate this year's women's day to all of the women who have gone through months of pregnancy only to lose their child. We celebrate this day for the mother of our host mom, for our neighbor, for the woman in Linda Vista whose daughter died when she was 20 days, for the mother of Teresa who lost her first baby only an hour after being born, and for Teresa, who has lost a lot.

Her name isn't Teresa, but I am able to remember how to pronounce her name because it rhymes with Arsenio, as in Arsenio Hall, the late-night show host. Not that I see her that often, but I’ve been thinking about her a lot. When she was 18 she went to work in Mexico to help out her family financially. Even though three immediate members of her family work in the U.S., eight siblings are expensive. But being an 18-year-old female far from home is tough, and soon she found herself raped and impregnated by her boss. He paid her off so that she would leave and shut up. She did and along the way became the mother of a beautiful shy little girl. Being a victim of rape made her unwanted by most, but in three years time she found herself in love and engaged. She became pregnant, and three months in the baby's umbilical cord choked it to death. Then, the fiancée presented her to his family, who questioned his reasoning for wanting to marry a poor woman from the country. They refused to bless the union. The couple planned to marry regardless, but he disappeared. A few months later she stopped going to visit, stopped calling, and stopped having hope. Her smile is tired, and I can tell that it's a lie. I don't know her that well and we're not friends, but we are the same age.


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