I Love Living in Cusco
I love waking up to the mountains each day, eating the delicious Peruvian cuisine, and experiencing the vibrant culture that is a unique fusion of Cusco’s indigenous and Spanish roots. However, one aspect of the Cusqueñan culture that is hard for me to adjust to is that Cusco sometimes feels very patriarchal. I see women respected in some ways, but “machismo” seems engrained into the culture and the minds of both men and women. I find the unconscious societal acceptance of traditional gender roles shocking.
I wanted to share two specific stories that illustrated this and stuck out to me from my time here.
On Halloween, I came to class dressed up as a super hero. I had not decided exactly which superhero, but I wore leggings, a cape, and boxer shorts with pictures of super heroes. When I arrived to class the girls started laughing and asked who I was supposed to be. I said I was Superman. “But you can’t be Superman because you are a girl,” they responded. “Okay, I am Superwomen, then,” I said. But then they asked why I was wearing boxers because, according to them, boxers are only for boys. I started explaining that it was Halloween, and so you could dress up as whoever and wear whatever you wanted. I stopped myself in the middle and changed my sentence. Instead, I said that it does not matter if it is Halloween or any random day of the week, you can dress however you want to dress and be whoever you want to be any day. It seemed that for many of the girls this was the first time they had heard this and, for some, it was clear that they still could not get over the fact that a girl was wearing boxers.
More recently, on International Women’s Day, there were celebrations and marches across Peru. Women marched under the slogans of #NiUnaMenos (#NotOneLess) and Todas por Justicia, or “All Women for Justice.” In Cusco, the news stations and the municipal government celebrated the day similarly to how people in the United States celebrate Mother’s Day. On the radio, talk hosts praised women for being strong mothers, taking care of the children, and for providing for the home. These are important qualities and women should be recognized for this work. However, the praise failed to recognize other roles women have in society. I believe women should not be defined solely by their motherhood. In Cusco, we could have celebrated women physicians, athletes, entrepreneurs, students, and much more. I expected and believe International Women’s Day should be a day to celebrate the great progress made by women and to help empower and encourage them to be leaders and achieve their goals, whether that be as a mother, teacher, or mechanical engineer.
These stories remind me of the importance of Chicas Dinámicas in Cusco.
We want our chicas to realize that girls can do anything, even things boys can do. We hope they feel confident in themselves and in their ability to achieve their goals. I was happy and hopeful to hear from our interviews that our students, teachers, and parents share this vision. When asked about graduates from our program, a school director answered, “I anticipate and I hope that when these girls graduate from elementary school and go onto middle school, they will be the leaders in the group. They will answer the questions and invite others to join. When they are playing sports, they will be the first to try and to work hard. And also, in the future, when they will go on to university, they will believe that men and women should have equal opportunities.” We hope his vision will become the reality for graduates of our program and all young women here in Cusco.