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Overseas and Off-Campus Programs Blog

La Confesión de una Gringa de las Calles

Author Name

Mayana Bonapart

Author Program

Ecuador: Cuenca

Program Semester and Year

Spring 2015

Quiero empezar este puesto con una poema pequeña que lo escribí en el café “San Sebas”:

Desayuno de San Sebas

San Sebas is a refuge for the gringos
And those heavy of heart and breakfast.

The two white girls on the couch next to me speak in English.
About misogynistic men, plays they have auditioned for, their periods, 
and how their Spanish sucks.
A native Spanish speaker brings them their food and they respond in the distinct accent of the gringa, “Gracias.”

The waitress doesn’t seem to mind, this is the way of San Sebas.

Although I understand this, on the inside I cringe a little and open my journal and Spanish/English dictionary sighing to myself, ‘estamos igual en algunas maneras, y muy desigual en otras.’

 

Huevos, salchicha, cafe con leche, Pablo Neruda, y los colibríes. Hábitat natural.

Aunque disfruto mis desayunos en los cafes para los gringos como San Sebas, hay una vergüenza en la vida de una gringa, y por eso, quiero compartir este segundo parte:

There is a shame; a shame in walking down the cobblestone streets of Cuenca for hours each day, alone, with a white face and a United States passport. There is a shame in eye contact. The refreshingly socially accepted eye contact from each individual I pass actually is difficult, as I do not know whether looking into each pair of native eyes with my white face, green eyes, and Jewish dreadlocks; with my backpack full of school books, a Spanish to English dictionary, a MacBook laptop, and letters addressed to the States permits me to look without causing a furrowed brow, double take, and the subconscious recognition of my ethnocentricity, colonialist, and appropriative roots -do I smile?

For this reason, eye contact with other Gringos is not even a question, the occasional fellow white face and I scurry pass one another, each pretending as if the other isn’t actually here, we do not belong here in one another’s personal South American Picturesque.

I understand that I am dichotomizing, generalizing, and stereotyping others (myself included); but I am relieved to do it. There is a catharsis in acknowledging the coloniality existence of my everyday. There is [hopefully] even a preventative quality in this exercise as acknowledging the blatant coloniality of Cuenca not only in the macro of it’s existence [industrially, politically, socially, culturally] but just as importantly [or even more so] in the increasingly prevalent micro of the gringo’s presence in Cuenca, including my own, and in particularly regarding the recent flooding of “gringos viejos” who cannot afford to retire in the States.

How this psychological self-awareness of my “white presence” can help prevent a concrete manifestation of both micro and macro perpetuation of coloniality, I don’t really know. What I do know is walking down the street waving hola y ciao to adorable babies and their parents, learning how to both appreciate and dismiss the consecutive Piropos from a mile long train track of construction workers each morning, and maintaining a physical pace and presence which both leaves room for making amigos nuevos con mis vecinos while prohibiting the entrance of the bad intentioned and harmful is ultimately serving myself and others in one way or another. Both the micro and macro start with a multi-faceted/experiential/and eternal education, critical analysis and contextualization, and ultimately dialogue; whether it is in a classroom, under the stoop of a Panaderia during a rainstorm eating an Orejita with a neighbor you’ve just met, or through a fleeting gaze of requited recognition, curiosity, and even a hint of a smile.

 

¡encontrando el balance sobre Cuenca antes nuestra clase de biología en Amaru!