Tuesday, July 14, 2009

HERSTORY: Analia Silva Maldonado (Quito, Ecuador)

¨I came out of the little Jail to enter the Big Jail¨

At first glance, Analia gives the air of a person who has never had trouble a day in their life: her face is lit into a soft smile, her brown eyes look attentively at her surroundings; She is soft spoken, and moves around the community house of Casa Femenista Rosa with a calm and peaceful air; she greets the people that come in and out with affectionate words. As we approach her, she is busy at her current job as the womyn in charge of managing the café of the Casa Rosa. She is a mother of three and a former domestic worker in Quito, Ecuador. Her earnest willingness to get interviewed and her interest in the MUCOV Proyect are immediate. As Herstory unravels, so does her world. Her dreams, challenges, pains, desires and successes are laid out for us to see and feel. Behind her calm exterior is a story of a modern warrior, conscious of the social limitations the world has presented her with, fighting for the survival of all that she believes she and her children deserve. With her soft voice, she conveys strength and sheer determination to share her voice with us.

The most defining experience in Analia´s life is the loss of her liberty. On October 3rd of 2003, she was arrested for drug possession by the Narcotics Department of Quito´s Police Force. She spent 4 years and 8 months in jail. What drove her to enter this inauspicious world of drugs? ¨Poverty¨ she says, solemnly. ¨The Necessity for survival pushes people to commit crimes they never thought they could commit… In life you walk through different paths and you encounter different people…You see that these people are well off and you have the ambition to be well off as well. To give your children what you couldn’t have: education and better opportunities for life.¨ Analia´s choice arose from the need to build a different, better way of life for herself and her family. ¨The necessity that drove me to sell drugs created two opposing forces in me: the act of harming others in order to survive and support my family, ¨ expressed Analia. And veritably, the consequences of her choice came upon her the day she was arrested, when her daughter´s words to her only days before, rang in her ears: ¨Mom, if you get caught, what will become of me?¨ Her sacrifice came with the heavy price of hurting those she wanted most to protect.

But what are the social conditions that have created this daily struggle for survival? Why, as Analia says is there ¨a lack of opportunities that pushes a person to have to survive under these pressures and to commit crimes? ¨I left the big jail for the little jail¨ says Analia. ¨ I am NOT FREE. I am still a prisoner with the only difference being that I am now in the big jail. ¨Inside, ¨ she says, ¨at least I did not have to worry about shelter, or food. But outside, the fight for resources, for respect and equal opportunities for me and my family are a harsh and difficult reality charged with discrimination.The disadvantages of being a black womyn, my race and my age, the fact of not having had a career, of not being educated all of these work against me in this society.¨

And the strength heard in her words is the same strength that shines most through the soft smile that shapes her presence. And in her words, she explains why she continues to live with strength, with fuerza: ¨If I don’t pick myself up, who will? I can’t give to others if I don’t have strength for myself. This strength comes from the same rebelliousness of the people society marginalizes. I have to keep fighting¨.

Analia also gave a message to other womyn: ¨ we are strong, and cannot let anyone step over us. We have rights like all other human being¨.

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